Read the daily progress of Nicky Gilomee and Brennan Anderson as they take on the Absa Cape Epic journey for Junto. Here’s the story, roughly, as told by Nicky…
Journey by Junto
Nicky and Brennan are riding for Journey by Junto a mobile application specifically developed for people taking a journey in life. The app consolidates the user’s journey from all popular social media platforms, creating a memorable experience for both the user and their followers. Find out more at www.junto-it.com/journeyapp.
Prologue: UCT 18 March 2018
UCT: 20km with 600m of climbing
I didn’t really know what to expect going into the Prologue, or know my partner for that matter – as we’d only met two weeks before the Epic and been on one ride together before the Prologue. We checked out the route once before but we didn’t really know how much we did and how much we were lost for, because we didn’t really know exactly where the route was going. So we just decided to take it steady and obviously take no chances at all. I even ran down Plum Pudding because before we went someone told me it was super rutted.
Despite riding so conservatively, especially on the downhills, when we got to the finish everyone was congratulating us and to our great surprise we had set the fastest time in the mixed category at that point. But we really didn’t expect to stay inside the podium positions on the day. So when we got a phone call from Miguel (from the Cape Epic) to say we had to be in the race village for prize giving I actually asked him: “Why?” I couldn’t believe we were second on the stage.
We were super, super happy. But very surprised. With the teams starting at staggered intervals, rather than all the mixed teams starting one after the other, and with the times being so close together so we didn’t know what to expect. It also meant we didn’t know what to expect on Stage 1 as we would be starting in a group behind the Argentinian category leaders Agustina Maria Apaza and Cesar Lettoli.
Stage 1: 19 March 2018
Arabella Wines: 110km with 1 900m of climbing
Today was interesting… both Brennan and I had tummy issues yesterday so we were feeling a little fragile this morning. We even thought we might have to make a few pit-stops… But luckily we seem to be alright. Just a bit ‘paparig’.
Brennan was super strong and he helped me a lot. We climbed really well but because we were in B Batch we didn’t know how to gauge our progress. I was the only woman in B Batch, Agustina was in A Batch with the other category leaders; and the other mixed and non-UCI women’s teams were in C Batch. So we knew the other teams would be chasing us.
But because we weren’t feeling that well we weren’t trying to catch Agustina and Cesar. I thought they would be a little bit fast for me. So again when we got to the finish and were only 38 seconds slower than the Argentinians we were again really surprised.
Again we’re so happy with how it went. We survived the rocks and the sand. At times we were completely isolated and it was just the two of us on the trails and at others we managed to get into nice groups and ride well together; so it’s a nice surprise to be second on the mixed category podium again today.
Stage 2: 20 March 2018
Arabella Wines: 106km with 2 000m of climbing
Yoh… today was a dark day for me. My stomach is still not great and I was struggling with nausea too, so I suffered all day – a lot! Especially the last half of the stage, which isn’t ideal when the last half of the stage is 55 kilometres long…
I had to dig really deep but I made it to the finish and after a nap I’m feeling a lot better. All-in-all we made it and kept our position, which doesn’t cease to surprise me. We even managed to put some time into the team in third on the mixed category general classification.
It might only be Stage 2 but with a 33 minute lead over my first Epic partner Marleen Lourens and her 2018 partner Bradley Hemphill we can afford to be a bit more conservative now. There’s a long way to go but the finish is creeping closer and we won’t be taking any chances.
Holding thumbs tomorrow is a better day for me and my stomach…
Stage 3: 21 March 2018
Arabella to HTS Drostdy: 122km with 1 800m of climbing
Um… yoh today was long… It was a tough day but we were riding really well and because we started in the same batch as the leading mixed team (Agustina and Cesar of Merida Argentina) for the first time and that really made a big difference. I think them starting in A Batch on the first two stages allowed them to make a much faster start.
We rode with them or at lease within sight of them for the first 30 kilometres and then I said to Brennan that we need to slow down. They were just going too fast so we tapped off a bit but at about the 70 kilometre mark Brennan said: “Nix I can see them I can see them…”
I thought: “Oh my gosh can we just get to the finish”, because I knew we still had a long day to go. But on the big climb up Penn Hill we passed them and even started to open up a little gap to them. With them behind us Brennan’s racing instincts took over and he kept saying: “We need to go. Let’s go!” But I was so tired… And there was still so far to go. I was even unsure if I would be able to make the finish at that pace.
Although we descended really well from the summit of Penn Hill at the bottom they were still within sight of us (not that I turned around to look once…). To make it more stressful Yolandi du Toit and Gus Klohn rode really well today too and were close behind us all day. Yolandi and Gus, Agustina and Cesar, and the two of us were all at the third water point together.
Then we got away from them after that water point and the other two teams worked together for a bit until the Argentinians dropped off the pace. With about 15 kilometres to go Yolandi and Gus were still just 20 seconds behind us, it was so close. So Brennan had to motivate me by to keep pushing. He even used guilt on me by saying: “You have to keep going, it’s Suzi’s birthday”. And somehow I did and we won the stage!
All-in-all I think the stage was really hard for everybody, there was a lot of sand and a lot of rocks. We even punctured a few times, but nothing serious so we were very happy with how the day went.
Tomorrow is another day though, and the Queen Stage. So we’ll just take it in our stride with the aim to get to the finish without taking too many risks. Or at least that’s my plan… but because we’re 2 minutes and 34 seconds off the Mixed Category leader’s jersey my partner is going to want to race… So I’m going to have another big day ahead of me – hopefully he listens to me and we can keep it steady, but I doubt it…
Stage 4: 22 March 2018
DTS Drostdy to Wellington: 113km with 1 800m of climbing
I was trying to have a nap, but I had caffeine gel on Bainskloof Pass so I can’t sleep now. I never consume caffeine so the struggle is real! On the riding front though I was a bit apprehensive before the start today, my bum is sore from four days in the saddle and my legs are tired from the 358 kilometres we’ve already ridden. Still we managed to get a good start, despite my body feeling a little wrecked and all the sand – which isn’t my favourite.
We rode the first 38 kilometres with Yolandi, Gus, Agustina and Cesar, but then in one of the singletracks I came short. I fell super hard – landed on my hip, face and head. (I must actually check my helmet for cracks!) My sunglasses even broke. I completely took myself out.
From there on it was a struggle. My hip is super sore, but I think it’s just bruised.
Brennan was an absolute champion today. The whole day… but particularly after my crash; pushing, pulling, running – if it was too steep he would run and push me so I could stay on my bike – just being an absolute legend, getting me to the finish, and in first place in the Mixed Category too!
My hip actually seemed to become less stiff as we kept riding, so we could go pretty fast up Bainskloof. And I must say it was so nice to have a little bit of tar! All-in-all it was a super lekker stage. I’m stoked with how it went and now I’m really excited to have a shorter riding time tomorrow. Even though the time trial is going to be tough it means we’ll be able to rest a bit more.
Just three more days to go now and we just need to be careful, conservative, not take any chances and keep it together to the finish… it’s starting to sound like my mantra by now, but after the fall today it’s doubly important to stay safe.
Stage 5: 23 March 2018
Time Trial: 39km with 1 450m of climbing
Today was brutal. I’m super stiff from my fall yesterday. And on top of it the time trial was my most feared stage – I knew it would be the worst for me coming into the race, because it’s so short and so sharp. That type of riding is really not my favourite.
So we went in knowing it would be about damage control. But Brennan was super, super strong again; pulling me, pushing me wherever he could.
We lost 2 minutes to the Argentinians who had started 2 minutes behind us and they caught us in Cool Runnings Two, the second singletrack descent. They both raced World Cups so they’re super-fast on the technical sections, with their cross-country backgrounds. But we managed to catch them again on the flat section running in towards the finish and crossed the line with them, so we only lost 2 minutes to them on the general classification. So it wasn’t the end of the world.
I’m super glad that the time trial is over! And I think tomorrow will hopefully be a little bit easier. And the end is in sight! I’m so excited.
Stage 6: 24 March 2018
Wellington: 76km with 2 000m of climbing
Today was super hard, but then again what day isn’t at the Epic? I’m still very stiff from the crash on Stage 4 and my hip was pretty sore all day too. I think Brennan is even more excited than I am to get the Cape Epic finished now because he was on the gas from the get-go. I just had to hang in there and endure the sufferfest.
Besides the suffering it was a good day out, the singletracks were amazing and we’re both stoked to still be in green. We even added to our lead in the mixed category today which is exciting, especially as tomorrow is the last day.
I’m excited to get to the end now!
Stage 7: 25 March 2018
Wellington to Val de Vie: 67km with 2 000m of climbing
We started in A Batch which I wasn’t excited about. I was the only woman in the group and the guys are super-fast. And to top it off I was feeling sick too, so I was a bit worried for the final stage of the 2018 Cape Epic.
But despite my concerns the ride was good. Because we had a good lead over the Argentinians we didn’t have to do anything special, just keep it together and stay upright. I must say the support on route, during the final stage, was incredible. Everywhere we went there were people cheering and screaming, it was so, so, special. And we were just stoked to have stayed in green on the last day. But we’re even more stoked for Felipe Espinosa and Ana Idrovo. They won the last stage in the mixed category and then got engaged on the finish line, which was amazing.
Agustina and Cesar, or the Argentinians as we all called them, also did super well and deserve lots of congratulations. I know they didn’t have the perfect week, but I’m happy we all could race for the mixed category title and still get to the finish in one piece.
I have to thank everyone who has supported us leading up to and during the Epic, without all the help and encouragement it wouldn’t have been possible for us to ride let alone win the category.
Now I’m just super, super, happy it’s behind us. I want to say until next time, but it’s going to be some time before I think about doing another Epic…