Nino Schurter and Matthias Stirnemann blitzed through the eight days of the Absa Cape Epic in 26 hours and 35 minutes, arriving at the finish each day tired but ready to head to their luxury camper vans to rest and recover before the next stage.
At the other end of the field, in last place was former Springbok rugby player Marius Hurter who, with partner Marius Claassen, spent a massive 56 hours and 11 minutes completing the Prologue and seven stages.
His time on average was almost four hours more on the bike each day – four hours a day less time to recover and prepare the body for the next gruelling stage.
There were also a few other problems for the back markers, like The Weiss-Mohr-Lovetrain pairing of Tamara Weiss and Michael Mohr from Germany, who were married just before the Absa Cape Epic and opted to spend their honeymoon riding the Epic.
Weiss and Mohr were the last riders to finish the long 103km Queen Stage on Saturday and ended second last and one position ahead of Hurter on the overall standings.
But the petite Weiss pointed out a particular problem for the newleyweds riding at the back of the field: “Yes it is our honeymoon, but there is not much honeymoon going on … he is too tired,” laughed the blushing bride. “We are completely broken but are just so happy to have got to the finish line today.
“It was really tough. Actually the whole week was very exhausting. Today (Saturday) the hill at the beginning was tough and I was exhausted, but Michael was very good and pushed me a lot today.
“This was not the honeymoon I expected, but we chose it together and after this we are spending a few days before going back home.”
Hurter, who was a prop with the Springbok rugby squad which won the 1995 World Cup, has also found the going tough, in some ways tougher than any rugby match he ever played.
“A rugby match is 80 minutes and it is gone – bish, bash, bosh. But in this type of event you need to get your nutrition right and then get your head around doing eight days of the same thing day in and day out.
“And day by day your body breaks down and so you need to be very careful how you ride. You cannot just blast it because you feel fresh. On the short days guys think it is going to be easy, but it is never easy in the Epic.
“Every year it is tough. This year Stage 1 sorted the guys out, but every Epic there is one or two or three stages that sort the guys out – stages that are particularly hard. There is no such thing as an easy Epic and there are so many factors that can influence the day … it is always tough.”
And Hurter knows all about how tough the Epic can be.
“I have started eight and this is my sixth finish.
“This year has been hard. Stage 1 we made it by a few minutes so it was extremely hard for me, especially with the heat. You know it was 44-45ºC in the valley on Monday. While I was walking in the sand there is a mini-war going on in my head. It requires a lot of patience.
“I weight 108kgs now. I have lost about 20 since my rugby playing days, but I am about eight more than when I rode last year. And I also have about four litres of water with me – I am not going to run out of water this year. You need it to get your body heat down.
“I didn’t train too much. When you start riding the Absa Cape Epic you think ‘Yussus, I must train,’ and you blast it. And then the second year you do a bit less and third year you think I will do a bit less.
“This year I wanted to do more but did not do enough with family and work and all that stuff. I do enough to get by but then end up with this – coming in last!
“Obviously I want to train more and now I want to train more because I don’t want to go through this again.”
* The 2017 Absa Cape Epic has come to a close. One hundred Early Bird entries for the 2018 edition will be made available at 15:00 (GMT+2) on Monday, 27 March 2017