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Cape Epic: Enter the Ultimate Duo

Cape Epic: Enter the Ultimate Duo

The Absa Cape Epic, the untamed African mountain bike stage race, spans eight days and involves teams of two members tackling an insanely gruelling, but spectacular, battle through the mountains. The race is a dream for pros and amateurs alike, supported with full teams for riders to focus on the demanding terrain. Limited to 680 teams yearly, it's a thrilling journey covering about 700km with 16,000 metres of climbing.

This year, our long time ambassadors Pieter Calitz and Nic Lamond, who have previously competed separately, will be joining forces to race as a team, aka the ultimate duo. We spoke to them to get a better insight on the event, their training, and what drove them to tackle such a punishing adventure at this stage of the game...both of whom are dads, both of whom lead crazy busy lives, and both of whom haven't had all day, every day to train like the pros. 

First off, let's take a step back...what were your expectations going into your first ever Cape EPIC?

Nic: I had no idea what I had signed up for! I was living in Australia at the time and editor of Australian Mountain Bike magazine. My boet, Simon, had ridden the Cape Epic the year before in 2005 and said it was an amazing experience – rough, raw, long, a true test of all your skills and character. I was pumped. I convinced the magazine to send me home to Africa to check it all out. But nothing prepared me for that first Epic and how demanding it would be. Nor how crucial my choice in partner would be. The bike-wrecking rain of Stage 1. Back-to-back-to-back 6-hour and 100km-plus days. Sleeping in tents. Packing up every morning at 5am. Wrenching our own bikes. The heat. The wind. There were sections out there in the bush where I felt like Simon and I were the only two people on the planet. Luckily, I had an indestructible relationship to fall back on – the only thing that carried me through some of the never-ending days together. Simon. We laughed, we cried. And he kept me motivated and chasing the finish line every day. It was a powerful bonding experience as intense as it was rewarding. I didn’t think it was possible to be closer to my brother before those first eight Epic days in 2006, traversing from Knysna to Stellenbosch. Yet each time I rode Epic with him – six times in total – we came out the other side with more outrageous campfire stories and a deeper connection. 

Pete: My first Epic was in 2010 while I was still living in JHB, riding with a very good friend of mine, and didn’t quite know what we were in for. We definitely expected to be challenged, and for our friendship to be tested and we were right on both counts. It was a great week, and we came out the other side with smiles on our faces and as better friends. 

(Credit: Sam Clark)

So guys, what's been your favourite part of the Epic journey?

Pete: As much as the riding is fantastic, a lot of the time it is a sufferfest out there, and everyone ends up digging pretty deep regardless of where the finish in the field.  As a result, my favourite part of the event is the late afternoon having a beer with fellow riders, exchanging war stories from the day on the bike. 

Nic: The training. There are so many whimsical ways the mountain bike gods can conspire to end your Cape Epic – an unseen branch, a stomach bug, a downpour. Or at least ruin your chances of the finishing position you were aiming for. So I (try) to enjoy the training. Because it’s all we have. This moment right now. It’s much easier to enjoy it all when you’re training with your partner and sharing the suffering and the laughs. It’s easier still when your partner is an absolutely world-class human, like Pete Calitz. Enjoying the training prepares you for actually enjoying the race.

Any advice for first timer's doing the race?

Pete: In short, PREPARE! This includes training, and getting as fit and strong as possible, but also making sure your bike is in great condition, that your nutrition plan is set, and that all logistics are sorted out way in advance. All of this will make the week much more enjoyable.  

Nic: Be kind to your partner, he or she is your most valuable piece of equipment. Keep as much of your powder dry as you can for as long as possible, the race only starts on day 5. Don’t take yourself too seriously, you are riding your bike in a spectacular landscape not fighting a war. And stay hydrated, I recommend a Cape Pale Ale on the finish line of every stage. 

(Credit: Sam Clark)

Top picks for nutrition on the go?

Nic: I keep it simple with as much natural unprocessed food as possible to balance out the onslaught of sweet gels and energy bars your gut has to cope with. Salted baby potatoes, bananas, homemade rice cakes. 

Pete: I am not a great eater on the bike. I generally end up having a few bites of a banana, and I try to finish one of my Enduren date & oat energy bars, but seldom do. Easiest is to take a few gels while riding. If there is one ‘go-to’ that I’ve got, it’s filling up my water bottle at the final aid station with a water & coke mix. That is the magic potion to get me over the line when I'm toasted. 

What are your hopes for this years cape EPIC?

Pete: Riding this years Epic with one of my best mates in Nic Lamond, my hope is to enjoy and savour every moment. We have talked about doing this race together for a long time, and we have been riding/racing bikes and drinking beers together for 12 years, so I don’t want to waste even one moment of it. I have also been given the chance to ride by my wife, Thea, who will be taking the full load that week of looking after our 5 month old son, Van, and I don’t take that gesture for granted at all. What a legend she is.  We don’t have specific goal as far as a finishing position goes, but if we could flirt with a top-100 result, we would be happy. 

Nic: To ride hard and fast and enjoy the journey with my mate, Pistol. And to raise some money for  – a sports and education charity based in Kayamandi, where I am privileged to be a trustee. Check out my Givengain donation page: 

Anything else you'd like to share?

Nic: When you’re not riding your bike: don’t stand when you can sit, and don’t sit when you can lie down. Sleep is a super-power. While we only confirmed our entry a few weeks ago, Pete and I come armed with the experience of 16 Epics between us and Pete’s recent crash-course in sleep deprivation, thanks to his newborn boy. We’re ready! Or we will be come 17 March…

Pete: If anybody riding the race this year would like to enjoy some ICE cold Jack Black CPA’s, please come and find us, we love to share. 

Cheers Gents! We're wishing you all the best for this year's race and will be cheering you on from the sidelines, and as always, waiting for you with some ice cold finish line brews! 

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