Epic, it has begun. A proper day. Highlighted as one of the toughest day, thankfully it was the first day. Days like this that come after 5 days are pure hell.

The Groenlandberg climb is 9km and rises 600+ m, but it’s the surface that really wears you down. It took us 1hr10 to ride just that climb.

The descent took us 15min, this was more hectic than the climb. A gum guard would not have been out of place. T

he descent was treacherous and very tiring on the arms. Even some of the top pros took a fall. A sign of what’s in store for the rest of the week.

The Betway team focus is to get me over the finish line. Gareth could ride this at a much higher tempo, and he is so inside his zone.

He set the perfect pace for me, so much so that apart from the Epic nature of the terrain, we were riding very comfortably.

I have a fine line. If I’m inside that line I can go on and on like a diesel engine, if I’m outside that line, severe pain and suffering awaits. I feel if we can keep this pace, things should be fine.

The previous night’s race briefing, the organisers stressed that the distance between the 1st and 2nd water point, which included the Groenlandberg climb, was longer than usual, 36km, so take extra water.

A rider who had completely run out of water asked me how long to go to the 2nd water point. When I told him we still had 10km with 200m ascent still left, he totally freaked out. You have to pay attention to the little details!

We arrived at the 2nd water point which was incidentally the exact spot that I was forced to drop out in last years Epic, albeit a different route and this was day 1 vs day 6.

Still it brought back some tender memories, but Gareth did point out the positive that at least this time I made it past this spot!

Now we were riding over terrain that we had ridden at times before. Great we know the area, so we thought.

You can’t ever get comfortable, the route turns to a trail you have never seen and usually climbs severely. As with most Epic days, the total climbing plays a huge part of the difficulty.

In fact total cumulative ascent is the second setting on my Garmin, after HR% and before distance. I reckon we spend 2/3rds of the day climbing.

The weather also played its part today, from a mild day forecast, the rain pitched up. Thankfully we had taken rain jackets which we were intending on using more for warmth but with a ‘you never know’ factored in.

A lot of riders did not have rain gear and there were times at the higher altitudes when they must have been pretty cold. As back-markers we tend to ride pretty split up from the main packs.

We do have many moments when we ride with large packs of other teams but there are also many occasions when we are totally alone. No-one to be seen in front or behind. Traversing over some of the most beautiful terrain, it’s pretty special.

With the rain settling in, having Mike with us to take care of so much of our ‘admin’ is a god-send. He is unbelievable in how he just takes over and gets things done. It’s a great help for Gareth and I. He’s also learning to make a great cappuccino.

We finished today at around 8h14. A long day, but a comfortable one.

Team Betway looking forward to stage 2.