Cape Epic 2017 – A story of Team RidePH

The Cape Epic race is often referred to as the most brutal mountain bike stage race in the world. It is an 8 day race in the Western Cape area in South Africa and is famous for its untamed and wild nature. The Cape Epic is a team event in which two riders race as a team, and must stay together at all times. Each year, The Cape Epic is a who’s who of global MTB elite riders, and this year was no exception. Olympic champions Nino Schurter and Jenny Rissveds took the line as did former Tour de France winner Cadel Evans with team partner George Hincapie – and us!

We, Christina Höck (25) and Max Schröferl (27), a couple living close to Munich, Germany started in the mixed category as Team RidePH. As amateur cyclists it was our first ever stage race. Our goal was just to have fun, to ride safely and to stay everyday as far away from the cut-off time as possible.

The preparation for the Cape Epic is not easy for Northern Europeans – to perform well, one must train a lot December, January and February. We spent a lot time on cold winter rides, even more time on cross-country skis and a lot of time indoors on the rollers. Despite this, the training went quite well. We did have one severe setback 1 week before our flight to Cape Town. Christina had a crash on a trail downhill and broke her carbon frame – Luckily we were able to replace the frame just in time!

Finally, after months of preparation, planning, training, and a nerve-wracking journey to Cape Town the start has come - the prologue, a time trial at the beautiful Meerendal Wine Farm close to Cape Town. We were extremely nervous. Thoughts raced through our minds. Are we fit enough? Do we have the skills for the extreme technical terrain? Can we bare the heat coming directly from the cold German winter? Will our equipment withstand the 8 days? A lot of thoughts and uncertainties…

It was an extremely hot day and it had not rained for months in the area. Luckily our start time was in the morning so we could really enjoy the technical route with some very nice trail sections. The atmosphere was fantastic, everything was perfectly organized and very professional. The TV cameras along the route and the three Helicopters flying over our heads gave us the feeling of riding in the World Cup – that really gave an extra motivation boost!

After the prologue we were transported to the first race village, where the race village seemed more like a small town with all kind of tents, chill out areas, supporter and tech zones and sponsor booths. A nervous atmosphere was palpable throughout the camp, as stage 1 the following day was expected to be one of the hardest of the race – and it did not dissapoint!

Stage 1 gave us our first taste of what we had to expect in the coming week. Dusty singletracks, steep climbs, rough and loose ground, sand and extreme heat. It was a really hard day with temperatures soaring above 40°C. Ex pro-cyclist George Hincapie concluded the day with the quote “tonight I am going to eat as if Paris-Roubaix [were] tomorrow.”

80 Teams were taken out of the race after stage 1 by the cut-off times. Luckily we mastered the day quite well and we finished the day in the first half of the field, giving us a bit more confidence for the stages to come.

The coming days were also extremely hot, but the beautiful landscape, the great singletrack and the overwhelming atmosphere made all the pain at least tolerable. After stage 3, we settled into a kind of daily routine: awaking to the sound of an original Scottish bagpipe player at 5 am, going to breakfast and getting dressed for the race, ride the race, eat, shower, check bikes, relax, eat again and finally go to sleep at 9pm.

On paper, the last day seemed to be a fast and relatively short stage – however, it was extremely challenging and a real fight. High temperatures and lot of loose and sandy passages required intense efforts, but in the end the satisfaction at the finish was extraordinary. In the end we overjoyed to finish in 17th place in the mixed category.

by Maximilian Schröferl

Posted on 14/06/2017 Journal

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