In the second part of our Cape Epic 2018 blog, Mark Kidd gives us his perspective on the 8 day, 650km mountain bike race across the unforgiving South African terrain. Similar to Rob’s story, Mark had to face his own adversities while preparing for the event, but a truely ‘Epic’ display of teamwork and encouragement prevailed on the week and the two men persevered together to reach the finish line.
Part 2: Mark Kidd
It’s January 2017 and over a few coffees and bike rides, Robert and I have agreed to get an entry for the Cape Epic 2018, the toughest mountain bike stage race in the world. As a 2 person team event, Robert isn’t really sure what he has signed up for but is crazy enough to take on the challenge …. here we go!
I’ve done multiple mountain bike stage races over a number of years but the Cape Epic is something very special, mystical, exciting but slightly nerve racking. It was a dream of mine for a number of years and had always hoped that I would get there. The next 12 months would involve a lot of cycling and training with Robert, a trip to the Swiss Epic in September 2017 as trial race together, a training camp in Spain and two in Ireland in advance of the leaving. We were putting a lot into this one.
Doing a 2 person team event means that you are not only looking after yourself, your wellbeing, fitness and over-all health but you are also worried about your team mate. As 2017 progressed, so did our training and levels of fitness, on the bikes, in the gym, racing, everything was going to plan. All that changed at the end of June in the the National Road Racing Championships on the fastest stretch of road heading toward Wexford town. The bunch was spread across the road and the garmin was showing ~58km/hr when a rider to the left went down, everything slowed down, I looked for an exit but the options were limited. I hit the rider, the front wheel broke up and I was catapulted into the air, this is going to hurt.
I had a similar crash in Newbridge over a year earlier and had bunny-hopped a bike as the bunch wound up for the sprint, I didn’t make it but was lucky to have a soft landing in a ditch. This time was diffierent, I had hit the ground hard, I was shuck but stood up as I have done before, got my bearings and assessed the damage. Something wasn’t right and what followed was hospital visits, x-rays, and CT Scans. I had a 5.5mm glenoscapular fracture … a badly broken shoulder!
I was operated on by Ruth Delaney of the Santry Sports Clinic, consultant orthopaedic surgeon, shoulder specialist. With 2 pins inserted and no plate needed, I would be in a sling for a few weeks. My first question at my follow up consultation was, will I be ready for the Swiss Epic in 10 weeks. Ruth smiled and told me I needed to cancel the trip. I was right back to basics, I had no power in my left arm and had to reset my expectations … the Cape Epic was in 8 months.
Two weeks after my operation, I was back on the turbo trainer, modified with a step ladder and plank of wood to support my upper body, I was training 6 days a week. Once out of the sling (for limited periods) 3 weeks post op, I began my physiotherapy and strength and conditioning in the Dublin Sports Clinic (DSC). I had lost most of the muscle in my left arm and had next to no movement. I started with the lightest of weights and attended DSC twice a week, initial progress was slow, I was ‘moving’ 2.5kg weights and doing exercises to manipulating my shoulder, I was frustrated and down but had the determination and focus on being fully fit for the Cape Epic, I had a target.
The weeks rolled by and I was taking home exercises from the DSC team, doing them daily and also continuing to train on the turbo. Slowly, I was making a come-back, the time to exercise was paying off and it was being noticed when I returned to the gym. The encouragement from everyone was wonderful.
Thanks to the support, time, effort and drive from the team in DSC, my coach, Robert, The Fixx Rouleurs crew, family, and the surgery carried out by Ruth Delaney, I rolled up to the Prologue to race up and across Table Mountain, South Africa. My first race in the nine months since my accident and a mountain bike race. I was the fittest I’ve ever been, healthy and beaming in confidence. I’d never been more ready for a stage race and felt a wave of calm come over me as the presenter called out our names, Robert Kehoe and Mark Kidd of FIXX Rouleurs, all the way from Ireland, riding from the Anna Foundation, a wonderful cause! I pressed the start button on my Garmin and rolled off the start ramp and into the wave of spectators.
What followed was 8 Days, 658Kilometers and 13530meters of climbing off-road across challenging, dusty and rocky terrain, with temperatures reaching 38C. Our aim was to start easy, ride the first two days cautiously aiming for a mid point standing and then ride into the race. With 20% not making it to the start line for Stage 4 due to illness, injury and mechanicals, our goal was to finish this race, a wonderful achievement for any mountainbike rider (but I had expectations to do well in our category and had said nothing).
Going into Stage 3, Robert took ill and the focus was on getting him to the finish-line. Our hopes of a high finish in our category were gone and the goal now was to get through every day, staying within the 2 minute timeline of each other and riding to Robert’s pace, we were in survival mode. Multiple stages of over 100km, hours in the saddle, pushing on the climbs, trying to motivate Robert and stay positive, Robert battled his demons and I wondered what could have been. Taking the race at a slower pace allowed me to enjoy the experience, I rode with other riders, chatted and had the opportunity to admire places you would never normally get to see.
The great news is that Robert got up every day around 5a.m., pulled on his cycling kit and got to the start line. 8 days later and in Val De Vie, we rode side by side across the finish line. The crowds were out and the support team there to meet us. We made it, we completed the Cape Epic and are now a small part of this great race. I was fit and strong, at times pushing Robert on some of the climbs or having him hold my jersey as we climb a relentless ascend but over the 8 days, Robert was a far stronger individual …. being ill, unable to recover day after day, his lack of sleep, mentally he was the strongest. His strength came from all the training both on the bike and in DSC with the team. I was not going to ride this alone as an ‘outcast rider’ (Cape Epic reference for a rider who has lost his partner and is now riding solo), we trained together, started together and finished together.
The weeks have passed, I’m back riding and racing my bike. I’m also back in training with the DSC Team and setting my sights on my next event/adventure.
Would I go back and do the Cape Epic again? Absolutely. Will I? who knows.
The good news is that Robert and I are still great friends, we still meet for coffee, chat and ride our bikes together and can still be found training in DSC … Oh and I’ve talked him into racing the Swiss Epic as a team in 2019! We won’t mention 2020s event.
An adventure that has made me new friends, enabled me to push myself mentally and physically knowing that I have come from the worst crash of my cycling days to be the fittest I’ve ever been. Live, ride and be Epic.
Blog by Mark Kidd of Fixx Rouleurs Cycling Club & Dublin Sports Clinic member.