Mark Nel accepted an invitation out of the blue four days before the race from Patrick von Schoor to do the Absa Cape Epic as his teammate. Knowing just how formidable the Cape Epic is to finish when prepared, we think he’s mad! So, we asked him to write a daily diary so we can follow his suffering, er, um progress.

Pre-stage bacon and eggs for me, post-stage beer for Pat. It was a good day for us today.

Well Stage 2 was labelled by the Epic organisers at this year’s Queen Stage, which is meant to be the hardest stage. I was relatively apprehensive following the cramps I suffered yesterday. I was worried the cramps would return and I’d have to relive that uncontrollable pain. We had a reasonably chilled start and after about 20 kays the most beautiful thing happened. My body seemed to realise that it was needed to operate properly at  the Cape Epic and my legs really started to feel good!

We made up some serious positions up the Old Gydo Pass climb, the first tough climb of the day. We were sitting in 71st place and our morale was sky high! There was some really technical riding in the Witzenberg region but both Pat and I were feeling pretty good. The goal is to get through every stage safely in one piece as this is Pat’s 10th Cape Epic and my first one that I didn’t actually train for…

We got to the second water point and realised we were in a good position to give the rest of the stage a good tonk. We spent a good few minutes at the second point making sure we were prepared for the rest of the stage, which was just as well because for the next couple of hours we rode on some seriously technical terrain. The climbs were loose, rocky and tiring; and the descents were worse! Both Pat and I come from a road cycling background.

Stage 2 of the Absa Cape Epic was labelled as The Queen Stage due to the difficulty rating. But it was also a beautiful stage through many flourishing farmlands.| Photo: Gary Perkin/Cape Epic

Despite that, we found good rhythm on the climbs and made up places, but were passed by some of the more skilled riders on the descents. The descent into Tulbagh was a treacherous 10km downhill. We decided to ride within ourselves and lost quite a few positions as a result.  A few of those that passed us crashed, some quite badly, and that reinforced our decision to rather be slower and safer.

We clocked just over six hours and were in great spirits at the finish! My hope at the start of this Epic was that I would ride myself into some race condition. That might have been today, but you never know… However, it was nice to find a good rhythm and enjoy the stage.

Tomorrow is another tough one. About 90km with around 2000m of climbing. We are hoping it’s not as technical as today, but this is the Epic and every day has some form of challenge. It looks like there is serious rain on the way for Friday and Saturday. But we are taking one day at a time. And today was a very good day. I finally feel like I’m in the Cape Epic and not just at the Cape Epic.