Epic….what a ride? Literally….

by Adéle Niemand

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It took me about a week to get to my senses and organize my thoughts to express what it’s like to do the biggest, most brutal mountain bike race in the world. The ABSA Cape Epic. One thing is for certain, when I was asked by my partner to do this, I never would have imagined how deep I had to delve into my soul to finish the race.

During the 8 days of many ups (mountain upon mountain) and many downs, I managed to get a finishers medal after a very tough and brutal week of #untamed mountain biking.

Several times during the race I thought “no amount of my training has prepared me for this“. Especially when I lost my partner on the Prologue. Being part of a team my whole life during my time as Netball player, the toughest decision was accepting that she had injured herself bad enough to not complete the race but to leave her to be attended to the medics and chasing to make the cut off time on the first day.

The implication of this would mean that I could finish the Epic as an individual, basically doing it alone.

Standing in the starting shoot that Monday morning (Stage 1), I would be lying if I did not say that I was scared, scared of being alone, scared of how I would approach it by myself.Adel Niemand_Cape Epic_SPC3

As the first day started I decided to stay with the group and my approach was to conserve my energy. 20km into the Adel Niemand_Cape Epic_SPC4stage I had a fall and buckled my front wheel. I found truth in what everyone tells you about the Epic about the camaraderie of fellow riders but it’s only until you experience it that you truly understand what it’s all about. Team Marius & Marius (yes they have the same names) saved me and tried to bend my egg shaped wheel straight. Riding to the first water point I was praying for a miracle. I had a 40min wait at the water point and knew that I was running out of time. After WP1 I was riding for kilometres without seeing a soul, I was quite emotional when I got to WP2 and thereafter yet again attending to my wheel I started up Haarkapper’s. I saw about 6 people delirious with heat exhaustion, broken collarbones on the way down, broken bodies. In my mind I was just saying, keep on MOVING! The officials at WP 3 said I had enough time to finish but with the blistering heat and all the emotions of the day, I was starting to doubt my chances of completing the stage before the dreaded cut off horn blows. I made it with 9 minutes to spare, tired as hell and fully aware of what the week could bring.

Stage 2 was shortened to 64km. I welcomed this, because I saw enough carnage the previous 2 days and was worried about my own abilities at that point.Adel Niemand_Cape Epic_SPC5

A friend of mine also lost his partner during Stage 1. He showed remarkable sportsmanship and stayed with her as she cramped and was struggling to finish Stage 1, this meant he could continue the race but as a blue board rider, therefore not getting an official finishers medal. I was inspired by this and he really pulled me through the Epic, just someone to ask “Are you OK, Della?” and making sure you get through the toughest climb is sometimes all the motivation you need.

There is definitely a reason why this is team event, it tough if you’re a team, even worse when you are faced doing it alone. I don’t know how I got onto the bike each day, my body was bruised but my mind was strong and I was determined to finish the journey that Elma and I started. Even if it was just to do it for her, for her to know that I did not quit, give up or give in. I resolved that the only time I would consider doing this would be when the medics told me I couldn’t and as this did not happen I just put my big girl cleats on and challenged each day.Adel Niemand_Cape Epic_SPC6

Except for stage 1 my toughest day was the long stage from Greyton to Elgin, there was a stage when my body did not want anymore, and I was tired beyond words. It was when Fritz took my bike and pushed it up yet another Hill that I took a deep breath, composed myself and focused on the finish line.Adel Niemand_Cape Epic_SPC7

With the Queen Stage looming I decided not to think about it and tackle it on the day.

Groenlandberg is not a joke and when I approached the end of the climb I was in tears as in knew this would be the climb of climbs and I had made it.

I have allot more that I can share, but I will need a bigger space to do so. Waking up on the final day was the best feeling, I knew it was short and the end was near. I knew that if I was focused I would get there, I had made it so far all ready.

Crossing the finish line at Val de Vie was one of the best feelings of my life. I have won many awards as a netball player, but putting that medal around my neck was one of my proudest moments. I definitely need to thank a few people for this Epic experience, to SPC Bloemfontein, Morne Castelyn thank you for the training programs, it was tough but with good reason, to Raubex our main Adel Niemand_Cape Epic_SPC8sponsor if it wasn’t for you this would have only been a dream! Our nutrition sponsor, Biogen. I can highly recommend Cytogen, it fuelled me every day. Elma York my partner, I salute you and I know one day you will challenge this race and conquer it. My supporters that kept me going, every chilled water bottle, recovery drink, every wet wipe, and every person that called my name. Renee van Zyl, you were an amazing second. Alet, that pink towel made the world of difference, words of encouragement from my Epic updates WhatsApp group. Those messages gave me new strength every day. Our physio, Estie Potgieter for getting my body in the best possible condition before I had to get back on the saddle the next day. Fritz Greyvenstein thank you, if I could I would give you half of this medal. And last but not least San, I would have been lost without you, you kept me going when I did not have direction and was just there when I needed you. You are the ultimate supporter and kept me strong. They are not lying when they say this is a bucket list race, but be prepared and know that your mental toughness has more worth than you physical preparation.

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