Because the Epic was so, well, epic – i.e. LONG, they needed MC’s to keep the crowds entertained and up-to-date. The race employed three such lads. The first – and by far the funniest – was a guy called Dan Nicol who really did keep us entertained with his dead-pan humour. I forget the name of the second dude – probably because entertainment is not really his strong point, but he did a good job keeping us up-dated about who was arriving, in which position, etc, etc. The third guy was a German import who went by the stage name of…wait for it… “Mike Mike”. I kid you not. If he was a hugely ironic dude, then perhaps you’d smile when you heard his name, but his commentary was literally cringe-inducing, which made his stage name even worse. Not only was the poor guy NOT entertaining at all, he also had a penchant for techno-techno-techno-techno. As in the song “no, no limits…” from 1993. And when I say 1993 I am not exaggerating – I have vivid memories of bopping to that song at the back of a school bus in Std. 7.
For some reason, Mike Mike was always on duty for the most crowd-pulling aspects of the race like the finish of each day. Day 5 was a little different in that it was time-trial day, so all the top cyclists started later in the day, after the regular people. As a result, The Husband, his partner and my fellow soigneuse and I were sitting on the grandstands of the Worcester Gymnasium, watching the pro’s take off and listening to Mike Mike and 2 Unlimited. My head was throbbing from the super loud techno and I wanted to go back to the Nuy Valley and drown my boredom in a bottle of lovely local wine. The Husband, however, was fully into the race.
“Oh my God, that’s Helmut Schlusserdorf!” he’d scream.
I could see a skinny, little dude in a pair of tight pants and a funny shaped hard hat, but he looked exactly like all the other little skinny dudes in tight pants. The Husband was beside himself – he was acting as though we’ve just seen George Clooney in the flesh.
And then he’d go: “No ways! That’s Siegfied von Underheim about to start the time trial!”
Whatever. Wake me up if you see Lance Armstrong.
This went on for several hours before we were finally able to head home to our lovely guest house in the Hex River Mountains. A short time-trial day meant something glorious: an afternoon kip. I wasn’t going to miss it for the world. Unfortunately, it was over all too quickly because before I knew it, it was 4:45am on Day 6 and we were back to the 8 hours-of-cycling-a-day routine. Day 6 saw the race village move from Worcester to Oak Valley Wine Farm outside Elgin. Driving there to pick up the boys, I could sense that I was getting closer to Cape Town because it was raining. And I was in a tearing hurry. I’d been swanning around with a schoolmate in Stellies – I managed to fit in a spot of pilates at her studio – and I had NO IDEA it’d take me so bl**dy long to get over Sir Lowry’s. So I tore through the mud into Oak Valley and ground to a halt at the race village at 3:30pm on the dot. The Husband had said they’d be in at 3:30 but I still had to half-run, half limp about 2km across the grounds to the finish of the race. Which would’ve been fine if I’d remembered to buy his friggin’ cigarettes in Stellenbosch. But of course, I hadn’t. Normally, I faced a tired, ravenous and slightly grumpy husband. Now, I’d be facing a tired, ravenous, sopping wet husband, gagging for a cigarette.
As I was loping over the grounds I scanned every single human being in sight for signs of a smoker. A marshall, a girlfriend, a parking attendant, SOMEONE! But all I could see were sporty types in Cape Storm and First Ascent gear. And absolutely no Peter Stuyvesant. The Husband knew this, which is why he’d asked me 30 times to buy cigarettes on the way. Eventually, I decided to take a flyer and went to the “beer tent” (First Ascenters do drink beer, apparently). The barman’s response was, “you’re going to be hard-pressed to find cigarettes in these parts.” Thanks, mate!
But there was something about the tone of his voice or the glint in his eye that got me thinking…
“You don’t smoke by any chance, do you?” I asked him.
“Actually,” he replied, “I do. And I happen to have a brand new box with me.”
“Really? What brand?” I almost knew he was going to say Peter Stuyvesant before the words were out of his mouth…
Again with the glint in his eye.
“One hundred bucks and that’s my final offer.”
This man had himself a deal. Now I know what I’ll be doing at next year’s Epic. I’m going dress up like Patricia Lewis and I’m going to strut around the race village brandishing a burning fag. Then I’m going to supply a secret stash of ciggies to the all the undercover smokers, at a huge premium. Suddenly, being a soigneuse has some fringe benefits…