Marmite sandwiches. Who would have thought that white bread Marmite sandwiches would taste like the food of the gods? After 57km of the first stage of the Absa Cape Epic, they were just that.
Wonderful pieces of salty, gastronomic genius served at the second water point of the day, halfway through a stage that most, including a good couple of professionals, agreed was extremely tough.
It was 114km of riding, a claimed 2 350-metres of climbing. Except that we didn’t ride a fair amount of that climbing. It was stairway to heaven day. It was my first proper stage of the Epic, and I’ve never been more chuffed than when I finished in around eight hours and 30 minutes.
It was an hour and 30 minutes ahead of the cut-off, which is obviously important, but it was the way that my Team Absa partner, Jack Stroucken, rode yesterday that gave us the most satisfaction.
We rode within ourselves, but we still rode strongly after a tough prologue.
We rode, as Jack keeps reminding me in his wise way, for tomorrow. In the Epic you do everything for tomorrow.
You eat for tomorrow and the day after that. You make sure your tanks are full and your energy levels are topped up. You do this during the stage, constantly adding to the stores. You can never eat enough, as I found out on the prologue.
I have known Kandice Buys, team manager of Bonitas and RE:CM for almost a decade, since she was manager of HSBC. She is down at the Epic looking after the RE:CM team of Neil MacDonald and Waylon Woolcock. She has kindly offered to make me my race food and supplied me with neatly-wrapped apple and fruit cake, and protein bars and gels.
Oh, and mix for my bottle. An apple wrapped in foil. It is wonder food, and pips the Marmite sandwich as food the gods might serve at a banquet.
Riding the first stage of the Cape Epic is a strange feeling. Waiting in the chute to begin the nerves build up, but, strangely, I did not feel the same dread as I had the day before.
Jack and I had already agreed on our strategy. Joel Stransky had told me not to kill myself. And to eat. And to ride for tomorrow.
Tomorrow’s not just another day. It is the next day of the Epic. It could be the most important day of the Epic. As the next one will be.
In the chute Raymond Hack, who is riding with Marius Hurter, asked me if my little stretching routine was going to do me any good.
I told him that it was my first stretch of the year. We rode behind Hurter, a 1995 Rugby World Cup-winning Springbok prop remember, whose big thighs churned out an endless rhythm.
When the climbs started, we hit the granny gear and spun. Then we walked.
Elana Meyer and Ernst Viljoen, also of Team Absa, rode some of the way with us. Around 60km into the ride, I was behind Elana when she went down hard on a descent, flipping over her bars. She was shivering and I calmed her down.
Elana is a hugger and soon she was back on the bike, her elbow full of blood. Jack and I pushed on, not too hard, not too soft.
The buzz of finishing is immense. Elana and Ernst came home just after us. Elana punched the air and shouted ‘yee ha”, her trademark.
She’d done stage one of the Epic. We all had. We live for tomorrow.