Last race day

Day 119, stage 92, 73km

Start, Municipal Camp, Strandfontein

Finish, Eland Bay Camp, Eland Bay Hotel

Today is the last race day. The final two days into Cape Town will not count in the official race time – but will still be counted for EFI. So today is short and off-road. I am not a great off-road rider. But I am getting better. I can pick a line much better and I can now slalom down the hills without riding my brakes. But the rough roads still beat me up because I have no suspension. I would definitely fit a front suspension fork onto my bike if I did this again. I like the cross bike. I like its geometry. I like the comfort and the drop bars. I don’t like the fixed front fork on bad roads. It battered me. It battered my headset, which had to be repacked four times in four months and is now shot.

Pascal, who won the men’s race, road with a fixed front fork. He did it because this allowed him to ride a bike made for the roads and that allowed him to cycle much more quickly on road. It was a conscious trade off. Freek, a very strong young Dutch rider, road a typical hard-tail mountain bike with front shocks. Today, he and Pascal decided to trade bikes (I believe that there was a claim that if Freek had Pascal’s much better bike he would win every day). Good decision for Pascal. Freek was outfoxed. Pascal now had shocks off-road. Freek didn’t. (Freek should only have agreed to the trade on an on road day.) The result was that Pascal won the stage and Freek ended up with numb arms and hands, blisters and a much slower time. Point made.

I had a fairly good off-road day – but then if you only have to cycle 73km any terrain may seem acceptable. If I had had to do another 73km on the same terrain I may not have been so sanguine.

The camp today was right on the beach. The town, once again, was more a holiday village than anything else. We had enormous cheeseburgers and a couple of beers at the Eland Bay Hotel to celebrate the end of the race then went down to dinner. In another few days we were really going to have to actively manage a reduction in calorie intake. We were consuming enormous mounts of food at all times of day. There was nothing regular or polite about our eating habits. Eat five times a day, whenever you are not cycling, and fill your gob with ice cream, crisps, peanuts and chocolate in between. Swallow as much fluid as you; ten litres a day is not too much. Make sure there is a good mix of water, oral rehydration salts, sugary fizzy stuff and fruit juice – small sips or two litre oral injections; it doesn’t matter, just get it in.

At the beginning of the Tour I would stop at a coke stop and, well, have a coke. A week in I would have two per stop. Two became three. In the last month of the tour I was buying two litre bottles of fizzy stuff. I am sure this wasn’t very good for me but it sure felt good – the fluid, the sugary energy fix. I have lost over 7 kg but have picked up some very bad habits along the way.

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