We Can Do This

Low on energy and fully feeling the past seven days of racing, Kaysee Armstrong savors a few quiet moments before the fi nal stage of the 2018 Absa Cape Epic.

We Can Do This Exuberance and Exhaustion at the Cape Epic

At the sound of predawn bagpipes on the final morning of the 2018 Cape Epic, I awoke, and sat up slowly.

I was empty and weak, but I was OK. I rolled over and nudged my riding partner, Kaysee Armstrong. “We can do this,” I said. “We can pedal our bikes. We don’t have to pedal fast, but we can pedal. We can finish this thing.”

The look in Kaysee’s eyes broke my already-broken heart. She nodded. “We can do this.”

Called the Tour de France of mountain biking, the Cape Epic is an eight-day team mountain bike stage race that takes place each March outside Cape Town, South Africa. “Team” is one of the key points of the Cape Epic. Over those eight days, two-person teams cover 400 miles and climb 44,000 feet, and they must never be separated by more than two minutes for the entirety of the race. I met Kaysee the day we arrived in South Africa, and besides racing together for the first time, we would also be mentoring six amateur female riders in one of the sport’s most grueling events.

When we lined up at the starting line, the reality of the undertaking hadn’t yet sunk in. A bad case of norovirus, however, definitely had. We just didn’t know it.

For Kaysee and me, this adventure began six months ago when we started training. For the women we were mentoring, it began when they submitted a video entry for an international contest put on by Liv Cycling, explaining why they should be chosen to participate in an “epic adventure.” They had no idea that adventure would be the Cape Epic, but the six winners became the “Trail Squad”—Lisa Land from the United States, Olivia Smedley from the United Kingdom, Madeleine Gérard from France, Anna Barea Garcia from Spain, Kate Ross from Australia, and Sandra Reyes Coronilla from Mexico.

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