The Cape Epic is an annual mountain bike stage for the professional athlete to competitive amateur who from Sunday to Sunday tests their limits by pedaling a mountain bike across the Western Cape in sunny South Africa.
Typical Cape Epic
Dates: March-April (except for Covid, event was held in October 2021)
Format: Team of 2 stage race
Distance: +/- 680km or 420mi
Elevation: +/-16900m or 55400ft
Standard accommodation: For each rider a tent and mattress inside race village.
Course: Changes every year, but it is always in the Western Cape.
Rule number 1: Team mates must ride together for the duration of each stage; you must be within 2 minutes of your partner at all times.
Who can ride
At least 19 years old, declared medically fit by a professional, and properly trained for it.
Things to consider before you enter
Supporting crew, family and friends. Now this is easier said than done, and it's probably the most important because the preparation is easier when your friends and family are behind you.
It is a tough event; you need to be physical and mentally prepare for it. Real improvements take time; you need to commit to a minimum of 6-7 months of training.
This is a team event, your team mate should be someone you know really well and someone you trust and someone who is willing to help you through a bad day on the bike.
Learn how to do trail side bike repairs.
What you can expect
Hours in the saddle, between 4 and 8 hours, possibly more than 8, over varied terrain and in varying weather conditions. It could be hot, very hot, windy or even cold, very cold, blue or grey skies, dry and or wet conditions, anything is possible.
You and your partner will ride and or sometimes walk up and over short climbs, long climbs, technical climbs, very technical climbs and more climbs. You will encounter wheel sucking sandy sections and tackle single track and jeep track with loose and or steep surfaces, there is lots, and in between it all are flat to rolling district roads that are mostly hard packed.
You can also expect blood, sweat, tears and some swearing, and maybe a “charley horse” - leg cramps that are sudden, involuntary, and intense usually in your calf, foot or thigh. Especially in the thigh and always on the worse possible spot – a steep climb.
Definitely not walk in the park! If you finish this multi-day stage race you get a t-shirt, a medal, realization that you are stronger than you think, a sense of achievement and memories that will last a lifetime.
What you need to enter
Super-fast fingers and full entry fee which is due immediately. Entries are snapped up and sold out in seconds and if your fingers are too slow and you’ve spent all your money on a 4th bike then you can always enter their lottery system.
From my personal experience
I was fortunate to get an opportunity from Pitstop to do the Cape Epic in 2015 and team up with a buddy, Malclom Isaacs, really good bike handling skills, fit and fast, raced BMX when he was younger. And still talented, podium placer on provincial XC series.
Training is something that I enjoy doing, I like having the structure and having the benefits of a healthy body and mind.....the base fitness was already there.
I officially started in August and my training consisted of 5 weekday commutes to and from work with at least 3 starting between 4:30am and 5:00am for interval training or longer 3 hour rides, there were few runs as well. Weekends and long weekends where for back to back long mtb rides with a goal to rack up elevation and of course the was plenty of rest and easy days in between.
Training blocks: To simulate the back to back demands of the Cape Epic I did Cape Pioneer Trek in middle of October, Wine2Whales begin of November, a block of distance and elevation at the end of December and then Twanka Trek in February.
Overall it was high volume with a steady dose of intensity, I responded to it and noticed the gains. I wanted to be well prepared for the Cape Epic, because this was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Training nutrition and hydration
I kept it simple and always started with a good breakfast. I had mostly water in the bottles and real foods in the pockets – apples, banana, dates, dried figs, nuts and raisins and peanut butter and jam and or cheese sandwiches, and sometimes a coke midway through hard and longer ride.
Cape Epic result
Lowest GC: 112
Highest GC: 86
Overall GC: 91
I wasn’t feeling well halfway through, and thanks to my team mate Malcolm, we where able to finish the Cape Epic in the top 100, not a bad result for newbies.
How do you training for it
Even if you are reasonably fit start your training 6 month before the event date.
Training isn’t just time in the saddle, it also good nutrition and hydration, taking care of your body and mind with sufficient recovery (sleep, rest days, riding easy on easy days, massages, etc.) as well a steady dose general strength training, core conditioning and flexibility work.
Do most of training exclusively on your mountain bike even if it is on the road and make sure that you are comfortable when training on it.
That is it, thank you for reading, I hope you found it to be a useful resource.