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Rebecca Rusch Stage 3 Recap from South Africa

Check our Rebecca Rusch’s recap of  Stage 3 of the Cape Epic, a 685 km, 8-day mountain bike stage race in South Africa. The route passes through mountain and wine regions and features over 14,000 meters of climbing over the course of the week.  It’s the largest and most competitive stage race in the world and the team rosters are packed with 1200 athletes, including Olympians, pro riders, World Champions and regular cyclists.

Rebecca SA Race Start

Reba & Matthew at the Stage 3 start line.

Absa Cape Epic, Stage 3 – by Rebecca Rusch, Mar 24

Although relatively short at only 73k, stage three packed a wallop.  Just shy of half-way, we encountered a 2,000 ft climb, the vast majority of which was too steep, loose and rocky to ride. The summit ridge offered astonishing views of the incredible hill country known as The Overberg (over the mountains).  Although this climb was the crux of the day, it was by no means the only challenge.

After a howling fast start straight up a 1,000 ft. + loose double-track, followed by several kilometers of loose, challenging, off-camber vineyard service roads, we found our adventure racing backgrounds serving us well as we marched up a steep trail that would take us to the summit of the Boskloof, the tallest mountain in the region. With our bikes on our shoulders, we steadily worked our way through the field on the long hike and eventually saw the 3rd and 4th place mixed teams in the overall standings. Knowing that this was our best shot at moving into the top four in the overall standings, we pushed relentlessly seeking seconds wherever we could find them.

The picturesque village of Greyton, sitting snugly against the mountains, was our destination, and after the insanely fast descent (max speed 35mph), we joined up with a pack of ex-roadies who stormed towards the final grinder climbs. Our legs had a hard time shifting from big-ring ripping to granny-gear grinding, but our minds were willing: we crossed the line in 5th, again, solidifying our overall position but failing to budge one step higher.

Reba doing some “sand surfing”…check out the sand tracks/ruts on the right.
Photo courtesy Gary Perkin.

After the race, we agreed that we couldn’t have gone any faster or raced together any better than we did. No flats, solid tactics, the courage to attack a hard course, no mistakes, good nutrition and hydration… it is a wonderful feeling to know that you’ve left it all on the trail, and that those who beat you were simply stronger on the day.

Even after a tough day of riding, still plenty of smiles at the finish line for Stage 3.

We also wanted to share our observations on the total professionalism of the team that is supporting us. Benno and Dylan, our mechanics, strip our bikes down every night, clean the chains link-by-ink, install fresh rubber every night (and even modify the tread for increased traction) and even use bike shine to make sure our rides are fully pimped at the line. And Claire and Natasha, our soigneurs, wake us with coffee, wash our clothes every day, massage the day’s punishment from our legs and generally make sure that we are presentable when we go to the line.

And, in terms of psyche, it’s never a bad thing to be sharing a designated mobile home slot with the team that has won every single stage of the race so far… although the groupies and journalists are starting to get a bit tedious!

Cheers for now…time to rest up for another grueling 114 km in Stage 4.

She and Matthew are still going strong and finished the stage in 5th place (in the mixed division) and retain their overall 5th place after the prologue and 3 stages of racing. Four more stages of racing to go…stay tuned. As a point of interest, there are still 510 ranked teams (1020 riders) in the race…out of the 1200 that started Stage 1.
Follow Rebecca’s progress on her blog.

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