🚵 🚵‍♀️ 🚵 🚵‍♀️ The Official TrainerRoad 2021 Absa Cape Epic Superthread! 🚵 🚵‍♀️ 🚵 🚵‍♀️

At long last, after years of anticipation, planning, and cancellations, we’ve finally sent our TrainerRoad athletes to compete in the brutal, 8-day, 619 km Absa Cape Epic mountain bike stage race in South Africa.

TrainerRoad has three teams racing the event:

Team 1 Rob Hobson and Rossouw Bekker are TrainerRoad support agents, South African natives, and successful elite-level mountain bike racers. While neither have ridden Cape Epic before, we suspect they may have an edge in both fitness and experience.

Team 2 – TrainerRoad COO Brandon Nied and Ask a Cycling Coach Podcast host Jonathan Lee share similar power profiles, but Brandon is a better climber and Jonathan has better technical skills. They compliment each other nicely, but will that be enough?

Team 3 – TrainerRoad CEO Nate Pearson and Professional Cyclist/ Olympian/ 5x Argentine national champion Sofia Gomez Villafane are undoubtedly the most interesting team of the three. Sofia brings absolutely world-class skills, fitness, and experience. Nate is less experienced on technical terrain, but never count out his tenacity and ability to ride himself into fitness. Frankly, we have no idea what to expect from this unique pairing!

During the race we’ll be posting ongoing updates across our platforms: The Cape Epic Blog Post will be updated every day with the latest happenings, we’ll be publishing daily recap podcasts on YouTube (these will also be embedded in the blog post) and on your favorite podcast app. We’ll be posting regular updates on the TrainerRoad Instagram. Finally, this thread will be updated each day, too—you simply won’t be able to avoid the latest from South Africa!

Update: Stage 7 / Final Results

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.

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

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

All of our athletes were Cape Epic first-timers, and looking back they have a lot to reflect on. But there were a few major themes that emerged:

Training: Sustained aerobic power wins Cape Epic. 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.

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.

Nutrition: While none of our athletes experienced major nutrition failures during the race, Russuow came close a few times, finding himself very hungry late in a stage. He took a less-structured approach to nutrition than Jonathan or Brandon, who planned well in advance and never even came close to bonking. Having a good nutrition and hydration plan leaves you more prepared to address the other unexpected issues that arise during a race.

Logistics: Our racers purchased a service package from Cape Epic that got them massages, transport, and some mechanical support, and it proved 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!

As always, for more details, head over to our official recap Blog Post or check out our final race update on Youtube and your favorite podcast apps.

Update: Stage 6 Results

The penultimate stage of Cape Epic looked set to be a long, fast, rolling day on a flowing course. Alas, any rider who was planning for today to be restful was sorely disappointed. Torrential rains overnight left the course an absolute mudfest, forcing the delay of the stage by an hour and the shortening of the course by 14 km. In the end, this stage was anything but easy.

Rob and Rossouw took a conservative approach. Their 18th place in GC seemingly safe, the distance to 17th also seems insurmountable, so the strategy is now to maintain and stay problem-free to the finish line. They kept it consistent today for a 15th place finish on the day, and with increasingly-tired legs and a sinus issue starting to bother Rob, our support agents are ready to finish things up tomorrow.

Jonathan and Brandon were looking forward to today as the beginning of the end, 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. While neither crashed the race was not without incident, as Brandon slashed a tire late in the stage. A plug successfully sealed it and helped maintain their 33rd place on GC. There light at the end of the tunnel is in sight.

Sofia continued the absolute clinic she’s put on in 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. And somehow, she even managed to have fun today.

Tomorrow: 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.

As always, for more details, head over to our official recap Blog Post or check out our daily updates on Youtube and your favorite podcast apps.

Update: Stage 5 Results

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.

Rob and Rossouw continued their steady march up the leaderboard with another truly impressive ride. Rossouw admitted being a bit scared of Stage 5 in advance, but Rob’s superb climbing ability helped shepherd this punchier teammate 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. They finished 16th today and jumped 3 places in GC to 18th in the Men’s division with two stages to go.

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. It’s worth nothing that both Brandon and Jonathan have ridden more this week than they’ve ever done in a week before, and it’s exciting to see them learn their limits as they go! They finished today in 33rd place in the men’s division, unchanged from yesterday.

Sofia was able to start in a faster corral again today and as a result was able to race competitively. Her performance lived up to expectations; late in the stage she was able to work cooperatively with a small group of similarly-paced teams to maintain a steady effort up the final climb and towards the finish. Her biggest challenge today was not the course so much as the weather. Sofia didn’t bring a jacket and as a result was shivering and extremely cold on the descents. With more rain forecast tomorrow she’ll be sure to dress more warmly.

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: On the heels of today’s big climbs, tomorrow’s 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.

Update: Stage 4 Results

Stage for was shorter, less technical, and less climb-intense than previous days. It was also slightly cooler and as such offered racers a bit of a reprieve, but that’s certainly not to say it was easy.

Rob and Rossouw had their best day yet, electing to sit in and conserve energy with the face-paced front group until late in the stage. When the eventual winners did slip away, they chose a conservative approach and held their fire, holding a sustainable pace in anticipation of tomorrow’s big efforts. In the end it paid off with a 14th place finish, leaving them in 21st on GC with steadily improving legs.

Jonathan and Brandon had a second challenging day. After Jonathan’s struggles yesterday it was Brandon’s turn today, with a bent chainring mid-stage setting them back at least 10 minutes for some makeshift trailside “repairs”. Once they did get going again Brandon suffered his second setback of the day when he crashed hard and bruised his quad. Luckily he wasn’t seriously hurt and neither was their standing on GC, as they slipped just one spot to 33rd in the men’s division.

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. We expect a monumental effort from Sofia tomorrow in the mountains.

Tomorrow’s stage is not officially the queen stage, but it’s 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. Heavy rains are in the forecast, too, so it’s 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!

Update: Stage 3 Results

On the heels of yesterday’s queen stage, today actually looked a little more difficult on paper. But despite featuring what’s described as the most difficult climb of the race the stage was overall perhaps a bit easier and less technical than initially feared. That said, temperatures hovering around 100°F / 38°C made the day an entirely different type of grueling, and numerous abandons made it clear that almost every competitor is feeling the fatigue.

Rob and Rossow once again impressed, with Rossouw finally feeling mostly recovered from his early-race stomach ailments. The two admitted some poor pacing at times today, but in the end a misunderstanding about the length of the final climb proved advantageous as they crested the top about 15 minutes earlier than expected. Tomorrow’s stage suits Rossouw so he’ll be doing the bulk of the work while Rob attempts to recover. The team moved up a few places to 22nd on GC after today.

Jonathan and Brandon had a tough day, feeling what the two described as the low point so far in the race. Still, good communication and determination have them optimistic, and their slow but steady pace today was enough to hold off any serious time losses. In the end they moved up the GC leaderboard to 32nd out of 122 teams.

Finally, Sofia once again started near the back and weaved her way around countless racers and teams. Despite again spending much of the day waiting to pass, her solo pace was incredibly fast and close to that of Brandon and Jonathan. Sofia learned today hat she’ll be able to start with a faster group tomorrow, so we’re particularly excited to see how she fares in a more competitive cohort.

Tomorrow’s 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.

Update: Stage 2 Results

If there was any lingering doubt after yesterday, Cape Epic got well and truly underway today with the officially-designated queen stage. Featuring 2,050m (6,276 ft) of climbing over the course of 94 km, the stage started hot and fast before rising into rocky, treacherous terrain. An extremely steep and rocky descent served as a perilous finale to an altogether brutal day, effectively closing the book on the idea that Cape Epic isn’t technically challenging mountain bike racing.

Rob and Rossouw continued their impressive pace today, with Rossouw making significant progress in recovering from yesterday’s stomach ailment. The two worked more cooperatively over the course of the race, and though Rob experienced some back pains and was briefly dropped on the final descent they regrouped to finish together. They climbed two places on the leaderboard to 24th in their division.

Jonathan and Brandon learned from yesterday’s mistakes and started near the front of the corral. That helped them maintain a good position, but it didn’t help them avoid another extremely fast start that saw them fighting hard for position during the first 30k. Both racers deftly navigated the climbs and 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. They ended the day in 34th, one slot down from yesterday.

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.

Tomorrow’s Stage 3 is about 10 km shorter than today, 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.

For more details, head over to our official recap Blog Post or check out our daily updates on Youtube and your favorite podcast apps.

Update: Stage 1 Results

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.

Rob and Rossouw held their own despite Rossouw experiencing some stomach issues. They currently sit 26th in their division, still impressively ahead of the EF Education-Nippo and Bora Hansgrohe pro teams. Jonathan and Brandon also continued the impressive performance they started yesterday, with Brandon showing noticeable improvements in descending ability each day. 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.

Unfortunately, Nate and Sofia faced disaster today. A very strong start had them in virtual 3rd place in their division when 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 in impressive time, and now faces the daunting task of completing Cape Epic on her own. This olympian and multi-time national champion can do it if anyone can, but she’ll have to work for every KM.

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.

For more details, head over to our official recap Blog Post or check out our daily updates on Youtube and your favorite podcast apps.

Update: Prologue Results

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.

All 3 of our teams met or exceeded expectations, with Rob and Rossouw finishing in 25th (just 7s behind the EF Education-Nippo team of Lachlan Morton and Kenneth Karaya), Jonathan and Brandon finishing comfortably in 37th, and Nate and Sofia powering to a 4th place finish in the mixed division! Conditions look beautiful and mercifully dry for tomorrow’s huge 98 km stage 1. Anything can happen, but our main takeaway today is how incredibly well our teams fared. Nice job everyone! Rest up!

For more details, head over to our official recap Blog Post or check out our daily updates on Youtube and your favorite podcast apps.

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There doesn’t appear to be a separate topic for us all to discuss the social media posts and Strava etc so thought I’d start one.

Just woke to see that Sofia and Nate are already trailing by having to delay their onward flight until tomorrow due to some sort of “transit through Tel Aviv” issue.

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Maybe they missed their flight because of security checks? (If you’ve ever flown to or from Israel, you know how serious the security checks are.)

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Cape Epic has had some pretty cool looking promos for each stage (assumedly filmed start of the year) on IG.

I have just seen Annika Langvad is going to be commentating the live feed. That should be cool.

Looking forward to seeing the TR crew hit SA and get rolling!

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Nate specifically said on Insta, that you need a special visa if you want to fly through Tel Aviv, and apparently they did not have this. Ended up going through Frankfurt instead.

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A transit visa for Americans? I wouldn’t have thought about that either to be honest. But I also did not think I needed a passport when I went to Israel that was valid for more than six months. The airline informed me the day before. On a Sunday. I had to postpone my flight by a day.

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Having at least six months left on your passport is a pretty standard entry requirement for most countries, including the USA. It also used to be the case that if you worked and travelled around the Middle East you’d have two passports, one for Israel and one for everywhere else, just a reflection of the tensions in the region.

Anyway, at least they are now in the right time zone :smiley: Just in the wrong hemisphere!

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I’m originally from Europe, so most of my travels back then did not involve any passports. I reckon that’s why I never ran into that before.

It wasn’t a big deal, I could get an emergency passport within 30 minutes, but the departure time was the early morning so I couldn’t make the flight on the same day.

I know about that one. Has Israel relaxed its rules in that regard? (Seems like a dumb rule anyway if people end up getting a second passport anyway.)

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The big question is what sort of race Nate and Sofia are going to have. Fast and blowing up or riding into it and finishing strong.

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Likely. My daughter booked a trip to from USA to Asia via Canada, and a transit visa is required. I’ve traveled extensively to Europe and Asia for work, and always had direct flights and was unaware of the transit visa until she asked me how long it would take to switch planes in Canada. Over 20 years ago I visited our engineering facility in Israel, good times although I was surprised by the 30+ minute security ‘interview’ upon arrival. When leaving the GM dropped me off and spoke with security to avoid another one :joy:

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I think if Nate can avoid crashes and mechanicals, they are going to fine. He is very good at the nutrition/recovery game and should be able to put out pretty steady watts once rolling. He’s put a lot of miles into his legs over a number of seasons. While he might not feel he is at peak fitness, the accumulated work from the past seasons will help a lot.

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I think they are too smart. Nate seems painfully aware of his fitness level, and Sofia is super competitive but seems very in-tune.

It’ll be interesting I guess that first stage when they feel the right intensity. Possibly seven day pace is going to feel very weird to Sofia?

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I’m more excited to see how this plays out than the Olympics, TDF, World Champs, etc.

Sofia beat me by ~30 minutes in the two stages of Pikes Peak Apex I did this year (~50 miles of racing). I beat Nate by about the same margin, on the same stages, last year. Can’t wait to see how this pairing works. :grin:

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Do they have spot trackers that we can link to? I thought i saw that on the site but did not see how to look up a rider.

All, just an FYI- we will have a thread going up next week with race updates and links to the daily blog and podcast check-ins! In the meantime, continue all prognostication/gossip/small talk here :wink:

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This isn’t an Israel issue, but a rest of the Middle East. At least it used to be with the exception of Jordan, that if you had an Israel stamp in your passport, no other country (e.g., Saudi Arabia, etc.) in the Middle East would let you enter.

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Is it bad that I read that last item as “smack talk”

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smack talk / trash talk is also encouraged.

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Then we need a poll on who will be first to crash. I’m putting my $$$ on @Nate_Pearson

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