As legend has it this was one of, if not the hardest Epic ever, with 6 days in a row of 120km+ days over unrelentingly rough terrain. After 3 successful Cape Epic finishes in 2005 , 2006 and 2007, and some decent training and experience, check our Cape Epic Guide, this one really tested us. This time we suffered punctures, breakdowns and illness but still we rode our best race ever and had a great event. Read the Cape Epic 2008 race review for Team BBB below with all the gory details.
The Race Review
The 2008 race route 966km 21158m of ascent was as follows:
Prologue: 17km 310m in the Pezula estate
Stage 1: 123km 3091m : Knysna to Saarsveld near George
Stage 2: 137km 2518m: Saarsveld to Calitzdorp
Stage 3: 133km 2340m: Calitzdorp to Riversdale
Stage 4: 121km 2620m: Riversdale to Swellendam
Stage 5: 146km 1819m: Swellendam to Bredaarsdorp
Stage 6: 130km 2095m: Bredaarsdorp to Hermanus
Stage 7: 91km 1985m: Hermanus to Grabouw
Stage 8: 68km 1760m: Grabouw to Lourensford near Somerset West
Team BBB set out on a quest for a Cape Epic Top 50 spot. This was no easy challenge with the field improving every year and the conditions becoming harder. The prologue turned out to be a nice warmup and a good way to settle the nerves and check bikes, or damage bikes as in our case. We managed to cut two Maxxis crossmarks in the prologue, so we had some maintenance to do in the afternoon. Some teams were looking good after the prologue, but that would not last long after the real riding began.
We started off by picking some teams to mark at the start of the race, some guys that we had raced before and knew would be setting a good pace. After a blitzing day 1 we were infront of all our marked teams and happy with a good day out and our plan was working. It was by far our best day 1 at an epic and laid the groundwork for a solid epic ahead. Day 2 was really hard, with a long climb to soften you up and then a brutally long steep hot and rough climb to finish you off. We had another good day out and we finished the day slightly ahead of the previous day. We made good time on the technical decent, something that would help us on many days.
Day 3 we went a bit backward as Alan started with a cold and broke a front deraileur which required fixing at the Shimano techzone. We took the opportunity to rest a bit. Day 4 and 5 were pretty average as we maintained our positions but found the going quite hard, not really knowing whether or not to go for it again. Fatique was setting in and we could see teams dropping off and the slow starters getting stronger. Day 6 was our best day, we had a very good start and stuck with the front bunches. Then we got to Salmansdam and got over the mountain quickly dropping some other teams. Over the top we caught up with a fast bunch and rode all they way into Hermanus to finish Top 50 – it was a great effort.
But it was the last bit that I really had as my cold really took hold on day 7, I started ok but limped home. Luckily we had cemented a good position, 56 over all, close to our Top 50 goal. Day 8 was a nightmare and one of the hardest days on a bike for me. It was damage control the whole day and I was as sick as a dog when we eventually crossed the line. Not a great way to end the epic but I was glad to make it and thankful to Albert for pulling me all the way in.
This epic was harder than any other I have done, after 6 days there was no easy days or chance to rest at all, it just kept on coming. There were few if any easy finishes, and this makes it particularly hard. At the time it was almost too hard and un pleasant, but afterwards it does not seem that bad. It lived up to its reputation of being hard – harder than you think!
We could not have ridden the way we did if it were not for Candice and Belinda. Experts in race support they were like real dedicated professionals. Looking after us at the end of everyday with recovery drinks, lunch, snacks and pep talks. They really made our race and were an inspiration to us. Everyday we looked forward to getting to finish and seeing them. Maxxis techzone guys helped us with some maintenance and bike cleaning even though they didn’t have to, they were superb and also made our lives alot easier – thanks guys!
Our Raleigh prototypes were a secret revelation. These full suspension bikes were perfect for the conditions especially the many rough and bumpy tracks that we had to negotiate at the end of stages. There were also many very technical descents that we went down with ease fully in control and with a fair amount of comfort. Climbing the bikes was no problem, the active suspension often providing much needed traction on the loose rocky climbs. I rode with a Maxxis monorail on the front and it made by bike stick in the corners, I was always confident on the descents and never felt even a little bit of slip on high speed smooth and loose rock corners. All the BBB parts were solid in their performance and they are still on my bike and will be so for many kilometres.
The Race Diary – Day by Day blows
Friday, March 28, 2008 Cape Epic Prologue – Team BBB
Cape Epic made history today with the running of a time trial prologue type event. First riders left at 8am and the last ones at 2pm. We rode from Knysna to the start at Pezula and got a bit more of a warmup than we had bargained for going up Sparrabosh hill.
Everything went according to plan and we hit the track at 10:20 with a target time of under 45min which seemed to be a good pace. It was a fun route with some testing climbs, a bit of single track and some fast rocky downhills. We rode hard but paid the price with Albert getting a cut tyre and a flat. With the fat bastards behind us we did a speedy plug and bomb repair and got going again as they passed us. The second half of the route was easier with more downhills. As we hit the finish circle I also started to flat but made it across the line.
The finish was festive with the pros leaving between 11 – 11:30 so we could see them go off and come back. Kevin Evans and David George wrode into the lead with the fastest time of the day.
Turns out that I also suffered a cut tyre, so two brand new maxxis crossmarks later and our bikes are good to go again. It was a gentle reminder that we need to ride carefully to preserve bike and body for the next 8 days.
Today was fun and interesting and it was nice lying around on the lawn feeling good after the ride, but it will be quite unlike the 8 days ahead. So tomorrow the real riding will start and the truth serum will be administered.
Saturday, March 29, 2008 Cape Epic Day 1 – Team BBB
It was a great day for riding day 1 at the epic. We have ridden this day 1 route twice before, one in the wet and once in the pouring rain. So today with sunshine and dry ground we were smiling and hoping for good day.
The seeding from the prologue worked out great as you could get a seeded start with similar level riders. The start was full of excitement and anticipation. Today was climbing climbing and climbing! The tracks through the forest were awesome with a good variety and changing surfaces all the time.
We rode quite hard today wanting to get a good first day. Our quick stop strategy worked well as we wasted little time at the water points. We finished comfortably and spent the afternoon recovering. No bike or body issues means that we should be in good shape for tomorrow.
Sunday, March 30, 2008 Cape Epic 2008 – Day 2 broke back mountain
Today was a really tough day out in typical epic style. A fast start into George and the lead up to Montague pass. It was a long pass and we tried to maintain a good pace without over doing it.
Down the other side and rolling dusty Karoo roads before we turned off and went through some farm jeep tracks. This section of the route was nice because there were lots of technical bits to takes your mind off the 140km for the day.
The route became more and more technical and it got hotter and hotter. Eventually we got to the final climb of the day at the 102km mark. It was loose rock with 4 false peaks with a total ascent of about 1000 metres. Two sections were too difficult to ride due to the loose rock and gradient. The descent on the other side was equally challenging with steep loose rock and concrete path sections. It reminded us of a route from one of our training camps that simulated the heat and conditions very well.
The last bit home was almost the worst with me running out of water and not able to stick with some passing bunches. I was very happy to see the finish to one of the more difficult days that I can remember. We finished in the top 50 but have taken the whole afternoon to recover. Candice and Belinda have been our saviours helping to recover as quickly as possible with plenty food and drink.
There were quite a few non finishers today and some very weary but happy faces at the 6pm cut off.
Monday, March 31, 2008 Cape Epic day 3 -Team BBB breaks down
Day 3 at the epic was both good and bad. It was a good day with a comfortable route with lots of flowing jeep track, technical sections and karoo scenery. The last 30 odd kms into Riversdsle was on a tar pass – a piece of cake compared to the nightmare climb of day 2.
On the bad side I seem to have developed a cold, surprise – so we had to take it a bit easier today. We also had our first real technical problem with my front derailleur breaking just before the first water point. I could shift up but not down, so I had to use my foot to shift down. We tried a quick fix but that didn’t work. So I had to stick it out to the shimano tech zone at wp 2. Bonus was that the break was a warranty claim, the Shimano guys were excellent and fixed it quickly so that we could continue.
I thought I had issues until we saw this guy at the end with a broken bike and completely missing seat post. His bike broke with about 80 km to go so they made a plan and managed to make it to the finish before cut off. Check the pics below.
Tuesday, April 01, 2008 Cape epic day 4 – Team BBB
Today was hard for us, and the finish made it one of the toughest stages so far. We started fast with the front bunch but could only hold on for so long. Then we filtered through the field a bit until we reached Grootvadersbosch. After that we held our own until the end including the killer finish that had 3 nasty steep hills before Swellendam.
There were lots of casualties today with some really bad falls. Also a few more teams pulled out including some top names. We also started to see singles today as partner-less riders soldiered on.
It was another long hot day out making this one of the hardest epics so far
Wednesday, April 02, 2008 Cape epic day 5 – Better day for Team BBB
Stage 5 from Swellendam to Bredaarsdorp was the longest epic stage so far 147km. We made it in under 7 hours, it was another long hard day day. This has been a really hard epic so far with 5 long hard days in a row.
Today had a really fast start and we did the first 48 km to wp1 in well under 2hrs. Then through de hoop it was rocky and sandy but very scenic right next to the sea. After wp2 there was an awesome 3km rocky downhill leading to an isolated dam in a valley. The last stretch was windy and long, another rocky section broke the monotony before a fast tar finish.
The Cannondale leading team finished today after riding the last 16km on a bare rim! – amazing!
Thursday, April 03, 2008 Cape epic day 6 – Team BBB top 50
Stage 6 Bredaarsdorp to Hermanus was a great day for us. I finally felt good again and even found myself on the front a few times. The start was comfortable with no dust because the nights rain had settled the ground.
Today we had some real racing on our hands, we were riding together with all the teams who are close to us on the leader board so everyone was watching each other. After the first climb most of us regrouped and headed to the second water point. We got out of the wp first and stated the long Salmansdam climb first. It was a long hot climb on typical sandy rocky cape fynbos type ground. The scenery was beautiful but you had to concentrate on the track to stay upright. The decent was fast loose and rocky pushing your bike in all directions. We made it over the climb and descended quickly to stay ahead of the other teams.
From there it was pretty flat for the rest of the way with a brief tar section, more rolling sandy and rocky farm tracks, a terrible sandy corrugated road, bumpy sandy dune tracks, short beach section and then the finish at the old Hermanus harbour. We helped a team with a chain breaking tool and then rode with them to the finish joining up with another bunch. 6 hours in the saddle again earned us 50th spot overall, and we had to work hard for that.
Our support team were at two vantage points today to encourage us which was great, and then they were at the finish feeding and helping us recover. Tonight we broke out of the race village to get some burgers at the spur with team weaseldoo.
Friday, April 04, 2008 Cape epic day 7 – Team BBB shorter but harder
Day 7 was average for us, we started well but I was completely exhausted at the finish. I struggled to eat and had no power in my legs. I also had a mini sense of humour failure with riding my third epic with a cold again. We still managed to finish in the 60’s and actually moved up a few spots in the gc into the 50’s. So all was not lost.
The route was great with some nice scenic climbs and many kilometres of singletrack. One more day to end off a hard epic, I will have to see how I feel tomorrow.
Saturday, April 05, 2008 Cape Epic Day 8 – Team BBB nightmare
After a great start to Cape Epic 2008 we finished day 8 and the end of the race with a real downer. My cold got very bad at the end of Day 7 so I woke up to Day 8 feeling half dead. Normally the last day is great fun as you give you last bit of energy, suck up the atmosphere and arrive at the finish feeling a great sense of achievement. But this time around it was very different for us as I struggled straight off the start line.
There was no chance of not riding, so off we went. By day 7 we had moved upto 56 GC, but it quickly became evident that there would be no improvement to that, instead it would be all damage control. The route was great again with alot of climbing to make up the 1700m ascent over 62km. Albert was feeling good so he was able to pull me over most of the big climbs. Halfway through the day at the first water point most of the major climbs were over and I had a little bit more power so we managed to maintain our position in the field and ride into the finish without loosing more time. It was one of the longest and hardest 4 hours on a bike ever for me, I am glad and lucky to have made it. But am now paying the price with a long slow recovery period.
The dinner at Spier was great and it was nice to spend more time with our lovely wives and start the re-integration process back to normality after yet another Cape Hectic.
We also got our customary winners photo with the Team Cannondale winners Raul and Jakob