I think Tim Noakes has got it wrong. I have been on a post-Absa Cape Epic diet of pizza and beer for a week and have managed to lose a kilogramme without any form of exercise. So, if you have the copy of the book I never wrote called the “Bore of Cycling”, please rip out the chapter on nutrition. If you want to lose weight, let yourself go, fall into the dark side, get thee to a pub and fillest thou drinking boots.
You are allowed a week of madness after the Absa Cape Epic, and that came to an end on Easter Monday, when I rolled out on to the streets of Joburg on my KTM Strada, my road bike that I have pimped out with a set of Zipp 303s. Riding the road bike came as something of a shock after the Epic. At 7kg, the bike flies up hills and over bumps, it rushes down hills on those thin little, carbon wheels.
It felt almost too easy to ride it after the Epic, save for the little matter of my legs feeling the effects of the McCallum beer and pizza diet, and a late night watching a man called Bubba perform a smash-and-grab on Farmer Louis on a course where women are the gender that dare not speak its name. I had expected them to feel a little heavy, and they were a tad iffy and not really interested in the 30km spin I wanted them to take me on, but they went through the motions.
It felt good to be out riding again. The freedom of a bike can never be under-estimated; the escape from the cage of a car, the beartrap of a couch, the shackles of lethargy. I should have ridden early yesterday morning, but I am not a fan of riding in the dark or the cold; there is only so much suffering I will go through. I am probably a fair-weather cyclist, to be fair. I’m not that hard-core. I’ve never seen the attraction of riding before sparrows have farted. I understand that others must get their two hours in before 6.30am so they can go to work at 8am after feeding the kid and keeping the wife happy, but that’s not my life; not yet, anyway.
I was warned of a syndrome called post-Absa Cape Epic depression. It’s a hollow pit of loss, a headless-chicken, directionless feeling, a sense that you are pedalling in circles waiting for the next challenge and, strangely, you miss the Cape Epic. You miss the routine and the pain, the adrenaline of the morning starts, and the exhaustion and satisfaction of the finishes.
But move on we must. Well, I must. The love of my life gave me until midnight last Thursday to stop talking about the Absa Cape Epic, but that deadline has come and gone. The Epic will forever be a part of my life.
Nic Dawes, the editor of the Mail & Guardian and, more importantly, an Epic finisher, told me that completing the Epic would make me a completely different rider and change my cycling on a “cellular level”. I wasn’t sure what he meant until the end of the fifth stage, when I pushed myself to a limit I never knew I had, or after the descent of Groenlandberg, which Jack Stroucken, my Epic Team Absa partner, made me cry about when he sent a letter to The Star in which he said I rode down it like I was possessed.
I wasn’t sure what he meant until I got on my bike on Monday and went for that gentle spin.
I understood then. Climbing no longer seems like a chore, but a challenge; I feel stronger when I am near my bike than off it; I feel at home on the KTM, I can sense the power, as much as I have, being transferred through the bike with more efficiency and a buzz of joy; there is accomplishment and excitement in every pedal stroke, a frisson that there are more kilometres to ride, more streets of Joburg and South Africa to explore, more skills to learn and more love of this sport to be had. The Absa Cape Epic has changed me. My cycling has only just begun.