Thursday Throwback: A Day At The Early Cape Epic

What did a day at the Absa Cape Epic look like in the early years, when Dr Evil took riders on a journey from Knysna to Cape Town?

By Tim Brink |

The Absa Cape Epic wasn’t always the slick, looped machine it is today. For the pioneers, the early Epics were journeys, from Knysna to Cape Town and along an even longer path of self- and partner-discovery.

This day-in-the-life Cape Epic journey first appeared in Bicycling a decade and a half ago, before the event moved to its current clover-leaf format and before the Hooter To Wake The Dead was replaced with those god-awful bagpipes. As much as some of the magic of those early years has been eroded by progress, much of it remains the same. Just with sleeves on our cycling shirts, and no more 26″-wheeled bikes.


Still dark. Legs sill sore. Damn, this sleeping bag smells. I wonder if it will be allowed back in the house. I wonder if I will. Why am I awake, need sleep!


FARK what the hell!!! Why do I always manage to find a tent right next to the hooter. Or does that mad German look for me and park the truck accordingly.


What is it with the keen beans next door. You would swear they were racing this damned thing. Somebody sponsor them a snooze button, please.


I give up, these guys are getting personal now. I am too scared to look, but it sounds like they are dipping from the same chamois cream pot.


Teeth brushed, face wiped, hair finger-combed – see, dear, I am making an effort! Now, which row was my tent in? I think I hung my socks on it last night. That halves my options – black mountain biker socks, not roadie whities. I must make this a bit simpler next time. Oh, there we go, I can see the eager beavers running through their morning stretches.


Still no sign of my partner yet, I guess I should rattle his tent a little and see if he wants to go home yet. At least there is some light on the scene now.


Right, got the bugger up, time to get the gimp kit on. I know the wet shoes from yesterday will be fun, but not nearly as fun as the chamois cream. It gets cold at night, in this here desert. Maybe the cream will freeze-dry this bloody (pun intended) saddle sore, and it will drop off like a wart. Hope so. There is no way I am heading for the bum clinic and touching my toes. Those medics look like they enjoy the view far too much, even the red-meat-only camel men.


Creamed up, suited up and ready to roll… into the breakfast tent. Saved my partner from a fiery death, why would you put the deep heat and the bum cream in the same part of your bag anyway? Stopped him burning a hole in his bag, so to speak, just in time. Maybe I should have left it, he would have got dressed a bit quicker.


Made it to breakfast, finally, in spite of being stampeded by exiting seeded riders trying to make sure of their uber-position in their start chute. Thankfully, they all weigh less than your average supermodel, so no harm done.


Right, second helping time. Glad the appetite is back – the first three days of the Cape Epic was more like making foie gras than feeding an endurance athlete. Now, the body just screams for more. I hope the extra banana doesn’t reappear on the first climb. Again.


Bike park. I am so glad we are taking this easy, if only ‘cos it makes finding your bike easier when half the field has already liberated theirs. And I am even happier the tyres are still hard. Did make the mistake of trying to ride out of the bike park. Landed skew on that damned saddle sore, and hooked bars with a still-racked bike. Very embarrassing. Maybe even more so than the bum clinic.


Edgy Cape Epic bibbed marshall shepherding us into the final chute. Chill, dude, we have all day. And every minute I spend out of the chute, is a minute without having to put my hanz up in ze air.


Ten minutes to go. Trying hard to be cool, but I crap myself every day right about now. My partner handles it by panicking about a setting on his bike. If he tries to get his bar ends level one more time he might need a proctologist to find them.


Mike the Mike on top form. Found myself bopping along to some techno-hypno-krappo number. Nobody noticed, thankfully. I guess it beats Chariots of Fire, and multiple Hoopla!s.


The jersey wearers have just come rolling past, still looking sleepy in spite of their espresso-machine-equipped-camper parallel lives.


Why did I inherit my father’s iron will, but my mother’s pea-sized bladder. I’ll be back…

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3… Grab bike from pissed off partner.

2… Swing a leg over the saddle, apologise to the large Dutch man behind for blikseming his bike computer across the start chute

1… Thunder birds are go!!!!!

0… well, there is a lot happening down here, guys.


Finally we are rolling. And the idjit behind’s STI is no longer making love to my butt cheek.


So much for a neutral zone to start – 55kph on the flat, bottles flying everywhere, brakes and brakers squealing like piggies.


Can we have the neutral zone back, please. Dr Evil, you bastard. 15 minutes is not enough warm up for this stupid climb. Just ‘cos your laatie weighs less than a dassie, doesn’t mean the rest of us want to scale sheer cliffs every morning.


Still on Dr Evil’s new find. It has a stupid name – the Gristly Grind or similar. The daily plan is working – I have pummeled my partner into thinking I am stronger than him. He is apologising for holding us up. He will be mine for the rest of the day. I should get an Emmy for this.


Gradually, the lost souls make out an oasis in the Karoo desert – shimmering in the distance. Is it real? Is the sharp-dressed man from head office greeting us as we roll in real? Woollies, we love you.


Pro-class, that’s what that pit stop was.


What is the point of a pro-class pit stop if your partner can’t find just the right banana. They are all mangled by now, you chop.


Justifiable homicide, it would have been. So close. Back on the road, at last. Ride more, it will help your stress levels, they said.


I just had a full conversation with a sheep. Except, it was a bush.


Not enjoying this. My earlier bluff may have been called. My partner’s rear is all I have seen for half an hour, and it scares me that it is comforting to see. I think my legs were mugged at the last water stop.


Can hear Paul Valstar’s dulcet tones – the finish must be near.


Can no longer hear Paul. Dr Evil, you are a swine, but we love you anyway. (My Buddhist adviser said I must say the second bit, to avoid any bad karma). It would appear we are doing the 15km circumnavigation, via a radio mast, of the hill overlooking the finish.


Finally, we can see, and hear, the finish, and the dead straight approach. No more surprises.


I lied. One more surprise. My cycling CV has expanded since yesterday’s finish. Thanks, Paul.


Bluff called, my partner has fallen a sleep, sitting up, in a chair at the back of the coke tent.


Running late for dinner! Two beers, and I am on my knees. Sad.


Abandoned sleeping beauty and have found a pair of tents. On the far side of the field, no infrastructure vehicles in sight. Have hung my socks on the tents so I can find them again.


Dragged our bags to the Cape Epic tents. Tomorrow, I must do the falling asleep trick. These things get heavier every day. Bikes delivered to the bike wash/park. Legends, these guys. Legends.


Showered at last. Forgot my toiletries again, but somebody had left theirs behind, so all good. Pretending the rings around my ankles are suntan, not embedded grime. Sorry, dear.


For the fourth day in a row, have had to put feet back into sif cycling shoes. Must tie slops to my towel or something.


Headed off to the Cape Epic Chill Zone. Dan The Man has the mike again. He is being mildly abusive, has squeezed in three references to the Bulls getting carrots from the Stormers. Karl and Stefan look a little uncomfortable. Almost won a prize in the lucky draw. Dodged a bullet – he would have noticed my ‘tan lines’ I am sure. His abuse is rich, coming from a man who wears curtains for trousers.


Running late for dinner! Two beers, and I am on my knees. Sad.


Found a spot to sit. Sharing table with a couple of American riders. Recovery drinks and lo-fat stuff everywhere. Ordered a second beer in their honour.


Full like a tick. Just got an SMS with our results for the day. We moved up three spots. Wicked. We still start in the social section, so we will see all the same faces again.


The mad Spaniard is on stage – cool. He is a funny guy. He just has to say his name to make me laugh – sounds like a pissed off cobra with a lisp. He runs through what happened at the front end of the field every evening, giving us fatties an idea of what it is like to climb at Warp Factor 7, and still be able to talk kak. It would appear the first climb of the day didn’t even blip Jose’s radar. Sod.


Back in the Chill Zone. I think there is a weight limit for entry after dinner – nobody under 70kg welcome. Half the field is excluded. Honorary fatty status for the Platt and Sahm, though. ‘Kom drink Sahm’. Germans and beer may not be separated.


Yikes! Is that the time? I have missed my massage… phoned to apologise, and the kind young lady said, with a smile in her voice, that it was fine she welcomed the break. I know she will hurt me double tomorrow.


Time to veer off towards bed. Might have overdone the booze with that sixth beer.


Finally found the tents. They all look the same at the Cape Epic. Can’t be arsed to do my teeth. Mainly because I can’t find my toothbrush. Finding the tent was a challenge enough.


Teeth done, dear. Had to get up for the mother of all pees. Damned beer.


Why would anybody want to be moving a truck around at this time of night? Feels like it is parked on top of my head. Crazy German.


FARK! What the hell!!!



















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