Just so you know, that godawful noise as I pass you is not my knees about to explode, it’s my commuter bike. I have destroyed another Truvativ bottom bracket. This isn’t a good thing – this one’s only six months old. I’d love to claim that it was the result of my raw, explosive sprinting power and brute strength, but the sad truth is that it’s probably my frame whih needs the bottom bracket cups facing. The entire drivechain needs replacing, so I think that there’s going to be some TLC spent on the bike before it heads into winter…

A few months ago I was contacted by some guys interested in beasting themselves over the Cape Epic route. They’ve been keeping a blog of their preparations. Check it out here. I’d hoped to be riding there again, but it’s not going to happy this year and as there’s so many other great places in the world to ride, I think I’m going to focus on looking for a new international challenge.

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…

In South Africa

Between 19th March and 4th April Cris Bloomfield and Tyrrell Basson from rothar.com/racing will be in South Africa. Specifically between the 24th and 31st March they will be racing under the rothar.com banner in Singletrack and Independent Fabrication kit at the Cape Epic – the world’s largest mountain bike race and one of the most challenging. Keep and eye out for the riders 152-1 and 152-2 on the official Cape Epic Website.

One Day to Go…

We fly tomorrow. I’m sure everything is ready, but I just need to pack and check everything off the list. Little things like cleaning the race shoes and lid and making sure that various clothing items are clean and dry have been going on over the last few days. Most of the ordering for various things needed has happened a couple of weeks ago so we should in theory be completely prepared.

That said Tyrrell’s forks only came back from Tim at Sideways yesterday and he was off for most of last week on antibiotics for a chest infection. We’ll have a few days to rest and acclimatise before the race. Given the weather we’ll be leaving behind, the forecast for South Africa looks very appealing.

Costs have really stacked up for this trip. On top of the initial £1,024 for the basics, getting the bike prepped and ready to fly and nutrition sorted out has added a further £345 and getting £200 or so money for the trip as spending money that needs to pay for car hire and such hasn’t been easy on top of things like mortgage and loan repayments. Selling one of my beloved Indy Fabs and a lot of other bits and pieces to various people via the Singletrackworld classifieds was a necessity. That said we have raised over £600 now for our chosen charity so I so feel that some good is coming out of this.

I am particularly grateful to my friends at Singletrack and Independent Fabrication who have stepped in to sponsor us in the form of some great race kit. We’ll be wearing it in pride and I hop it’ll inspire us to really work hard during the race. This is a once in a life time trip and I’m sure it’s going to be great!

Cape Epic Preview

I think I’ve been quite good so far at spliting posts between this more general set of rants and the stuff that I’ve posted in the racing section. Well as the race draws closer the posts are merging into a similar theme. The big race.

There’s a pretty amazing video about the Cape Epic over at xride tv. It’s a summary of the race day by day and has some amazing footage of the landscape and the action. If you have absolutely no idea of what the Epic is about this is a great place to find out more. Quote of the video for me: “Yeah today we saw a big elephant out there on the trail today. You don’t expect to see an elephant in a mountain bike race, so it was pretty unusual. It was Big. And it almost stood on Manny”.

The fund raising is going well too. We’re 25% of the way towards our target…

Thinking Ahead

The race is just over two weeks away. I think about it every day. After having done a lot of Endurance races over the last few years I have been fairly certain mentally about this race.

I know it is going to be tough.

I know I am going to suffer.

It is going to hurt.

The following comments from a finisher froma previous year sum things up for me pretty well. I think this is the only attitude to have to the race:

Its quite easy to finish the Epic.

Rules to memorise:

1) The Epic is not a normal Race, in fact, its not a race, its a experience.
2) You don’t “RACE” this beast. you ride well within your limits
3) Every days’ stage is a “RIDE” on its own. Dont think about the next day.
4) Split your days in 4 sections. You first make sure you get to the first water point, than you ride for the second feedstation, than you ride for the third one, only than you think about finishing the stage.
5) From day 5 you will be weak in the body, don’t try and do the uphills or technical sections as if its a normal funride. You will brake a bone

and lastly:….

TO FINISH THE EPIC YOU NEED TO BE MENTALLY 120% STRONG, You don’t need to be superfit,

Never think of giving up, it wil get better, in 10k’s time,

This is an amazing race, this is were you will make friends every kilometre, because everyone around you, suffer and struggle as you are.


Bring it on…

Cape Epic Checklist

I found this the other day and it looks like the ticket. I’ve edited it into my checklist of bits. My weight allowances are 20kg kit and 16kg bike for the flight.

Passport for Race Registration in Knysna
2 pair’s normal socks
2 pairs underpants
1 pair of board shorts
2 x t-shirts

Sleeping bag / sheet and blanket
Flip flops (sandals)
1 pair microfibre pants
1 pairs of boardshorts
2 x Independent Fabrication T-Shirts
1 Arctyrx fleece
Howies 17 Seconds jacket
6 x Riding socks x 6
2 x Independent Fabrication riding shorts
2 x Singletrack Jerseys
IF Baseball Cap
Water bottle
Plastic bags for dirty washing
Something to mark the tent (ribbon of brightly coloured material flag)
Bike cable lock + key

Shaving gel and razor
Assos Chamois cream
Mosquito Repellent
Neurofen Plus and Ibuprofen
Clothes pegs and wash line

Independent Fabrication Ti Deluxe
Specialized Lid
Deuter Race Pack
Sombrio Gloves
Specialized BG Pro Shoes
Pro M Frames
Assos Arm warmers
Adidas Knee warmers
Water bottle (fill with plain cold water)
Heart rate monitor & body strap

Bladder filled with energy drink (3 Litres of liquid carrying capacity)
lip-balm (UV protection)
Factor 15 UVA/UVB Protectino
2 Power bars per day
Sunglass cleaning cloth
Energy drink powder (refills)
2 x tubes
Toeak Hummer
Puncture & UST Tyre repair kit
Spares for chain
Money – SA Rand’s
Finish Line XC
First Aid Kit
Zip ties
Digital Camera

Spare chain
Spare tyre
Spare shoe cleats/bolts
Spare tubes x 2
Spare gear cable
Disc pads x 2 pairs
Spare Spokes

If you’re wearing a camelbak, fill the bladder with carbo drink powder & water mix. Also carry a small waterbottle with fresh water only for washing down the gels and cooling off body in the desert.

Do everything you can to keep your race (adidas) bag as light as possible, it’s a “bitch” to lug the thing around after a hard day’s ride.

Pre-pack your daily rations of gels, bars and powder into ziplok bags for ease of access when you prepare your bag for next days ride. This also helps avoid bringing too much heavy food that is unnecessary. Share spares with your partner to save weight, no need for both to carry stuff.

You will have to wash bike clothes during race – use liquid detergent/travelwash. Get your bikes thoroughly serviced before the event – book it in early!