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.

It seems as if, well, barring a serious mechanical or a gnarly tummy bug, Pat and I will cross the finish line tomorrow at Val de Vie. Today was another really tough day – on paper. It was a long stage with a lot of climbing. Originally 2300m ascent over 91km, but due to the heavy rain they cut out nine kays so we did 82km and about 1800m.

Despite a very wet and disruptive night, Mark Florence kept our bikes in race condition only to get ridiculously muddy again today!

I think what made it treacherous was the rain. Apparently the race village was evacuated last night due to the flooding. The start today was delayed by an hour. I slept at home last nigth and when I saw Pat this morning at this hotel room, he was white. He said that he’d been feeling nauseous all night. Eventually at 4am he took some medication. There have been some bugs doing the rounds forcing riders to withdraw from the race, so we were worried.

That and the rain meant we were keen to get the race over with. We started really slowly. Bikes weere sliding all over and riders crashing. It was carnage! Pat wanted to gauge how he would respond with a slow start. But it turns out he was riding well. It didn’t take too long to find our stride. Then the rain stopped about 45m into stage, the wind picked up and then the sun came out. The wind and sun helped dry things out a bit.

We have been pretty consistent this week. We never set out to the race this Cape Epic, but simply to finish it. But we have been consistent. Today we had our best finish. We rode for about 5:15 and that gave us our bests stage placing of 65th in the Men’s.

My Scalpel after today’s stage!

One big issue I had today was Achilles pain. I had a dropper post fitted the day before the Epic. In that process I tinkered with my saddle position and must have moved it a bit further back than what it normally is. After Day 2 I felt both Achilles straining, so it wasn’t sudden, but today was absolutely excruciating – I was close to tears. I managed to ride through that. Felt it from the first first pedal strokes on the stage so it was hard to manage that for the whole stage. Other than that my legs were feeling amazing today. Pat’s legs must be really good because he’s been strong every day!

Tomorrow is 67km into Val de Vie. It’s still a fairly brutal stage with 1800m of climbing in that short distance. Everyone will have a spring in their stride tomorrow morning though. It’s been a tough Epic. I know every year is tough, but the consensus from those that have ridden many is that this edition has been more taxing and tough than most. We’re all tired. The thought of finishing is exciting as it will be a satisfying achievement. Just one more day!

Read Mark’s previous diary entries here:

Stage 5: Happy Friday!

Stage 4: Sense of Humour Failure!

Stage 3: The Heat is On

Stage 2: A Good Leg Day

Stage 1: Cramping Trip

Prologue: Clearing the Cobwebs