Day 3: Okay, so some kind farmer was good enough to refuse the Epic over his land and, more importantly, his mountain. So Dr. Evil’s plans of sending us over 2,200m elevation in 115km had to be changed.
Apparently this was announced at the race briefing (oh, so that is what those things are for!), so it was pleasant news to us when we lined up for the start. The change, however, did not mean that it was any easier, in fact we still had to climb the same total elevation of over 2,200m but just spaced out over the new longer stage distance of 120km. Perhaps it wasn’t such good news after all!
After yesterday’s exceptionally dusty start, we had the novel idea of using the official race silk scarf as masks. There might be a few more following our lead tomorrow if the many ‘hey, brilliant idea!’ comments were anything to go by.
After the usual hectic start we found ourselves a little further up the field than the previous days (it pays to arrive for the start early!) and we rode strongly for about 80km passing many teams, with few teams passing us.
Gazza then started to suffer from an aching back and the final major climb, 40km out, was really tough for him and hats off for pushing through it. We therefore got caught and passed by a couple of teams but after the final water station, we put our heads down and charged over the final 30km.
But Dr Evil had a little sting in the tail for us, again! And with a mere 7km to go, we hit a 5km stretch of deep beach sand. The physical and mental effort to get through the patch took its’ toll on Gazza and he crossed the finish line absolutely smashed. “That was the hardest day ever in the saddle,” he said whilst slumped over the finish area water table. “Hey, only 5 more days to go,” I said. We finished the stage in 6hr07mins.
Day 4: A slightly easier day today as I spent a part of it lying on the ground! Perhaps it is the fatigue of the past few days catching up or perhaps it is the lack of sleep in the race camp but I hit the ground some three times today, thankfully though, nothing serious.
Crashes aside, though, Gazza and I did find the 86km stage from Ceres to Worchester (1,640m of elevation) a lot tamer compared with the previous days which was a welcome change.
It was a spectacular start today with a long opening decent on tarred roads into the valley, with helicopters overhead and police sirens blaring. It really felt exhilarating to be part of such an amazing race and we got off to a good start, fighting our way through the usual early eager beavers.
The stage passed through some unique scenery which helped keep the motivation high and the cooler conditions of the day were especially welcomed by UK-based Gazza and as we had spent a bit of the day waiting for me to pick myself up of the ground, we found ourselves with 5km to go, feeling rather fresh.
So, with a couple of teams in site ahead, we decided to put the hammer down and have a bit of fun. We overtook three teams in the final few kilometers as we raced down to the finish and it was good fun getting the competitive juices flowing and we completed the stage in 5hrs 01mins.
Part three follows tomorrow. sportograf.com http://sportograf.com