While there may be different levels of intensity with which the bikes are ridden, almost every cyclist has an actual job, with accompanying stresses (to which I can testify). This was my first week back at work after holiday, and by the end of it the stress had exhausted me. I’m getting ahead of myself, though.
The previous week was the end of a training cycle. However good it may have felt to get through the workload, there is still a great deal of work to do over the final two months. I was eased into it with a core session on Monday, followed by Hills on Tuesday and Thursday.
For the non-cyclists, Hills involve riding at a high percentage of maximum power at low cadence, which builds strength. My programme has six repeats of six minutes each, interspersed with six minutes of recovery spinning. I do them on the Wattbike, because of the precise measurement of both power and cadence, and by the end of both sessions my kit was as wet as if I’d jumped into a swimming pool.
This brings me to the weekend, with two big rides on mountain bike. Erica had put me down for 120km on Saturday (minimum 1800m of climbing) and 100km on Sunday (minimum 1600m of climbing). This is a lot harder than doing the same distance on a road bike, and also takes more time. Just getting one’s head around this kind of riding is difficult when you’re already exhausted from a stressful week.
My plan had been to do a 40km loop with a non-Epic friend, followed by 80km on my own. However, there was a gale force South Easter blowing on Saturday, which required a change of route (and resulted in the loss of riding partner). The wind is usually stronger in the City Bowl than in the southern suburbs, but one still needs to cycle through the wind to get there. It blows directly down the mountain, so any climbing involves the double whammy of riding into the wind. The gusts from the side can blow cyclists off their bikes.
The ‘admin’ chewed up time, so I ended up riding 87km, with 1721m of climbing (could be understated, though, because my Garmin isn’t 100% accurate in this department).
Prior to Cape Epic 2017, Justin Tuck, the workshop half of the partnership at The Gear Change, gave me the top tip of riding with a small bottle of sealant taped to my bike’s frame, which I duly did. However, when I changed to the Tallboy, I didn’t get around to moving the bottle of sealant, which cost me a lot of time and frustration on Saturday.
Spook Groenewald’s top tip is to ride with a small pump. It’s all very well to have CO2 ‘bombs’, but one can easily run out, and having a pump with me on Saturday enabled me to limp home.
Non-Epic friend from Saturday joined me for the first part of Sunday’s ride, which also involved going out to Tokai and back. This ride was 87km (instead of 100km), with 1825m of climbing. I started in dense, wet fog, and by the time I finished the temperature had got up to a toasty 38 degrees.
I didn’t make budget on the total distance for the weekend, but I over-delivered on metres climbed (over 3500m, instead of the required 3400m).
A large number of foreign riders will be descending on the Western Cape prior to Epic 2018 to check out the trails and attempt to acclimatise to the heat. My top tip to them is to ride the trail above Kirstenbosch that joins Newlands and Constantia Nek. Click here to read more (although the portage section has subsequently been removed). It is a magnificent way of experiencing Cape Town!