Those were the words of Tour de France veteran and former road rider George Hincapie of the USA after Monday’s brutal Stage 1 of the Absa Cape Epic.
His partner, former Tour de France winner Cadel Evans, up to his waist in an ice bath, said the conditions had been “very rough, very dry and hot” but he had enjoyed the experience.
“We had come here prepared to suffer but we were unlucky today,” the Australian said in reference to a puncture suffered by Hincapie when they were leading the Masters category. After losing time with the puncture and Hincapie bonking (that’s cyclespeak for a major energy loss) they finished third in the category.
Hincapie also had a fall on “my longest day on a mountain bike by far” and was sporting a bandage on his arm later in the day.
With the temperature spiking into the mid-30s in Hermanus there was no shortage of Absa Cape Epic riders who found the going very tough on Stage 1.
The first high-profile casualty was Rio Olympics gold medalist Jenny Rissveds of Sweden, who went straight off to the medics for treatment after winning the stage and retaining the overall lead in the Virgin Active Mixed category. She is riding with her manager Thomas Frischknecht.
The organisers were doing what they could to help with ice-cold, wet hand towels given to each rider as they crossed the line, but there were still plenty of them struggling to get their core body temperatures down after the finish.
One team that was not overly concerned about the heat was the Land Rover 5 team of Mboneni Ngcobo and Sthembiso Masango, who are part of the RMB Change a Life Academy squad and who enjoyed a superb day, currently lying 66th overall.
“We managed to find some good pace out there, but I think we had a huge advantage because we come from KZN and the conditions we had today are quite similar to what we have there,” said Ngcobo, who is used to training in the hot, humid conditions around Durban.
The two 28-year-olds are both riding the Epic for the first time, but Ngcobo has some experience of long stage races after finishing fourth overall in the joBerg2c race in 2016 and finished with a couple of top-three stage finishes on that nine-day event.
“The Epic is a different race altogether. I think I learned a lot today,” added Ngcobo. “It’s very rough to ride this route and there was a long section full of rocks.
We made up some good time in the final few kilometres because it was quite flat – so it’s a great place to recover because most of the way seems to be just climbing.”