MTB Front­lines

Cape Epic and Sil­ver­back OMX New Team

Pedal Magazine - - Out in Front - BY RAPHAEL GAGNÉ

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.

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