5 Tips to surviving the 2020 Cape Epic

I recently participated in a boot camp designed to familiarize riders with the 2020 ABSA Cape Epic route. We didn’t cover it all, but we covered four major segments which (thankfully!) gave my racing partner and I a fresh perspective on how to approach the upcoming 8 day challenge.

Here are my top 5 take-aways from this extremely beneficial camp, not only for the 2020 Cape Epic, but for future stage races that you may want to challenge yourself with:

#1: Be Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

Understanding the terrain you are going to be riding on is crucial. Make sure you include rides that include consistent rocky terrain, not just on the downhills, but on the ups and flats too! Races like the recent Tankwa Trek are all time favourites of mine, due to their majestic technicality. It’s not often that you can almost imitate stages of the Epic so easily!

#2: Ease Your Mind

If you have the time to incorporate more training races into your pre-Epic build up, try adding a prep race or two to your plan. I personally enjoy racing on similar terrain to help alleviate stress. I don’t want to be worrying about what to expect out there, but rather dive in and make all the mistakes before I embark on the big race! I recommend two races to consider in future to help ease your mind:

  • Attakwas (for the HTFU factor) - https://www.atta.co.za

This race is a really tough way to start the year! Being harder day out than any single stage of the Epic, it forces you to adapt both physically and mentally, preparing you for the years racing calendar. Missed the boat on this year’s race? Don’t worry, this one isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

  • Tankwa Trek – www.tankwa.co.za

The next step to hardening up! This 4 day, technical, rocky stage race will help to prepare you for what it takes to get up and race again after a tough day out in extreme heat. Being a UCI event, you’ll also have the chance to rub shoulders with the best mountain bikers in the world

  • Imbuko Big 5 Challenge - https://imbukobigfivemtbchallenge.co.za

Similar to a Cape Epic stage, The Imbuko Big 5 Challenge is exactly as it sounds. It’s a massive day out, with 3000m of climbing over 75km. This is one not to be missed and will be extremely beneficial for your Cape Epic preparation.

#3: Skills Skills Skills!

Don’t underestimate the amount of time and energy you could save when you are prepared with the right mountain biking technique going into the Cape Epic, or any mountain bike race for that matter. The 2020 Cape Epic will be filled with raw, exposed, rocky terrain that sometimes feels like it’s never going to end. And not to mention the sand! Go and explore places you might not have picked first-hand to get some of the skills training in. Focus on your stability, control, and balance. If you’re looking for someone to assist you with this, contact us today to book your lesson! Your riding and confidence will improve exponentially.

Some quick and easy ways to start refining your skills:

  • Explore lines that you wouldn’t normally ride while out on the trails. Become comfortable with the “momentum blockers” and get used to the impact it has on your body.

  • Work on that off-the-bike strength. You can really gain a lot by incorporating a variety of strength, balance and flexibility exercises to help you form while you race.

#4: Become Your Own KOM

Climbing is always something we all need to work on. it’s important for you to follow the program prescribed by your coach, when given an L2 ride, consider adding an elevation goal too. While riding at endurance pace, you can activate those climbing muscles at the same time. This will force you to stand more often, something that most are also not quite used to doing for more than a couple seconds. Mix up your climbing strategies by alternating between seated and standing drills. Nothing like a little glute and upper body workout!

#5: Fuel The Body

Something that I personally struggle with, is getting enough fuel in while racing. Half the time I am flustered by the pace, trying desperately to hold onto the powerful women I am constantly chasing. I find myself buried in the haste, and of course, look down to see that 2.5hrs have already flown by. By that point, it’s already too late, and I can’t play catch up in terms of my on-the-bike nutrition. The biggest thing is to practice eating on the bike while training. Even if you don’t feel like you need it, having a little bite of something every hour on the hour gets you into the routine. Practice makes perfect….happy munching!

Lastly, try your best to really enjoy the process of preparation for the 2020 Cape Epic. This race is one of a kind, a challenge that will grow you beyond what you ever thought was possible. It’ll be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, and the most satisfying.

See you there!

Sarah Hill

BSc Exercise Science - Sports Nutrition

BA - Sports Psychology

Sarah currently races professionally at UCI level, and enjoys cross country, as well as marathon and stage racing. Her most remarkable achievements of 2019 inlcude her wins at the Trans Baviaans, as well as the African Leaders Jersey st the ABSA Cape Epic, Joberg2C, and Cape Pioneer.

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