Rab’s latest dispatch from the field…
On stage 5 of the Absa Cape Epic I found myself in a spot of bother. At 7am when the gun fired to signal the Queen Stage, of 115 kilometers and 2,900 meters of climbing, starting, my team mate Ben Roff’s chain made a snapping sound.
‘Bother’ I thought.
Once we had resumed the stage around seven minutes later we got our heads down and started to make the most of the day. We started to catch some riders as well, and it didn’t take too long either. At around 50 kilometers into the stage I spotted a familiar jersey alone in the distance. ‘Hermida’, I said to Ben, as we began to reel him in.
Now the 2010 World Champion, World Cup winner and multiple Spanish Champion isn’t someone I usually get to ride or race with. I’m no slouch but I’m also not of the same calibre of this champion. As he was without his team mate Rudi Van Houts who had abandoned the race due to injury, Hermida was riding in the stage alone.
For training? For fun?
Maybe just for a good way to spend his Friday.
‘Jose’ I shouted to him as we caught up. ‘I’m sorry to hear about Rudi!’.
‘Hey, it’s too bad, but a lot can change in two weeks time!’ was his response, referring to the World Cup season opener just around the corner. We continued to ride together for a while.
On the next steep, climb I rode on his wheel. One of the riders shouted from behind ‘get a camera! Get it ready! I’m overtaking Hermida!’ as he sprinted past us! Jose’s response was to grip his bar ends (He must have found them in the local museum. More on these soon…) swinging his bike from side to side, pretending to suffer and making me almost fall off my bike with laughter. He remarked ‘today everyone, we will suffer like a frog in the highway! You know what this means? It means we might spend our life hopping from lane to lane, but in the end our fate is set. It doesn’t matter if it is a Renault Clio, a Ferrari, or a truck! We will all suffer but then we will die anyway! Remember this! You suffer like a frog in the highway!’. He laughed as he said it, wishing the riders well as we past, offering a wave and a smile. As we continued to climb I couldn’t resist anymore.
‘What’s with the bar ends?’
‘I love my bar ends! They are the best! I can ride like this…’ as he changed hand positions.
‘like this…’ as he stood up and levered his bike around.
‘like this…’ as he took one arm off, climbing out of the saddle and swinging one arm around.
He continued. ‘After swimming, you can put your shoes on them to dry! After you finish the race you can do this’ as he took his helmet off and hung it on the bars.
‘Oh, nice.’ I said, and asked if I could try that with my bar end-less bars. ‘Ha ha! (Jaja?) No No! If i give my helmet to you Robert, you will throw it into the field! I know that’s what you do!’ I couldn’t help but laugh.
Once more I couldn’t resist. ‘Hold on though? I recently saw a picture on Facebook of you racing in Cyprus. You were with my friend Lee (Williams – Welsh XC racer) and you didn’t have any bar ends! I remember because I even commented ‘Lee! Lose the bar ends! Even Hermida has!’
“Ahhhh!’ Jose exclaimed! ‘I’ll tell you! I go to the Merida training camp. The mechanics? They ‘forget’ my bar ends! I go to race in Cyprus? They ‘forget’ my bar ends! So I race for two days with no bar ends. On the last day though I knew I had some bar ends in my bag! Haha! I put them on for the last race and the mechanics? They say ‘Argh! Jose! You can’t use the bar ends!’
Clearly they aren’t big bar end guys either…
‘I love my bar ends! I use them in The Epic even though I keep catching them on the bushes and the trees! I have used my bar ends since the very beginning! You will see! They will come back. The glasses? The helmets? The style is coming back and so will bar ends. Just because the current World Champion doesn’t use bar ends people stop using bar ends! I will always use my bar ends! When I die, in my wooden box, I will have a special part just for my bar ends! And another for my phone so that I can tweet! When I die I take my followers to the grave!’
Needless to say, I’m practically wetting myself at the humour, charisma and blatant madness I’m getting from one of my childhood idols.
We soon start to drop downhill and round a fast, loose, fire road turn. Jose takes the corner foot out, flat out, then boosts over a hump on the trail into the downslope, sending the back end sideways and giving a little style. He takes the next right hander in a similar fashion.
‘Bar ends and style eh? who would have thought it!’ I remarked.
‘I invented that style!’ he said. ‘I have bad news. I think we start the climb…’
At this moment as we started the major climb of the day. Hermida gradually danced away from Ben and I, all the while holding his beloved barends…
You can follow @josehermida on Twitter. He’s a #bigtwitterguy