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Hitchhiking to a Cape Epic finish

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Very happy stage 4 finishers, after major mechanical drama close to the end. (Photo: Ride24)
Very happy stage 4 finishers, after major mechanical drama close to the end. (Photo: Ride24)

The Cape Epic has a diversity of riders, each with their own goals for the untamed mountain bike race. 

Some of the world's best riders are present, racing at the front. But for a significant number of riders, simply making it to the finish of a Cape Epic stage before the dreaded cut-off time, is a victory in itself.

On Thursday morning, Jacques Jonker and Luniel Botes, of Team Hak & Steek, were having a relatively trouble-free Epic. After surviving the horrendous heat and wind on stages 1 and 2, they started stage 4 ranked 357th, in the general classification.

There is some challenging singletrack through the fynbos, following that infamous UFO climb outside Greyton. And it was here that disaster struck on stage 4

"We were feeling great and making good time. But my rear wheel completely buckled, going down that rocky singletrack after the UFO," Jonker recalled. 

The team had put in almost two years worth of training for the Cape Epic. They were supposed to ride in 2020, before the pandemic struck. Subsequently, they transferred their entry to this year. Not finishing, was not an option.

"The last water point was before the climb, so we couldn't turn back and go get help. With just more than 10km to go, we decided to keep moving forward," added Jonker.

Luniel Botes explained their riding tactics to the finish. "Moving forward took a lot of energy. The wheel was wobbling to such an extent that it rubbed on the frame. I am much lighter than Jacques, so we decided that I would ride his bike. Then one of our friends would take a turn, while Jacques rode alongside on our smaller bikes.”

"We had to nurse the rim because if it disintegrated completely, that would be our Epic over."

The pairing made their way slowly down the mountain and once they hit the district road, another team, Wynand van der Berg and Maritz Nel, caught them. This is where the fun really started.

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