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Experience the Cape Epic first hand!

Ms Bretherick has recently joined the High School Maths department and is currently riding in the Cape Epic to raise funds for the Cape Leopard Trust, a predator conservation group working closely with young people to teach them about the environment.

Here she describes her experiences of the race:

Sunday 18 March - Prologue

Sunday morning started very early for us. We got a taxi to pick us up at 05h20 to ensure we got to the start with enough time. First challenge: to fit two people, two mountain bikes, two fairly large suitcases and two backpacks and of course a little bag of padkos into the taxi. Very squished we made it and reported to the start.

Having a little interview as we are riding for the Cape Leopard Trust which is an organisation that is trying to protect the Cape Leopard through funding and many community projects, really focusing on students and farm education. [You can listen to this interveiw here]

Once through the pen, up on stage for the countdown: 5 4 3 2 1… and we’re off for a little ride around Table Mountain. Just 20km with 600m elevation gets you your start time for the first stage. One very technical bit called ‘plum pudding’ was a descent that was quite tricky but made it through with no injuries.

We finished the prologue in 1hr 26. (professionals do it in 45min – crazy). We are towards the end of the field but knowing both our abilities that is where we expected to come.

Tomorrow is the start of the first stage. 110km and 1900m elevation. Going to be a tough but great day out in the sun, enjoying the most spectacular scenery in the world.

Will update tomorrow afternoon/evening depending when we get in.

Monday 19 March: Stage 1 - 110km with 1900m elevation

Wow, what a day! 

Starting at Arabella wine farm, heading out between the vineyards, it was hard not to steal some of the amazing grapes. Next though the farm houses with the smell the fermenting  barrels and thinking "I would love a glass." It was a fast 30 km till the first little bump. Then a lttle stop to rehydrate and eat a good old favourite hot cross bun. Then a few more little bumps till 45km where we hit the first proper climb - a 200m elevation in a short 5km. Straight in to a fun and playful technical section of flowing single track, with me grinning from ear to ear. Then into the longest 14km of the day, climbing 300m. Back into a quick down hill where my partner unfortunately took a tumble - thank goodness only a little bruising of both body and ego. Then back into the vineyard and a few tomato plantations before getting back to the finish at Arabella wine estates. Then headed straight for the sponsored Woolies food packs and chocolate milk.A total of 8 hours. Again we were at the back but feeling strong and ready to tackle the next stage of 106km with 2000m elevation.Thanks for reading and supporting.

Tuesday 21 March: Stage 2

Nerves rising as in the pre brief we were told that today would be harder than yesterday. And knowing how much I had to physically push my partner I was worried we weren't going to make it.

So at 08h10 we started off. Quick start again today, winding through farm roads and between the vineyards and today a massive citrus farm. Partner riding well hit the first proper climb that was like climbing the side of the wall. No jokes - this little hill went straight up for 800m and then straight down. Unfortunately slightly technical on both sides and my cycle shoes had some walking practice. Then into some nice rolling hills that the bike just loved. Another tough little hill and then across a little river crossing where you pretty much get soaked  - at least there was still another 65km to get them dry. Partner still riding well and we were well in front of cut-off. Having a slight mechanical issue on his bike meant 6km of slow riding till the aid station and a mechanic to fix it. All good after that and we powered through the last little bumps to the finish, beating yesterday's time by 15min. Home for dinner and a sneaky glass of wine tonight. Quick massage to flush out the legs then bed for an early night. Longest stage tomorrow: 122km. Also changing towns tomorrow and cycling to Worcester.

Wednesday 22 March: Stage 3

This morning we were woken up with unlucky sound of rain on the roof. How long had it rained for? Will the tracks be muddy? Will it continue to rain? All questions that I was worried about. But then it was time to get up, have my double brekkie of muesli, fruit and yogurt followed by scrambled egg and today a little extra as we face the longest stage of 122km.

With rain still coming down and dread on my face we left our accommodation and headed to the start. Luckily for me the start hadn't received the same cloud burst and it was pretty dry. But I left my bright yellow jacket on as the sky was looking risky, entered my start pen and count down began.

Today had the most spectacular views, heading away from the wine farms of Robertson and into the winding passing toward Worcester. There was a little more hiking in the beginning as it was a little crowded and once someone stops you all have to stop - the joys of riding in a rac!. But it was so beautiful it didn't matter.

After this walk and cycle climb came a great single track downhill with little jumps here and there. Straight into a flat fast section where the bike hugs the course and you're having your own little rollercoaster ride. Next a little climb between two massive mountains, where the views were incredible. And then it was 35km downhill and flat. Unfortunately my partner overdid the first half so I had to push and be his wind block for the last 50km. But we made it in 8hrs02.

Tomorrow we have a final long day 110km cycling through to Wellington.

Thursday 23 March: Stage 4

Eish, what a stage! Although shorter than yesterday, today is known as the queen stage - the toughest stage.

It started off like all the others - nice flat group riding to warm up the legs - and then it all began.Tight bends here and there between farms and a few 100m of soft sand. Eeek - you can hear the legs screaming! Then we entered the most exciting single track I have ever been on (guess I haven't been on many...). This one climbed up and up, switching back on itself to get you up the side of the mountain. Through a little forest where we were sheltered for a short time from the sun (super hot today - think it was around 34 degrees) then on to the down hills - wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. Switching again, back and forth, bouncing up and down as we went over rocks and tree roots and little drop-offs - tricky but so much fun. 

Can I say the views were again amazing. We are lucky and blessed to live in the most spectacular place in the world!

Finally, the aid station at 80km. Another 30km to go. And we were only 1hr ahead of cut-off. (This is close as this would not allow time for any mechanical issues. The last 30km were on the tar road up Bain's Kloof pass ( basically a road cut into the edge of the mountain).  It was insanely beautiful even though I was pushing my partner up the hill. Up for 16km and then down for 16kms - it was super quick down and luckily with no mechanicals: we made it home with a time of 9hr12min - 45min to spare. 

Tomorrow's stage is a time trial so we all start individually as a team. So our start time as we are so far back in the field allows us a super lie-in as we only set off at 10h54. 

Friday 24 March: Stage 5

We made it today by just 15min. After a extra few zzzz this morning and a start time of 10h54. We were off. Today's stage is a time trial - well, that's what they called it; for us it was a very hot day, riding 40km.

Starting off at 11 you haven't had time to adjust to the rising temperature - it's just hot. Time trial means you leave 25sec between each team. So standing on the stage, the countdown began: 5 4 3 2 1... And we were off for a a nice quick 5km before the hard slog started. Little up and a little down and then on to the 6km climb - a solid dirt road, nice and steady. Not too much of a down hill and then another 5km up,  this time with a couple of switch backs. Then it was a case of let the down hill fun begin: this track is called cool running and it was just like being in a bobsled track, with sharp bends and rocky descents - great fun! Then only a little flat 5km and we were done.

Saturday 25 March: Stage 6

It was a happy stage today - about 65km of single track with only really one long climb. My partner cycled well so it was a much easier ride.

Final stage tomorrow.

Sunday 26 March: Stage 7

What an adventure - the Cape Epic completed!

Morning started like all the other stages: up for a early brekkie cereal and then filled up with eggs and off to the race village. The organisers decided to group three start groups together so today it was a mass start for around 250 people. This made it so tricky to begin as you are forced to ride slower as you can't overtake on some bits. A few mechanicals for me this morning meant that my chain slipped off my cassette twice but I managed to get it back on pretty quickly.

After about 12km our biggest climb started - the first bit was tricky and steep. This is where my chain came off the second time and there was no option of restarting on such a steep gradient so I pushed my bike, caught my partner who was still riding, and gave him a little help. Once the course flattened out a bit I managed to jump back on and I was off. Just lve climbing! The last 2,5km of the ride was on a wide dirt road where again I could help my partner as he wasn't too strong on the hills. Finally at the top now and it was a good fast down hill. Got a little cold by the time I was at the bottom but there were then four short hills in a row to warm me up. Went through the hills quickly as my partner is good at short hills so we were keeping our position. The last climb came very quickly: 250m of elevation at a nice steady gradient and then 6km down to the finish. Although this descent was a little technical, we made it! Finally a lap of Val de Vie - a housing estate with a horse polo field, and we crossed the finish line in a time of 5hrs15, coming in ten places ahead of what we normally had come.

So after a solid week of 658km of riding with 13 530m of climbing, we completed the race in 49hrs54min.

What a race! I shall definitely will be signing up again in the future, and possibly race it next time and not just participate.

Thank you all for the support and for following my progress!


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