Strong and steady on stage one

Chris Eatough

Chris Eatough (Image credit: Sven Martin)

March 29, 2008

The first full day of the Cape Epic was everything I expected it to be - and more!

The race started early, as it will everyday. First, a 4:45 am wake up call, then straight to breakfast, and then into our race gear. The usual prerace preparations and scrambling, and then to the start line 20 minutes before the 7:00 am send off. 1,200 racers sprinted out of Knysna towards the first climb. This is where the suffering began.

My team-mate, Jeremiah Bishop is a world-class climber, and could surely have hung with the leaders, but my strengths are in other areas, and I knew I needed to avoid the early race heroics and settle into my rhythm. This put us back in about 25th place, riding by ourselves, but at a strong steady pace that could last for the whole 123km. The climbing was tough all day long, but the scenery was spectacular. Greener and more lush than I envisioned, with steep river valleys that reminded me of British Columbia.

By the middle of the race, we were moving up nicely, and increasing our fluid intake to deal with the increasing heat. Our bikes were working great, and we seemed to be adapting to the terrain and conditions well. Unfortunately, I was too slow to spot the monkeys in the trees that Jeremiah saw, and I only saw the trees rustling from their movement. I hope to be quicker and more alert to spot the wildlife in future stages.

Jeremiah was helping me out where he could by letting my ride in his draft on the flatter sections and grabbing an extra bottle for me at the feed station. The system was working, and we up into the top 15.

One of my favorite things about this race is the impromptu friendships and partnerships that are made along the way. Today we made friends with a South African/Swiss duo for the last 50km, and it made the time fly by. It also helped that the Swiss rider was as a big as a chalet and offered a great draft.

As always in a long race, we were very happy to see the finish, and our position of 13th is not too bad. It was a long hard day, but we handled it without too much damage, and we will be ready to again at 7:00 am tomorrow.

Tonight will be the first night in the RVs. I think it's going to be great - the best way to stay close to the race, but still have some comfort and privacy. We found a shady spot with a pleasant breeze, and are enjoying some quality time together as a team: lounging, eating, working on bikes, and preparing for tomorrow all in one place. A few more hours 'til bed time, then same again tomorrow. That's life at the Cape Epic…

Chris Eatough
Trek-VW Racing Team

Men's team:
Jeremiah Bishop (USA), 32, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Chris Eatough (USA), 33, Oella, Maryland

Women's team:
Sue Haywood (USA), 36, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Jennifer Smith (NZl), 35, Gunnison, Colorado

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For the first time, American-based team Trek / VW is sending racers to the internationally reknown Cape Epic mountain bike race in South Africa from March 28 to April 5, 2008. Two men and two women, all four accomplished in various off-road racing disciplines, come together to take on some of the toughest stage racers world-wide. Chris Eatough, who dominates the American 100 mile and 24-hour endurance scene, has partnered with World Cup racer and US Olympic Team contender Jeremiah Bishop while Xterra Off-Road regular Jenny Smith teams up with Sue Haywood, the winner of El Reto Guatemala, TransRockies, and La Ruta de los Conquistadores. All four racers and their team manager will take turns contributing diary entries before and during the event.