Stage 3 was Brutal – David is shattered, we almost never made the cut off time due to 3 punctures, derailleur jamming and sand….lots of it.
With that, we had to contend with 38 degree temperature and race directors throwing in sections of last year’s Queen Stage (the hardest) in reverse.
We started out the blocks slow, David had some recovering to do from the previous day. We set off at the back of our group and watched them ride away.
The best moments in Epic are the days when you are riding alone. Your concentration can relax for a moment and you manage to take in the scenery. Riding out of Oak Valley this morning into the heavens was majestic…..until we got a two punctures.
It was bound to happen as to date we never got one. Fixing the tire set us back into the last group, which was a first for us.
What struck us was the camaraderie amongst the back makers….they are all in it to finish it. Riding alongside a Springbok and Wales Prop (Marius Hurter & Colin Charvis) was memorable…..watching two French riders jump into the aqueduct semi-naked was an eye opener.
And then there was Bossie, he rides with his forehead on the handlebars and epitomizes the agony that some of these guys are going though. What an experience…..but this stage got hotter, the climbs got harder and the back-makers fizzled out into nothingness.
With our comfortable pace and some long water stops we calculated that we were on track to finish but we were cutting it very fine.
The sand arrived and it messed up everything, suddenly we found ourselves walking for a good 30 minutes and our Epic was in jeopardy. We had to up our average speed up to over 15km for the two hours and we had no idea what was ahead of us.
Gareth upped the tempo into a head wind, David put his head down and for the next 28 km was possibly our hardest moment as a team.
Thoughts of not making it crept into our head and we had to dig really deep, we did not want to end this by not making the cut off. A number of times David’s front wheel brushed the back wheel of Gareth’s bike, fatigue, it can end things very quickly.
We came in exhausted 40 minutes shy of the stated cut-cut off time in around 9h20`, although this was extended by an hour due to the severity of the stage (we didn’t know this and could not bank on any grace). Stage three, Epic 2015 has no doubt been the toughest of them all.
Lets see what tomorrow brings…