The Epic Guide

Cape Epic Plan Train Ride Finish

Cape Epic Guide Planning Training Riding Finishing Team BBB


Health and Nutrition
Calorie count and goal weight
Heart Rate Training Basics
Heart Rate Training Program
Epic Mountain Bike Training Plan

Other Cape Epic Resources

Mountain Bike Tours in South Africa


The Complete Epic Training Plan


The heart rate based training program is definitely the core of the entire plan. But that alone will not be enough for success. There are many other factors that need to be included in the overall training plan. The race conditions, duration, distances and physical stresses need to be trained for, practiced and simulated to assist both your mind and body to be successful.

The two most daunting aspects of a multiday stage race is the distance that needs to be covered everyday and the fact that it needs to be done repeatedly on consecutive days. The longer the distances and the more days there are the greater the challenge. Following a suitable training program will without a doubt build the fitness for this challenge. However it is most often the mind that needs the most training to overcome these two obstacles. Everyone starts out not really believing that it is possible to complete such a challenging event. This is why it is important to complement a training program by including some additional training elements. The overall training plan should prepare you mentally and condition your body to deal with the long distances and repetitive days. It is not really practical, possible or even necessary to simulate the entire event, but simulating some key elements of it will go a long way to building confidence.

Go the distance

The best way and the only way to prove something and to believe, is to see it for yourself. You need to believe and even better know that you can go the distance. So what you need to do is find and design the hardest ride that you can think of by trying to simulate the hardest day that you expect to encounter at the event. Maybe just make it that little bit harder or longer.

I will never forget the very first time that we did this big ride. When we did our first Epic 2005 one of the challenges was how would we be prepared for Day 2 144km 2700m of ascent. We had to know what we would feel like after riding this distance and we wanted to know that we could do it. So we put together the toughest day that we could think of. It was 160km and 2110m of ascent. We really did not know what to expect and were quite prepared not to make it back. So we had a backup in place, just a phone call away. We set out first thing in the morning and made good progress and felt good at our turning point where we started to head back. With about 90km done we started the tar climb up Hekpoort. And it was the middle of the day. It was slow hot and we were getting tired, but we made it up. It was however the last 20km of flats that seemed never ending. We had started to feel pains that we had never felt before, both my feet felt like they were on fire and I was completely drained. We never gave up and made it back in under 8 hours eventually, we were shattered! Poor Albert still had to drive home, I just lay around for a few hours and eventually started to feel human again after about 2 hours. We did this ride another two times before the event. On the third time we finished it 30 min faster than the first time, there was a noticeable improvement and our heart rates were lower and we felt much better and recovered more quickly. So I went into the 2005 event knowing that there is no day that I cannot finish. Mentally I had been there and physically I knew what it would feel like. So when I felt it I knew what it was, why I was feeling it and how I would deal with it. I had gone the distance before.

Doing it over and over

Riding day in and day out is also a daunting prospect if you have never done it before. Knowing how you feel after a one day event and how long it takes you to recover, makes the prospect of riding the very next day seem almost impossible. Once again simulation and practice to prepare your mind and body for the continuous riding is critical.

I had always done one day races, with one of the rewards being that after the race I could just rest for a few days. Especially the next day when you could sleep in and take it easy. But with multi day events you have to get up and do it all again. So I started to ride the very next day after any race event that I did. The biggest challenge was the mental one, to get up the next morning with a sore body and tired legs and go for a ride. However once I had done it a few times I started to realise that it was actually fine, yes there were pains but somehow you just get on with the job of pedalling and once you are warmed up it starts to feel fine.

The next challenge was to go the distance for several days in a row and that is where training camps come in. We put together our first training camp by ourselves, over a long weekend in December we planned 4 days of riding. Again we tried to put together the toughest days that we could and so we included our Big Ride as one of the days. The experience of having ridden the day before and then the day after the Big Ride and surviving, made me start to believe that maybe this 8 day event was actually within reach.

We also attended one of Spinmans training camps in Dullstroom. Here we got the chance to do some good climbing training and to meet some of the other riders to compare notes. It was a valuable experience, as we could measure our progress against some of the other riders. This experience again built some more confidence and we started to feel comfortable that we were going to make the 800+ Km of riding for our first Cape Epic.

Every year since then we have been hosting our own training camps.

Climb like a mountain goat

Mountain biking really is all about climbing and descending and even more so when you are doing a stage race like the Cape Epic where there are big mountain ranges to cross. Spending an hour or two or three on a mountain pedalling and/or walking to get to the top is not uncommon. The climbing on a typical Cape Epic day is often double that of an average one day marathon race. These long climbs take their toll on your legs and they mean more time in the saddle.

The ability to climb comfortably and consistently is a real benefit in completing the tough long days. The secret is to be able to get over the climbs without spending too much time above 80% of max heart rate. If you are able to do this then you will find yourself having enough energy left over to complete the days comfortably and not suffer from cramping and very sore and stiff legs. This should be practiced in training by adjusting your climbing speed so that you climb at a comfortable and controlled heart rate. It takes discipline and patience to climb like this and you need to resist the temptation to try to get over fast with lots of power. As you continue to practice this technique you will find it becomes easier as your fitness increases.

Every year as we prepare for the Cape Epic we apply these training guidelines. In addition to our heart rate training program we do some really Big Rides, we attend training camps and we make a point of doing long tough climbs. It is a recipe that proves itself time and time again.

If you have specific questions or comments then contact us, or discuss and share your experiences and advice for others to see at the Epic Guide Discussion.

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