Race time is EARLY. Alarm is beeping at 5:00am and all I can feel is mildew on my sleeping bag and the tightness of muscles. Usually the morning starts with, “Jackie???” and an answer of, “Yea….” then the unzipping of tents and the trudge to the port-o-john and off to breakfast. Honey Badgers don’t have time for a lot of words. They are about to head out on a 119 kilometer race day.
Breakfast starts at 5:30am in the dining marquee then bikes are retrieved from the Pragma bike wash park (click to watch the video!) and tuning/repairs are done. Cape Epic is tough on bikes. Long days, loose gravel downhill, and lopping off into the bushes to pass the slower folks (don’t ruin the roosting!!) can really ravage some of the parts on your bike. An hour later, the Honey Badgers are lining up in the starting area. It’s now only 6:30am. We won’t see the team again for another 6 hours and 45 minutes (they don’t know that yet).
The Absa Cape Epic is the most difficult, most televised, and most hyped mountain bike stage race in the world. Athletes from every competitive sport prove their toughness (or attempt to) by competing in this race. Water ski champions, mountain bike champions from all over the world, Formula 1 racers, triathlon champs, actresses, cancer survivors, you name it and they are here. The media coverage of the “Top 50 to watch” is frenzied.
Today, the Giant Honey Badgers will take on 119 kilometers and 1,650 meters of climbing (for you non-metrics, that’s over 5,400 feet of climbing).
Feeling great about completing the prologue and stage 1, Josh and Jackie head out for stage 2. After a bit of climbing (ok, a lot) and a river crossing as well as some aggressively friendly high fives from the local children in McGregor, our team crosses the finish line back into the Robertson Cape Epic Village.
A unique characteristic of Jackie and Josh: They always finish side-by-side. Cape Epic tests you personally and tests your ability to support another person on a team (and feel supported). With all honesty, this most important component of finishing Cape Epic is something that brought a cohesiveness and strength to the Giant Honey Badgers that MANY other teams struggled to maintain. These two genuinely cared that the other made it through to the end each day and got up and did it again.