Cape Epic 2023 | Stage 6 ride report – a muddy MTB nightmare

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This image on stage 6, tells you everything you need to know. Mechanics will be working overtime, restoring bikes for the final stage. (Photo: Dom Barnardt)
This image on stage 6, tells you everything you need to know. Mechanics will be working overtime, restoring bikes for the final stage. (Photo: Dom Barnardt)
  • Previous Cape Epics have often had heat as nature’s wrath. But this year it has been wind and rain.
  • Stage 6 easily bested the Queen stage regarding toughness. It was muddy, rutted and almost impossible to ride in many places.
  • Our drivetrains took a beating on stage 6, but hopefully, the bikes will last for the final stage.

The Queen stage might have been 5, but there is no question that stage 6 was one of the most challenging in Cape Epic history.

At the Epic, there is no respite. You earn that finisher’s medal by racing to the end. And although we thought the riverine trail conditions on stage 5 were bad, it was nothing compared to stage 6.

Cape Epic
Thinking we were prepared for the cold and rainy conditions at the start. We were wrong. (Photo: Ash Oldfield)

Rain and clay mix way too well

The route appeared simple enough: effectively a loop of the Helderberg basin. But heavy overnight rain, which kept falling throughout the stage, made riding nearly impossible.

For riders who struggled on the wet conditions of the Queen stage, the Cape Epic’s stage 6 was a true nightmare. It was the most demanding day I’ve ever had on a mountain bike.

Cape Epic
The start area had deep mud, an ominous sign of what was to come. (Photo: Ash Oldfield)

Ruts and all the mud

Many of stage 6’s trails featured clay surfaces - rapidly churned to ruin by the lead riders and faster groups. We started in B-batch, which is respectable, but you still have more than 100 bikes ahead, and all the singletrack trails were mud rutted when we rode them.

The only mud-free section of stage 6 was the steep 600m climb, from the start, up some jeep track.

How bad was the mud? Worse than you could imagine. It got in everywhere, creating huge drivetrain issues. I had to stop to clear mud from my chainring – frequently. If you tried to ride without intermittently cleaning your chainring, it would keep dropping the chain and risk snapping it.

Cape Epic
I started tremoring into light hypothermia as we finished. (Photo: Ash Oldfield)

It's not over - yet

The numbers from my power2max device were telling on stage 6. With so much walking up the steep bits, instead of cranking, my peak power was only 558 watts. Maximum heart rate registered at 156bpm, and tellingly, we averaged a plodding stage speed of only 12.8km/h. Why? Because we spent so much time walking the bikes, instead of riding.

The final Cape Epic stage will not be easy. It routes from Lourensford to Val de Vie and includes a lot of singletrack. Fun in the dry, but it will be atrocious to race after the heavy rain lashed Cape Town over the weekend.

For tired riders on ruined bikes after stage 6’s awful conditions, the risk of crashing out of the Cape Epic on its final day is high. We hope not to become a number in that statistic.


Cape Epic 2023 | Stage 1 ride and data report - all the wind

Cape Epic 2023 | Stage 2 ride and data report - the longest stage

Cape Epic 2023 | Stage 3 ride report – finishing into the medical tent

Cape Epic 2023 | Stage 4 ride report – fun before the nightmare stage

Cape Epic 2023 | Stage 5 ride report – conquering the Queen stage

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