Friday, 30 March 2012

The Epic... stage 4 and 5

Well after yesterdays promising result we were highly motivated to push onward and upwards in today's stage 5. The weather gods must have been listening to me moaning that it was too hot here as yesterday evening the heavens well and truly opened. It was horrifically windy all day and just as darkness began to fall it became horrifically windy and horrifically rainy all at the same time! The rain was torrential and tore down a number of tents and soaked most of the others thoroughly. It wasn't the most comfortable nights sleep I've ever had!

So this morning we woke up and once more it was raining. Thankfully it didn't last too long and enabled us to at least get changed and pack up our stuff for the transition to the next camp site.

Both myself and Ben decided to go for the gillet and arm warmers option rather than the full rain jacket, it is Africa after all surely the rain must be warm! So we set off with a heavy sky over head. It was a nice change not to be swallowing lungfuls of dust when riding in a group, although being sprayed with face fulls of gritty mud isn't all that much better! Then the monsoon came. The rain was so heavy that it was hard to see. Everyone was instantly soaked to the skin and things got a little chilly.

For the first half of the stage we rode in a group with 6 other riders which enabled us to cover the longer sections of dirt road without too much energy expenditure. Going into the first long climb of the day the group began to split and we found ourselves riding away. At this point the sun came out for around half an hour which allowed me to get some rather embarrassing wrist tan lines where my arms warmers are a little on the short side! This problem was soon remedied as we reached half way on the second long climb as it rained again. We were still by our selves although a few of the top pro teams who had had mechanical issues caught and passed us.

The descent contained some real fun singletrack. Mostly man made and very much like the more open sections at Kielder. It also had Keilder's weather. It rain and rained and rained and then rained a bit more. The trails turned to rivers and we had to push hard just to keep warm. It was one of those situations where you have to keep moving or risk hypothermia within minutes of stopping. One mechanical could have spelled disaster for us, the saving grace was that South African puddles are warm!

Then entering the final 5km it rained even harder! It was like riding down a river. We finally made it home though and the sunshine even made an appearance the minute we crossed the line... typical. We placed 18th on the stage and bumped up a few positions to 22nd in the GC. A good days work!

Tomorrow contains a monster climb and lots of singletrack, hopefully it will be sunny!

In the mean time here a yesterdays stage 4 video. Make the most of it, it may be the last as the camera didn't like the rain too much!

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