One Speed Wonders to Conquer Cape Epic- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    One Speed Wonders to Conquer Cape Epic

    My Partner, C-Dubs(a.k.a. Chris) and I are attempting to become the first ever Singlespeed team to finish the 8-day Cape Epic where will we cover 886 km and over 15000 vertical metres of climbing. We will also be riding fully rigid bikes. Chris is from NY and will be riding a ti Independent Fabrications steed. I live in Cape Town and will be on my trusty On-One Inbred. The race starts on the 24th March and ends on 31st March.

    The course this year does no favours to us Singlespeeders as it routes inland via the hot and dry plains of the Klein Karoo, with endless rolling hills leading to monster steep climbs on rough jeep tracks making gear selection a real challenge. More information on the website : http://www.cape-epic.com/

    Unlike Rich, Josh the Wonderboy and others on this board, Chris I are racers of more modest ability so our aim is a finish rather than a podium place.

    All donations of good karma, luck and last-minute advice gladly accepted.
    ____________
    Fear only Fear

  2. #2
    Bend, OR
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    good luck, and show them how it's done.

  3. #3
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    Cape Epic Conquered

    Just a quick note to say that Chris and I completed the Cape Epic to become the first SingleSpeed team ever to do so. I will post a long race report shortly with all the gory details (and pics).
    ____________
    Fear only Fear

  4. #4
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    I wish I were more like you guys. Modest and brave. The "bad plan" part I have under control.

    Congrats on finishing!

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by OneFear

    Unlike Rich, Josh the Wonderboy and others on this board, Chris I are racers of more modest ability so our aim is a finish rather than a podium place.
    I'll have to tell Josh the Wonderboy somebody holds him in high regard. He isn't really a "racer". He was just somebody I knew I could count on to not quit on me no matter what.

    Anyhoo, nice job. I'd caught wind of you guys through the IF site. I tried to get some updates on you when I could, but I was without interweb services for awhile.
    I'll be looking forward to living vicariously through your tale. Make sure it's plenty detailed enough so I'll feel like I was there (so I won't want to go there and do it myself).
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  6. #6
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    Congrats! Looking forward the report and pics. Be sure to include weights and measures of those cajones!

  7. #7
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    Race Report (very long)

    It all started when I emailed the race admin for the Cape Epic and asked them to make a place available for a crazy Singlespeed team. They liked the idea and gave me a wildcard entry. It took me a long time to find a partner and eventually Chris Wurster from NY had responded to an internet posting and the One Speed Wonders were born. We represented different ends of the SS spectrum: Chris, professionally trained, with a custom titanium IF and me, a self trained average rider with an entry level On-One Inbred steel bike.

    Key component choices for us were rigid cromo forks (IF and On-One), small, lethal black bells, Jones bars for Chris and On-One Mary bars for me, fat 2.4 UST Vredestein Killer Bee Tyres, heavy but with incredible dry conditions performance and thornproof, rolled down hills faster than the gearies, I added some chunky ESI grips and they were amazing keeping my hands in control, and free of numbness. We ran gearing of 32x19 or in my case 36x21 and, though tempted to change the gearing for the various stages, we never did and stuck with this ratio throughout.


    Stage 1: Knysna to Uniondale, 101km, 2660m vertical
    The first half of the day was in the forest on decent fire roads and jeep track, and we held our own on the first few hills despite a nasty steep early hill which demanded a push. Chris is a much stronger rider than me and was clearly relishing dishing out a few lessons to the gearies, the majority who had never before even seen a singlespeed bike before. At the first water point we were well placed in the mid-pack and beginning to cause a stir. The route came out of the forests into more open terrain, and we quickly rolled into the base of the main challenge of the day, a 14km, 730m dirt road pass. Not my cup of tea but there was no holding Chris back. He set the pace up the climb and burned off gearie after gearie while I scampered after him as best as I could. The last part of the ride through farm back roads and jeep track was prime SS turf and we did very well until my legs finally caved in on the final climb. A loose and bumpy decent kept us on our toes before the gentle roll into the finish. The announcer was surprised and delighted as we rolled across the line to become the first ever SSers to complete a stage of the Cape Epic. We felt like movie stars as the press took us aside us to get interviews with these crazy SS guys. We finished the third toughest stage in 7h17m.

    Stage 2: Uniondale to Oudtshoorn, 132km, 2245m vertical
    Billed as the Cape Epic’s longest day, this was a bad one for SSers. A nice gentle roll out of town for 38km on rolling gravel roads before the route turns sharply and steeply into the mountains for long granny gear climbs, followed by another 60km of gentle gravel roads home. We knew we had to be up for it and set off like madmen. Pedaling until our legs were a blur, adopting radical aero technique on the downhills, stealing onto the back of pace-lines. To our surprise we were not far off the midpack pace at the water stop just before the Kamanassie hills. We attacked the foothills and made up a few more places before, as Chris called it, the “Conga-Line” started up as the singletrack climbs became too steep to hold so many riders and clogged up, leaving long lines of riders trudging up the hills. My Iliotibial band(ITB) needed a quick application of Tiger Balm put me back in business. Nearer the top of the climbs we actually became quite competitive. Most gearies choosing to stay locked in the granny gears, Chris and I blew past dozens of shocked looking gearies, bewildered at the awesome speed of the SSers. A final push up the aptly named stairway to heaven, whose steepness had defeated even the quadbikes, followed by an equally steep, loose, rocky and treacherous downhill. Back out into open country it was frustrating to have big groups of riders passing you even when you were going flat out. Later on a headwind came to our rescue and we again began to be a bit more competitive - at one stage, much to Chris’s disdain, I was towing a long line of geared riders into the wind. A final turn onto sandy jeep tracks through a nature reserve and we were back in business. Then suddenly, with 15km to go, my seatpost bolt snapped. There was nothing to do but stand. I lowered my leftover seatpost and set off. I found this is to be bloody exhausting and coming after over 8 hours in the saddle and a nagging ITB it really stretched me to my to limit. After a couple of km, Chris had an idea to lash the seat onto the post using an inner tube and duct tape. At its lowest extension, it was only good for . So after a seemingly endless route I finally hit the 5km banner and knew that the finish line was in reach. By this time, mindful of the 10hr cutoff, Chris had panicked and bolted for the line, leaving me to limp home the last few km on my own. I managed to steal the odd draft from other riders, but heaps of riders poured past. At the 1km mark I found Chris, doing figure of eights and we rode triumphantly to the finish in a time of 9h17m. By now word had spread of the SS exploits and we had streams of riders come by to offer us respect. Its been a long time since I have been that exhausted.
    Shaun with Inbred.jpg

    Stage 3: Oudtshoorn to Ladismith, 128km, 2425m vertical
    From the day the route had been published I knew this would be the toughest day. Not only due to the route, but also due to the way one’s body feels after 2 hard days in the saddle. Chris and I were well psyched up for it. After a short tar stretch through town we were dumped onto some rough jeep track where we held our own. The route then moved briefly to a wide dirt road before we were once again into rolling jeeptrack. This was prime SS turf and we slayed. At every small rise, the gearies would be fiddling with the gears trying to hit granny and we would be past them in a flash. Instant acceleration. Same at the top of the little hills where they would either stay in granny gear or would fiddle too much with their gears and we would be past them again. At the first water stop, we wasted no time, and scooted past dozens of riders and were straight into a monster climb of over 14% grade. All but a brave few were off their bikes pushing and even the few who tried could only ride short stretches. At the top the ugliness disappeared and we had a wonderful open stretch of flowing jeeptrack for the next 15km or so before this again gave way to open gravel roads. Here we inevitably lost a few places. After the second water point there was a stretch of brutal, steep, stony jeep track, with grades mostly too steep for our gearing. This soon gave way to a long bumpy downhill and then spat us out at the foot of a long tar road climb. Chris had prepared slogans for each day and for today we had “unleach the animal within”. While the long hours of training at midnight had played havoc with his spelling, Chris now unleached a tiger and attacked. I unleached a more sedate musk ox and ploughed a steady pace to the top. Chris was really enjoyed taking on the gearies and then either waiting up for me or rolling down to take on another group of gearies. The steady pace paid off for me and I managed to reel in a few riders who had started to fast and more or less held my own. A short tar downhill with the Killer Bees buying us back a few more places before we were once again onto farm roads. The final 20km was steadily up. We were both cooking though and continued to catch riders right to the end. Our time of 8h44 was pretty competitive and saw us post our best placing of the race, 313 out of about 600 teams. With the toughest start ever to the Cape Epic over, including nearly half of the climbing, it was time to bask in the glory a bit and enjoy our comfortable accommodation.
    Chris Day 3.jpg

    Stage 4: Ladismith to Barrydale, 121km, 1285m vertical
    This was ominously billed as a “relative rest day”. A call by Chris to his coach had confirmed that we should use the day to recover from our previous exertions. The scenery was arid but beatiful, with wide open spaces and the first half of the ride felt exactly like a recovery ride. Interesting for us to be riding with the back markers for a change who are, on the whole, more fun. The route switched onto alternately bumpy, rocky or sandy jeep tracks for most of the rest of the stage. The long sandy stretches taking their toll on the legs, while the rocky and bumpy stretches, barely filtered by the rigid forks, began to take a toll on the tired bodies. This was not a rest stage any longer. A feature of the Epic course designer, Leon Evans, a.k.a. Dr Evil, is to test ones resolve at the end of races by throwing in unexpected bits. An extra few km over the schedule or an extra hill. Today he added both. We also had our first dose of heat. The first three days had been remarkably cool, averaging about 25C. Today we were ending the race in the mid thirties Celsius. We were glad we were taking it easy, but we were not resting. After a never ending rocky jeep track through a nature reserve in the baking heat we finally turned into some farm roads on the final stretch and then the finish was in sight. A final Dr Evil twist which took us in the opposite direction for another km and then we rolled in to the finish in 7h27m, halfway done.

    Stage 5: Barrydale to Montagu, 102km, 1590m vertical
    I suffered a massive setback when our kindly host for the night cleaned my bike, ending my attempt to go through the entire Epic not having cleaned my bike. Chain squeaking but suitably pumped on the coldest morning yet, I kept myself warm at the start with multiple cups of coffee. For once the start suited us SSers with rolling farm roads before we hit a long, steep, singletrack climb which predictably turned into a push fest for all. Over the top onto a short plateau, and then a short but sweet tar road downhill which took us onto a good gravel road. By now Chris and I had honed our course reading skills, setting time targets for each of the water stops that would get us comfortably home and still allow us to back off the juice a little if we made good progress to save ourselves for the tricky last two days. As we were well ahead of schedule at the second water point we backed off allowing our Hong Kong buddies Matt and Jason to catch us up the steep, long rocky jeep track climb near the end. Chris and I had mastered our gearie domination tricks – Chris would attack all the climbs like a madman completely demoralizing all the geared riders he passed, while I would steadily mop up the rear until it was time to push. I would then hypnotize any riders trying to use those big granny gears by slowly chanting “when you hear the bell, you will want to puuush (ting)…your whole body is relaxed as you think of pushing (ting)…pushing is good (ting)…your mother brought you into the world with a push (ting)…etc. Mostly deaf riders passed us. A short fast and possibly the bumpiest descent yet brought us onto hot, dusty gravel and farm roads before we finally rolled over the finish in 6h58m. Relieved, tired and probably the hungriest I had been yet. I devoured an obscene amount of food right after the ride before continuing the feast at supper. Chris was no slouch himself and ate probably more meat that night than I have ever seen anyone eat before, as a vegetarian, I began to fear for my life and put double locks on the doors that night.

    Stage 6: Montagu to Villiersdorp, 111km, 1565m vertical
    What ultimately proved to be the easiest day for the geared riders, started badly for us. A flat tar road start saw everybody fly past us. While Chris manfully stole into pace lines I was struggling. For the first time, my knee hurt and I couldn’t sustain a high cadence and even the day trippers flew past. I was stone last by the time we turned into the thorn infested farmlands. Digging deep and riding through the pain I raced after Chris, now running amok among the long line of geared riders content to ride continuously in their granny gears regardless of the terrain. We passed dozens of riders and fought our way back into the midpack by the first water point where an economical stop put us ahead of a few more. Then the trouble started. A long 30km tar road stretch with modest climbing saw the gearies fly past in long fast pacelines. Our top sprint speed was about 30kmh with our gearing and there was not much we could do. To make matters worse my knee was hurting more and more and I was forced to drop my cadence even further. We were still ahead of time after the second water point as we hit a long sandy stretch that started the big climb of the day. This ended up being a push for most. On the far side a long gradual gravel downhill saw us eat more gearie dust before the final testing jeep track climb of the day. Well ahead on time, and with Chris’ coach urging us to rest for the next tough stage, I was more than happy to get in the odd push to rest my knee. After an uneventful last few km through farm roads we crossed the finish line in 7h18 and predictably the worst placing of the race at 457th out of 600 or so teams.

    Stage 7: Villiersdorp to Kleinmond, 116km, 1990m vertical
    The more we had studied the day’s route, the less we liked it. An easy start followed by a long granny gear climb, followed by more granny gear climbs and a hard to read section at the end. We were very focused at the start. Fortunately for us, the unavoidable short tar road start was on rolling terrain and we hammered hard to make progress through the pack. My knee was still hurting but I put the pain aside and just went for it. The tar turned to gravel and by the first water point at the 28km mark we had claimed a respectable position in the pack. The trouble started on the long climb up a monster mountain called “Groenlandberg”(“green land mountain”), was a perfect granny gear climb. This made it torture for us SSers. Chris, as usual manfully attacked as best as he could and more or less kept his place in the line. I attacked as best as I could, but before long was off my bike while long lines of granny gears eased past me. We scrapped on as best as we could all the way to the top of the climb which was followed by a nasty descent. Fast, bumpy and with the sun behind us it was hard to spot the bumps that would threaten our rigid forks. Inevitably that forced us to slow down and even stop once to rest our arms. That slope was the scene of many falls that day so it is just as well we took it easy. By the second water point we were well within our time target and ahead of the leader in the “pink camel on handlebar” category who stopped shortly after us. A short tar road section had Chris back to dominating the gearies before we headed off into the forest. By now temperatures were well up for our hottest day yet. The sting in the tail came after yet another treacherous bumpy descent – which had Chris complaining of sore arms for the first time. Chris called it the “death march”. On paper it should have been mostly downhill, but somehow, defying gravity we seemed to be climbing towards the sea. Temperatures soared to 43C. I came around a corner and found Chris meditating Zen-like with his bare feet in a stream. I dunked water all over myself and we set off again. The terrain was much better for SSers and we made fast progress. Miraculously my knee stopped hurting. Nervous about the cutoff, Chris bolted and I eventually found him waiting at the 1km mark. The pretty finish was over boardwalks and (matting covered)sand on the beach. Tired, hungry and relieved to be out of the heat we crossed the line in 8h10m. Not an army of knee gnomes would keep me from finishing now.
    Day 7.jpg

    Stage 8: Kleinmond to Lourensford(finish), 75km, 1285m vertical(so they said)
    The start had been delayed to 08h30 and we were feeling the heat. I was feeling a bit ill, like I was getting a cold. I felt even more ill when they told us at the start that they had added an extra 8km (and some climbing) onto the day. Another tar downhill start put us firmly toward the back, but as usual we fought our way forward. The first 25km was a reverse of the previous days’ “death march”. It was hot and I was thirsty and finished my 3L Camelbak before the first water point. Things were becoming a blur - was that really a lone bagpiper piping us up the climb. The stage proved tougher than expected with a mix of steep tar and farm roads. Finally we reached the enforced portage down an historic wagon trail, where one could still see the wagon wheel tracks cut into the rocks. Much to our relief the much feared railroad section could be bypassed, as the front runners(bless their little souls) had started a track alongside. I saw Chris, his La Ruta experience to the fore, start the rail section only to hastily abandon it after a bumpy 20m. Over one last hot climb and then blissfully into a curious, enforced no pass zone where we could spin our legs and recover a bit. In true Dr Evil style, the extra 8km passed and we rode yet another two km before we saw the “5km to go” board. Fortunately it was mostly flat so Chris and I rolled into the finish relaxed and in a Zen state, the ringing of our bells merging into the ringing of the Tibetan bells my family had waiting for us at the finish line. The first Singlespeeders to finish the Cape Epic.
    OSW Rule.jpg
    ____________
    Fear only Fear

  8. #8
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    Very nice read. Thanks for sharing with the class.
    Got any new plans, or are you too tired to think about that kinda thing yet??
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  9. #9
    breathing helium
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    Huge congrats! I know what you mean about the pain in the arms thing...and that is me going out for one day at a time!!! What a triumphant story. Thanks for sharing.

  10. #10
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    No plans yet. Have succombed to multiple flu bugs so I am focusing on feeling sorry for myself.
    ____________
    Fear only Fear

  11. #11
    Nightriding rules SuperModerator
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    Awesome report, OneFear!

    Thanks for sharing... awesome!

  12. #12
    Bend, OR
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    Awesome. Great write up too.

    Huge congrats.

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