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Alison Sydor Cape Epic Report – Stage 3

by Alison Sydor

March 24, 2009 (Greyton, South Africa) – Canadian MTB cycling legend and Pedal columnist, Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain) is competing again at the 8-day Absa Cape Epic, this time for the Big Tree Foundation on a mixed team with Nico Pfitzenmeyer (RSA) – last year’s mixed team Cape Epic winner – and will be sending us daily reports as conditions allow for an inside look at this fabulous 685km adventure MTB race with 1,200 teams from 46 countries. Click here for Cape Epic report on Stage 3.

Greetings from Greyton, our stage town for the next two nights. It was a pretty long walk and ride to get her today. The hike a bike mid stage was as advertized – long. I don’t really enjoy pushing by bike for over half and hour up a steep loose rocky slope, but that was what the course designer – who’s nickname incidentally is Dr Evil – planned and so that’s what we did.

Right off the line we went uphill. Tough to get it going full on at 7am with some breakfast still in the stomach, but nonetheless after yesterday downhill start it seemed quite tranquil in fact to be climbing up the loose rocky 20 percent grade as the sun was rising.

Today we did have some company from the 2nd placed mixed team up the first climb. There was a pretty technical descent after and we got a gap and did not see them again ’til after the finish. The competition in the mixed category is pretty strong this year and I considered at the start there were five teams in contention for the win. I would never have predicted we would have such a good lead at the half way point. It’s so hard to make up time in a stage race after the first few days have passed. Everyone gets tired and slows down. Unless someone gets ill I’ve never seen a team loose a lead at this stage due to another team coming on strong.

Still a lead in mountain biking stage races can never be too big. Anyway tonight I’ll discuss our tactics for the second half with my teammate. For sure safe riding, but probably it’s worth to ease off the gas a bit too. Though that’s sometimes easier said than done. Nico and I are a bit too similar in our 100% race style.

This race is incredible for the amount of media it generates. I’d guess more than any mountain bike event on the planet. Everyday after the stage finish we do an interview for the stage press release, then a sit down TV interview soon after. And usually we see the TV cameras before the start for a few words as well.

Right now I’m sitting in a field by the tent camp next to a portable TV studio they’re using to record the “Supercycling” show. It’s an hour-long show every week here that’s all about competitive cycling. Pretty cool. Once each year they tape the show from the Epic race site and tonight’s broadcast is a 1-hour recap of the race so far. Next week – on Tuesday I think – they’ll do a race recap show. I’m one of the guests tonight and about to go on soon. I can only imagine how much it would benefit cycling in Canada to have such a show each week there.

Anyway better start to pay attention here by the studio, think I’m up next.


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Alison Sydor Cape Epic Report — Stage 3

March 31, 2008 — Canadian MTB cycling legend and Pedal columnist, Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain), is competing at the 9-day 2008 Absa Cape Epic with her Marathon World Cup winner team mate Pia Sundstedt (Fin) and will be sending us daily reports as conditions allow for an inside look at this amazing race with 1,200 riders from 41 countries.

There was no doubt yesterday’s extremely hard and long stage was going to leave a mark on everyone in the field – pros and amateurs alike. In the morning at the camp they were making announcements every 30 minutes to the start asking the riders to leave their tents. It seems some residents of the camp were a bit reluctant to get on their bikes at 7am for another long hot day in the saddle.

With a nice overall lead of about half and hour we could start into the day with a more relaxed feeling. My teammate Pia has been suffering with a knee problem from the start and that’s caused her some other problems as she’s tried to compensate. But the medical team here at the race camp is really amazing and they have been able to treat her knee and other issues to the extent that she’s getting better each day even with the 130-140km on the bike we have been doing. So with Pia’s health getting better each day and me still feeling very good, we have some stress relief for sure.

Of course it’s mtn bike racing so there’s always the unpredictable, and about 4km into the race today we found ourselves in a pileup with both of us hitting the ground pretty hard. It’s tough with the starts that are flat. As we are in leaders jerseys we get to start at the front. But immediately riders from the rear want to come up to the front, and it’s often quite chaotic and dangerous. So we were some of the victims of this crowding effect and someone’s inattentivenenss or lack of care for their fellow riders. At least it was only some blood and a few bruises, but my handlebars were cooked, some water bottles were lost and my computer’s not working. But basically we were ok, so it was back on the bikes and 125km to go basically with no worries at losing a couple minutes or so.

We caught up to the other women’s teams pretty fast and just set a steady, but not too taxing, pace up the first climb. After a long dusty downhill we hit some awsome riding for almost 55km. Rocky, up and down double jeep tracks basically, but it was more like two single tracks side-by-side. Hard riding in the granny gear up some steep bits, then rough but fun descents. To be honest today’s terrain and landscape was probably more what I’d envisioned South Africa to be like. I think I’d say it was one of my favourite stages that I’ve done before.

The final climb and descent were on asphalt and today the road run in was a welcome sight after the crushing final climb the day before. We also had some good situations in the race today. Sometimes it’s luck and sometimes it’s due to making the effort at the right times. But we were only alone on a windy stretch of road once today. And we also rode most of the day with the 2nd place mixed team who were ahead of the leaders today and very motivated to gain time in the overall. That helped keep us moving along the route smoothly today as well.

So another satisfying day with our result, another small crisis overcome, and most of all a pretty fun day on the bikes. By the way, yesterday I had some wrong info – today was another desert day. But tomorrow we head into the dairy farm area and some forest cover for much of the end of the stage. Each night after dinner and awards they give us a race briefing and talk about the next days route. With gps and satellite mapping now we get to see it all on the big screen – the next day’s course with commentary about the terrain and any danger points. It’s pretty cool. But somehow the route all looks flat and smooth from up there – which it certainly isn’t!

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