The rule for the day was to keep it tidy and upright. We started in C once again at 7:10 and we left up the hillside next to the camp moving across the farm roads that surround Oak Valley.
The route was undulating as it weaved in and out of the orchards, up one side of a wire fence and then racing down the opposite side, then racing through the trees again. The legs had barely warmed up when we started climbing a gravel farm road that circled around a hill and we were met by a group of cheering spectators at the top.
The road descended for a short while and then we started up a wide gravel road, bordered on the left by a sheer drop and trees and bush on the right. The gradient suited me perfectly and we made good time, unfortunately passing a rider with folded front wheel about a third of the way up, a long walk to the water point for him.
Passing through some pines on sandy forest road we crossed the main tar road that leads to Villiersdorp and into the adjacent pine plantations, more pine needle covered forestry roads climbed for a few kilometers before descending gently and passing a dam.
The forestry road turned left and up, the smooth road was a comfortable rise but noticeably the higher we got the looser and rockier it got. A 1km sign board let us know we were almost at the top and a short while later we crested and were drenched in cloud.
The descent was very different to the climb, a hard gravel road with deep washouts and large rocks made for a difficult ride down, as we dropped out of the cloud itself it began to rain again.
The fast descent tapered into a long undulating grind that crossed sand pits, loose rocky climbs and muddy patches, covered in cloud again we couldn’t see what should have been a grand view over the Grabouw area. The path then swung right over a nek and descended quickly, a few warning signs on the way warning us to slow down as the road was badly eroded in places with deep washouts and exposed rocks. Bottoming out we reached waterpoint 1.
With no real need for anything I just cleaned my glasses as best I could and we started climbing grassy jeep track which leveled quickly. We now rode on a forestry road that skirted along the edge of the mountain with brief visits into the forest but then back onto the road again. There were no real climbs but it was hard riding on an uneven rocky surface until we eventually reached the Gamtou Pass and the compulsory portage.
This started off as scramble as riders tried to make good time and make a few passes but the slippery surface eventually had everyone walking at the same pace, the path became quite narrow and no passing could be done anyway. I wondered how many pro’s and racing snakes had done their ankles in as parts of the portage are very slippery, uneven and steep.
I did take a moment to appreciate that I was not hauling my ox wagon up this pass.
The compulsory portage ended and single track riding started, a few big drop-offs had us walking but we quickly reached dual track and raced alongside the railway line. Crossing over the railway we entered a sandy jeep track section that was just a pleasure to ride, soft sweeping lines that cut through thin trees that went on for ages.
Unfortunately this ended too soon as the path turned onto a long straight farm road that had us barreling down onto a paved section through a line of old farm houses and waterpoint 2.
Still no need to fill up but a quick banana, lube of the drivetrain and we headed out of the last water point for the event. A short bit of farm road pitched us into a single track climb that started with some switchbacks on a grassed embankment and eventually entered a treed area where sandy straights led to comfortable switchbacks with some very tight lines between the trees.
The exit of the single track included 3 step ups, the first one a single log, over; the second with 2 logs, over; the third with four logs got the better of me and had to carry the bike up onto the jeep track and mounted again.
I had to push a little to catch my partner, with 15km to go he could smell home and his competitive nature kicked in. He was now trying to pass as many teams as possible as we headed towards the Lourensford bowl.
Badly eroded farm road slowed things down as we crossed side to side to find the best line around stony washouts. A short descent onto a path covered in river rock then had me bouncing out of the saddle while trying to keep the front wheel straight.
I could hear the finish now and although there were still 7kms to go I was starting to smile. Even the thick sand that was now sucking my rear wheel in couldn’t change that.
A short section of single track through trees along the river brought us to the final climb of the day, a short steep section of jeep track burned the legs for one last time as we passed another team.
The smile was bigger as we swept through another short section of single track that looped around the large trees and onto a tar road that led us around the back of the race village and final turn onto the grass fields and the finish straight.
Spectators lined the finish area and the cheering was incredible, I was smiling ear to ear and felt a little lump in the throat. We had done it.
Team Swiss Club / Flux Communications finished the event 144th overall.
Receiving my medal from Jose Hermida, one of my favourite MTB’ers ever.
Product of the day:
My KTM Myroon, my baby was just so reliable throughout the week.
The welcome I got from my daughter at the finish.
The adventure is over, for this year anyway.
What would I change? Very little really, I would probably work a bit on my nutrition and possibly look at a dual suspension bike as my hamstrings took a serious battering on the fast and rocky descents.
In terms of training, I learned what I would need to do both on fitness and skills development to break into the top 100 placing which would be a goal and would also use the philosophy of a lot goes a long way.
I hope I have been able to share my adventure with everyone adequately, the mental notations and recall has been a bit tough sometimes and I often remembered other details hours after posting.
Thank you to all those with messages of support.
- Prologue: Excitement, introspection and the start of the 2014 Cape Epic
- Rocks, ruts, and glowing brakes on Stage 1
- Abundant orange mud and passing the tests of Stage 2
- Time losses and misplaced partners on Stage 3
- Single track and more single track on Stage 4
- Hallucinations atop Groenlandberg on Stage 5
- Fatigued mind, body, and a bloodied elbow on Stage 6
- A little more rain and the smell of home on Stage 7
Rob's weapon of choice:
KTM Myroon Master 29er
VRV Cycles carbon straight bars and bar ends
Selle Italia XR saddle
Rockshox SiD XX 29er
Hope Pro Hubs with ZTR Arch Rims
GEAX Saguaro 29x2.2 TNT