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Epic Training: Week 22

Oscar Foulkes February 5, 2017 Cape Epic No comments
This is my 22nd week of sharing a training report, and it’s occurred to me that not once have I mentioned the people who build the trails I get so much enjoyment out of riding. This is a huge omission. I hope the guys who do the backbreaking work will forgive me. Actually, the task is not just physical. Before spade breaks soil, landowners need to be convinced that they want to have mountain biking trails crossing their land. In the case of wine farms, there is an obvious overlap with wine tourism, and hence a connection with wine sales.

Today, for example, I rode day two of the Fairtree Simonsberg Contour (the use of the word “contour” is a misnomer, by the way). Nearly half of the +-56km route was on singletrack, with the section known as Never Say Never Ending Again covering almost 10km. I should mention that it’s high up Simonsberg, in parts not reachable by earth moving equipment. This was all done by hand, with pick and shovel. In particularly gnarly spots, trail builder Meurant Botha deigned to add a few wooden bridges, some of which are quite elongated. I have no doubt that Meurant rode many of these sections in their original form.

He’s been building trails for 20 years, and thankfully he shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.

I missed my Monday gym session because of a meeting that overran by an hour, one of very few lapses in my training programme. Weekday rides have been 60 to 90 minutes throughout, but Tuesday’s ride needed to be three hours. It coincided with a day I needed to be in Paarl, so I thought I’d get a change of scenery, as well as some company in the form of Jimmy, who was also on the Daisyway training camp in December.

I started at the entrance to Val de Vie, and he took me up the Hawequa forestry road, to just below Du Toitskloof Pass. The brief was to stay below heart rate zone four, which wasn’t really possible, considering the steepness of the route. We ascended for over two hours, and then descended for about 40 minutes. That’s how big a climb it is. I discovered afterwards that Jimmy holds that KOM (King of the Mountain) on Strava. I suppose I should do a background check before setting up cycling dates.

We needed a little Epic Crew meeting to discuss our kit design, so I swopped Friday’s rest day with Thursday’s intervals. The cunning part of this arrangement was that there was a gale force southeaster blowing on Thursday. Before anyone chips in about me baulking at a challenge, I’ve often ridden in winds like this.

And then it was race weekend, for the Fairtree Simonsberg Contour. Both days were about 56km. Climbing on day one was just over 1000m, but day two was about 1400m, which was by far the more interesting day to ride (thank you, Meurant!). Aside from some admin 7km from the finish, in the form of Piet cracking his rear rim, which necessitated putting in a tube, we had a great day out, and finished strong.

I’m enormously grateful for reaching this physical state; it’s almost as if the first third of 2016 never happened. There truly is magic in following a process (or, my preferred abbreviated version, “there is magic in process”).

Next weekend we’re riding Tankwa Trek. All three days are roughly 90km. With the exception of the final day’s 1200m of climbing, we ascend about 2000m per stage. Let’s see if I can ‘finish strong’ with that as a physical test.

Six weeks to go.

Meurant Botha in riding mode (Pic: IOL)

Meurant Botha in riding mode (Pic: IOL)

Meurant in trail creating mode (pic: Michelle du Preez)

Meurant in trail creating mode (pic: Michelle du Preez)

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