Cape Epic planning, preparation, and race report

Bester Performance Team

Cape Epic is seen as the Tour de France of mountain biking, many former Grand Tour riders have said that the Cape Epic is even harder than races like the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and Vuelta a Espana. Taking into account these events stretch over 21 days and the Cape Epic only consists of 8 racing days puts things into perspective.

Like many other teams, for our team the Cape Epic was one of our main goals of the season. All of the planning for the first half of the season was around getting our ladies’ team to the start in the best possible form possible.

Our ladies team consisted of Steph Wohlters and Yolande de Villiers. Two opposites looking at their cycling experience. Yolande de Villiers was a no-brainer to bring onto the team for the Cape Epic ( a former winner of the event ) so there was not much for us to plan to make sure she gets through the grueling 8 days of racing but Steph Wohlters is on the complete opposite side with basically only 8 month’s of serious racing behind her.

Steph Wohlters (turning 38 years old in October) only started riding 3 years ago and joined my Bester Performance coaching program in January 2022.
After 3 months of coaching, I saw that she had the head to actually become much more than only an A-batch open-category rider.
I told her to buy a racing license and start to race against the elite ladies, after a few races I asked her if she don’t want to give it a go at riding pro. I saw something in her that if I could give her the chance she could surpass many people’s expectations and become one of South Africa’s next top professional mountain bike marathon riders.

I approached Titan Racing in April 2022 and they selflessly agreed to supply us with a bike for her (and Daniel Kotze our u/23 XCO specialist). In no time she proved that she had what it takes and did her first stage race (Sani2C) in the mixed category, where they managed to finish in 2nd position on GC. Thereafter I decided it would be a great idea to see just how far we can push her. I entered her for the Cape Pioneer alongside Yolande de Villiers where they managed to win the opening prologue as well as 2 other stages and finished in 2nd position on GC.

Long story short, I kept on adding races onto her calendar to see just how much she could take until it was too much, eventually during stage 1 of the Wine2Whales when her body decided that it was enough and she withdrew halfway through the stage. This gave me valuable information on just how much she can take before it is too much.

So I started to plan her 2023 season and racing calendar. If you want to have a high peak performance for an event you have to use all the other races as part of the training leading up to it and you can only have 2-3 really high peaks during a season. I also had to keep in mind her re-occurring back injury which was lingering since Cape Pioneer and manage that correctly leading up to the Epic.

I decided that the Attakwas was not worth doing for her as it was way too early in the season to be on good form and there was no use to go there to be beaten because of lack of form (mentally that takes its toll) and as part of her back injury management the amount of climbing so early on in the season was not a good idea. I told her to focus on the fast and flat races in Gauteng before heading down to Tankwa Trek closer to the Epic to see how her form is for a multi-day stage race.

I also included Heat preparation leading up to the Tankwa and Epic for her as the possibility of it being very hot during these events was high (which ultimately was not the case). I also included a super long ride of over 7 hours onto Steph’s program in the final weeks leading up to the Epic to boost endurance capacity.

Finally, D-day was here and the start of the Cape Epic. The ladies had no injuries, no illnesses, and some really good form and I knew that we did everything we could to compete for a podium position in the African jersey competition and maybe even a top 5 overall.

Our ladies raced their hearts out every day to fight it out for a podium position and were neck and neck up until the second last stage when the horrific conditions caused a mechanical which cost us 40 minutes to repair and ultimately put us out of the fight for the African Jersey podium.

From a nutrition side I knew exactly which foods to avoid to keep the gastric systems from being under too much stress and causing stomach issues, we cut out all of the necessary foods and kept the food as simple as possible with little to no additional sauces, etc.

From a performance side, Yolande performed exactly as we thought she would and had solid performances right through, Steph on the other hand exceeded my expectations and had exactly the same solid day-to-day performances as Yolande with no bad days.