I know, the term Epic is thrown around these days like salt from a shaker, but there is one bike race that takes the term quite literally: The Cape Epic. It is held each year in the Western Cape Province of South Africa, marking the end of summer here. This year was the shortest edition yet if you counted the kilometres, but in contrast it had the highest elevation gain ever.
I didn’t tackle the climbs myself, but rather prepared, and then repaired, the bikes that did so. I wrenched for the South African team “USN-Purefit.” The goal was the prestigious “African Jersey,” awarded to the top all-African team. At the end of the eight gruelling race days, our guys came out on top and took to the podium with the red African Jersey, proudly emblazoned with the team’s logo.
It is a short moment, being on the podium. But that spot took consistent racing for eight days, training and preparation for months, even years before. Behind the scenes there is a whole other race, that’s my race. Along with the team manager and the soigneur we had to make sure that everything was taken care of for the racers, doing our best to keep them focused solely on the race.
At the start, waiting for the gun to go
The races started early: 7am every morning. Of course the day starts long before that for all of us, the final logistics and preparations being made, tires pumped, last checks done. The air was always cool at that time in the morning, but it never took long for the African sun to come out and the temperatures to soar. While the guys were out racing, our team manager and I raced to the various water points, where we would yell out time gaps and cheer the team on.
Through the water point
Unlike road races, which is my background, endurance mountain bikers must do any in-race repairs on their own, with disqualification being the punishment for anyone taking outside help. Without a back-up team this year I knew there was no plan-B if the bikes weren’t perfect. But you can do everything right and the trail will come along and give the bikes a beating.
Our guys suffered many flat tires, as well as a snapped chain, throughout the week. All of which they fixed themselves, well enough to handle the rest of the day’s stage and get to the finish, sometimes over 100km away. After the finish I washed the bikes and back to our accommodation I set about replacing any broken parts and checking the bikes head-to-toe.
Such dusty conditions take their toll on rider and bike alike
Fixing bikes is my livelihood, so I’m happy when people bring me their steed to repair. Working a mountain bike race like this though brought home the fact that as a rider, you need to know how your bike works, at least enough to get you safely back home.
Seek out advice from your local bike shop, take a course, and follow my blogs here where I will also be posting basic mechanical know-how lessons.
The more you know, the more confident you will be and the farther you can explore. Make sure you have your multitool and flat repair kit, grab your Funkier riding gear and get out and ride!
Not a bad workshop!
An Epic Week!