Sport / 14 April, 2017

Cape Epic – The Lessons I’ve Learned

Cape Epic is not also a once in a lifetime experience (or maybe twice or three times depending if Epic’s spell pulled you in and you can’t fight the inner demons telling you to go back and do it all over again 🙂 ) I said it before in the summary (read it here) of the race, there is a lot of things to be learned from your first time at Cape Epic and a lot to be learned about yourself.

Faris Al Sultan, the 2007 Ironman World Champion said after his participation in the race that his top tip is the buy the best bike you can get your hands on, most certainly a very valid tip but there is so much more to take away from the race.

Equipment, there is not doubt, is a major part at Cape Epic and when looking around in the bike park in the morning there were more SRAM Eagle, more Rockshox RS1 and more carbon then I would have ever expected. The Eagle for example had just hit the market and it felt like the entire first stock was instantly bought out by Epic participants. The right choice of shoes, a fitting saddle, a bike geometry that fits your needs, the right electronic tools and so on are important but most important is to test it all before the race. I for example had a saddle that should have worked perfectly for me – theoretically – but it turned out to be a painful nightmare. I spent hours and hours testing the right set up for my bike. Where do I want my suspension lockout and where the levers, do I prefer to combine them in one clamp or separate them, do I want to ride my bike with dropper post or without. These are all things that needed to be tested, dialed in, calculated (weight versus comfort on dropper seat for example).

Here is a perfect example. My Simplon Cirex120 comes standard with 120mm travel front and rear and while Stefan loved that set up for his Cirex I started testing around and found out that I prefer it even a little more responsive. I reduced the air chambers down to 100mm internally, not externally as I didn’t want to change the geometry of the bike by dropping the fork. Finding the right set up here for me took hours and hours on the bike. Not because I didn’t like the factory set up which was brilliantly created already but because for an adventure such as Cape Epic I wanted the set up to be 110% to my specifications and not just 100%.

Some of the key elements I learned and took away from the race and from the months leading up to the race were:

1. Find the best possible equipment you can get your hands on. Cape Epic takes everything out of a bike.

2. Take proper time to test different set ups, equipment and gear. You need to be 100% comfortable with it and there is no reason to be satisfied with less than that.

3. Be smart in your choices. Weight savings do not always beat comfort or durability. Rims for example we opted for a slightly heavier but also slightly wider DT Swiss rim, as the wider rim carries better on loose sand or with the expect heat and the amount of dust we ate every day one of the best possible choices we made was carry a Camelbak on top of the frame bottles despite the added wait.

4. Don’t spend the money on a Cape Epic entry and buy all that equipment and then don’t spent the time learning how to handle your bike. We spent a couple of sessions with Biking in the Bosch (genius skill school in Stellenbosch if you are ever in South Africa) to learn exactly how to handle the bike and terrain. Another really smart move it turned out as no test riding could have prepared us for what Cape Epic threw at us but knowing how to properly handle the bike helped loads.

5. If you have the chance and time try and get a test race in on South African soil as it is very different riding to anywhere else. We opted for the 4 stage PE Plett 2 weeks before Epic and it gave us a brilliant feel for what it is like to ride in South Africa.

6. Choose your race partner wisely. Stefan and I spent 3 weeks before the race and the entire race laughing and basically spending every second together and didn’t have a single bad word for each other during the entire stay. We saw other teams not finish Epic simply cause they started hating their team partners under pressure and exhaustion.

7. Be smart and make a deal with yourself that you will listen to your body and your team partner and that you will race to your ability but also that you won’t give up easily as you are not riding for yourself but for your partner as well.

These are some of the things on the practical side to be aware off but also great was the things I learned about myself, about team racing and what body and mind can take.

1.  The body and mind can take so much more than I would have ever expected. Due to some issues before the race I ran into an absolute energetic low and feeling of sickness during stage 1 already down to a point that resembled exactly how I felt when I pulled out of Ironman Switzerland in 2016. This time however it was a team event and there was no way in hell I would let Stefan down, so I kept spinning those legs, staring at his rear wheel and pushing on until I actually started feeling remotely better 15km later. The body got better and better throughout the entire race.

2. I had a few situations that taught me more than ever before that the feeling of physical depletion can often really be my head and mind. We had a situation where I was leading down a 7km long single trail and just before the end of the single trail I though ‚boy, I am really, really tired. Good the trail is gonna end in a second and Stefan can take the lead‘ and about 5 seconds later I hear from behind ’number 1 (I had number 84-1, Stefan 84-1, hence the number 1 and number 2 as nicknames) I am really tired‘ and that sentence alone was enough to make the booster kick in and take charge and suddenly legs and energy were back because right that moment it was my turn to lead.

3. As much as I tried to keep it at a minimum during races I have done in the past there was always a bit of a thought of ‚what if‘. What if I didn’t have that cold during training, what if I didn’t have that flat tire in the race, what if I hadn’t lost my nutrition on th bike?‘ Well guess what: Nobody has a perfect preparation and only few have a perfect race. Yeah we had some small technical issues but others had severe crashes or major technical issues and at the end of the day I learned it doesn’t matter what happens, what ever happened was part of racing that day and yet we had a spectacular experience every single day.

The view of Hermanus from Rotary Drive as Stage 2 was shortened to 62 Km due to high temperatures forecast. Stage 2 of the 2017 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race from Hermanus High School in Hermanus to Botanical Gardens in Caledon, South Africa on the 21st March 2017
Photo by Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS

 

You see, there is a lot to look out for when preparing and racing an event like Cape Epic or similar and a lot to be learned. I will write a more technical and bullet point oriented blog in the coming days about what to look out for and what equipment worked and didn’t work for us.

Until then, comment and share away and as always check out the latest pics from my travels and events on Instagram

Sport / 14 April, 2017

Cape Epic – Well, it’s Epic!

The Cape Epic is epic. I don’t have to tell you that. The name gives it away but just how epic it is showed the 8 days between March 19-March 26, 2017. The year that saw the first time in the history of the race that a stage needed to be shortened due to the extreme conditions. A race that would teach much just how much stronger than I though my head and body are.

Read more
Till is Talking Blogs / 24 März, 2017

Cape Epic „Stage 5“ – When Athletic Death is Greeting Twice.

Stage 5 is going to be a fun one. Not an easy one but fun.” is what Kevin the race organiser said in the meeting yesterday and a hell lot of fun it was but it probably could have been even more if I hadn’t died twice today.

Right out of the gates the tank was empty – not ideal with 1000 meters of climbing in the first 25km but thanks to taking it easy and steady we could kind of still see the guys we usually ride with in the distance. After about 20km I started to feel a lot better and we enjoyed the hell out of a stage that had 34% single track. The bikes were dancing and so were our spirits until “boom” I died again at the 40km mark.

This one wasn’t fun. I was struggling on every little hill and my head went into sleep mode only to be woken again when hitting a tree with the handlebar and coming off the bike at KM60. A quick rush of adrenaline and suddenly I was wide awake. We flew through water point 3 with just a really quick refill of the bottles and I probably should not have mentioned to Stefan that I was feeling better as he apparently had the best legs of his Cape Epic yet and the race was on proper.

Those final 20km were probably some of the most joyful I’ve ever had on a bike. Flying past the other teams and flowing down some of the nicest single trails. Now the big question is – will we pay for it at the King Stage tomorrow? 103KM with 2700 meters of climbing.

We’ll see tomorrow.

Sport, teamvantastic / 20 März, 2017

Cape Epic „Stage 1“ – More Heat, More Rocks, More Intervals

There are those mountain bikers who say cycling uphill is the real deal and those who say cycling downhill is the real deal. Today both versions sucked. In the nicest, most terrible, fun, exhausting and arm cramping way….

Read more
Sport / 18 März, 2017

Cape Epic – Time to Tame the Untamed

From crazy idea, to sign up, to training, it is all done. The lows, the highs and the nerves lived through. The countdown has begun and it is less then 16 hours to the start for the 2017 edition of the toughest MTB race in the world….

Read more
Sport / 17 März, 2017

Simplon Cirex120 – A First Bike Review

„Get yourself the best possible bike you can get your hands on“ was the advice we received when signing up for Cape Epic and so we did with the Simplon Cirex120! After a few thousand kilometers, 2x 4 stage test races and just before Epic here is our first bike review of a bike that made us jump and shout all the way. The perfect weapon to go forward and fast and yet comfortable enough for multi stage racing!

Read more
Sport / 15 März, 2017

PE-Plett – MTB Racing the Eastern Cape

After getting a slot for Cape Epic I had to make a decision. Try to be one of the wannabe cool kids and race Cape Epic without ever having done even a 1 day MTB race before or actually try to get an idea of what the hell I had gotten myself into. It wasn’t just that I had never raced a MTB race before I also never raced with my team mate Stefan before. I quickly decided that my cool days were over and that I should start acting age appropriate. At least for once. So after a little warm up on Lanzarote the 4 Stage PE-Plett MTB race from Port Elizabeth to Plettenberg in the Easter Cape of South Africa was our big moment to test the team dynamics, get a feel for what racing in South Africa will be like and really ride the equipment on the roughest terrain possible.

Read more
Sport / 14 März, 2017

Cape Epic – It’s On!

When I sat down with my now team mate Stefan about 8 months ago talking a big game and agreeing on racing Cape Epic together, neither of us really thought it would happen. We parted our ways that night and that was it until a few weeks later the thought was still burning holes in my brain and suddenly everything went real quick. Application sent, slot received, fee paid, bikes organized and then hell it hit is. This was the moment where talking a big game turned into a ‚damn now we need to follow up on it‘ realization.

Read more
Sport / 12 August, 2015

Win Big With Gore Bike Wear

Remember our little trip to the Gore Bike Wear headquarters? 30 years of wicked cycling and rain gear and we would say it is time to celebrate with a really cool giveaway.

What to win: 

JGOXYS9900_1 30th OXYGEN 2.0 GORE-TEX Active Jacket WELEAN9900_1 ELEMENT PRINT 30Y Bibtights short+ SELEAN9901_1 ELEMENT PRINT 30Y Jersey
Tell us that isn’t awesome! If you think it isn’t then you are clearly not a cyclist or don’t like the elements and if you are an elements hater using this cool gear might just change your mind. So which way ever. This is a win-win situation 🙂

_TG_5086 copy

 

#IntoTheElements is the motto of the day and we wanna see you in action in the elements. So this is how you can win:

1. go to https://www.facebook.com/talktotill and like the page

2. post your action, fun or active outdoor picture that you think works best with #IntoTheElements onto the TalkToTill Facebook wall

3. add the hashtags #IntoTheElements and #TalkToTill to the pictures and let us know where it was taken

4. share the giveaway. The more people participate and we reach the more often we will give away cool prices like this one!

 

_TG_5113 copy

Post your pictures by Tuesday August 18th 5pm EST and find out if you are the lucky winner the same night! We will pick our top 10 pictures and pass it on to a jury of Gore-Tex athletes to pick their favorite!

And since you are at it why not go and show the boys and girls from Gore Bike Wear some love on Facebook as well https://www.facebook.com/gorebikewear2 – after all: they are the ones donating those rockin‘ prices to you!

Good luck, enjoy the elements and let the games begin!

KPM_2098 copy