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.

Shew. That was a brutal day! It started trying to shove a dry roll and hard-boiled eggs down our throats for breakfast and just got worse… We were in fairly good spirits at the start. The first 20km was fairly fast before we started to hit the climbs.

There wasn’t one free kilometre! It was rocks and sand and singletrack for most of the stage. When you did get to the top of climb you had to really concentrate on the descent. Followed by another climb. And so on! Nothing unusual for Epic, but it was really rugged, dry terrain. We avoided any mechanicals, which was obviously important.


I was feeling okay but then at around 50km I started to cramp. I never really cramp, so that was quite an experience! Luckily Pat came prepared. He had plenty of cramp blocking tablets with him as he experiences cramp occasionally. The cramps were really bad. But not to the point that I couldn’t ride. But the cramping definitely slowed us down a bit.

On the right, Pat and I with excited smiles before the stage. On the left me with a smile of pained relieve after the stage.

We crossed the finish line in one piece in about 5:47. When the gun went this morning we probably went a bit harder than we should have. But it’s that racing mentality of not wanting to let a group ride away from you. But the reality is my conditioning is just not there. Hopefully I’ll ride into some condition as the race goes on. All in all it was a good day out. The massage afterwards was so needed and appreciated!

Patrick was incredible today. He rode a really good stage and finished really strongly. And as most Cape Epic veterans will know, the official start really is only at the end of Stage 1. So I now definitely feel like I’m in the Epic groove!

Tomorrow is a mammoth stage. It’s the Queen Stage and it covers 96km with 2100m of climbing but it’s in the Witzenberg Mountains with more unrelenting terrain, which is going to wear us down for sure. We’ll take it in our stride and start a bit slower. The climbing starts earlier than on today’s stage which should keep us from getting too excited early on. The technical descent where we drop about 1000 metres to the finish should be interesting!