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The 2017 Absa Cape Epic is six months away and riders have turned their attention from beers to gears, from bars to handlebars.
To help them the event has held two annual rider information evenings, one in Cape Town and the other in Johannesburg.
Race novices and seasoned riders alike were given insight into what lies ahead in the next six months and how to best prepare for the ‘ultra-extreme’ event.
Former Olympian Erica Green, who has represented South Africa at the Olympic Games in mountain biking and road, outlined the training routines that riders need to incorporate to successfully tackle the Epic, a race she says is no ordinary mountain bike ride. Nutritionist and sport scientist Adrian Penzhorn highlighted the importance of diet while race doctor Jann Killops explained Mediclinic’s role at the Cape Epic and how the event medics strive to keep riders on their bikes for the seven days.
Though the nerves of riders will be at their most jangled on the start ramps at the Prologue, there was a clear nervous energy at the information evening as the three event experts addressed the room; perhaps if teachers laid out training blocks and dietary mesocycles instead of fractions, classrooms would be more attentive.
Green, whose Daisyway Coaching Systems has guided riders through the Cape Epic for the last 12 years, stressed that riders need to train for the demands of the event. Her outlook on training and riding was simple: “We coach to keep riders on the bike for a long time after the Epic. We don’t want you to throw your bike away the moment you cross the finish line,” she said to subdued laughter.
The purpose of the information evenings is not to scare new riders, but rather to get them to the start line in the best possible shape; the Cape Epic is tough enough without arriving at the Prologue undercooked.
Talking of which, cooking was another theme of the evening, with Food for Sport’s Penzhorn reminding riders that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to diet. If there was one simple takeout from his address it was that normal food is the way to go when preparing for and riding an event like the Cape Epic.
In a food pyramid display he stressed the importance of eating behaviour and how supplements come after the real food. “Many athletes come to me asking what supplements they should be taking; but we start with eating behaviour and normal food,” he said. The dietary strategy is determined by the rider goal. For instance, a strength-based programme requires quality protein intake.
Most importantly for any stage racer, he underlined the importance of the race nutritional strategy. “You need to trial your nutritional strategy before the event and work out what’s best for you. It’s too late at the event to start eating different gels; take into the race what you’ve trained with,” he told the audience.
Finally, it was the turn of Dr Killops to warn riders of the perils of entering the labyrinth without knowing the way out. Last year the medical team dealt with a number of kidney-related illnesses. Killops addressed this and how to avoid it in 2017. The Mediclinic team does invaluable work at the Cape Epic, their first goal to keep riders on their bikes. However, this can’t always be the case and sometimes tough and unpleasant decisions have to be made
Veteran Absa Cape Epic riders also took the newbies through their experiences with some warnings about the possible pitfalls that could confront them on their eight-day adventure.
“The idea of the Rider Evening is to help riders with their preparation,” says Absa Cape Epic Marketing and Communications manager Sarah Haigh. “It’s a tough race and we want to make sure everyone is in the best possible shape when they stand on the start ramp. The team that spoke has years of Cape Epic experience between them and I would urge all riders to seek out as much expertise as they possible can.”