Monday, April 7, 2008
See our Cape Epic page for stage videos
Today we are heading into Cape Town to see the attractions-up Tablet Mountain and a romantic walk on the waterfront. Steve can't get the Urban Cowboy out his head (see cape epic facts video)
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Wow what an experience. It's Sunday morning and we are sitting in our 5* Hotel after competing in the toughest Cape Epic ever. We are both very exhausted but both very proud of what we have achieved. Not only did we finish but we actually finished well up the field-368th out of 600 teams that started in over a week ago in Knysna.
It's hard to explain how hard riding 9 tough, long days actually is and what effect it has on your body. Yesterday on our last day I think we were running on adrenaline as well as numerous caffine drinks and gels. Is it the toughest mountain bike in the world? It probably is because of the long distances, long days and the heat and dust. It's certainly the best organised. The organisation was first class and everything ran like clockwork. Only real criticism is that there is a lot of focus on the professionals and the marketing of the event rather than on the majority of other riders. Without them this event would not be the success it is.
We will take away some great memories from South Africa, the stunning scenery, friendly people and the water point stops where we always got a shout for The World Famous Team Salty Balls. We have had some great,great laughs as well as some tough,tough times when without the support of each other it would have been easy to give up. We got through this event because we were a team but most importantly because we trained very hard and that was the key to our success.
Thank to Denise in Mission Control for co-ordinating our blogs during the race and Neil for keeping us updated on times. Thanks also to all of your messages on the guest book which really did help.
Most of all our thanks must go to Eleanor and Dawn for putting up with us both and our training over the last 6 months. It's now back to normal life.............................................until the next time!
Saturday, April 5th, 2008
Well done to Andy & Steve.
Photos to come tomorrow so keep checking the blog.
Friday, April 4th, 2008
Some nasty climbs today but the hard work on them was rewarded with about 15km of great single track. Tonight we are at Oak Valley Vinyard. However, we are resisting all temptation until after the finish tomorrow."
Today's technical stuff: 91km, 2050m height, 3,024 cals, av HR 109, max HR 138, av speed 11.6km/hr, max speed 52.6km/hr, av temp 21C, max temp 32C.
The ride today - STEVE SALT'S BIRTHDAY - the second last stage challenge of this year’s Absa Cape Epic – riders will find a shorter route, but it will not be easy! Covering 91km and 1 984m of climbing, participants will immediately be faced with the steep tar ascent up Rotary Drive, granting riders scenic views back over the seaside town of Hermanus and Walker Bay. The route descends through Hamilton Russel and heads for Babilonstoring Nature Reserve to navigate the sandy and rocky jeep tracks. After crossing the R44, the next challenge awaits – a loose climb gaining 500m in altitude up to Lebanon Nature Reserve. Then it is singletrack time through the Lebanon forest! A quick dip under the N2 will take riders to some more fast-flowing singletrack. Then they will have to find their way up and down steep vineyeards to their overnight location at Elgin (Grabouw).
Thursday, April 3rd, 2008
Don't know who this is on the right but in the absence of photos from Team Salty Balls I thought this would do. Who knows, maybe this is what they look like after the last few days.
"We cannot believe how well we are riding together, despite the state of our old, twisted bodies. The start every morning is seeded into blocks depending on your overall position. Until now we have been in the open section at the back. This morning we were seeded into Group G. Oh how we waved at the peasants behind us!!!
On paper today may have looked an easier day but we have learnt not to ease off the pace if we reach the checkpoints in good time. The course designer, who they call Dr. Evil, usually puts a twist in the tail. Today was no exception, with the sting coming in the last 25km, 18km along a bump, sandy track that was like riding on corrugated sheeting. The final 7km was through the dreaded sand dunes and across the beach.
Anyway, pushing hard all day, with only brief stops at the water points, we came in 50 minutes before cut off. We cannot believe how hard we have to cycle - I do not think we have taken one photo during the race.
Steve's birthday tomorrow so going to get a big announcement at the start."
Today's technical stuff: 130km, 1,940m height, 4,080 cals, av HR 116, max HR 144, av speed 14.3km/hr, max speed 52.5km/hr, av temp 25C, max temp 36C
Thursday, April 3rd, 2008
For Stage 6, Absa Cape Epic riders will travel from Bredasdorp to Hermanus (130km, 2 095m climbing). The start out in Bredasdorp will offer fast gravel roads through the surrounding farmland. A rugged warm-up climb followed by a loose descent gets riders ready for the day’s big challenge: Salmonsdam Nature Reserve. It will be a 14km ascent from around 6% to 12% on rugged jeep track, winding its way through mountain fynbos. The views along the way, as well as the loose and rocky drop down towards the vineyards, are all worth the effort. But the finish line will still be a long way away. A short stretch on tar will give riders a welcome rest before dirt roads and farm tracks head for the sea. A quick nip over the dunes will take riders into the shores of Walker Bay to cross the Stanford River mouth – a knee-deep wade before reaching the spectacular finish at the Old Hermanus Harbour.
In the absence of a picture from the team today . . I give you a picture of something they may be looking at:
Team Salty Balls are on form today!!
Finishing in 9 hours and 34 minutes when the allowable time was 11 hours.
Stage 5 results: 92 in Masters Category and 395 in General Category
New Overall position: 93 in Masters Category and 403 in General Category
Can they keep it up? This is what Andy says:"Hard day but we were strong and actually raced teams the last 25km into the finish. If we haven't moved up a few places after today I'll eat Steve's helmet. Some good fast roads but also some nasty rocky single track. Worst section was a 20km ride (and walk) through sand dunes which sapped our energy. Team Bulls won the stage today - our mate Karl Platt. We spoke to him tonight and asked him what he thought of Team Salty Balls' position - he looked puzzled and gave no reply.
We are getting a lot of shouts over the PA at the start and finish areas so we are becoming confident about getting Steve onto the stage for his traditional speech on Saturday night.
We get to see the TV highlights every night. Today's was amazing as Team Cannondale had so many punctures one of them rode the final 16km just on a rim!
Big storm passing over at the moment with thunder and lightening."
Distance today 146km, 1,895m height, 4,719 cals, av HR 120, max HR 152, av speed15.6km/hr, max speed 53km/hr, av temp 24C, max temp 33C.
And they finish again - within time - despite Andy blowing a tyre 25km from finish!
In Andy's words: "Last few days have taken tole on our bodies. In our quest to become highly toned athletes, we are at the dehydrated, sunburnt and totally f****d stage. Luckily our own mobile chemist (sponsored by Doctor Bod) is well stocked with pain killers. So, today we decided to take things easy and use the full timed hours to allow us recovery time for tomorrow's 146km stage - the longest everin Cape Epic history. Anyway things were going to plan and we reached the 110km point confident we could easily reach the finish in the remaining 1.5 hours. Then . . . going down a fast gravel road my back tyre let off a noise like a shotgun. A 3" length of the tread had come away from the tyre, which was losing air. Luckily we were running tubeless and the hole sealed, but the tread was off and any further damage could split it completely. In the end, the last 20km became a race against time as we had to walk the hills and nurse the tyre back to the finish. We learnt how easily bad luck can . . . . . . . (the rest of the text was missing so maybe their bad luck continued as that warthog from the previous evening ran amok in their tent or maybe he just fell asleep mid-text?)
On this stage their time was 9hrs 34mins and their position 104 in the Master Class and 455 in general classification. Overall to date Team Salty Balls sits at 95 in the Master Class and 413 in general classification. There are now only 479 teams left in the race.
Today temperatures were averaging 28C with a maximum of 42C!!! Average speed 13.3km/hr and maximum speed 56.5km/hr. Maximum HR 153, average 121. Cals 4,650.
Expecting more pictures tomorrow now that phone technicalities are sorted!
Well done to Andy and Steve who are still in the race. Of 1198 starters there remains only 1112 still competing. Overall Team Salty Balls holds the position of 417 of 508 teams remaining, and 99 in the Masters Class. For those who have been asking - Masters means old men who are still very fit. Not bad going - days of slogging in searing heat and then disrupted nights sleeping in a sweaty tent with your bike.
For Stage 4 of the Absa Cape Epic (Riversdale to Swellendam), the rolling hills through the farmlands will give the power riders a chance to ply their trade. Then come the big ones – heartbreak one and heartbreak two, the second of which is 4.5km long with a 7% gradient. After two days in the Karoo, riders pass through dairy country before heading into Grootvadersbosch, another Cape Nature jewel, and back into some lush forests again – a welcome shelter from the harsh sun. But there are more challenges to come – more climbing, technical descents and river crossings, passable only by foot, or on a mountain bike. A short tar section passes the historical mission village of Suurbraak – a town that is no stranger to the Absa Cape Epic. At the weir crossing it’s only 12km home. Riders will however have to watch out for the short forest climbs that steepen up to 15% - it will take longer than expected to get into Swellendam.
And don't worry Steve - we will keep the ship afloat here at WCE!
130km, 2,400m height, 4,361 cals, av HR 126, max HR 153, av speed 16km/hr, max speed 54.6km/hr, av temp 25C, max temp 33C.
Finished in 8 hrs 19 mins!
News from the front line last night: Andy very concerned that Steve's tent had been taken over by a warthog. So, where was Steve - will he have had as little sleep as Andy - will they manage to get through the next tough stage? Can they maintain their positions: 94 in the Masters and 410 in general. Watch this space.
Team Salty Balls should be able to log on tonight so if you have any messages of support please add them to the guest book - if you have any pictures you want to let them see (clean and relevant) send them to [email protected].
On to today - this is what will happen:
Start: Calitzdorp Spa
Finish: Langenhoven High School, Riversdale
With the painful memories of days 1 and 2 haunting their legs, riders are taken up a 13km steady drag up smooth dirt roads over Rooibergpass, gaining 600m of altitude, before a 70km/h descent into the valley. After some sharp rolling hills riders cross game country, where the deer and the antelope play, scrabble, monopoly and Kerrplunk. The terrain is tough. The rock formations are geologically fascinating (to people like Simon Green) as they are race threatening - if riders make a bad tyre choice. Even after riders survive the punctures and the heat (and the big game) there is still a long slog on dirt road before the tarred Garcias pass takes the riders into Riversdale, for a hard-earned rest.
Today's technical report: 140km, 2,210m height, 5,473 cals, av HR 133, max HR 161, average speed 15.3km/hr, max speed 59.9km/hr, average temp 27C, max temp 39C.
In bed by 8:00pm to prepare for tomorrow's cycle through big game country!
Team Going Strong Salty Balls
(Extract from offical website - not doubt we will have words from the Team later today)
Before day's race - eating as many carbs as possible, packing bags
After racing - recovery drinks, washing and lubing bike, checking gears, tyre pressures etc, showering, washing kit, mixing drinks and packing energy bars/gels for next day, eating as much dinner as possible and, of course, taking a vast array of tablets.
Then . . . to bed for 8:00pm. . . . which tonight is 1,200 tents pitched on a rugby pitch.
As much as we try we have not been invited onto stage yet.
Tomorrow is the hardest day ever in Cape Epic history! A day for Team Salty Balls all round.
Today's technical stuff: 123km 3,130m height, 5,895 cals, average HR 144, max HR 168, average speed 14.9km/hr, max speed 53.7km/hr, average temp 21C, max temp 30C.
Team Salty Balls
No news from the guys yet - probably still replacing lost fluids.
Today Steve and Andy, along with their fellow riders, leave the coastal town of Knysna and travel up the Simola Pass, a 3km climb with a 7% gradient. But this is only the first of many climbs. Riders then turn into the lush, indigenous forests. This route is as beautiful as it is demanding, with sharp climbs, slippery corners and heart-in-the-stomach descents through Homtini, Jubilee Creek nature reserve, and a technical descent through Katara forest. Riders then get onto stretches of the 7 passes route, with some deviations to tackle more rugged terrain, before reaching their first race village on the beautiful Saasveld Campus.
Well what a great day! After an early breakfast we headed out to Prezula for the Prologue and our 9.40am start. The start finish area was set out in the "field of dreams" amphitheatre. Although nervous we set off at a brisk pace and we soon overtook most of the teams. Oh sorry that was another dream! The course was very undulating with a large climb after around 3km. Andy took up the pace in the first 5km before crashing (spd pedals!!) Steve then saw his chance for glory and shot off ahead until he encountered the next hill. In the final 5km we managed to pass a few teams and entered the field of dream to loud cheers. Although we did try and keep to a steady pace and keep our heart rates down, in the circumstances we probably got slightly carried away. Anyway it was great fun and we were very pleased with 54mins and very suprised with our 96th place in the Masters(out of 142) and 446th overall out of 593 team remaining. & teams dropped out today.
However lets not get carried away. Today was a bit of fun and the hard stuff starts tomorrow. This afternon we recovered wel and packed our camel bags for tomorrow. Gels, tablets, water, energy bars, recovery sachets for the finish, bananas and spares.
Taking the racing very seriously TeamSaltyBalls stop for a rest, and they shouldn't be fed!
Tonight we went to the race briefing for tomorrow and viewed the fly through........no flat sections at all. We have both just finished very large bowls of pasta. 5.00am rise tomorrow so we are off to bed early after taking our special night tablets, so strong you have to be already in bed when you take them. This may be our last blog from the front line so we may be handing over to denise in Mission Control.
Team Salty Balls
News from the front is that the Team Saltyballs jerseys caused much amusement - was it the t-shirts do you think? Leave a comment with your own thoughts!
No doubt Steve and Andy will post their own thoughts on their performance this morning in what may be their last personal posting of the race.
Keep logging on and leaving messages - it really helps them to know so many people are interested in what they are doing out there and they can see each day how many people are monitoring their progress.
Friday 28th 7.15am-prolgue in 2hrs 25mins-help!
Yesterday we had a good day. The bikes survived the journey and we managed to put them together in the morning with no majors problems. We had both had a few wierd dreams in the night about certain parts of our bikes falling apart so we made sure we gave those areas particular attention. We had a few other dreams also involving..............which was nice!
In the afternoon we rode out to Pezula where the prologue will be held. We had hoped to pre-ride the course but when we got there we were refused entry. This time not even our best blagging had any effect on the puzzled security guard. We had a very nice lunch on the waterfront at Knysna before registering. At the registration was really well organised, team bags, tent passes, breakfast passes, dinner passes, t-shirts, course details......... The top riders were also checking in and being interviewed on stage. I think Steve's attempt to do a speach on the last night took a serious dent this year as he upset the main pa man by trying to climb onto the stage.
Well we must go now as we need to leave in 10 minutes. Hopefull we will blog later today. Sorry a few technical problems mean no pictures at the moment. Check th cape-epic web site from today as it goes "live" will full details during the race.
Team Salty balls
Today will see Andy and Steve putting their bikes back together - hopefully the bikes will have survived the journey as well as the biking blaggers. They will go for a few hours ride to check everything is OK and loosen up the legs.
Then it will be time pack the one bag each they are allowed to take on the race. By 21h00 today each team must have registered at Knysna Waterfront.
Extract from Newsletter: If you had been at Cape Town International Airport at 05h00 yesterday morning, the world’s best mountain bikers – Olympic medallists, world champions,world cup winners, as well as Team Salty Balls - would have walked right past you. Bart Brentjens, Alban Lakata (Dolphin), Roel Paulissen, Jakob Fuglsang (Cannondale Vredestein) and many other top European riders flew in from Munich , well prepared for the challenge that lies ahead of them. Brentjens and Lakata will spend a day in Stellenbosch to set up all their gear before they start heading down to Knysna. "If we forgot something, it is a lot easier to source it in Cape Town," Brentjens says. "So I first want to spread out my equipment and double check everything." The Mold renowned Salty was also checking his tackle. No photo available funnily enough.
Arrved safe in Knysna at 9.00pm after 7hr coach journey. We can set up base in the hotel for the next 3 nights to make sure we get things sorted and get through the prologue. Room is great (2 single beds) and plenty of room for Steve to set out his condiments! Nice pool.
Off to sort some food and water (no alcohol) before turning in. Fist job in the morning after Steve's bed bath is to set up the bikes. Missing you all.
Team Salty Balls
Wednesday 26th-well here we are in SUNNY Cape Town. We arrived at 11.30pm last night after a great 11hr flight on KLM from Amsterdam. All the luggage arrived OK and after a quick check on the bikes we checked in at the hotel. Turning on the TV we managed to catch a 30min Cape Epic preview before hitting the sack. We are now sitting at the hotel computer after having breakfast in the sunshine with Table Mountain in the background.
Both feeling nervous, both still suffering colds but the various "Doctor Bod" tablets are working wonders (especially Steve's little blue one's!) In a couple of hours we will be catching the coach for the 6hr journey to Knysna and more tablets!!
Steve-shut up about crimp.
Team Salty Balls..........
Plenty of enthusiastic reserve team members if Steve's not up to it! 2 days to go before we leave and the bike is all packed away. Went to the Doctors on Wednesday-good news and bad news. Good news is the chest is now clear of infection. Bad news is the Doc says it may take another 3 weeks to fully recover. Hence my chest still feels tight and I'm still coughing. Anyway complete rest until we are in Knysna next Thursday. I'm sure a few day's in the sun will sort it. It's been a great weekend-no training, breakfast with the family, football in the garden, out for a meal............. Received Aprils issue of MBR magazine yesterday. On the back is a picture of 2007 World Champion Christoph Saucer. Next Friday we'll be lining up at the start with him!! OK so we won't see him for dust but we all have our own strengths-I bet he won't drink as much as us on the last night!
I stopped with Andy last night in Scotland and we went out for a gentle 2hr ride. Even with no hills Andy was panting like a dog so he's back at the doctors today. We made lists last night of things to remember and so it's back to work for 2 more days for me. Most importantly I need to pick my bike up tomorrow. I hope those tubeless tyres are now working OK. Next time we see each other will be on Tuesday in Amsterdam.
Yes, it's a long time since we signed up Team Salty Ball's for our 3rd "toughest mountain bike race in the World" event, the Cape Epic. Now only 11 days remaining, DON'T PANIC! 7 month of very hard training, 5,765 miles of riding, 410,263ft of climbing and 290,837 calories burned. Even so I know we'll be racing the clock each day to beat the cut off time.
No more 'billy no mates' riding, freezing hands, freezing feet, falls on ice, night riding. Bring on dusty trails, sunburn, salty balls and dehydration.
Only down side now is the chest infection I have picked up last week. Training at the weekend was very hard. My heart rate was much higher and for the same distance I was using 20% more energy. Today's my last day of antibiotics, lets hope they do the trick.
Well done to Steve for putting in the training, eventually! We can do it Steve. Do you think the prize money will be cash or cheque?
Well, I suppose Andy caught me at a weak but euphoric moment. Last July, Gerry and I had just completed cycling Lands End to John O’Groats and Andy rang to say he had found the perfect event to complete our mountain bike challenges……… after the Trans Rockies and the Trans Alps he suggested we enter for the Cape Epic!!. Foolishly I said yes!
So after 6 months of training I find myself as ready as I will ever be……… at my age. …… for what I think will be my final major international cycling marathon.
Back in September 07, I don’t suppose I realised what commitment and focus to training meant. In fact Andy did get a bit annoyed with me, with all the hard work he was putting in, in
So all there is left to do is to nail the Epic! Andy and I will give it a good try and as I climb those hills in South Africa I will be thinking of all the support I have had back home (particularly Eleanor) and of those who are d
Come on, we can do it oooommmphhhh!!