Riding a long way on a bike is tough if you want to do it fast. You have to have endurance and strength - physically and mentally. In a road bike race, there is lots of drafting to save energy and "coast" in the pack. Climbing becomes a different story of course - drafting is of limited value to save a lot of energy. Riding a mountain bike on rough terrain for hours is extra exhausting because the terrain puts harsh requirements on your body, and the drafting benefit is reduced. Climbing hills on a mountain bike for hours at a time means it is all up to you with no real help from others. You must stay with the stronger climbers just to get the draft on the downhills and flats if possible.
Cape Epic 2015 is about 50,000 feet of climbing in 700+ kilometers of length!!!
Watch the promo video:
I can't say that I have conquered any epic climbs in my cycling days yet, but I know that 50,000 feet in 8 days will not be on my agenda anytime soon. I'm totally sane, and I am not in that good of shape (nor will I ever be). I will blame that on my genetics. Thanks mom and dad for making me the way I am and not allowing me to subject myself to anything that crazy.
For me, crazy starts to get real when my road rides get longer than 120 kilometers. They are long enough for challenge and exercise, but my ass still feels like it is connected to my body and my man parts remain in commission for normal activities. At about 140 kilometers or more, things start to really go numb or hurt. Especially if we are trying to ride a fast pace. What's funny is that a 40 km mountain bike ride is about the same as a 120 km road ride. The thought of almost climbing up Everest twice on a bike in 8 days over 700+ km is unthinkable.
That being said, I admire these athletes so much. Take the distance, the technicality, the climbing, the dust, and the risk of being eaten by lions - and you have a true challenge. These are the best of the best in my mind. Ride for 5 hours over a rough trail that ascends and descends a mountain or two and then go sleep in a tent on the ground. No fancy buses or hotel rooms. Just get in your sleeping bag and hope that the poisonous things are happier outside and that the carnivores were able to catch something earlier in the day. Relaxing.... Do that 7 more times! The prize for finishing should be knighthood, and if you win, maybe a small country just for you with servants and other fine things. Endurance athletes have different DNA than I do. I am in awe of their talents, but not jealous. Jealousy would imply that I want to be in their place.
I believe the closest I would ever get to Cape Epic is to take pictures to document the insanity. (Call me Jared & Ashley Gruber - you are the best! I'm sure you wish you had a third person to follow you guys around all the time.)
If you are not familiar with the race, the riders who lose their racing partners have to wear the Outcast Jersey if they wish to continue. Maybe they should let them wear a normal jersey, but just strap a rotting piece of carrion on their back and send them out again. It would make for a highly motivated faster ride and maybe better TV ratings?
The other detail I noticed when watching the footage on the internet of the last few races is the crazy helicopter pilots. From the camera on the ground, it looked like the pilot was trying to give haircuts to some of the leading riders. I guess the laws for flying low over people on the ground might be a little more relaxed in Africa?
Do yourself a favor. Look up this race if you haven't heard of it and watch some of the coverage. It will make your life seem easier, and the race you have coming up will seem that much more manageable.