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This week, I am taking you along on one of the most challenging weeks of my career, and by far the biggest challenge of my short mountain biking career, the Cape Epic – an eight-day team mountain biking event, across the challenging terrain of the Western Cape of South Africa. To give some context, it is an hors categorie event, and qualifying is necessary to take the start line. Get ready for a longer listen here – but it just had to be that way, to do justice to the absolute beast that is Cape Epic.
I wanted to take the listener along on this journey, to give some insight into what this race is really like – and let me tell you – it is brutal in every way. The week threw a lot at us – heat, relentless terrain, river crossings, two days of torrential rain, and some seriously wet and slippery conditions. Combined with a serious case of Cape belly, which notoriously plagues this event, and it made for an incredibly difficult challenge, which I am still recovering from.
I lined up with my friend and fellow podcast host Ian Boswell, and we were really in it together, sharing the camper life, and all the ups and downs. Going in, we expected this to be like a stage race. Bos was looking forward to getting into the groove, with visions of hanging by the camp village and trading war stories.
Before the start, there was an electricity in the air that is hard to describe, and within hours of touching down in South Africa, I had bumped into a whole heap of people I know from different corners of the cycling world, all coming together in this far-flung destination to put ourselves to the ultimate test.
There were riders who had done this event before – my friends Al Iacuone and Wade Wallace were here trying to finish this race for the first time – on their third and final attempt. I caught up with last year’s winners Georg Egger and Lukas Baum for some insider tips, and we camped alongside Dave and Fran Millar, undertaking this event for the first time as a mixed team.
It was a war of attrition from the early planning stages right through until the finish line. By the end, we were in pieces, and my fatigue level was hovering down around the level that it would normally be at the end of a Grand Tour, to put things into perspective. Put simply, this was a lot harder than expected. But the sense of accomplishment is also massive and difficult to put into words, and one beer in after the finish, we were already talking about coming back next year. It was an incredible journey, and something we might only fully appreciate in hindsight.
I hope this properly conveys the brutality of this week – it might give you pause if you have considered doing this event yourself, or maybe it has made you even more determined to cross it off your bucket list, either way, enjoy the listen!
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The theme music for Life in the Peloton was composed by Pete Shelley, who was lead singer of the punk band Buzzcocks. It was commissioned by the production company behind Channel 4’s coverage of the Tour de France in the 1980s and was used as the theme music for the nightly highlights show. Pete died in December 2018. We were given permission by Pete’s widow and his manager to continue using the music for the theme tune to Life in the Peloton. To hear more about the music, listen to the Andre Greipel episode of Life in the Peloton.
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