Cape Epic - South Africa

Rider Cat Result
Mariske Strauss/Hanlie Booyans Elite 8th
Ben Roff/Rab wardell Elite 27th

Cape Epic - Orange Monkey Pro Team Cape Epic 2014 “The Worlds Toughest MTB Stage Race”

When Paarl Media & Pragma offered us the opportunity to race the Cape Epic it was almost impossible to turn down! We have watched for many years as the race has evolved into one of the biggest showcases of our sport. Worldwide media attention, broadcast live on television and the Internet – this race is one of the pinnacles of our sport… it is also the hardest!

For the 2014 edition we would have two teams, one consisting of our talented young rider from South Africa who would be paired with previous Epic winner, Hanlie Booyans. This team was supported by the Pragma brand. An asset management company based in Cape Town.

Cape Epic - Orange Monkey Pro Team The other team would be our young rider Ben Roff alongside experienced stage racer Rab Wardell from Scotland. Both were Epic newbies and supported by Paarl Media, a huge print business also based in Cape Town who are concentrating on developing the sport for young South Africans.

The “Epic” is different in every way to a normal mountain bike race but when the time came we grasped the opportunity with both hands and this is how it unfolded…

Prolouge – Day 1
The prologue went exactly as planned for both teams with a strong but steady ride getting them a good grid for stage 1 but without expending too much energy. All riders came through clean with no mechanical issues or otherwise. Tomorrow the real racing begins in Robertson – Arabella wine estate.

Stage 1 – Day 2
Stage 1 was a tough stage with 2450m of climbing over 113km! The guys rode another perfect stage with just two small mechanicals finishing in 22nd positions and moving up the GC to 23rd! A fantastic performance and still well within their comfort zone. The girls also rode a clean race with no issues and a steady pace to finish 8th. Tomorrow will be another long stage at 101km.

Stage 2 – Day 3
The heavens opened before stage 2 meaning a tough start in cold, dark and very wet conditions. All our riders made a good start but the tracking showed up a problem for the guys. It transpired that Ben had a stomach issue meaning they couldn’t go at maximum. The “Epic” is all about team work though and the guys worked hard together to consolidate their position coming home to Robertson in 26th however moving up in the overall rankings! The ladies also moved up in the overall rankings to 7th after another solid stage in treacherous conditions. The experienced Hanlie Booyans is showing Mariske all the tricks of the Epic while Mariske shows her raw power. Its a great partnership that could show up a surprise come Lourensford on Sunday.

Stage 3 – Day 4
The rain stopped just in time for stage 3 of the Absa Cape Epic. Today was the longest stage at 134km, but not the hardest! The rolling dirt roads mixed with some technical descents provided another tough challenge and the riders were once again up to task. Two snapped chains in the dry conditions meant some emergency repairs for the boys but riding strong all day they came home to fisnih 23rd on the stage leaving them the same overall. The Pragma girls kept up their impressive performance with a strong looking Mariske smiling all the way through the stage showing just what great form she is in just now. Tomorrow is just 88km but with the same amount of climbing as today it will be another tough day in the saddle.

Cape Epic - Orange Monkey Pro Team Stage 4 – Day 5
A wrong turn after avoiding a crash on course meant that Rab & Ben found themselves quite far down early in todays stage but made up great time to finsih in 22nd. Who knows what may have been as both riders felt good on a shorter 88km course although with the same climbing as yesterdays much longer 134km. Hanlie and Mariske continued there progression and consistency with another 8th place helping to further cement their place in the top 10 come the end in Lourensford on Sunday.

Stage 5 – Day 6
It was heartbreak at the start of stage 5 as the guys snapped a chain in the first 50 metres of the queen stage. This was the “big day” with 2900m of climbing and it looked like a bad situation as the guys fixed the chain on the first corner of the track. However with guts,heart and determination Ben & Rab fought there way back to an incredible 19th position actually climbing up the general classification overall. A quite spectacular ride.

A long hard day in the saddle for Mariske and Hanlie with over 7 hours of racing but they have kept the consistency and look to have all but cemented the 8th place!

Stage 6 – Day 7
The Pragma – Orange Monkey ladies had another solid stage today and pretty much cemented there position for the final day leading into Lourensford. There was plenty of single track and the start was vital. The boys suffered after the big effort of yesterdays stage but did enough to stay inside the top 20 digging really deep in the final few kilometres.

Cape Epic - Orange Monkey Pro Team Stage 7 – Day 8
A call came through late on Saturday night to say that Rab was in the medic tent with severe exhaustion and heat stroke and had been placed on a drip. This was not an ideal situation but the riders health is always the first priority! Rab rested up and by very late that evening confirmed he was good to race. However early Sunday morning on the day of the final stage into Lourensford Rab was found having a seizure and taken straight to the medic tent and then to hospital. The official diagnosis was Rhabdomyolysis and was a combination of many factors including severe break down of muscle which had ultimately affected his heart where he now had inflammation and infection.

Their was much concern for Rab but Ben decided to start the day alone to finish the job he had started with his friend and team-mate. It was a highly emotional final day as Ben rolled into Lourensford alone with a finishing position of 27th overall.

The ladies finished the job they had started 8 days ago and rolled into Lourensford to take a stunning 8th place in what is regarded as the worlds toughest mountain bike race! They had ridden a very controlled and classy race and were rewarded with big UCI points and the Cape Epic finishers medal.

And their it was, this incredible journey was over and although it was not the end we had hoped for we took the experience and the positives away and will now look at competing for medals in future years. This had really been an “Epic”!

Photo Album - Absa Cape Epic - South Africa