|Photo courtesy of Cape Epic|
|Louise Kobin racing in Cape Epic...|
Editor's Note: The Cape Epic Mountain Bike race is a grueling 780km race through and around Cape Town, South Africa. This year's race took place in March. The following is a round up by 2nd place finisher Louise Kobin.
I always imagined South Africa as a really hot place, so for this eight day stage-race I basically packed shorts, sleeveless jerseys, and at the last minute I threw in a rain-jacket. We experienced a few days of pretty warm weather, but also rain and the most brutal wind I have ever ridden in. I was pretty close to getting blown off my bike a couple of times because the wind gusts were so strong, and we witnessed several minor crashes in the groups we were riding with due to the wind.
I live in the Bay area of California, where the weather permits mountain biking year around, but my partner, Hillary Harrison, lives at Crystal Mountain, a ski resort, outside Seattle. She had been riding her bike through rain and snow in order to get ready for the race. Prior to the race Hillary and I had only met once, at La Ruta in Costa Rica, where we finished 1st and 2nd within 4 minutes of each other. We got along great the whole time, and we discovered we had pretty much the same racing personalities.
The Cape Epic started in Knysna, which is a resort about 300 km east of Cape Town. The first day was supposed to be 120 km with over 3000 meters of climbing, but it didn't seem that bad at all.
The two following days were LONG, HOT stages out in the desert on dusty gravel roads. It almost felt like a road-race with many of the male riders trying to help out the other top women's teams because they were South African (home-teams). It was pretty funny. On the third day we were in a big group with Cristy Smith and Yolande Speedy (of the Smith/Speedy team) and we were trying to break away on a climb, hoping that some of the guys would go with us. But that was definitely not happening, so about three minutes later the whole group caught us again. The guys didn't seem to mind one bit letting me or Hillary pull. Although with my 5'3" (OK- 2 1/2") I doubt I can be of much help to anyone.
The fourth day was a long stage where we made the mistake of not stopping at the last water station. We saw the 1st and 2nd place teams there, and decided to put some time on them. We thought we were really close to the finish because someone told us 1.5 K to go. Three hrs later we rolled in 3rd, and Hillary had to spend a few hours in the medical tent getting an IV because she was so dehydrated. Did not hear one complaint from her the whole time though, and she was sharing her cliff bars with some guys who were also bonking...
The last three days were probably the most fun, with more single track and windy jeep trails. We managed to get beat by Smith and Speedy in the 5th stage by .01 second, but we actually ended up winning the 7th stage.
Overall, we had a great time. We had only two flats, one incident when Hillary's rear derailleur got stuck in her wheel, but we managed to bend it out, and the last day Hillary had to ride the last 20 Kms without a rear break. Not bad over 800 Kms!
We ended up in 2nd place for the women's category, about one hour behind team Yellow Jacket (Hanlie Booyens and Sharon Laws of South Africa).
Among the things I will never forget is racing through these small rural towns where little kids got out of school to cheer us on. They were so excited to see the race going by, and afterwards they were around begging to help us wash our bikes. One last thing to mention is the finishing party which was held at Spier winery. It was awesome, with cool African music, the best Ostrich steak I have ever had, and off course lots of really really good wine. I'm sure I have forgotten to mention tons of details, there were so many great things about this race.
About the Author: Louise is a multiple winner of Trans Rockies and La Ruta, and is the winner of this year's Salzkammergut Trophy (203 km distance!) at the Trans Alps.