The Epic. Should I?

A reader sent an email in recently regarding the Cape Epic having read the blog posts from the 2007. They seem to have caused some worries. It seems that the two have just been accepted onto the 2009 race. With no mountain biking experience they’re starting to worry about what they’re letting themselves in for. Here are the questions and my advice:

Is it madness to attempt this? We’re both 30 and fit with 9 months to train, but we’ve never done serious mountain biking, let alone raced. Should we forget all about it and save ourselves the bother?

It’s not madness, but be in no doubt that this is an exceptionally hard event. Some of the best mountain bikers in the world will be there and the level of racing is generally of a high standard. That said not every one is a pro and you will undoubtedly find other riders of a similar level to yourself – whatever that level ends up being – because the field is massive.

What’s the best way to start training, to get the right equipment etc? Are there any UK marathon racing experts or coaches that we should speak to? I guess the ideal might be some guy near London who has a bike shop and is a racing expert who’d fancy helping us get the right kit and maybe take us out on a few bike rides too…

Ride your bike as much as possible and with your team mate as often as possible. We lost 45 minutes on one stage because of poor communication so you need to practice riding with each other and talking as much as possible. In terms of coaching then I can’t advise. I would try and find a road club and get some road miles in with a regular chaingang.

St Alfred's Pass out of Knysna

Are there any particular websites or clubs for this particular branch of mountain biking? Where we can find other people who do this all the time? Is this considered Enduro? Marathon? Epic? or 24Hr? as all seem to be related.

Mmm. There are enduro events like Trailbreaks, but most of them are over the summer and you’ll be training in winter. The main options are to do some Trailquests. There are no specific websites. You’ll find people who’ve ridden similar events (i.e. TransRockies and La Ruta de los Conquistadores) on Singletrack and Bikemagic forums and also on the US MTBR and DirtRag Forums.

Hardtail or full-suss? I assume it’s full-suss if we can afford £4K+ for a bike, but otherwise it’s a tough call? In your blog it sounded like hardtail made it hurt you more? That sounds like a bad idea then, or is it worth the pain for the extra uphill speed?

I would say a hardtail with disc brakes is fine but I would upgrade to a Ritchey WCS carbon seatpost and quality saddle like an SDG Bel Air RL Titanium. I was lucky to be riding a custom built Titanium bike engineered for endurance racing costing well over £4k all in, but my team mate was on a £1400 bike with a few upgrades. He didn’t change the seatpost, but wished he had. Make sure your shocks are serviced and setup or you prior to the race. Replace the gear cables, chain, cassette and big and middle rings before the event. Convert the wheels to run tubeless withe sealant – speak to Jon at Just Riding Along for advice. We rode ultra skinny 1.9 Maxxis Larsen TTs with JRA Milk in them and had no punctures.

What would you have done differently?

Trained more in a hot climate – a Canary Islands trip would have been ideal. Listened to my body more and sought medical help earlier. Planned for communication breakdowns with my team mate.

A third of the way up...

What’s the question I should be asking that I don’t know to ask because I’m a dumb novice?

Nutrition. Get some advice and used to using the products you intend to use well in advance of the race so your body gets used to them. Eat as much as possible during the race. Take food with you that you are used to – don’t rely only on what is provided as it may not be to your taste. Pay the extra for using the nutrition stops during the race so you can pick up new waterbottles at each checkpoint.

Anything else?

In terms of the race it should be awesome next year with the likelihood of the start being moved a lot closer to Cape Town. If it happens the routes will be all new and probably a lot hillier and more technical. If it starts in Gordon’s Bay and goes around the surrounding mountainous area there will be plenty of climbing and although it won’t be as hot,  there will be some seriously good views over the ocean. I guess everyone will find out more at the official launch in October. Will I be there? Maybe…

Author: Cris Bloomfield

Usually mountain biking in the North.

3 thoughts on “The Epic. Should I?”

  1. Hi Cris,
    thanks so much for this. great advice. you have reassured me that it’s going to be tough, but it might just be possible. I’ll let you know how we get on.


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