We went to the Slanghoek Valley a few weeks ago and were guided on parts of what will be one of the epic stages. Our guide was Louis who proudly showed us the trails he built, everything is hand built so you can appreciate the work that lays behind these trails. We rode about 70 km in just over 5 hours and it was very hot, I barely thought I would get back to the car. With this in mind, I must say I was a bit worried before the TransBreede race on these trails, the distance being 122 km. In addition, they announced at the start that the estimated winning time (for the men) was 6 hours 15 minutes ... how long would I be out??
Carmen, Sam and Candice, all from Team Dorma Karba, were on the start line and would be my toughest competition for the day. We started with about 15 km of flat gravel roads mixed with some tar and the bunch stayed together. It all split up as we entered the first patch of deep sand, it was riders everywhere and Candice got away when I got stuck behind some other riders. I could quickly catch her and we stayed together up until the 80 km mark. We rode together with one other guy and it felt like no one of us were in race mode any more, it was very windy and flat and almost impossible for anyone to get away, I started to think that the race would come down to a sprint. Craig had punctured and caught up with our little bunch but even if he was pacing hard at the front the group did not split up. I lost my balance in a sandy corner and fell and opened my newly healed wound on my elbow, so typical….
As we approached the water point at 80 kilometres I moved up to the front to be sure to go through first and start the climb first, I knew this was my only chance to get away. I pushed as hard as I could and did not look back at all. I managed to get away from Candice and the others and only got one guy with me. The last 42 kilometres were really hard with all the sand, rocks, short climbs and single tracks, this part of the route killed the legs of a lot of the riders. I got tired and thought Candice would catch me but she also got tired and Carmen had past her. I managed to win by 20 minutes over Carmen and 32 min ahead of Candice.
At least they had miscounted the winning time since Alban won in a time of 5.14 and my time was 5.54. This race was hard in a very different way compared to what we are used to, it was not many (or long) climbs but the sand made it difficult and the pain in my legs were deeper in a strange way. This will for sure be a tough day at the Cape Epic!!