Next week begins the biggest and hardest MTB stage race in the world, the Cape Epic. Through the years, Tenac has coached many athletes to success at this event. We coached the 2014 winner, Kristian Hynek and 2018 stage winner Luis Mieja to success at Cape Epic. Most of our athletes are not at this pro level and have taken on this “Epic” challenge just to finish it.
Through the years, the question we hear the most is:
“OK. You say it’s hard and I’ve known hard through events like Whiskey 50 Offroad and the Leadville MTB 100. So how hard is it?”
To answer this we look to the data to help describe it.
The demands of the Cape Epic are many (total mileage, amount of days, heat, nutrition, climbing, etc…) and every rider has their strengths and weaknesses. So we do have to build each athlete a unique training strategy that will have them ready for their best performance on race day.
While these strategies are very individual, all athletes are required to ride each stage and finish within designated time cuts. Therefore, we rely on the Cape Epic organization and their course descriptions of mileage, amount of climbing, and cut off times for the finish, to help us determine approximate finish times for each athlete. From there, we design training and prescribed HR/power zones along with nutrition and hydration requirements necessary to finish such an event.
We can also look at event history and compare, although, each year the course is different, but the total demands of the event from year-to-year can be very similar.
Below are three sets of data. One is the total data of a 50+ Masters athlete at Cape Epic along with a daily average for the eight days of the event. The second set of data is another 50+ Master’s athlete for the Whiskey 50 Offroad. The third set of data is also a 50+ Master’s Athlete for the Leadville MTB 100.
Average for 7 Stages and 1 Prologue:
As you can see, each event is different from a data perspective but there are some similarities. When comparing the Cape Epic to the Whiskey 50, the average day of the 8 days of Cape Epic are about the same as the Whiskey 50. So you could say the Cape Epic is 8 days of the Whiskey Offroad. Also, the Cape Epic has similar demands of technical single track as the Whiskey 50 so you are always focused on the trail.
When comparing the Leadville MTB 100 to the Cape Epic, you immediately see that Leadville is harder than the average day of the Cape Epic. The Cape Epic does have some very difficult days but typically none have the length and kilojoule demand as the Leadville 100.
So what makes the Cape Epic MTB Stage Race so difficult? It’s the demand of its eight days of racing. In that eight days, many things can go sideways including dehydration, not enough nutrition, bike mechanicals, body mechanicals, etc… The sheer difficulty in riding day after day in the dusty hot conditions for 5+hrs takes it toll. And for that is why we say the Cape Epic MTB Stage Race is the hardest MTB event in the world.