Cycle Training’s Epic flashback
Every mountain biker gets FOMO when the Cape Epic is on. Kate Slegrova had it bad last year, so she thought she’d do it one more time…
I did the ABSA Cape Epic in 2011 and finished 22nd in the Mixed team category, somewhere in midfield. But for 2014 I wanted to ride in the ladies category and as I didn’t have a partner the organisers matched me up with Celina Carpinteiro, a very strong Portuguese mountain biker. We had our entries confirmed in early December and then the training started in earnest.
Training for the Epic
I only took about a week off from cycling in early December and then started with base training. Luckily I had more time for training than I usually would thanks to the holidays. I managed to train 20 hours per week for three weeks over Christmas and early January.
I got my husband involved in a lot of the rides to get him fit too. We did some nice three to four hour rides together. My first pre-Epic race was the Attakwas Extreme Challenge. It wasn’t easy, especially as I was still on hard tail and hadn’t done much intensity yet. After the Attakwas I started intensity training and soon it was Tankwa Trek. The Tankwa was exceptionally hard this year thanks to 40°C heat, but I loved the route and organising. The following weekend I did the GR300, which was really tough on my tired body! After the GR300 it was just easy rides with short high intensity interval rides.
My normal Epic training week included 12 to 15 hours of riding, with the exception of the Tankwa and GR300 weeks which went beyond 20 hours. As a coach and personal trainer my job is very active. I spend a lot of time on my feet in the gym with clients, and I get up early every day, so I didn’t get a lot of sleep either. It definitely wasn’t easy, but I managed to hang in there.
My new baby
I got my new full suspension, Scott Spark, before the Tankwa Trek. I was happy to get some practice on it and had time to get used to the Spark’s handling before the Epic. The full sus definitely paid off at the Epic!
As you might have heard I was the weaker link in our team, so every day I pushed hard. I had really enjoyed the Greyton and Oak Valley stages. For the rest I suffered!
We camped for the duration of the Epic apart from the days in Robertson where we were invited to stay at a friend’s place for a couple of nights. Being put up in a house at Robertson was particularly fortunate as the camp in Robertson was massive and everywhere was far to walk. The Oaks in Greyton and Oak Valley in Grabouw were beautiful camps though.
The atmosphere at water points was great and I often heard people cheering me on.
Our result was just a bit disappointing, as we had missed the 10th spot in the ladies category. Especially with my partner being competitive and strong I couldn’t help but feel a bit guilty about not being able to go faster, but I can say I gave it all.
I haven’t had a break from racing for a long time so I think I really need one now and also feel like I want one!
The race is very well organised. I don’t think I have much negative to say; only that maybe there could have been free Wi-Fi in the riders’ village (sometimes it was too far to walk back to the finish-line area to Tweet a photo). The Epic has become a must do on any mountain biker’s list and I wouldn’t argue with that, but there are a lot of other events in South Africa that are also very well organized and I think more enjoyable. I prefer a smaller event, with fewer participants as it makes for more camaraderie.
Kate’s tips for Cape Epic participants
Plan, realistically, how many hours a week you can put into your training without your family and work taking too much strain. You’ll need a minimum of 10 hours of smart training per week. I’d also suggest you invest in a coach – don’t download a program from internet if you are not sure what you are doing.
Choose your partner wisely and make sure you both have similar fitness levels and goals.
Get proper gear (especially bib shorts) but don’t go all crazy and spend your entire salary. People do it on hard tails too! Get your bike properly set up in advance. And please don’t bike on a new bike at the last minute.
Test your nutrition before the big race and try to keep it quite natural. Also don’t go into the Epic too skinny.
Prepare yourself to suffer, and try to stay positive. Taking the time to look around and enjoy the beautiful scenery will make the suffering more bearable. Finally don’t lose your sense of humour. You’re doing it for fun after all!
Full Sus regular Kate Slegrova is taking a bit of a break from competitive riding and while she’s got more time on her hands she’s running MTB skills clinics in Cape Town & Stellenbosch. Follow her on Twitter @KateSlegrova or check out here website www.cycletraining.co.za to book your spot.