Absa Cape Epic Basics



Since 2004, DCS has helped hundreds of riders successfully finish the Absa Cape Epic, including some podium winners.  Please continue reading below for our main pointers gained through years of experience…



  • Working/training hard
  • Digging deep
  • Humbling
  • Commitment
  • Helps you realize you are stronger than you think
  • Makes you a better mountain biker
  • Life changing


When you think of how you need to train, you can roughly expect the following during the event:                        (Read more...)

  • 8 days of riding +- 100km per day
  • Climbing +- 2000m per day
  • Spending between 4 and 8 hours (sometimes 10) in the saddle – every day for 8 days in a row!
  • Climbs that can take from a few seconds to over an hour, with some climbs being very technical (which will have you questioning why on earth you’re doing this blasted race)
  • Some open district roads where group riding is possible
  • Lots of single-track and technical sections (including rocks, sand, river crossings, etc.) where you’ll absolutely relish the experience
  • Some walking/portage sections where carrying your bike may be necessary and will have you wondering how you could’ve made your steed any lighter
  • Possibly one (or two) time trial stages with fairly short distances, but usually quite technical
  • Varying weather conditions, from very hot to very cold, wet and windy, anything is possible
  • Truthfully: blood, sweat and tears.  Followed by ecstacy.

The exact route gets unveiled in September every year on the official website. (www.cape-epic.com)


Helping you ride your best is our key objective at DCS. We’re well versed in these endurance events with our coaches having completed their fair share of races (and even stepped up on the podium). You could say we know a thing or two but with the Absa Cape Epic, always expect the unexpected…their route designers love adding surprises! What’s critical is to be prepared for anything, and that comes down to correct training.                                                                                                                                                                                         (Read more...)

1. Specificity

  • You need very (VERY) good endurance for this event (8 days of them to be exact).  So plenty of hours in the saddle and plenty of back to back riding is also necessary to build this type of endurance.
  • You need to work on climbing – you WILL be climbing!!  You cannot ride too many hills!!  Did we say you’ll be climbing???
  • You will need pacing/group riding skills so do a bit of speed-work and/or flat-road riding.
  • Enter a few ultra-endurance events and/or shorter stage races or training camps in the 6 months preceding the event to get an idea of what to expect at the Absa Cape Epic for 8 consecutive days.
  • While training, try simulating the event itself, practice the correct eating and drinking habits as during the event, train to carry the same amount of fluids and/or camelback, get up early for rides, etc.
  • Work on improving your technical skills, pedalling technique and riding tactics on a regular basis – ride with someone slightly more technically experienced than you – and learn from them.
  • Once the specific towns of the race have been announced, include specific technical training pertinent to what you would expect of those specific areas (I.e. very rocky, very sandy, etc.)
  • At least 30-40 % of your training needs to be ‘in the mountains’, but if possible, also try to spend plenty of time on the road.  You’ll thank us later!

2. Periodisation

  • A training plan usually consists of 2 or 3 weeks of hard training interspersed by 1 easy (recovery) week.
  • Within a week’s training, one should also stagger harder and easier days, and have a minimum of 2 rest days.
  • This will all ensure that you get enough rest and recovery between your training – which in turn enables you to train harder the next time.

3. Progressive overload 

  • You need to stress your body to achieve a training effect, but if you over-stress or under-stress yourself, you will lower the improvement curve.
  • After every 3 or 4 week block, training needs to start at a higher volume and/or intensity than the previous, depending on where you are in your training plan.

4.  Recovery

  • Make sure you have enough Easy or Recovery days and weeks to recover properly between training.  This should also include ‘active’ rest to speed up recovery.  Listen to your body and rather take off a few extra days, than to train with a tired body (“If you’re tired, you cannot perform”)
  • Monitor recovery daily with resting HR levels.  If your heart rate differs more than 6-8 beats from the average, you might be suffering from an illness or haven’t recovered sufficiently from training and might need more rest.

5.  Diet, Core Strength, Flexibility

  • Training isn’t only time spent on the bike:  it also involves the correct eating and drinking habits, taking care of your body with sufficient recovery (resting,  massages, etc.) and general conditioning (core and stretching)
  • Always have a proper warm-up and cool-down before rides, and include stretching in your post-ride routine.
  • There  may also be a fair amount of portage sections (walking and carrying your bike) during the event.  If possible, also include some hiking and/or running during training.

6.  Most importantly – never forget to have fun!!


Anyone CAN finish the Absa Cape Epic if they prepare properly.  Don’t fool yourself, it is a VERY tough race both mentally and physically.  But with dedication and determination it is possible for a 1st time cyclist to finish this ultimate adventure comfortably!  Seriously. ‘Been there, got the T-shirt’ is for a trip to a theme park. This WILL change your life.


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  • Are you declared medically fit for the job by a professional?
  • Have you had an expert check your bike setup and cleat alignment?
  • Visit an accredited Sport Institution for a baseline assessment to get your Lactate Threshold, Peak Power Output and corresponding heart rate values.  This will ensure that you train in your exact intensity zones and make your training more accurate.
  • It is advisable to invest in a proper heart rate monitoring tool (eg. Polar, Garmin,…) in order for you to track the amount of training and climbing done.
  • Pick your partner wisely and make sure you get along well.  Spend as much time training together as possible.
  • Determine your goals for the event and train accordingly.  Do you merely want to be optimally conditioned so you can enjoy it and have some fun?  Or do you want to race competitively?
  • Realise that it is going to be tough and that you will need to make sacrifices along the way.  On average you will need to train a minimum of 14 hours/week, with some weeks going up to as many as 25 hours (depending on where you are in your programme and what your goals are).
  • Have a good support system in place – it is so much easier when your friends and family are behind you.
  • Following a structured plan will keep you focused on the goal and ensure that you do what it takes.

Never try to make up for lost training.  A coach can also assist in regularly updating your programme as necessary or as your work commitments shift.


Training for the Absa Cape Epic can roughly be broken down into a few phases:

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ENDURANCE TRAINING:                                                                                                                                                                                   (5 to 6 months before the event)

Focus on getting hours in the saddle and get to love your bike.  Make sure you work up your weekly hours to a minimum of 10hours/week at the end of this phase.  This would be mainly low intensity rides (65 – 85% of maximum HR), going over hills at a constant pace and generally just getting a feel for the bike.  Weather-permitting, these rides should mostly be done outside on either a mountain or road bike or at worst on an indoor trainer (and not a spin bike!) If you’re a regular cyclist, just continue getting hours in the saddle. Do not neglect this phase, as endurance rides lays the foundation on which an entire training programme rests.

POWER and ENDURANCE TRAINING:                                                                                                                                                                                      (3 to 4 months before the event)

Your full-on, goal-orientated training programme should usually start around October/November.  This is a good time to go for a lab assessment to get all your baseline values and to make sure you do the harder workouts that will follow at the correct intensity. Here you will slowly start to increase the intensity as well as the duration of rides, still building endurance.  Interval training will be necessary to allow that certain work can be completed at a higher intensity compared to continuous training alone.  Different work:rest ratios of intervals develops different training adaptations. Also include a few races from here onwards, so you can get a feeling for racing as well as experiment with different pacing, nutrition and hydration options.

INCREASING SPEED:                                                                                                                                                      (2 months before the event)

During this phase shorter sharpening workouts will be added, while still keeping plenty of long back-to-back weekend rides.  Include at least one major training ride or race between 100 and 120km of mountain biking, with a minimum of 1500m of climbing during this phase, so you mentally know that you can finish that distance.

TAPERING:                                                                                                                                                                             (2 to 3 weeks before the event)

After all the hard training, it is now time to back off slightly and give your body time to fully recover and regenerate for what lies ahead.  You will not lose fitness in a week or two of training less.  DO NOT UNDER-ESTIMATE THE POWER OF A GOOD TAPER.  If you are super-fit but too tired when going into the Absa Cape Epic – you WILL NOT perform.

Looking for a generic Absa Cape Epic Training program?  Please visit our Shop for various options


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  • The Absa Cape Epic set the trend of riding as a TEAM some time ago.  Each team is reliant on both team members to cross the finish line together in order to be an official finisher.
  • Pick your partner well – someone you know and trust and who is willing to help you through a bad day on the bike.  There are days you will rely on this person more than you know it.
  • Friendship, patience, grace and the spirit of sportsmanship are qualities you should look for in a partner.
  • You should know your partner so well that when you look down at their heart rate monitor, you should know exactly what that person is feeling and have the grace to back-off the pace if you know they’re suffering – even though you are feeling like a million dollars!
  • Look after your partner!


  • Pacing during any ultra-endurance event is crucial.  The fact that the Absa Cape Epic is an eight day event is even more reason to pace yourself correctly – it doesn’t take much to overdo things on day one and then run the risk of being forced out of the race on the following day.
  • Once you’ve overdone things, it is very difficult to recover and regain your original ‘state’.
  • By riding conservatively the first 3 – 4 days, teams can over-take up to 200 teams by the end of the 8 days – it has been proven over-and-over again.
  • The reason why the Pro’s look like they fly from day one, is because they have been doing this for many, many years
  • Take extra care not to overdo things on the first day:  typically adrenalin gets the better of one and the start can be very quick.  It takes tremendous discipline to slow down just a little and settle into a pace that will be good for the first few days.
  • Always try to stay under your Lactate Threshold HR as far as possible.  Even on climbs, try not to go over it for more than a few minutes at a time.
  • Try to also ride at a consistent pace – especially with the starts, and trying to keep up with bunches on the big open roads.  If you find yourself in a group that is even just a little too fast, rather fall back and set your own pace.
  • Always let the weaker rider of the day set the pace.  Although the stronger rider can do some pacing in front if his team mate is able to keep up.


The water point tables are usually stocked with water, sports drink, fruit, sweets and other edibles ranging from cookies to potatoes to energy bars. STOP AT EVERY WATERPOINT, REFILL YOUR BOTTLES AND HAVE SOMETHING TO EAT – DO NOT SKIP A WATERPOINT!

  • Dehydration is the most common cause of riders being forced out of the event
  • Dehydration can also be aggravated by starting out too fast during the first couple of days
  • Carry your own sports drink concentrate with you in a small plastic (bank) bag – to mix new solution at water points.
  • Also carry an extra sandwich and energy bar for emergencies.
  • Never go hungry or thirsty!
  • Beware of over-hydration too.


Apart from all the training, completing this race successfully also involves many other components, such as correct nutrition, proper equipment and setup, optimum recovery, avoiding injuries, etc.  And whatever your goal, we’ll ensure you’ll ride your best!  GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR TRAINING!  AND SEE YOU ON THE START LINE!

Every year, DCS influences almost one third of the entire ABSA Cape Epic field!  (60+ individually coached athletes and 300+ riders subscribing to our generic monthly plan!  

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