Cape Epic and Silverback OMX New Team
The The 2018 season kicked off with a new team, and I couldn’t be happier to find a great fit with U.K.-based Silverback OMX Pro Team, with a three-year agreement in line with our goals toward the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. My first few weeks with my new teammates in South Africa at the Stellenbosch MTB World Cup went smoothly. The many diverse English accents on the squad, from South African, to British, to German, to my Quebecois Anglais made for some good laughs for all.
Also on my calendar slated for 2019 was Cape Epic, but at the end of January, I learned that I would be racing there with Martin Gluth in March, only six to seven weeks away. While my training schedule was designed to peak in July, August and September (wherein lay my main goals), this was a great opportunity to grab some important international points and live an amazing MTB experience.
We set a goal of top-10 overall, if we survived the eight days of racing that included four stages with more than 110 kilometres of MTB riding. Cape Epic is considered the longest, hardest MTB stage race in the world, and it’s no surprise as to why so many World Cup riders do it and that it is a bucket-list dream race for many MTB amateurs.
Beginning with a Prologue at Cape Town University and Table Mountain, we qualified 17th. On Day Two, we were ranked 23rd overall after suffering an unfortunate flat tire after just five minutes of racing. Over the next three stages, I basically tried to hang on to my teammate’s wheel, as Gluth was really strong and had been preparing for the Cape Epic all winter.
Surprisingly, our best day came on the Stage Four Queen stage, 113 kilometres with 1,800 metres of elevation, where we finished 11th amidst some of the most beautiful landscape and trails. The Day Six time trial was really brutal and where I saw some improvement in my feelings and form. But when we finished the stage, disaster struck when Gluth caught a stomach bug and started to feel ill two hours later. Before the start of Stage Seven, he was sidelined, severely sick.
As a lone “Leopard,” I raced the final two stages and completed my first Cape Epic in a category reserved for those who lose their partner, but decided to finish the race anyway. I wanted to finish for my team and to fulfill my values in sport – never quit, push through and fight hard, respect the race and the racers. I’m proud to have completed such a beast of a stage race – but it was tough!
Cape Epic was pretty much as I expected – challenging, fun and unique. We did not achieve the results we wanted, but that’s racing. With international Union Cycliste Internationale points at stake (something we’re always chasing), it definitely lived up to its “toughest race” moniker.
Overall, the Cape Epic was a big show, very well organized and a stage race I had dreamed of doing one day. And it’s as much a dream for Professional international athletes to do it as it is the many MTB amateurs the world over. It’s a really great atmosphere if you are truly passionate about mountain biking.
Team Silverback OMX’s Martin Gluth with teammate Raphael Gagné at the grueling Cape Epic.
We set a goal of top-10 overall, if we survived the eight days of racing.
Cape Epic is considered the longest, hardest MTB stage race in the world.
Teammates for life Martin Gluth (l) and Raphael Gagné.