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.

Stage 4 was sold to us as a transfer stage – shortened due to road works. I expected it to be a relatively easy one. It was anything but! It was probably the least enjoyable day I have ever had on a bike! I felt okay, but from the first pedal stroke I found the terrain and the landscape thoroughly unpleasant.

Those are smiles of relief. Today’s stage was awful! Fortunately we are staying in a Bed and Breakfast with this view!

The first half of the stage was pretty innocuous – relatively fast through the farmlands but there was a horrible wind. In fact there was a horrible wind throughout the whole stage which gnawed away at any chance of having fun.

The second half was insanely rocky with lots of singletrack climbs where you just had to concentrate every second of the way. The kind of climb where you’d be climbing okay then the guy in front you dismounts and that upsets your rhythm and it would be really hard to get going again. I battled with that mentally.

And then the descent to the finish was just a really, really rocky, technical descent. So wasn’t much fun. Rocky and technical terrain has been the order of the week. Pat rode very well again. He’s really ridden a very solid Epic. You can see his experience (this is his 10th). He’s very measured and rides within himself. He almost crashed today thought – on one of the descents near the finish. He had a miraculous save, thank goodness!

This photo from today’s stage shows the gradient and the terrain, but it doesn’t show the wind, which was relentless! Possibly my worst day on a bicycle!

I was more grumpy today because I thought it was a very average stage. To make things worse, as we crossed the finish we had to get into a bus for an hour’s drive from Slanghoek to Wellington. Traffic was a bit of a nightmare so it took longer. We got to Wellington and our bikes hadn’t arrived yet. We decided to go to our B&B which was another half an hour’s drive. The whole thing was bit of a hack to be honest.

Our B & B was closer to my home than I expected, so I popped home to see my family, which was really great!

Tomorrow is a monster – 85km with just under 3000m of climbing. And there’s rain forecast. It should be an interesting day! I hope the trails aren’t as rocky tomorrow…

Read Mark’s previous daily diary posts of the first four days here:

Stage 3: The Heat is On!

Stage 2: A Good Leg Day

Stage 1: Cramping Trip

Prologue: Clearing the Cobwebs