And so the great adventure began yesterday, not with a bang, nor a clatter, but with the little snap of a broken mountain bike wheel skewer, the stumbling confusion of a doubled-up flight booking and the dawning realisation that I may have made a daft joke. And so, before a quick rundown of my discombobulated beginning to riding for Team Absa at the Absa Cape Epic, I feel an apology is due.
On SuperCycling this week I made a crack – and not for the first time – that in order for me to beat Kevin Evans at the Epic all I would have to do was to finish the second day. Evans crashed on the second day last year and broke his collarbone. The joke was probably funny the first time I said it. On reflection it wasn’t so great the other night. I wouldn’t wish a broken collarbone on any one, particularly not Evans, who has been unstintingly generous with advice and support during my training. He had the grace to laugh at it, but it’s been bugging me.
Evans and David George will make up the Nedbank 360Life team at the Epic. If you want to know what the Epic means to the front runners, then harass SuperSport until they show “An Epic Tale” again or buy it on DVD. The Sinamatella Productions film follows the pair, focusing mainly on Evans, for over a year and a bit as they attempt to become the first South Africans to win the Cape Epic in 2011. That honour went to Songoinfo.com-Specialized’s Burry Stander, who took the honours with his Swiss partner, Christoph Sauser (who is, in any case, a naturalised Stellenboschian).
Stander knows what it is like to have been forced from the Epic through injury. On his first race with Sauser his knee went wonky and he had to call it a day when he looked to be on form. The mental anguish of having to abandon can be as stark as the physical stab of pain of a broken collarbone. The look on Evans’ face in “An Epic Tale” after his brakes failed and he crashed on a steep downhill will remain with me throughout this Epic.
If bad luck comes in threes, then I have had my run of it for the Epic. Yesterday morning I broke the rear skewer on my KTM 29er, a small, but important thing. Then my flight booking to Cape Town had confused the SAA system as it was under two names and as they fought for 30 minutes to shoehorn me on to my 1pm plane, the flight closed and I was forced to catch a later flight. As I boarded that flight, I broke a brand-new pair of headphones, catching the cable on a seat. As I write this I am 30 minutes from landing in Cape Town, an hour late for my first meeting with Team Absa. I’m strangely calm, still horrifically scared and nervous, but at peace with what I have to do and well aware of how hard it will be. Eight days, 781km and 16 300-metres of climbing lie in wait. A great adventure is about to begin. I hope to be there at the end, somewhere behind Evans.