Day 5. Ray feeling much better. Today we needed to push. After some last minute decisions on whether to take warm gear, we set out for Babylonstoren. A steep, loose climb with lots of false peaks. We hit it with the clouds settling in so it was misty and beautifully green. It was hard to look up and around when you were focusing on keeping your bike upright but definitely a place worth visiting again.
The first long descent seems to have been purpose-built for this year’s Epic and delivered fast and fun riding. And with the sun creeping through the clouds, it was a pleasure to be out.
But that’s where pleasure gave way to pain. After the river crossing, we started climbing in earnest up Charlie’s Stairway to Heaven. Not really a stairway; more like a chalky, sandy cliff face. Not really heavenly either, as we heaved and ground our way to the top.
I was so focussed on the climb that I again forgot to eat and drink very much and I paid dearly for this a little later on.
We conservatively cruised down the back tricky and rocky descent coming unstuck at a bottleneck near the bottom. 29ers need momentum to float over rocks and stuff, so with a traffic jam of riders just before a particularly rocky patch we both had to unclip. To my dismay again, dust clogging my pedal saw me fall over like in the Prologue. Like a fool.
My lack of attention to nutrition then bit me hard as I started to lose focus and began hurting. Ray eased back on the gas and we spent about 15kms feeding me sweets and juice and other junk. It worked and we were soon speeding back along the district roads to the finish.
And that’s when the tornado hit. Ok, a bit of an exaggeration but we were caught in the thick of gale force winds sandblasting us with everything that was loose. We collected a bunch of other teams and worked as a group for much of the way to the end, still all arriving exhausted.
Not a pleasant end to a really great route, but a strong day for us that saw us jump back up to 122. Good going considering were lying 332nd after our unfortunate Stage 1.