She’s long and rather wide, serves Nespresso coffee and cold beer, flushes and showers, and has six gears: meet Miss Daisy our wheels for the week! Sunday 17th March had arrived a lot sooner than expected and Team Eleven Wise Monkeys (Derek and Jayson) and physio/slave (I) were leaving Cape Town. The picturesque Prologue of 22km had been completed that morning and we were headed for Citrusdal where Stage 1 of the Cape Epic was to begin the following day.

Given that a few months earlier I had rolled our Fortuner, my nerves were a little on edge driving Miss Daisy out of Cape Town. She takes a while for all of her rear end to pass round a corner and is three metres high so look out for low trees and bridges! Once on the straight N7 I had got the hang of her and could enjoy the ride. Needless to say, the boys were head down checking out all the latest twitter on the Epic and getting psyched for their big week ahead!

It’s 5am Monday morning Stage 1. There’s movement in the camp. I crawled out my comfy tent and stuck my head in the doorway of Miss Daisy. Step 3 of the daily routine for the next 8 days greeted me, chamois prep, lovely! (Stage 1 is food and Stage 2 is the portaloo btw!)

A short walk/run to the Epic Village and we were in Chute B. Spirits were high and EWM were off! Despite not being the one on a saddle and herding over the start line, I had butterflies in my stomach and hoped their day would go well.

Riders went off at 10 minute intervals so there were still a few more groups to go. Back in the Supporters Camp tension was rising as some of the remaining riders were doing last minute bike checks, loo runs and rushing backwards and forwards tent to bike and back to tent. As the last group left and the helicopters rotored away, calmness settled over the village as we all breathed a sigh of relief. Whew. Now to put some order to the chaos left behind. The van usually looks like an elephant lifted it up and gave it a shake, although I must confess the boys are pretty tidy as blokes go. First things first though, a run through Citrusdal..quite a dodgy town mostly. Feeling like the pre Epic stress and rush was slowly leaving me, I headed back and enjoyed some peaceful ‘me’ time, what a treat! Being Derek, there were gadgets galore on board. I had ‘Endomondo’ on my phone to track the boys and see how close they were to finishing. As the blue line on the map crawled closer to the X marks the spot I packed the cooler box with the requested Chocolate very cold Steri Stumpies and headed with camera in hand to the finish line. Six hours and seven minutes, tenth in Masters and seventy third overall, GO EWM!! Stage One Complete!

Whilst all this was going on, my three trusty physio’s Marcella Carin and Raasay, were getting ready for THEIR long day of putting 25 tired and broken riders back together again. Tannie Antoinette in town had kindly opened her house to Epic Supporters so all three were in one room very cosy indeed! At the Supporters Village gazebos were going up and plinths unfolded; oil, needles and coloured tape laid out. Slowly the warriors arrived, two by two, wounded from a day of sand and more sand. Who said today that 22 out of the 103 km were a run on sand??? Blisters and aching calves were the order of the day. Our tandem team was in the pub celebrating their finish..whaaaat?? By 8pm all were patched and ready for Stage Two.

I was learning quickly to block out generator and bike meachanic chatter during the night and woke up feeling way more rested than the previous day. The morning felt somewhat fresh and the ground very dewy, riders were looking a little shell shocked from a tough Stage 1 the day before. Today was to be a long 145km stage to Tulbagh with much climbing(2350m to be exact). We walked over the main streeet to the Epic Village, many curious locals lining the road, what on earth were these crazy okes doing they must have thought! EWM maintained their B group status, the commentator was revving everyone up, it was 7am and BANG off they went! I spotted a bubbly Sean and Craig excited for their day, may the hills be with you! I too headed for the hills, a much more beautiful run this morning.

Sunrise over Citrusdal I arrived back at the Support Village and poor Miss Daisy was all alone, everyone had packed up and left already! I thought mayb I’d missed something, what was the rush?? I showered and had my morning cuppa tea then started the pack up process. Steri stumpies and water bottles in freezer to be chilled on the boys’ arrival. My tent was easy, undid the poles and shoved the whole lot in the van’s boot. Gazebo..hmmmm…it takes fine skill to single handedly collapse and fold, I would have it more slick by the end of the week I was sure. Unplug power, tick. Empty shower water tank. Found key and unlocked what I thought was the tank but was the loo tank, wow that was close! Crawled around under the van looking for another tank but alas that would have to wait until Tulbagh. Tables and chairs in. Hatches locked, screens down, main door locked. Ready to go. Oh map, tick. A friendly wave from the security guard and Daisy and I were on our way. Rounding the first corner onto the high way I heard a scraping sliding and a CRASH. Oh S***! What was that?? Cutlery drawers had flown open! So first stop on side of road to lock all the drawers, something to add to the departure list.

En route to Tulbagh the Epic helicopter came into view every now and again, a cloud of dust below from the leading riders. I wonder how everyone was doing? For some of the teams we were physio’ing it was a nail biting race against time to get across the finish line before cutoff. I couldn’t understand why there were so many hours difference between the first and the last teams to cross the line, if I compared the same to running races. Derek explained though that for the riders who couldn’t ride up some sections or down some of the technical downhill sections and ended up walking, it is waaaay slower. Makes sense. Make sure you can handle rock and sand!

Trees lined the road to Saronsberg Wine Estate just outside Tulbagh. I made it through the strict security and bumped along the path to the Support Village. Darn. Prickly veld and hard clumps of clay ☹How my gonna peg into that ground! I manouvered Miss Daisy’s large butt into the tweeny space we had been allocated, even aimed her two front wheels onto blocks so that Jason and Derek werent sleeping down hill (don’t need blood rushing to their heads!)did a time and endomondo check, and started the setting up process. Plug in power, charge the gadgets, fill water tank, gazebo up and pegged, table and chairs, plinth up, sides up, tent up, make friends with the neighbours(always good to get on with your neighbours), time check, open hatches, sweep out the grass and mud from Citrusdal, pack the coolerbox and head for the finish line.

I had about 15 minutes to go so grabbed a Woollies coffee (I don’t drink much coffee but the Woollies one has me hooked!) and sat in the Chill Zone. Golly whatalotta noise! Music and generators pumping, fans cheering, TV’s blaring, the odd baby screaming and kids going nuts in the Play Zone. Not what I’d call a Chill Zone but was shady at least! As I caught up phone messages and sipped the last sip, Derek and Jayson came pedalling over the finish line in seven hours and six minutes. Oooh very tired and VERY dirty! And very happy to have that long day behind them.

After resting a bit and fetching their cleaned bikes we walked back to the Support Village. It was starting to look like a war village, muddy men lying on plinths that looked like stretcher beds, being attended to by masseurs/physio’s/helpful wives/whoever could do the job!

After sorting out EWM’s tired legs and backs I went over to see how Team Walker Physio were doing. The team’s day was off to a late start and some riders weren’t going to make their physio sessions, either too tired to walk to the Support Village or still on their bikes! There had been a lot of climbing, some amazing Cedarberg rock formations and a crazy steep and rocky downhill dash to the finish. Greg had had a less crampy day but a nasty saddle sore is starting to fester, and our tandem team made it through Stage two by the skin of their teeth – yeehaa!

The Epic Village is looking quite snug set against the mountains on this gorgeous morning of Stage Three. Today is promised to be easier than yesterday, a mere 94km; a day to ‘spin the legs and recover’ says Katie the Race Organiser. Yeah right, why should we believe that, it is the EPIC after all! Jayson’s face said it all when I met them about six hours later at the finish. No power in these legs today he said. Hectic hills and awesome downhills, but still a lot of hard pedalling! I was realising by now that this race really was tough and it takes seriaas team work. If Jayson was struggling then others must be having a REALLY tough time!

While Stage Three was in full swing, I had my own taste of the hills and ran up and up until I could no more, with a great view of the Epic Village far down below. Maybe next time I should try it by bike!

The Afternoon’s activities: Jayson powering up for tomorrow and our tandem team made it for their massage! Sad news though was that Sean got stung by a bee and being extremely allergic nearly didn’t make it, was rushed to hospital and is in ICU. So our thoughts are with ya dude. And Craig too, not fun riding on your own!

By the morning of Stage Four Derek and Jayson were looking ready. It was pack up time again, heading for Wellington. My packing routine was pretty slick by now and I got to the first spectator point in time to see the leaders race passed and EWM not too far behind! I watched Derek at the water point. He was like a machine! Dashing from one table to the next, refuelling at such a pace I wondered how on earth do they keep this up for the day?! I thought a water point was a place of rest, take a breath, eat n drink, and admire the view. Alas not! They were out of there in literally 30 seconds. I felt quite exhausted just being a spectator!

The road to Wellington was lined with campervans, microbuses, bike trailers and fancy 4×4’s filled with wives and tiny kids. The riders were mostly men (c’mon ladies!) with an average age of 37, and so the average supporter was a 30 something wife/partner with toddlers in tow and /or one on the way! The partner’s job of supporter was one to be respected; a lot of admin, patience and multi-tasking went on behind the scenes. And then to be at the finish line each day with a big proud smile.

I got to the Wellington Cricket grounds in good time, lovely flat green grass and tons of electricity plus friendly neighbours, bonus. Derek’s family were coming to visit today. I found Laura in the crazy Kids’ Zone and all the family dutifully lined up to cheer the boys in. Six hours and seven minutes here they come! Eeuwww dirty and smelly. But they appreciated the hugs from loved ones SO much. The kids LOVED checking out the camper, choosing a special drink from dad’s fridge, lying on his bed and testing out the massage plinth. So it was well worth all your efforts Laura.

The afternoon was spent with a few trips to the local dodgy Laundromat, the corner shop in search of Rennies for Jayson, pizza for Derek and of course my main job of getting some tired legs ready for the 75km tomorrow. I wish I had had my camera on me, but watching Derek literally devour his pizza this afternoon was quite an incredible sight! He managed to leave a slither for Jayson, which then got Jayson ordering another, and more for the Physio Team, AND the Olympic bike mechanics. I think the Perfect Pizza shop had never had such a busy day. In fact we were back there for supper; Jayson had a craving for ribs. Alas they did not live up to his expectations, just a disgruntled tummy the next day!

The 75km route in the mountains surrounding Wellington was a shorter 5 hour day but still tough. Jayson had been struggling to get the ‘eat now for later’ rule right but today had had better results. Our afternoon was busy again with eating more pizza, sorting out the bikes, massaging legs that were really looking good for Day 5! And blogging. I haven’t mentioned blogging yet..I am learning more each day but the boys must spend literally hours each day writing and sorting pics and face booking. Oh and we got the TV in the van working so could watch a movie. Guess which one? A mountain biking movie of course, daahh! It was actually really good, had me on the edge of my seat, there are some crazy downhill bikers out there! Right. Day Seven. Stage Six. (Always confuses me why they don’t include the Prologue on Day One as Stage One..) A surprise for the boys was waiting at the start; Ashley and Michael were there, sleepy eyed but excited to see their dad off! Jakes‘familiar friendly face was there too, and Mr van Zyl, both off for a day’s ride after seeing the riders disappear over the start line. Packing time again, wow the days were flying by. It was a special day for me too; MY family were coming to visit today! So me n Miss Daisy trundled onto the road leading to Stellenbosch. I cranked the music up and enjoyed the ride.

I wasn’t expecting to arrive quite so early so woke my friends up in Somerset West for an early morning cuppa tea. Steph popped down to the shops with me (a lot easier in a normal sized car) and I got the shopping list done, we had run out of chocolate Stery stumpies, they are not easy to find! Some more antacids for Jayson, some goodies for my kids, and back to Stellenbosch. The setting up process was a little tricky. We were packed in like sardines, the wind was howling and I bent most of my pegs trying to bang them into the rock-hard ground. The bonus this time was that the riders rode right passed us towards the finish so we could see them coming in. It was the second last day, so I was thinking imagine if something should happen to the boys today of all days. Man that would be horrendous! But whew no they arrived pretty much as scheduled, all in one piece and happy to have the day behind them. And look who else arrived! Was so great to see the kids and Richard, I was missing them by now. Weird how the kids look different when you haven’t seen them for a few days. So we had to have a celebratory podium shot of course.

There were some smiles coming from the Physio Tent, only one day to go! The update on Sean was that he was still in hospital and Craig was riding on his own but not having much fun ☹. Greg’s saddle sore had ended up with a really serious infection (I won’t go into too much detail but it must have been agony!) and he too was at the hospital having it seen to. Tandem Team were still in, Donald’s shoulder was still hanging in there and so were the hard-working team Marcella Carin and Raasay! Jayson and Derek decided it was time to celebrate so we had supper at the Spur, those burgers tasted Oh sooo good, and the wine of course. Cheers to a great week and one day to go! Ok so last night I was clearly not meant to sleep! I spent the night holding my tent down, the wind was angry. I was quite grumpy so got up at 6 and headed for the place where I feel happy, the mountain ☺. Feeling somewhat revived I got back to Miss Daisy whose occupants were ready, well Derek was tapping his foot and Jayson was uuuhhh not sure, possibly staring at the inside of the door of a portaloo. Quick shower, and off to the start line for the very last time. Mixed feelings. Last day, but oh no it IS the last day. What next? The Epic can’t be over?! The Epic Village was buzzing with activity. The waiters who worked in the marquees were doing a Goodbye dance, the music and commentator had had an extra cup of coffee that morning, loads of supporters were lining the chutes and photographers were clicking away excitedly. The famous ‘Don’t you worry Don’t you worry now’ song was on and Bang! Time to go!

And time for me to go too! I legged it back to the van, packed up, really just shoved everything in and drove Miss Daisy out that village like a crazy lady. The traffic getting in to the finish at Lourensford was going to be a mess, so the sooner I got there the better. As I got into Somerset West and turned up towards Lourensford the cars came to a grinding halt. Darn. Too late! Oh well I could only hope I got there in time. I had about an hour till EWM were planning on crossing that final finish line. I and Miss Daisy CRAWLED along. A toddler could have toddled there quicker! The petrol light was flashing so detour to the garage and back in the queue. Ok now I was thinking maybe I should park on the pavement and run to the finish. This was taking foreverrrrr. The helicopters were circling. Well that meant that the leaders were only just coming through. Shuweee. I still had time. Finally the line moved, I roared through the gates, dodged the low hanging trees and waved the special sticker that Jayson had given me that morning and parked Miss Daisy’s beautiful butt on the beautifl lush Lourensford lawn!

With cooler box in hand I sprinted across the field towards that famous yellow Epic archway, dodging kids and grannies, thinking please please do not let me miss them. Well I got there just in time to see the leaders cross the line..omw I made it. I stood mesmerising the finish line for a few brief moments to catch my breath, then feeling quite happy with myself for not being late (I have an awful habit of being late for most things) I found a gap in the crowd and stood ready with camera to take that final shot. I took many photos until the one I wanted came into view! Woohoooooo EWM had arrived. I was so proud of them!

After a shower and a picnic we headed home to Cape Town. I was looking forward to seeing my family, sleeping in a proper bed and sitting on a proper loo! Thank you to Derek and Jayson for being gentlemen even when you were tired, and to my family for letting me have a week off! I will finish this week saying that the Epic has finally made it onto my Bucket List, now for a bike and a good sponsor.

Memoirs from Epic 2013:

  • Sound – generators and spinning wheels
  • Song – Don’t You Worry Child and Ho Hey! by the Lumineers
  • Beverage – chocolate Stery Stumpy
  • Food – Woolworths chicken wrap
  • Smell – Jaysons cycling shoes
  • Gadget-Derek’s nifty car phone charger
  • Words-29’er, soft tail, derailer, mechanical, bonk, blog