The Epic Series is more than just a collection of mountain bike stage races. It presents the opportunity to race the world and experience the same world-class organisation in vastly different landscapes on three continents. In the first of our Racing the World series we spoke to Belgian Epic Series campaigner, Jasper Lefevre.
In 2022 thus far, Jasper Lefevre, has completed the Absa Cape Epic, 4Islands MTB Croatia and the Andorra MTB Classic-Pyrenees. Not many elite riders can claim such prolificacy in Epic Series racing. He is thus virtually unique among amateur racers, though Lefevre is arguably a mountain biking professional…
A professional in that his business is cycling and his speciality lies in preparing clients for mountain bike stage races. Which means he gets to ride one or two, too. “I run my own company, Bikehigh,” Lefevre explained. “I guide people to explore their own cycling goals. It's about riding, performance, reality and motivation. My niche is MTB stage races and the Epic Series has become a big part of that. Personally, I compete in mountain bike races for stage wins in the Mixed Team category; so far, I’ve managed that twice in the Costa Blanca Bike Race and I’ve had a managed to secure a stage podium finish at the 4Islands MTB Croatia too.”
Beyond preparing clients for Epic Series races and taking part himself, Lefevre’s Bikehigh also organises tours along legendary road and gravel routes across Europe. Their trips are supported with a van, which means riders do not have to carry their gear in bikepacking bags. While ensuring his clients have a great time is undoubtedly fulfilling it is understandable that Lefevre enjoys the opportunity to focus on his own riding at Epic Series events.
“The uniqueness of each race is the character of each event, but the differences to talk about lies in the experiences,” he philosophically reflected. “The Absa Cape Epic is attractive through its setting. Racing and traveling through the unspoilt Western Cape is unique in mountain biking. The race days are known for their long (and tiring) routes. As there are eight race days, you get the opportunity to meet riders from all over the world and to experience every day to its maximum. You really feel the atmosphere of the country, the local people, the fellow riders, and the tension of the competition.”
“Your team race result at the Absa Cape Epic depend not only on how well you can ride your bike, but also on team communication and the training preparations months before the race,” Lefevre noted. “The heat can be quite a challenge though! The 2022 race tested all of us who took part, where days when the temperature reached 45 degrees. Those were truly Untamed days!”
“This year I learnt to focus on the journey,” he added. “The journey doesn’t end after each finish line. The logistics; such as bottles, massage, bike cleaning, mechanics or helping out your partner all continue. A good team spirit and proper communication are key to finishing as a team. You need to talk, talk, talk; before, during and after each race. The 2022 Absa Cape Epic also reiterated the importance of balanced food and drink supplies, and of wearing sunscreen to avoid sunburns or even sunstroke.”
“4Islands MTB Croatia is a true experience, with the boat transfers and the mostly rocky terrain,” Lefevre said. “It is filled with stunning vistas and a mix of technical and fast trails. Hopping from one island to another to discover the variety of the playgrounds is quite unique, but also a logistic challenge. Sailing by the boat to the next stage start is a surprising experience, in that you can do nothing else for a while. There is no internet, so it forces you to daydream of the views, meet the other riders and it takes your nerves away. Trust me, the boat accommodation is not an unnecessary luxury.”
“Andorra MTB Classic-Pyrenees gives you rewarding climbs and descents, to discover the paths and flowing trails that have made Andorra a benchmark MTB destination,” he continued. “A race through the spectacular mountains of the Andorran Pyrenees should be on any mountain biker’s bucket list. And the Vallnord bike park is certainly one of the highlights.”
“The other advantage of the Andorra MTB Classic-Pyrenees is that you settle in the same hotel throughout the race, rather than moving from one hotel to another,” Lefevre pointed out. “Staying in La Massana, near the finish line every race day is very convenient. Compared to SPAR Swiss Epic, Andorra MTB Classic Pyrenees prepares you for the roughness of the Swiss Alps. This therefore a good training race for the event in Graubünden; because it has the elevation, the rocky surfaces and you get in the flow of an intense Epic Series race in shorter stages.”
Speaking of the common thread which runs though all the Epic Series races Lefevre explained: “Unique to the Epic Series races is the gathering of similarly motivated people, from around the world, to challenge their ultimate MTB goals. Giving the best version of themselves to finish, race or achieve the podium. It’s very special to see. And the same can be said for all the volunteers and staff who work at these events. The uniformity of the Epic Series – in terms of race villages, race vibes, the unique Epic Legend medals – add to the professional, premium level of appearance of the events. But for me it’s the atmosphere, where the primary focus one of feeling united as one MTB family, which sets the series apart. As you guys say, each race is a chapter of both a personal and a team journey…”
If you are inspired by the chapters thus far of Jasper Lefevre’s personal journey you should research an Epic Series race near you. Visit www.epic-series.com to start Racing the World.