There are better places to meet than in the Race Hospital at the Absa Cape Epic, but that was where myself and fellow Team Absa rider Elana Meyer found ourselves yesterday around happy hour time. Elana was there to change the dressing on the stitch she received on her damaged elbow on Monday after her crash. I was there to have the wound on my elbow cleaned up after my crash yesterday.
Crashes warp time. They happen in a rush and slow motion. I watched Elana’s happen in front of me. There was no one around when I came down hard close on 90km into the second stage of the Absa Cape Epic. It was around two kilometres from the last water point, a fast descent before a short, sharp climb ahead of the final water point of the day. I was flying down at 35km/h when I hit a waterbottle that had been dropped or shaken out of a cage by the rocks on the downhill. My front wheel hit it, the wheel kicked right, then hard left and slipped from under me. I hit the ground right arm first, a horrid thud on my helmet as it hit a rock.
The shock of a crash leaves you cold and dead. I sat up and did not move. A Scottish rider, whose name I did not get, asked me if I was okay. Why, yes, I said. I always like to have a little sit down during the biggest physical challenge of my life. They left. I got up, straightened the handlebars and then tried to click down into the granny gear at the back. No go. It was jammed, bent in the crash. Elana and her partner Ernst Viljoen came past and asked if I was okay. They said they’d tell my partner Jack Stroucken, who was about 200-metres up the road. We couldn’t get it to shift and I had to push up the climb and ride in the hard gear to the waterpoint. The superb mechanical team at the waterpoint took a look at it and called the boss. He looked at it and just bent the lever back into place. That simple.
If only the stage had been that simple. It was called the “easy” stage of the 2012 Absa Cape Epic, but the mantra amongst former finishers is that there are no easy days on the Epic. Jack and I followed our own mantra and rode for tomorrow, keeping our heartrates down and spinnng out, but it was still a hard day. We saw a man having an epileptic fit not long into the race. There was a rumour around the race village that a man who had been treated for a heart attack on Monday, did, in fact, have his heart on the other side of his body. It’s a rare syndrome, and when the medics listened, allegedly, for his heartbeat, but would not believe him when he said it was on the other side. I do not know if he carried on riding. I hope he did.
Team Absa teammates Nico Panagio and Sean Kristafor suffered their second mechanical in two days, the rear derailleur of Nico’s bike all but shearing off. They had to ride for 25km with the bike as a single speed. That’s no fun, not on the sort of day we had yesterday. Exactly 122km with 1690-metres of climbing – a “rest” day ahead of today’s 147km, 2900-metre beast, which is the longest day in Epic history. They say, though, that it is not the toughest stage on this year’s Epic. It’s taken its toll on me. My helmet is cracked and cannot be used again, but Willie du Plooy and Hans de Ridder have promised to have one waiting on the start line for me tomorrow morning. My team jersey is ripped, my quad bruised and my wrist eina. But we finished another day on the Absa Cape Epic; the second stage, the third day. Tomorrow is the beast. Elana and will be putting our bodies on the line again. Let’s hope we come home with less blood.