Jennie Stenerhag

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Cape Epic cancelled and South African lockdown


It's time for an update and right now I have quite a lot of time to write. It is day 4 of the "21 days of lockdown" in South Africa which means we cannot go outside for 3 weeks.

I'll take it from the start!

Friday the 13th (!!) March was a strange day! Nadine and I left on our bikes in the morning, just to do a one hour spin which also included a quick photo shoot with our team manager / photographer Henk. We ended the ride at our mechanics place to drop our bikes for the him to check them and make them race ready for Cape Epic which was to start 2 days later. We started to hear rumours from different directions that the whole of Specialized had withdrawn from Epic due to the coronavirus that had begun to spread around the world. The Italian teams had already been banned from coming to South Africa, so they were already removed from the start list. Soon the rumours were confirmed, and we thought it was really sad. Since Annika and Jenny would be the toughest competition and we wanted to race against them. A bit later the news came that the Ghost team had also withdrawn. Now it was starting to feel a bit strange, but we were determined not to let it interfere with our focus and preparation, we would race what ever happened! We knew that Cape Epic was going to come out with a press release about the race that same afternoon, but it took time ,and we started to get a bit restless just waiting for this. Craig went to massage the team he was going to work for and around 5pm he called and said they had just made the decision not to race and go back home to Czeck Republic the next day. By this time, we started to get a very weird feeling about this whole thing, it was going to be a very empty Epic in more than one way. At 7 pm, I started getting messages from "reliable sources" that there would be no Epic!! I didn't want to believe it until we got the official message. The organization had been notified by the government at 6pm that they were not allowed to go ahead with the race, and they had no choice but to cancel. It was like someone pulled the matt out from under our feet!

I felt so incredibly ready, I felt in the best shape than ever before, I had set personal records on my 4 minute intervals and 10 minute intervals, I had set personal records on 2 of my “technical test downhills”, I felt confident on the technical sections, I felt stronger than ever before and the scale showed less than ever before! I was ready! Ready to maybe do my last attempt to fight for the top step at the Cape Epic! Nadine was equally ready! So,we had the chance, a chance we will never know if it was realistic or not…

I got really sad and empty, I got "flashbacks" to 2 years ago when the doctor called 2 weeks before Epic and told me I would not race, the difference this time was just that now nobody would ride! I got so many messages that night from friends who were sad on our behalf and from the poor fellow Swedes who had come this far and now didn’t know what to do or if they would get home since flights were also cancelled.

Now in hindsight, of course we know that it was the only option for the organization, it would have been very strange if we had competed at Cape Epic at the same time that countries were closing down and all sporting events around the world were being cancelled!

At first I had a feeling of not wanting to train at all, what was the point!? But when the worst disappointment passed, Craig and I decided to go and ride some of the Cape Epic trails since the Epic sent out an email saying that the landowners would keep some of the routes open during the week. I had booked and paid for the accommodation and it was too late to cancel and get any refund and since Craig was supposed to work with a team at Epic, he had not booked any other clients for the week. We turned it in to a cycling holiday instead.  

We started the week with stage 1 at Eselfontein and rode with some of the guys from my sponsor Fairtree, it was fun to ride with them and just enjoy the route and the scenery. Unfortunately, the financial market crashed that Monday and they were quite stressed and went home the same afternoon. Craig and I stayed but completely without a plan. We had not decided how many days we would stay or how far to ride every day. I did not have a training plan and every morning we started our rides without knowing how long we would ride, if it turned out to be 2 hours or 5 did not matter. This was probably the best we could do for the head and body at that time. With no programme to follow or any diet to be strict with, we ended almost every day with a milkshake, it was awesome!!

It turned out to be 6 days of cycling on absolutely fantastic trails in beautiful areas, all I can say is that it would have been a really tough Cape Epic! And the social distancing was no problem, we saw almost no one at all when we were out there! We did not really want to go home but eventually we had to.

When we got back to reality, it was time for the president's speech to the nation, it firstly got delayed by 24 hours and when he eventually spoke he informed the country that we would go in to lockdown from midnight on Thursday 26th of March until 16th of April. We are now on day 4 and everything is closed except for the essentials like grocery stores and hospitals (and some more things like gas stations, veterinarians, security companies, etc., but on a smaller scale). There were discussions on social media after the health minister said it was ok to take the dog for a walk or go for a short jog, maybe it could also be ok to go for a ride? But the chief of police corrected this and said that no one can be outside, with or without a dog!! This was the best thing the President could do, a country like South Africa cannot manage if this virus gets into the townships since it is spreading so fast!

So now we sit at home. In a way it is quite nice, there is no stress since we have so much time, no “must do today” since there is also a lot of time tomorrow… I have baked and started a huge project of cleaning out cupboards, draws and wardrobes, things I normally never have time for. At the same time, I do struggle a bit with motivation to sit on the indoor trainer when the sun is shining and it is warm outside, and also since I have no idea when the next race will be… Will it be in June, or October, or next year…? Many international races have been cancelled and more and more races in Sweden are now starting to get cancelled.

The airports are closed as long as we are under lockdown, let’s see when I will be able to fly back to Sweden. Right now, it does not feel like anyone knows anything about anything! The future is even more uncertain than usual. But I do know one thing, I will be back for next years Cape Epic and fight for that podium again!! 

A picture from the last photo shoot on Friday the 13th.... 

Friday evening after the information came out that the Cape Epic was cancelled. Friends, red wine and ice cream to try and cheer us up ;)

Stage 1 of Cape Epic with some of the guys from my sponsor Fairtree and some more people.



The view from our accommodation in Tulbagh 

On top of the world during stage 2

It was very hot during stage 2 so we had to try and fill up when ever we saw some water 


Some well deserved milkshakes after a long and hot ride in Tulbagh 

Stage 3 started in a big group but ended with just Craig and I, it was very difficult to keep a group together! 

Craig is having the best burger he has ever eaten at the small restaurant "Bully & Koos" outside Tulbagh. We can highly recommend this place if anyone is in Tulbagh!! 

Craig and I on the trails in Wellington, at least we were having fun! 

On one of the climbs of stage 5 

We found a new favourite place for milkshakes in Wellington as well ;) 

Riding up Bainskloof pass 

The view from the top of Bainskloof pass 

Craig with his dear Silverback on top of the highest peak of stage 5, we went up here twice since it was such a nice loop. 

Craig is enjoying another milkshake at "Bains coffee" 

Sunset at our accommodation in Wellington 

So we had a lot of milkshakes during this week and this was definitely the best one! It is from "Perfect place" in Wellington. 


We just did not want to go home so even stopped at Hillcrest just outside Stellenbosch on the way home, just for a last scone and smoothie.

The last ride in Jonkerhoek before Lockdown. We were away for 6 hours (including a loooooong coffee) just because we did not want to go home, since we knew we would be home for the next 21 days.... :-(

Day 2 of lockdown and some baking. Chocolate raw bolls and an attempt to scones ;) 

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