An email arrived in my inbox last week from the Absa Cape Epic organisers, which along with some other interesting notes on preparation also reminded us that there is now less than 30 days before the race starts.
With some mild panic thus ensuing, a rapid succession of emails was exchanged between me and my team mate Ben, and the plan to do a Cape Epic boot camp was thrown into place. The aim, two solid days of riding and some quality saddle time. We invited the other Mule Bar team taking part this year, and who also rode in the 2009 edition of the race. A good chance to pick their brains on tips for getting through the event!
Unfortunately the weather wasn’t playing ball. Wet, cold and extremely muddy, the conditions made the riding tough going. This was a far cry from the hot dusty trails we’re to expect in South Africa, and motivation was hard to summon as we huddled in the cafÃ© in Peaslake drinking coffee discussing tyres suitable for South Africa. However, if slogging it out through inches of mud and the rain lashing against our Gore Tex jackets doesn’t toughen us up for the mammoth race ahead of us, I don’t know what will.
Our plan roughly focused on a target of 10 hours riding time, to prepare us for the particular demands of a hard day riding preceded and succeeded by similarly tough riding. While day one saw as merrily sprinting up the climbs and out of the saddle on the false flats, day two saw a noticeable level of fatigue beginning to set in. I used the two days as an opportunity to try out some new energy products, and see how the body reacts to them. Preparation is in the details, and everything needs to be ironed out before we pack our bags for South Africa.
So the conditions weren’t favourable, but it was a good opportunity to ride alongside each other. Riding together is pivotal to the event. The organisers of the Cape stipulate that teams remain within two and a half minutes of each other at all times. This was actually our first mountain bike ride together in a long time (I’ve been clocking up miles on the road bike over the winter while Ben has been racing the cyclo-cross circuit), so until the Cape Epic plan was confirmed, our cycling paths hadn’t crossed. As such it was reassuring to find we’re still at a similar level of fitness as when we last rode together and are fairly evenly matched and adept on the more technical trails. Such a match is key to a successful pairing.
Our next ride will be hopefully be aboard our chosen race bikes for the event (more on those soon), and a shakedown of some of the new kit which we’ll be relying upon throughout the eight days of racing. Time may rapidly be ticking away but I’m beginning to get really excited by the challenge ahead. Preparation is going well and if this first prep ride is anything to go by, we should be in for a good performance at the Cape Epic.