Betway Epic: Stage 7 Day 8
In 6h25 we finished the final stage. Who would have thought that the biggest challenge would be getting the Epic timing system to reflect our finishing time. As this is being written, the race organizers are sorting this. Incredibly frustrating.
Nonetheless, the last day was another day to remember. With fast rolling start we set out to tackle the last 92km.
The pace was fast due to both the nature of the hard surface district roads as well as the desire to get this over. In great spirits we closed in on the first water point, knowing that we had a little climb starting just after.
The little climb was the 600m elevation gain of the Paardeberg mountain. It was a brute of an ascent. On a fresh day there would be parts of this that I still would not be able to ride.
Gradients of over 20% with loose surface made sections impossible to ride and we had to resort to portaging the bikes like pilgrims heading towards some unknown.
It took well over an hour to get to the top, which included a false summit just for humour.
Once over the top, the descent again was treacherous. By the standards of the back-markers Gareth and I were masters of the descents and we passed a lot of riders walking down trickier washed out sections.
Descending is as much about confidence as technique. A lot of thorns forced riders to pull over and mend leaking tires. We had prepared for this by overloading on the liquid sealant the day before.
We stopped to give a rider our leatherman (he had broken his rear derailler and was in need of a proper tool to fix it). 350g lighter we sped off. Stopped to give another rider a CO2 bomb to inflate his tire (he had run out). At this rate we could offload all our surplus equipment.
Gareth put his head down and continued to set a strong tempo over the closing km. The pace was quick but adrenalin was high and riding with a number of other riders in pace-lines also kept things moving fast.
One last climb to go before the 3km descent onto the playground of Meerendal. Again true to Epic form, the last climb was torturous. It was definitely longer and harder than anticipated.
With absolutely nothing left to save our energy for, we rode this well passing a number of teams either portaging or riding very slowly.
Down the switchbacks and berms of Meerendal, some time to reflect on what had been accomplished.
The sense of relief at the finish dominated everything else. So fantastic to see family and friends waiting at the end. Epic accomplished.
To those who followed us and gave us support, we can’t thank you enough. The ongoing encouragement was a continual driving force.