• Mariske Strauss

ABSA Cape Epic '22

Can you believe it is already over 2 weeks since we finished?! Let me take you through this year's Epic in a fraction of the time, and with a lot fewer calories...



This was the 2nd Epic that Candice and myself lined up for together and we had high hopes for that overall victory, unfortunately, we did not quite make the top step although we did come very close.


On day 1 we started with a bang in the Prologue in Louwrensford, narrowly missing the top step we were proud of our performance and got ready for the real race to start. Unlike previous years we started day 2 at the same venue which meant less travel and of course the privilege of the stunning Louwrensford views and trails that awaited us for the next two days as well.

Day 2 was brutal, I think that was partly our doing – we planned to hit it hard out the gate, which we executed in spectacular fashion. This combined with the Cape Town summer trying to show off before autumn takes hold of our beloved province. As said we made the race hard and seeing that we started with a massive climb we tried to rip the field apart, which worked beautifully. We got away with the Specialized ladies. From there Hayley and Sofia broke away on the next climb and we decided to ride at our own pace. The bunch caught us just before the next major climb, and man was it a goodie. The climb back into Louwrensford was insanely steep and by that time temperatures were edging towards the mid-40s. Ariane and Amy broke away from us on the climb and with such insane heat we were also running out of water which meant a stop to grab bottles at the next water point was essential. I drenched myself with a nice bucket of ice water and off to the finish, we paced. We crossed the line in 3rd place.

Day 3 was a BIG transfer day, with one gnarly portage, an unplanned gravity check after Pauline took me out… this was 36km into the stage and I had to capitalize on the shot of adrenaline I received from my close up with the gravel road, so we rode hard. It was rough and brutal. To make things a bit more interesting my suspension decided it was a nice time to go on a sabbatical on the startline as well… ?! About 20km to go my body was shot and we limped home to finish in 4th.

Day 4 although shorter was by no means easy. It was a great day out but I think the bobbing around from the previous day took its toll on me, it was another rough day but luckily we had pre-ridden the final part of the day and we knew exactly what was coming. I was digging deep but with about 15km to go I decided today is the day we take the top step AND WE DID! Amazing what a quick mental shift can do, if there's one thing that I have learned time and time again during my 7 Epics... your body is capable of so much more than we can imagine so never give in or give up! It was a great fight and 3km to the finish I put in an attack to make sure we got into the final single-track first. It was almost like we rehearsed it and crossing that line first was pure magic.

Day 5 on paper seemed like a chilled easy day out, in reality… no, just no. My body rebelled and after Candice punctured before the 3rd waterpoint everything seemed to have shut down. We rode hard to make up the time we lost but unfortunately we could not close the gap. This meant another 4th place finish but the fire was still strong and we knew - this race is never over until it's over.

Day 6 was one of my all-time favorite transfer days, EVER. We rode from Elandskloof to Stellenbosch crossing over the likes of Rusty Gate, Franschoek Pass, Hellshoogte, and finally over Botmaskop to drop into Coetzenburg for the finish. Us and the Specialized ladies went over the first climb together with quite a gap, which was our game plan so gold star for us for another perfectly executed show. From there we opened that sails and basically blew back to Stellenbosch with the most amazing tailwind. I had a little kamikaze experience at one of the feed zones ( no one was hurt in the making of the Twitter video btw ) and then shortly after that I actually lost one of my bottles, WOOPSI. Luckily I know how to drink sparingly and we made it to the next water point without a problem. From there it was a short little trip to LUDUS MAGNUS, our final water point and the place where we would get an ice-cold coke, or so we thought. It seems that we were just too fast and unfortunately there was no one at the Tech Zone. We powered through and got over the final hurdle known as Botmaskop. The finish was so close and I was so ready to lay down some hurt but unfortunately, we did not make it over the final climb with Sofia and Haley and rolled home into second.

Day 7 - a full week of racing in the legs and Epic thinks it's fun to go straight up Botmaskop… actually it was quite fun. It seems that I need a stage race before an actual stage race, my body was firing on all cylinders and I was charging from the get-go. We managed to stay with Haley and Sofia again and did everything right until the final single track in Jonkershoek. I gave my all, so much so that if I gave any more I probably would have ridden off a cliff, literally… they gapped us in the final descent and we chased back as best we could but again 2nd was all we had.

Day 8 the final day… one last stretch to Val de Vie. We were tired but we knew this was the final day, we had nothing to lose so today we had to race across that final finish line first. It was hard but we made it harder and finally broke away from the Specialized ladies halfway up the final climb. Racing like our lives depended on it we left it all out there & I knew this one was ours and there is nothing better than crossing the finish line of the final stage first.


I would like to thank every single person as well as my amazing sponsors for making this possible. We gave it our all and we came closer than we have ever come before, we’ll be back … still hungry, still motivated, and ready to put South African women on the Top Step.

For now,


Stay safe and stay lekker ;) .


Mariske

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