It’s finally here! After years of planning and anticipation, our TrainerRoad teams are finally in South Africa for Cape Epic, an aptly-named 8-day mountain bike stage race over 619 km (385 miles). Stay tuned here for daily updates!

Check out our latest Cape Epic updates on Youtube, on Spotify, or on your favorite Podcast App.


Final Race Recap: Stage 7

After a long and challenging week, the last stage of Cape Epic looked almost tame in comparison to what racers have already faced. But it was a perfect outro to the race, with a big climb to sort things out and a series of treacherous rocky descents to the final finish line.

Elevation

1850 m / 6070 ft 

Distance

66 km / 41 mi 

Cape Epic Stage 7
Cape Epic Stage 7

Stage Highlights

After several days of heavy rain, Stage 7 greeted racers with bright sun and dry, hot conditions. The combination of lingering moisture and warm temperatures left the trails in great shape—grippy and tacky, but also firm and fast. That’s not to say it was all smooth, as the day’s last climb and descent were extremely rocky and threatened racers with punctures right up to the very end.

The course itself started with the approximately 45-minute Beulah climb, before descending into a rolling route of vineyard farm roads. A final climb and the rough, aptly-named Bone Rattler descent were the last real challenges, but the 8k drag to the finish seemed to go on forever after a week of exhausting racing.

Jonthan tackles one of the many beautiful, challenging trails in this year’s race. Photo courtesy Sportograf/ Cape Epic

Finishing times and Final GC Positions

Rob and Rossouw – Today’s Finishing Time 3:07:05 – Total time 28:46:22 – Final GC position: 15th of 112  

Jonathan and Brandon Today’s Finishing Time 3:26:36 – Total time 32:05:27 – Final GC position: 30th of 112

SofiaToday’s Finishing Time 3:49:34 – Total time 33:24:06 (Ineligible for GC leaderboard as a solo rider)

Final Thoughts and Takeaways

After such a long race there’s plenty to look back on and imagine doing differently. But given the incredible challenge the race presented (and considering it was every one of our athlete’s first Cape Epic) things really went amazingly well for all 3 teams. Except, of course, Nate’s unfortunate crash and concussion on Stage 1.

Training and Fitness

In terms of training, the consensus is that sustained power wins Cape Epic. Though there are countless punchy climbs throughout the race, the stages generally are long and fairly steady. Developing the fitness to attack hard over short climbs might seem useful, but it’s really the ability to steadily ride at just below FTP for hours on end that makes the biggest difference here. If you’re planning to race Cape Epic or other similarly long stage races, bear in mind that endurance is likely to be the single biggest factor.

Core Strength

A long offroad race such as Cape Epic also places unusual demands outside of just cycling fitness. If you lack core strength or don’t have a good bike fit, you’ll feel the consequences here. Sofia in particular felt she benefited mightily from months of dedicated stretching and core strength work, while a weak core left Rob with lower back pain that held him back at several points in the race. These issues might occasionally pop up in shorter races or training rides, but during a week-long stage race, they become unavoidable (and potentially very impactful). 

Nutrition

Nutrition is also an important concern, and by and large our most successful racers had planned their nutrition strategies well in advance. Rossouw took a less-structured approach and nearly paid the price, narrowly dodging a late-stage bonk several times. But Brandon and Jonathan were highly systematic with their nutrition and never experienced any issues with fuelling or stomach upset. There are so many things that can go wrong in a long race like Cape Epic; by addressing easily-controllable challenges like nutrition in advance, you leave yourself more prepared to respond to unexpected issues when they inevitably arise.

Logistics

One last and easily overlooked issue with a race like Cape Epic is logistics. From the moment a stage ends, you need to focus on recovery, and having to wash your bike, address mechanical issues, sort out travel, and handle other practical concerns takes a lot of energy—especially late in the race. Our racers purchased a service package from Cape Epic that got them massages, transport, and some mechanical support, and in the end, it was invaluable. This is obviously not an option at every multi-day race, but it’s absolutely worth considering logistics any time you enter a long event. No athlete succeeds on their own!

Final Thanks and Acknowledgements

On behalf of the entire TrainerRoad team, we’d like to thank the Cape Epic organizers and event staff for holding a truly world-class event. Special thanks to our race assistant Phillip who took care of all the day-to-day issues for our athletes so they didn’t have to. Thank you to Michal Cerveny for the incredible photos, and most of all thanks to our blog readers, podcast listeners, and Instagram followers for the many, many words of encouragement we received along the way. 

Jonathan and Sofia will be hosting a Cape Epic Instagram live chat later this week—stay tuned for an announcement of time and date!


Results: Stage 6

The penultimate stage of Cape Epic looked set to be a long, fast, rolling day on a flowing course. Alas, extremely heavy rains overnight had other plans. 

Elevation

1850 m / 6069 ft (reduced from 2300m by stage shortening)

Distance

81 km / 50 mi (shortened from originally-scheduled 95 km)

Cape Epic Stage 6
Cape Epic Stage 6. Due to rain, the course was shortened from the original route shown here.

Stage Highlights

Torrential rains forced organizers to delay the start of Stage 6 and shorten the stage by 14 km. This allowed racers to avoid the worst of the weather, but the rolling parcours were still an absolute mudfest, particularly the first kilometer. Here the mud was deep enough that pedals were submerging; the rest of the course was only slightly less affected. 

Today’s stage included lots of early fire roads before moving into tighter trails, where frequent ruts, drainage ditches, and waterbars limited momentum even in areas when mud wasn’t a factor. Any racer who expected today to be restful after yesterday in the mountains would have been sorely disappointed.

Somehow, Sofia managed to have fun in the Stage 6 mud. Photo by @michalcervenyphoto

Team Updates

Rob and Rossouw – Finishing Time 3:54:56 

After a long and challenging week, Rob and Rossouw played it safe and steady today, rolling across the line in 15th overall. Both are decidedly feeling the fatigue of the last week, with Rob also suffering from a minor sinus issue that is luckily not having a major impact on his riding. These two will be relieved to finish tomorrow’s final day.

The consistent approach to racing has paid off with multiple top-20 finishes and a currently-18th place standing in GC. With significant time gaps to both 17th and 19th places, a steady ride tomorrow looks set to maintain this impressive position unless something surprising happens.

Jonathan and Brandon – Finishing Time 4:30:27

Jonathan and Brandon were looking forward to today as the beginning of the end of the race, but rain so loud it made it hard to sleep last night was an obvious clue that today would be a challenge of its own. And a challenge it was—if not Cape Epic’s most physically demanding stage, this was by far the most mentally and emotionally taxing for Jonathan and Brandon. The two quickly lost touch with the fast front group and were left to motivate themselves through a truly brutal day.

Luckily, neither of them crashed today, but it wasn’t without incident. Brandon slashed a tire late in the stage and despite the puncture’s ominous appearance, a plug successfully sealed it, helping them maintain their 33rd place on GC. With only one stage remaining, these two are now laser focused on the light at the end of the tunnel.

Sofia – Finishing Time 4:13:13

Sofia continued the absolute clinic she’s put on for the last few stages with another awe-inspiring ride today. For a second time in the race she set the fastest overall women’s time, and while she’s able to draft the masters men as a solo rider (unlike the pro women’s teams) she is also forced to start with a slower overall group, and is more frequently stuck waiting to pass other racers than the pro women’s field. In the end you can’t directly compare her performance as a solo racer to the women’s teams, but it’s safe to say her fitness and skills are nothing short of world-class.

Unlike many competitors, Sofia also found today quite fun, and is feeling faster and stronger every day. She has one more chance to shine tomorrow in the race’s final stage and there’s no doubt she’ll once again turn heads.

Tomorrow’s Stage

At long last, the final day of Cape Epic arrives with a short 66km stage featuring 1850m of vertical gain. There aren’t any big climbs, but there are plenty of rollers throughout the stage, and a notably-rocky last descent called the “Bone Rattler.” It won’t be an easy way to end Cape Epic, but at least some beautiful sunshine and comfortable temperatures will greet our riders as they approach the finish line.


Results: Stage 5

Stage 5 featured the most climbing of any day in this year’s Cape Epic. Combined with cold weather and occasional rain, it pushed athletes to the absolute limit.

Elevation

2900 m / 9514 ft

Distance

85 km / 53 mi

Cape Epic Stage 5
Cape Epic Stage 5

Stage Highlights

It’s always been clear that Stage 5 would be tough. With 3 major sustained climbs and constant smaller ups and downs in-between, the terrain was daunting enough on its own, but cold weather and periodic rain made things truly brutal. On the plus side, the descents were flowy and relatively rock-free, and the stage included lots of scenic vineyard roads.  

Brandon and Jonathan, cold and absolutely exhausted after Stage 5. Photo by @michalcervenyphoto

Team Updates

Rob and Rossouw – Finishing Time 4:29:57 

Rob and Rossouw have seemed steadily faster and stronger with each passing day, but if any day would disrupt their ascent it was Stage 5. But in a testament to their skill and fitness the two continued their impressive streak with a 16th place finish and a 3-place jump up the GC standings.

Rossouw admits being a bit scared of Stage 5, but Rob’s superb climbing ability helped guide the team steadily up the steep ascents and shepherd Rossouw through the intimidating terrain. For his part, Rob actually enjoyed the day immensely, and wishes every day of the race could feature this many climbs. Rossouw, on the other hand, is more relieved than anything else and excited for tomorrow’s undulating punchy parcours. The two currently sit in 18th in the Men’s division with two stages to go.

Jonathan and Brandon – Finishing Time 5:08:48

Jonathan and Brandon continued their tag-team pattern of alternating tough days; after Brandon’s mechanicals and crash yesterday, today was Jonathan’s turn to suffer. Flat legs and cold conditions left him on the back foot, with a persistent feeling of weakness and exhaustion dogging him throughout the day. Brandon was more in his element, with the long climbs and the flowing descents both suiting his skillset. The two returned to their prologue strategy of allowing Brandon room to slip away on the uphills with Jonathan catching back up on the descent. This strategy allowed each rider to maintain their own pace without overdoing it on personally-challenging terrain.

It’s worth nothing that while they’re both experienced racers, neither Brandon or Jonathan are professional athletes, and neither has ever ridden this much in a week or competed in such a long race. As such the two are in uncharted waters, and it’s exciting to see them learn their physical limits as they go. They finished today in 33rd place in the men’s division, unchanged from yesterday.

Sofia – Finishing Time 5:05:55

For the second day in a row, Sofia was able to start in a faster corral, and as a result was able to race more competitively. Her performance lived up to expectations, despite feeling overgeared and wishing she’d used a smaller chainring for the steep climbs. Late in the stage she was able to work cooperatively with a small group of similarly-paced teams, which helped her maintain a steady effort up the final climb and towards the finish.

The biggest challenge today for Sofia was not the course so much as the weather. She did not bring a jacket and as a result was shivering and extremely cold on the descents. With more rain forecast tomorrow she now knows to dress more warmly. The end of Cape Epic is in sight!

A quick update on Nate:

Many folks have reached out asking how Nate is doing after his Stage 1 concussion. We’re happy to report he’s recovering well! He’s back home in Reno and feeling quite a bit better, taking it easy and rooting on our teams from afar.

Tomorrow’s Stage

On the heels of Stage 5’s big climbs, Stage 6 doesn’t include any long ascents but over the course of 95 km/ 59 mi it accrues 2,300 meters of vertical gain. It’s likely to be quite fast, and while racers will undoubtedly desire a rest this stage will probably not offer much of a chance for recovery. Only two stages remain in this year’s Cape Epic. but with more rain and cold weather in the forecast racers won’t get an easy ride to the finish.


Results: Stage 4

Stage 4 was shorter, less technical, and less climb-heavy than the stages that preceded it. Coupled with slightly cooler temperatures it offered a bit of a reprieve for racers, but it certainly wasn’t without its challenges.

Elevation

1650 m / 5413 ft

Distance

73 km / 45 mi

Cape Epic Stage 4
Cape Epic Stage 4

Stage Highlights

As expected, the rolling terrain of Stage 4 was a welcome reprieve from the brutal climbs of stage 3. This point-to-point transfer stage also featured fewer technical trails and more road than previous days, which helped to keep things fast throughout. That’s not to say it was easy, as it did include plenty of the dusty, rocky surfaces racers have encountered this week. The large number of mechanicals that occurred today suggests this may have taken many athletes by surprise. 

PC: Sportograf/ Cape Epic

Team Updates

Rob and Rossouw – Finishing Time 2:59:47 

Our support agents continued their upward trend of the last few days and had their best day of Cape Epic yet for a 14th place finish. Though they came into the day with a fully-formed strategy, the group mostly stayed together on the fast fire road course so they opted to sit in and and conserve energy. When the eventual winners managed to slip away, Rob and Rossouw instead stuck with the second group, holding a sustainable pace and favoring consistency over a single huge effort.

Rob’s back started acting up near the end of the stage, preventing a faster finish. But even with a subdued finale the team managed to climb one spot on GC to 21st. With the looming challenge of tomorrow’s big mountain day ahead, their steady and consistent pace is paying off so far. We’re optimistic their good legs and good luck will bring even bigger things for the race’s final few days!

Jonathan and Brandon – Finishing Time 3:29:48

Yesterday was a tough day for Jonathan, but his legs were luckily back in good form today. Unfortunately, it was Brandon’s turn to suffer, first with a mechanical that bent a tooth on his chainring mid-stage. After multiple dropped chains and about 10 minutes spent banging his chainring tooth back into alignment with a large rock, the team set back off to recoup lost time.

But that wasn’t the end of Brandon’s misfortune. Likely owing to frustration and a resultant carelessness, he suffered his second crash of the race on a descent, striking his quad hard but luckily not hard enough for any serious injury. Still, the frustrating day wasn’t a major setback, as the team only lost one position on GC and moved to 33rd in the men’s division. 

Sofia – Finishing Time 3:18:44

At long last, Sofia was able to start in a faster corral today, allowing her to show her true capabilities among other fast racers. And what an impressive ride it was, with a solo ride that was faster than the day’s official women’s winning teams. Unlike the women’s team competitors, Sofia was permitted to draft off the numerous elite and masters men she passed on the course, so it isn’t quite a fair comparison. But it’s refreshing to finally see this world-class athlete and olympian able to race to her potential after the early setback of losing her teammate on Stage 1.

As a solo rider, Sofia’s results aren’t eligible for the overall standings, but she’s still racing all-out and not holding anything back. We can’t wait to watch her tackle tomorrow’s mountains with good legs, an unflinchingly-positive attitude, and a competitive starting position. 

Tomorrow’s Stage

While not officially the queen stage, Stage 5 is the hardest of the race by virtually any metric. With 5 major climbs and each one harder than the last, it’s a truly monstrous day. With heavy rains in the forecast, it’s highly likely to be a decisive stage for the overall standings. If you only pay attention to one stage of the race, Stage 5 is the one to watch. Good luck to all our athletes!


Results: Stage 3

Stage 3 of Cape Epic was brutally hot, extremely dry, and included the hardest climb of the entire race. But it was also less technical than the days that preceded it, and in some ways perhaps a little less difficult than expected.

Elevation

2100 m / 6890 ft

Distance

88 km / 55 mi

Cape Epic Stage 3
Cape Epic Stage 3 Elevation Profile

Stage Highlights

While Stage 2 was billed as the race’s queen stage, Stage 3 looked a little harder on paper. It included several major climbs, including the Fanties Pass, which was advertised as the most difficult ascent of this year’s race. But the challenging parcours was partially balanced by less-technical route than yesterday, albeit with temperatures hovering around 100°F / 38°C offering obstacles of their own.

Jonathan and Brandon tackle Stage 3. Photo by @michalcervenyphoto

Team Updates

Rob and Rossouw – Finishing Time 4:16:46 

Rossouw continued his recovery from stomach troubles today and for the first time in nearly a week felt capable of performing up to his normal level. Him and Rob admittedly mis-paced parts of today’s stage, occasionally overdoing it and potentially working too hard to stay with the lead group. But a misunderstanding about the length of the final climb had a positive upside, as they arrived at the top expecting 15 more minutes of ascending and instead found themselves with energy to spare for the descent.

Tomorrow’s Stage suits Rossouw in particular, and with his improving condition he anticipates doing much of the work over the undulating terrain. The more climb-savvy Rob will welcome the break after a few days in the mountains, and can hopefully let his legs recover before the massive climbs of stage 5. The team moved up a few places to 22nd on GC after today.

Jonathan and Brandon – Finishing Time 4:50:04

After several impressively strong days, Jonathan and Brandon’s inexperience with very long and hard stage races made itself known today.They reached what Jonathan described as a “low point” of performance and energy. Still, neither was discouraged—they passed many riders who’d resorted to walking and many other competitors abandoned, so clearly the fatigue is widely-felt. And the knowledge that even at a low, they’re still moving steadily forward kept the two motivated and excited.

Technically, Brandon’s descending has now improved to the point where he’s almost evenly matched with Jonathan on the downhills. If Jonathan can up his climbing game just slightly, the two will be almost perfectly-matched for the coming days. Tomorrow is shorter and faster, and will offer our racers some welcome recovery. But even with today’s challenges they’re optimistic about what lies ahead. They moved up a few GC slots to 32nd in their division (out of 122 teams). 

Sofia – Finishing Time 5:06:30

Sofia powered through another day of solo racing, starting once again at the back and spending most of the stage passing other riders. And while the vast majority of her interactions with other racers have been positive, she’s noticed an interesting pattern. Occasionally, she’ll pass a team in which one rider is clearly stronger than their partner, and that rider will abandon their teammate to ride with her. In some cases these riders even complain to her about their teammate’s lagging performance.

Having lost a teammate of her own early in the race, Sofia’s advice to any racer entering a team event like Cape Epic is to stay positive and remember that both you and your teammate will face ups and downs. Having your teammate ride away when you’re at your lowest can be a belittling and discouraging experience, and teams work best when they’re ready to support each other, even when things get tough. 

On a positive note, Sofia learned today that she’s actually eligible to start earlier in a more favorable corral, meaning she’ll likely be present for faster and more exciting racing tomorrow. We’re excited to see how she fares!

Tomorrow’s Stage

Stage 4 is both shorter and less climb-intense than the previous few days, with undulating small rollers replacing the major mountain climbs we’ve recently faced. Dry and more comfortable conditions are forecast for what’s likely to be a fast (but hopefully somewhat restful) day, but the recovery won’t last long—Friday’s Stage 5 is loaded with climbs and forecast to be wet. Stay tuned.


Results: Stage 2

The race got well and truly underway today, as racers tackled what is officially billed as the queen stage of Cape Epic. Stage 2 lived up to the hype, offering several serious climbs, unrelentingly rocky terrain, and a dangerously steep descent to the finish.

Elevation

2050 m / 6726 ft

Distance

94 km / 58 miles 

Stage Highlights

Beginning in the rugged Ceres area for the second day in a row, Stage two is one of the hardest of this years’ Cape Epic. It started fast and hot, with nearly 30 km of rolling terrain before encountering the first of several major climbs. Riders then traversed unrelentingly rocky terrain under a nearly 90°F (32°C) sun, eventually reaching a massive final climb and steep, perilous descent to the finish. If there was any doubt about the technical demands of Cape Epic, this stage answered them with terrain even our experienced racers found challenging.

Team Updates

Rob and Rossouw – Finishing Time 4:32:36 

After suffering through yesterday’s stage with a stomach ailment that limited his ability to eat, Rossouw felt significantly better today and was able to work more actively with Rob to maintain a hard pace. The two worked well as a team, keeping communication open and finding a fast but safe rhythm that kept them near the front. 

The biggest challenge today for our Support Agents was technical, with unrelentingly rocky conditions pushing Rob in particular to the limits. Late in the stage he experienced some significant back pain and was briefly dropped by his partner, but they kept the gap under two minutes to avoid a time penalty. They avoided crashes and mechanical issues, regrouped, and finished in impressive time. And while Rossouw still doesn’t feel quite fully recovered from his illness, today was a step in the right direction and bodes well for the coming days. Rob and Rossouw currently sit 24th in their division, two positions better than after yesterday’s stage.

Jonathan and Brandon – Finishing Time 4:54:51

Learning from yesterday’s mistakes, Jonathan and Brandon started near the front of the corral today, which was a significant improvement in position. It didn’t remedy the extremely fast start, however, and they fought hard to stay with the lead group for the first 30k. This undoubtedly left them a bit more tired than hoped once they arrived at the real climbs, but the time gains from staying with the pack early on made it worthwhile.

Both racers deftly navigated the challenging terrain, but a close call late in the stage was a reminder of how quickly luck can turn as Brandon crashed near the bottom of the final descent. Luckily, only bumps and bruises seemed to result, and the crash was more of an annoyance than a setback. But it remains to be seen whether the team’s confidence was shaken or whether they’ll be able to maintain their still-impressive pace into tomorrow’s Stage 3. They’re currently 34 in their division, one position down from yesterday.

Sofia – Finishing Time 5:20:26

Sofia’s first full day as a solo racer unfortunately began at the back of the pack, as the race rules relegate individual riders to the last starting positions. This meant her morning was largely spent passing (or in many cases waiting to pass) other athletes, no doubt slowing her overall pace. Still, she managed to have fun and enjoy the experience, meeting and chatting with lots of other racers along the way.

Race rules also mean individual riders are ineligible for finishing positions, so Sofia is no longer counted in the general classifications. She continues on for the personal satisfaction of completing Cape Epic, and for the simple challenge of pushing her own limits in one of the world’s hardest mountain bike races. 

Tomorrow’s Stage

Stage 3 is about 10 km shorter than today’s stage 2, but includes about 50m more elevation gain in that distance, spread across 3 major climbs. The weather is also forecast to be hotter, with dry conditions and temperatures near 100°F / 37.7°C potentially making hydration a major concern. The stage covers similar rocky terrain as stage 2, so punctures, mechanicals, and crashes will be a continued threat.


Results: Stage 1

With the short Prologue successfully behind them, our competitors faced the first major challenge of Cape Epic today with this 98 km stage featuring several major climbs. All 3 of our teams came out of the prologue well-positioned and feeling good. How did they fare today?

Elevation

1800 m / 5906ft

Distance

98 km / 61 miles 

Stage Highlights

Moving inland to the gorgeous Ceres region, Stage 1 was the longest and technically flattest of this year’s Cape Epic. That’s not to say it was easy—several major climbs were bookended by rolling, winding vineyard trails at the stage’s start and finish. Additionally, the race started extremely fast, potentially pushing athletes beyond their comfort zones even before they reached the day’s biggest challenges. This region’s trails are known for their rugged, rocky character, and mechanicals unsurprisingly took a toll on many racers. Luckily, beautiful weather offered a welcome change of pace after the last few days’ rain.

Jonathan and Brandon roll through the Stage 1 finish line. Photo by @michalcervenyphoto

Team Updates

Rob and Rossouw – Finishing Time 4:33:50

Our support agents had a challenging day, as Rossouw battled stomach issues that left him unable to fully fuel his efforts. It’s never optimal to race on an empty stomach, but Cape Epic is a war of attrition. With a long week ahead the team had no choice but to carry on as best as they could, and in the end they managed to limit their losses by relying on the power of teamwork and a serious effort by Rob. 

A post-stage visit to the doctor let Rossouw obtain a stomach medicine which already seems to be helping. He’ll need to improve for tomorrow, a seriously difficult stage and one in which both racers will need to be on top of their game. They currently sit 26th in their division, still impressively ahead of the EF Education-Nippo and Bora Hansgrohe pro teams.

Jonathan and Brandon – Finishing Time 4:48:31

After their impressive prologue, Jonathan and Brandon managed to live up to their own high bar. Despite a start they described as “madness… just so fast,” the two stayed near the front and held a solid pace both uphill and downhill. Brandon’s surprisingly deft descending continued today, and it’s safe to say he’s getting more technically confident and proficient as the race goes on. 

The biggest challenge for this team in the coming days might be the need to hold themselves back. Both Brandon and Jonathan are experienced racers, but neither of them have ever done such a long event. As such, the natural racer’s instinct to attack and protect every second could serve counterproductive in the face of the demands of a brutal, week-long event. They’re currently in 33rd in their division with the queen stage looming.

Nate & Sofia – Finishing Time 5:27:33

Nate and Sofia started today’s stage optimistically after a truly head-turning prologue performance. And initially, things continued according to plan—Nate held a blistering pace through the flats and across the traverses, and Sofia was able to dominate the climbs. They managed to pass several of their competitors along the way, leaving them in virtual 3rd place late in the stage. Then, disaster struck.

Midway through a sweeping left turn, Nate’s front wheel lost traction and he crashed hard. He remounted his bike and attempted to carry on, but began to suspect he may have sustained a concussion. A quick examination from a paramedic on course confirmed the bad news; for safety’s sake Nate’s race was forced to come to an early end. 

Sofia pushed on and finished the stage in impressive time. We wish Nate a swift recovery, and we have no doubt our resident olympian and multi-time national champion can carry on and finish Cape Epic on her own. No one thought Cape Epic would be easy, but Sofia will truly need to fight for every mile as she battles ahead. Good luck!

Tomorrow’s Stage

Sunny and warmer conditions are expected for Stage 2, officially billed as the Queen Stage of Cape Epic. And while racers will want to save their legs for the climbs ahead, the parcours will likely mean another fast, challenging start. After a slowly rolling in-run to the mountains, the first major climb occurs approximately 30 km into the stage, and from then on out the course rolls up and down. It reaches its highest point at 75km and steeply descends to the finish at Saronsberg. A good day here could go a long way towards a podium finish; a bad day tomorrow could easily cost a team 30 minutes or more.


Stage Results: The Prologue

Beginning and ending at the University of Cape Town, this opening time trial was far too short and early in the race to cement an overall victory, but a major crash here could have ended the chances of success for the rest of the week.

Cape Epic Prologue
Cape Epic Prologue

Elevation

600 m / 1969 ft

Distance

20 km / 12 miles 

Stage Highlights

It was a rainy, cold, and windy start for the Cape Epic, with the sun finally making a welcome appearance mid-day. The short prologue didn’t feature any major climbs, but it included plenty of punchy and steep ascents to keep riders on their game. In fact, the amount of vertical gain over this short distance makes it one of the most vertically demanding stages of the entire race. After a rolling traverse mid-stage, the notorious Plum Pudding descent a few km from the end offered the biggest technical challenge, especially considering muddy and slippery conditions after a few days of rain. 

Nate and Sofia in the Prologue starting gate. Photo by @michalcervenyphoto

Team Updates

Rob and Rossouw – Finishing Time 51:21.8

Rossouw and Rob decided to take a conservative approach to today’s race, electing to keep something in the legs for the brutal upcoming stages, while hoping to set a solid foundation for future success. In the end, the strategy paid off, resulting in a fun, exciting, and successful day that hopefully bodes well for the future. 

While these two know each other well, they have not raced together since March and weren’t sure how their fitness would match. They found themselves perfectly matched and were able to stay consistent throughout the day. Rossow unfortunately slipped on a wet bridge about 2 km from the finish, but he was uninjured and the tumble didn’t seem to set the two back. They are sitting in 25th in the men’s open division, just 7 seconds behind EF Education-Nippo’s team of Lachlan Morton and Kenneth Karaya.

Jonathan and Brandon – Finishing Time 56:18.7

Jonathan and Brandon took an unconventional “divide and conquer” approach to today’s stage. With Jonathan a better descender and Brandon a more talented climber, they allowed themselves to ride their own rhythm on hills, with Jonthan gaining distance on the downhills and Brandon catching up on the uphills. 

This strategy worked–despite a clear risk if something went wrong, everything went according to plan, and the two were able to hold a high pace without ever pushing themselves beyond their abilities. Brandon descended far more skillfully than he had during the pre ride, clearly influenced by the excitement and intensity of what he considers his first important race in several years. They are now 37th in their division, well within their goal of top 50.

Nate & Sofia – Finishing Time 1:02:07.5

With a suddenly non-functional power meter, Nate had no chance but to ride by feel, and the team ended up following Sofia’s blisteringly-fast pace up the climbs. Nate pulled across the flatter terrain, and within the first few minutes they’d already succeeded in their first goal of catching teams that had started before them.

Despite a few close calls that saw Nate strike the barriers and unclip, no one crashed and even through the Plum Pudding descent they held a solid pace. Sofia’s ever-present optimism kept things positive, and she loudly announced upcoming hazards to keep Nate aware and ready. The strategy clearly worked. The team expected a top 20th finish but find themselves in 4th in the mixed division, with 2nd and 3rd place within reach!

Tomorrow’s Stage

Warm, sunny conditions await our racers for the 98 km Stage 1, which features several significant climbs. If anyone went too hard today they’ll quickly find out in stage 1, especially during the long, rolling run-in to the finish that’s a lot harder than it looks. We expect a deceptively challenging day to set the stage for the week ahead. 

Stay tuned tomorrow for more updates!


The Teams

Cape Epic is a team event, so good strategy and communication are nearly as important as fitness and technical prowess. We have 3 teams entering the race, each with varying levels of experience and a unique set of skills. Which team do you think will finish first? Meet our racers in the video below, or read on to learn more.

Team 1- Rob Hobson and Rossouw Bekker are TrainerRoad support agents, South African natives, and experienced elite-level mountain bike racers. While neither have ridden Cape Epic before, they know the local terrain quite well and both have an FTP around 5.5 – 5.6 w/kg—two factors likely to help them set the fastest time of our three teams, barring unforeseen events.

Team 2 – TrainerRoad COO Brandon Nied and Ask a Cycling Coach Podcast host Jonathan Lee bring similar power profiles, sharing an FTP around 5.1 w/kg. Brandon is a better climber, but Jonathan is a better descender, so their skills may balance each other out in the end. While they’ve trained together many times, both Brandon and Jonathan have busy jobs and young families and they haven’t ridden trails together much lately. They’re a wildcard, but we certainly wouldn’t count them out.

Team 3 – TrainerRoad CEO Nate Pearson and Professional Cyclist/ Olympian/ 5x Argentine national champion Sofia Gomez Villafane are undoubtedly the most unpredictable combination of the three. Sofia brings absolutely world-class skills, fitness, and experience. Nate is a famously tough competitor and should never be counted out. This team very well might surprise us!


The Stages

Cape Epic Course Preview on the Ask a Cycling Coach Podcast

Prologue – Sunday, October 17, 2021 – 20 km

This short opening race is only 20km, but includes several steep climbs and few notoriously technical sections. The steep Plum Pudding downhill isn’t too difficult, but due to the stage’s short length and the excitement of the race’s first day our racers may be at risk of overdoing it. No one will win Cape Epic during the prologue, but you could certainly ruin your race here with a bad crash. Expect our teams to finish in 45–60 minutes unless something goes wrong.

Stage 1 – Monday, October 18, 2021 – 98 km

After a 1.5h drive, this first full-length stage takes place in a remote, beautiful area, and features less climbing in comparison to the stages that follow it. But competitors can’t get too complacent with the tough Dead Man Walking climb falling right in the middle. After the climb the stage is relatively flat, but these trails are sandy and twisty and will make racers work for every kilometer. Our teams will probably take between 4.5 and 5 hours to finish.

Stage 2 – Tuesday, October 19, 2021- 94 km

This unique stage is designated as the queen stage and includes a serious ascent up Old Gydo Pass. After facing rolling terrain into the Witzenberg Valley, racers head up another long climb before facing a huge descent to the finish. Tired legs may make these climbs quite interesting, and while the final descent isn’t particularly technical it’d be a dangerous place to let your guard down. Our teams are likely to spend 4.5–5.5 hours racing here.

Stage 3 – Wednesday, October 20, 2021 – 88 km

Though this stage is shorter than the two that precede it, it also features more climbing, including a winding singletrack ascent that feels like it will never end. A fun descent into a valley sets our racers up for another difficult climb, with an unusual technical trail at the top through an isolated patch of forest. Teams with good legs might finish in 4 hours, tired teams may take 5.5 hours or longer.

Stage 4 – Thursday, October 21, 2021 – 73 km

This relatively short transfer stage offers something of a mid-race respite. That said, it’s likely to be a very fast day over rolling parcours, with teams at the front keeping the pace high from start to finish. There are no major climbs, but sandy and rocky terrain will undoubtedly make things interesting. Fast teams should complete it in about 3 hours, but it could take 4 hours or more if you can’t hold the pace at the front.

Stage 5 – Friday, October 22, 2021 – 85 km

Though not officially considered the queen stage, this monster stage is likely to be the hardest of the race and features the most vertical ascent per kilometer of any day. It includes at least 5 major climbs, cruelly arranged with each more difficult than the last—luckily, the descents between are relatively easy and non-technical. This stage is likely to be a turning point for many teams, with fatigue possibly setting some racers far behind, while good legs may help others make up time or widen the gaps to their competitors. Fast teams might finish in 4 hours, slower teams in 5.5 hours or even longer.

Stage 6 – Saturday, October 23, 2021 – 95 km

On the heels of a truly brutal day, this stage makes up for a lack of serious climbs with a long, roller-filled parcours. Punchy riders will be well-served, though it may be a hard day to slip away as the pace will likely be quite high if time gaps are tight. Limited lines of sight on a few small descents could shake things up. 

Stage 7 – Sunday, October 24, 2021 – 66km

Finally, the race comes to a close with a stage that’s a lot harder than it looks. A series of small but punchy climbs lead to an aptly-named final descent called “Bone Rattler,” a high-speed fire road littered with big rocks just waiting to puncture tires. By this point racers will be exhausted and ready to be finished, but letting your guard down here could be catastrophic. Fast finishers will be done in 3 hours, but 4.5 hours or more will be realistic for many.


Follow Along With All The Cape Epic Action!

Each day during Cape Epic we’ll be publishing a short podcast recapping the day’s events, as well as updating this blog post with all the details. Check in each day to see how our teams fare as they tackle this brutal, relentless event! You can also head over to the TrainerRoad Forum, where we’ll be discussing all the action as it happens. Finally, follow along on Instagram for frequent updates.



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Sean Hurley

Sean Hurley is a bike racer, baker of sourdough bread, and former art professor. He is a connoisseur of cycling socks and a certified USAC level 3 coach. Rumor has it he also runs a famous cycling instagram account, but don't tell anyone about that.