Hats off to all the crazy committed people that recently completed the ABSA Cape Epic (extreme) mountain bike race. My mate Melt completed his 4th EPIC and the adverse conditions made this one the hardest one yet.
Here are some stage race tips supplied by Michael van Harmelen (aka @muddy_mike on twitter). After completing his 1st Epic in 2012, here are some key things that Mike learnt, which he felt would make a stage race of this magnitude more enjoyable and less stressful. He made a top 10 list which if followed could make the difference between an average and great experience.
Epic Learning #1: Never try ride the Epic if you’re not 100% healthy. It will hurt you. Any weakness will be magnified exponentially day by day.
Epic Learning #2: Have your bike professionally setup, like the guys @completecyclist do. I am not talking about a 10 minute bike shop setup. I am talking about a proper minimum 1 hour consultation using proper scientific measurements. I used to have lower back pain on 3 hour rides. During 53 Hours of Cape Epic 2012, nothing! J
Epic Learning #3: Tyre choice critical for both the pros and the back markers. You don’t want to spend your time fixing puncture after puncture. Epic routes are notorious for sharp rocks and thorns. I used Continental 29x22 Race King Protection tyres. 718km and not a single puncture.
Epic Learning #4: Have at least 4 different flavor’s of your chosen energy drink to alternate. You will be drinking up to 64 bottles of the stuff and variety keeps it palatable. Also just drink what your body is used to, so carry extra serving’s of your energy drink and just top up with water at the tables.
Epic Learning #5: A 29er is more suited than a 26er over the rough Epic terrain. But be warned, a std 2x10 gearing setup on a 29er does not have the low ratio’s required for the Epic, unless of course you are a pro. So take time to get advice on the correct gearing if you move from a 3 chain ring 26er to a double chain ring 29er, if not you could end up walking with your 29er where you previously rode your 26er.
Epic Learning #6: Take time to enjoy the views the Epic will give you, you will never see them again. A quick stop to take it all in (and a photo or 2) makes your ride more meaningful and it’s a great time to get your breathe back before the next climb. Does position 321 really sound that much better than 353?
Epic Learning #7: Don’t loose your sense of humour if a rider stops in front of you on a climb or if Dr Evil sends you up another unexpected climb. You choose to enter Epic, no one had a gun to your head. Arriving at Lourensford grumpy isn’t exactly what you’ve paid all that money for and made all those sacrifices for, now is it?
Epic Learning #8: Take a moment to acknowledge and thank all the marshal’s and volunteers. They make it all run like clockwork for the riders. Without them the event could not take place.
Epic Learning #9: Get a bike mechanic you can trust and have experience with to get your bike to Epic and home again. I would avoid the “mass” service providers here, as how many bikes can 1 mechanic service properly per day? Having the peace of mind that your bike will be in the bike park every morning 100% ready to race is a huge weight of your shoulders and money very well spent.
Epic Learning #10: Have a look around you, there are riders from all over the world riding the Epic in South Africa! Be an ambassador, chat to the guys and swop war stories every evening. You never know what friendships you could be born on the trails of the Western Cape.
Thanks Mike for your valuable tips, hopefully we can use some of these for the Sani2C next month. Check out Mikes website