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Rusching across Africa: Back for more

Written by: Rebecca Rusch

Professional endurance competitor Rebecca Rusch has tackled her fair share of adventure races and 24-Hour mountain bike races throughout the years. Now, the Idahoan is back in South Africa, competing for the second time in the Absa Cape Epic, endurance mountain bike stage race across the country’s scenic Western Cape. And we’re along for the ride. — Editor

I am finally over in South Africa and have started the Cape Epic, a 685-kilometer, eight-day mountain bike stage race. The route passes through mountains and wine regions and will feature more than 14,000 meters of climbing over the course of the week. It’s the largest and most competitive stage race in the world and the team rosters are packed with 1200 athletes, including Olympians, pro riders, World Champions and regular cyclists.

It is my second year competing in this event as my own Spring training camp and a great travel experience. I am here racing in the mixed division with my coach and friend, Matthew Weatherley-White.

Matthew is an ex-road cycling racer, adventure racer and long time endurance athlete. We are using this race as a key building block to my season. We’ll be recording all of our heart rate data on our Suunto watches and compiling a training report when the kilometers are all logged. I am also traveling along with Specialized team riders, Christoph Sauser and Burry Stander. We’re camping for the entire week of the race, but camping in style with motor homes, mechanics and soigneurs to help us out.

I will be sending reports from the field when I can and you will hopefully get to experience much of the behind the scenes experience and the racing excitement from our reports.

The Prologue is now under our belts and I feel relieved to have finally started the race and gotten the nerves calmed. It was 17km with 650 meters of climbing through the recent burns on Table Mountain. What goes up must come down and the descents were extremely loose and rocky.

A rider broke his collarbone yesterday pre-riding the course. I expect there will be more crashes today. Matthew and I discussed our strategy for this day and vowed to ride hard, but be sure not to blow up or crash and to take things a bit conservatively. It is a long race and this is just the prologue.

Matthew and I made it through unscathed. The bikes were perfect and we stayed upright. We finished the stage in 4th place, which I am very pleased with. All of the women in the top three mixed teams for today are Olympians. We are also surrounded on all sides by World Champions, more Olympians and various other cycling pedigrees.

We are in very competitive and very good company, so I feel great about our preliminary performance. The top six mixed teams are all within five minutes of each other after today, so this week promises to be extremely competitive. There are still more than 600km to go, so I’m sure the results will be fluid. However, we made a great statement and it’s a good confidence boost to know we are riding amongst the best in the world.

My Specialized teammates Christoph and Burry won the men’s prologue by just a few seconds and head into the race in the leader’s jersey. They are racing as team Songo.info

Sorry no photos from me today. We had to be up at 4:30am, and I am notNOT a morning person, so I forgot to take the camera. I’ll work on that.

Tomorrow is the real start of the race with a 119km stage with 2700 meters of climbing. It is rumored to be one of the hardest of the race, so stay tuned. Thanks for checking in. Thanks to Red Bull and Specialized for making this race a reality!

For complete race times and details for the entire field, check here. Our team name is Specialized/Red Bull.

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