The bigger picture

April 11, 2008

It's been six days now since the Cape Epic stage race wrapped up in Cape Town, South Africa. I've heard from the riders and staff that they are finally back home, lost luggage has been reclaimed, and they are gradually adjusting to normal life. It's fair to say that everyone is flat out exhausted and happy to be done.

Shortly after the finish of the final stage, I got the happy report that Chris [Eatough] and Jeremiah [Bishop] were eighth on the final stage, and Sue [Haywood] and Jenny [Smith] were second. Each team solidified its hold on their overall positions. From a racing standpoint, things went as well as we could have hoped. I think the level on the men's side was higher even than we anticipated, and Chris especially was stunned by the level of the World Cup riders in attendance. On the women's side, we put up the best fight we could and made a great race out of it. Two stage wins plus the prologue is really good!

Plus, from a team and brand perspective, we gained a great deal of exposure. Interviews and TV on Eurosport, photos in London Times, plus all the endemic cycling press covering the race. While I personally was in the US working the first two NMBS events, it seemed like EVERY DAY people were coming up to me and asking how our team was doing in the Cape. I think it's fair to say that the eyes of the mountain bike world were focused on the Cape Epic as a class-leading global event. It's good for our team to participate at that level when we can.

In chatting with riders and staff, it's interesting to hear more about the race and the effort required. Chris for one said that he's confident that the training benefit will persist through the whole season. Jeremiah is likely to be on par with his World Cup competitors, going into the first three rounds of the World Cup. On the other hand, the staff is just flat out exhausted. Steve our mechanic said that he's never worked so hard in his life, and he's a really hard worker! I'm glad that our first-year soigneur Laura hasn't quit yet ...

She commented on some of the things we DON'T see reported when stories of the race are published. She noted how poverty and scars of war are easy to see just outside the race venue. While the race traverses wealthy areas and is safe, there are places just beyond the course and camping that are riddled with crime and crushing poverty. Laura said the contrast between rich and poor is stark, and hard to stomach at times.

I think it's important that we all remember these things as our sport becomes more globalized. I hope that cycling can be an opportunity for our cultures and geopolitics to intersect in a positive way, that spreads a message of cycling as useful, fun, and exciting. We as racing teams consider going fast on the bikes to be the most important thing, but perhaps we can remember that simply introducing the sport to other cultures and countries can solve problems of transportation and hopefully poverty someday.

Zack Vestal, Manager
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.