It is extremely difficult to write this race report since the race I am writing about has not even finished and it was my biggest goal for the year. I was not expecting to write a report just yet, it was supposed to be done after the race…
I am extremely happy and proud that Robyn and I got to wear the orange leader’s jersey in the Sasol Woman’s category for 2 days in the strongest ladies field ever at the Cape Epic. I am equally sad about getting forced to stop the race on doctors order when we were laying second on GC only 4,5 minutes behind the leaders. It was just not meant to be this year….
It all started at Meerendal with the 26km prologue, both Robyn and I were nervous and excited to get this race started, we had worked so hard for so long for this week to come. We were both strong on the day but at different times, I started off stronger and she finished stronger, I think it was good since we could push each other on. After about half the course the helicopter seemed to be around us a lot and we had not seen Ariane and Annika who started behind us and we had passed Esther and Catherine early on so I started to think that we might be on to a good time. When we crossed the finish line I heard the commentator saying we had the fastest time! We could not believe it, especially since Ariane and Annika still were not in sight. We won the prologue by 18 seconds ahead of Ariane and Annika and 1 minute 17 seconds ahead of Sabine Spitz and Yana Belomoina and got to wear the leader’s jersey. An incredible feeling!
Stage 1 started and finished in Tulbagh and we had 108 km with 2300 meters of climbing to do. For the first time in history at the Cape Epic did the UCI ladies have a separate start batch which turned out to be a great success for our race. It started off a bit slow on the first day since I think everyone was sussing it out a bit. On to the first real climb it was us and Team Spur who set the pace and we got away from the other girls. We could not really keep the pace of Annika and Ariane so we had to let them go. Robyn and I rode a very consistent race and we did not dig too deep and we also did not stress about being behind, we kept reminding ourselves that it was a long week ahead. At the 3rd water point we got a time report that we were 4 minutes behind. It was flat to the finish and we pushed all we had. With only a few kilometres to go we saw Annika and Ariane but I thought we were too close to the finish for us to catch them. I was wrong, we quickly caught up to them and I expected a sprint finish, but Robyn went to the front and I saw how Ariane left a gap so I also had to pass to get Robyns wheel and when I turned around to see if they were with us they were gone. We won another stage and got to wear the leader’s jersey for another day!! We were surprised and happy!!
Stage 2 started faster than stage 1, Sabine Spitz went to the front and made the race hard for all of us up until the first climb of the day, the wagon trail up Witzenberg mountain! She and Yana disappeared and we were in 3rd place for most of the climb. I did not have the best of legs this day and Ariane and Annika passed us close to the top. On the way down, in one of the sketchy corners, my front wheel disappeared under me and I fell hard! I got up and gathered my stuff and carried on very carefully, my arm was bleeding a lot… The rest of the day was a struggle for me, legs were not good and arm was sore. We could see Ariane and Annika a lot but we just did not get any closer. We came in 4th around 4 minutes behind A and A who managed to pass the other girls on the downhill to win the stage. We lost the jersey and were now laying 2nd 3.17 behind. I got 4 stiches in my arm but other than that it was all good.
Stage 3 was probably the closest and most exciting stage for ladies racing at the Cape Epic with 4 teams being very close together almost the whole way to the finish. I felt really good today and legs were responding nicely. It was a fast start on gravel roads and tar until we got to the Waterval climb, I went up first to set the pace and make sure that no one got away from us. After the climb and descent we were all together in a biggish men’s bunch, it was us, Team Spur, Topeak and Sport for Good. While we lost a few men’s teams here and there the 4 ladies teams stayed together up and over Baains kloof pass and I just loved getting in to Welvanpass to race on the trails I know so well. I still felt really good both on the climbs and on the descents. We lost Sport for Good somewhere at Welvanpass and the 3 teams went through the last water point together. Topeak went through without stopping and I thought they would suffer for that later, Annika took a bottle for Ariane which probably meant she was tired. Robyn and I stopped and felt good. We caught up with the others and on a short climb we passed the other teams and I got the feeling that we could maybe take the stage. Shortly after that moment it all happened…
I have on a few occasions felt and seen my heart rate rush up to way over 200 bpm but it has only been for a shorter time between 20-120 seconds and I have had it checked up and been told it is nothing dangerous. After passing the other girls and turned left on to a single track I felt my heart starting to beat very fast, I looked down at my Garmin and saw 220, my thought was “shit it is happening again” I felt that my legs were still turning so I thought maybe it will just go down if I stay calm and breath. But it did not…. After the single track the other teams passed us, I just could not focus and my legs were gone and all I saw was the 216-226 heart rate on my Garmin. I tried to tell Robyn but the helicopter was above us and I did not have the power to shout… At the top of the last climb Robyn said we could still catch them, poor her not knowing what was going on. So I thought, ok maybe we still can (sometimes I don’t think it is healthy to be so competitive ;) ) We went fast down and I did not see a bump in the road and my back wheel kicked up and I was super close to crashing! I think I was so out of everything that I hardly reacted on that little incident! All I wanted was to get to the finish line so that I could lay down. 40 minutes after this started we crossed the line, still with a heart rate around 220!! I laid down on the first spot I could see and I tried to tell Anja what was going on but it was difficult to breath and talk. The medics came to take me on the stretcher to the medical tent. The heart rate still did not go down, it only came down to 175 and it was a terrible feeling. I think it took around 15 minutes before one of the doctors managed to make the heart rate settle back to normal. So the heart rush had been going on for around 1 hour.
The race doctor immediately told me I am not allowed to carry on with the Cape Epic. It was a huge disappointment and I cannot even try to describe how I am feeling having to withdraw from this years Cape Epic. But life is more important than a race and this can be fixed and I can race soon again! I am seeing a heart specialist on Tuesday so I will have more information after that.
I want to thank everyone involved in making everthing perfect for us during the first few days of the Cape Epic, our team, all the sponsors and the staff!! But most of all a huge thank you to Robyn for being such a great partner, I am so sorry that we could not finish this one together!
During the prologue
During stage 1
Coming down the Witzenberg mountain on stage 2
My near crash on stage 3 - 1
My near crash on stage 3 - 2
My near crash on stage 3 - 3