Cyclingnews chatted to Team Full Stop about their Absa Cape Epic experience. Here’s what these two passionate mountain bikers and fulltime businessmen had to say about their third successful race and joining the prestigious Amabubesi Club.
Team: Full Stop
Category: Grand masters
GC position: 140
Overall time: 41:53:12
Rider 1: Craig Lindeque
Place of residence: Port Elizabeth
Sponsors: Full Stop Communications, Cyclingnews, Cytomax, pOcpac, Bikes n Bits
Rider 2: Graham Taylor
Place of residence: Port Elizabeth
Sponsors: Full Stop Communications, Cyclingnews, Cytomax, pOcpac
1. When did you start preparing for the Epic and how many rides/hours/kilometres did you put in?
CL: I started easy training in September and proper training in November. This was a little late, as our entry was not confirmed until later. We did most of our big rides during the December/January period due to annual leave, good weather and it being easier to ride early in the morning.
GT: I had been looking for an Epic entry the entire year but nothing was confirmed until December. I had kept the legs turning over, mostly commuting to work, with gentle weekend rides, which gave me about eight to 10 hours per week. From mid-December I ramped up to log more than 16 hours per week with a big week of 25 to 30 hours every fourth week or so.
Over the December/January break it’s really easy to get in big weeks with early morning starts and warm weather. Training for Epic is easy as most of the training is done in ideal conditions. In Port Elizabeth, our best weather is from January to March, making it the best time to be out riding. I have heard a lot about people putting in less time but I ride for enjoyment not to train.
2. Both of you have done the Epic before – tell us a bit about this i.e. how many times, standout memories etc.
CL: This was my third Absa Cape Epic and it was a real privilege becoming part of the Amabubesi Club during the 10th anniversary edition. I can’t say I have a specific memory that stands out but it is an event that gets under your skin and you have to return.
GT: Every Epic is special. I am now among the Amabubesi. I never imagined or aimed at doing the race three times. In fact, I never wanted to do the Epic as I took a dim view of what I believed was a road race on dirt roads.
The clover-leafed approach, introduced in 2009, promised far more technical racing, and that drew me to the event. The 2010 race was hard – very hard – with the prime contributor being an aluminium 26″ hardtail and minimal suspension up front. The last three days were hell, keeping pace with my partner, as my core strength started to disintegrate. In 2011 it was a lot easier, on a Scott 26″ full suspension.
This year’s event re-emphasised that lesson, with Team Full Stop being on hardtail 29er carbon Scott bikes. There were times when a full suspension was lustworthy but, for the most part, I felt incredibly comfortable with the carbon frame and big wheels taking the bite out of the harsh terrain.
The standout memory will always be how good the food and drink tastes after a great day’s riding. Nothing beats it – especially being able to share special moments with great people.
However, it is the course that is the real memorable experience. The current format allows an ideal mix of riding terrain while exposing one to the splendour of the Western Cape. With my interest in geography, it’s wonderful being able to soak in the terrain in ways that you can only do on a mountain bike.
For instance, going up the tar road in Bains Kloof, I spotted some rare River Yellowwood (Podocarpus elongates), heavily in fruit. In a car you’d never see it, but on a bike you truly appreciate the diversity of the landscapes of the Western Cape. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to scout out the spots to linger longer with loved ones and to sample the area’s finest in the weeks after.
3. How often were you able to train together in the lead-up to the event?
CL: We were able to do a lot of training together, which helps.
GT: We were fortunate to train together regularly from December onwards. We did lots of weekend training rides in Longmore Forest. It’s on the doorstep of PE, offers very similar terrain to the forestry plantations of the Western Cape and has more than 300km of accessible roads and tracks. It’s the only place in the PE area where you can come close to emulating the type of climbing you will experience at the Cape Epic.
4. Whose preparation do you believe was more ideal, bearing in mind office hours, illness etc.?
CL: As I have my own business, I am in a position to do three-hour rides in the week and on the weekends our longer, harder rides were done in Longmore Forest, which is the only place close to PE to get the amount of climbing and terrain required.
GT: I was in a far more fortunate position in training for the event. It’s a lot easier getting 15 to 18 hours under the belt by doing leisurely commutes to work during the week than trying to log those hours on road rides. I also have the added bonus of occasionally doing field trips by mountain bike and that’s officially classed as working! Nine hours in the saddle, with 40km of the ride on sandy beach, is a great way to prepare for the trails of Citrusdal!
5. Based on your previous Epic experiences, what did you try to do different this time?
CL: More climbing.
GT: This was my first Epic on a 29er and it definitely is the way to go. It made a huge difference to my riding. This time we spent more time in B&Bs, which certainly is more comfortable, but I somehow feel like we missed out on some of the festivities of the race village. That said, I did not miss the porta loos, which were very poorly serviced.
6. Take us through your choice of equipment and tell us whether these were the same choices as previous.
CL: We both ride Scott 29er hardtails. I rode the 29er last year and the previous year a Spark 26er – there is no doubt you have to have a 29er for Epic.
Both of us are also running Maxxis Ikon tyres with American Classic wheels. As far as tyre pressures go, I run 1.8 on the back and 1.6 on the front.
I use a triple chainring as I like the wider gear choice. I can spin a very big gear and need the small gears to drag my big arse up the climbs.
I always use bar-ends on endurance events purely to give my hands more positions on the bars.
One of the most useful items I carry is a pOcpac, a very clever pouch that keeps my phone safe and dry through Epic conditions, as well as another for my bombs derailleur hanger and other bits and pieces, to keep them all neatly in one place.
GT: In 2013, I rode a Scott Scale Pro (910) 29er. It’s a carbon hardtail, which is superb value for money. In 2010 and 2011, I did the Epic on an aluminium 26″ hardtail and Scott 26er Spark, respectively. The 29er is without question the way to go. It is so well suited to South African terrain. The wheel technology and frame geometry have matured to ensure that they’re no longer the dogs they were prior to 2011.
I am now a firm believer in Maxxis Ikons and had no issues with them over the course of the Epic – not a single flat. Previously, I ran Continentals with Mountain King front and Race King rear – à la Kevin Evans. While the Conti’s were very good in 26″ format, with only the occasional flat, the 29er format has been a different story – even on my commutes to work. The Scott came standard with a SRAM groupset, but the less said about that the better.
One thing about the Epic is that the race village never lies about equipment choices. Where there is poor equipment, the brand service centres are overrun and very busy (it’s actually got nothing to do with how much product you move). When equipment works, the brand service centres are empty. The Scott and Shimano tents were noticeably empty and bear witness to the reliability of those products.
I ran a double chainring up front and it was the ideal choice for my body fat percentage. It’s not a set-up for everyone and if you are carrying too much weight you should rather go for a triple chainring set-up. Single chainrings are not an option for anyone but the pros. Although, having run the set-up for cross-country racing, there are huge advantages to not having trouble with front derailleurs but, then again, perhaps that’s brand specific.
7. Give us a brief overview of your day job, your flexibility and how you are able to fit cycling in among the demands.
CL: I own an IT company and am in a position to be able to steal time. However, when there is a crisis I need to drop everything and attend to it.
GT: I work for Coega Development Corporation (CDC) as the Spatial Development Manager. It mirrors my passions in life – geography and experiencing the sense of place. It’s a standard office job but often requires long hours.
Cycling is the one way to retain healthy sanity and my commute is simply the best way to do it. I live 22km from work and have a dedicated bike path from Port Elizabeth to the Port of Ngqura. I even set up a blog (www.coega-sa.blogspot.com) to celebrate the Coega Daily Commute as a journey from fat to fit.
Commuting to work on a bike is hard but the benefits are enormous. Unfortunately, for the majority of people, it is viewed as the preserve of the poor. Management and the affluent are not supposed to cycle to work. But the realisation of the benefits is slowly dawning. More and more people are doing it.
Commuting made my training immensely enjoyable and my hours on the bike were only limited by physical fatigue and not by the drudgery of endless training. In a good week I would spend up to 18 hours commuting and then 10 hours over weekends riding in Longmore Forest.
The commute provided the time in the saddle and Longmore gave healthy doses of climbing. The commute is only 22km one way but riding home into a gale-force westerly is like one long climb – and that’s the prevalent wind going home!
I now have huge respect for the people who share my bike path to work. There is Colbin Ngcupe, a factory worker and multiple Comrades finisher, who trains by running to work. Others walk to work, unable to afford bikes. Even bike paths are filled with glass and debris, making a commute without modern puncture protection nearly impossible.
8. Tell us about your worst hour on this year’s Cape Epic.
CL: When I realised that my injuries from my crash three weeks prior were taking their toll and my body would shut down if I pushed too hard. After a few servings of humble pie I discovered the sweet spot and if I stayed in that zone I could ride consistently all day. But if I pushed harder I would blow and it would take about 10 minutes to recover each time.
GT: The worst hours were waiting in the queues for the porta loos in the morning. Nothing like the smell of overworked and under-cleaned toilets in the morning!
9. Give us an overview of your accommodation arrangements over the course of the event and whether this worked for you in terms of travelling time, recovery etc. If you had to do it again, would you do the same?
CL: We tented a few nights and then went to B&Bs for the balance. I feel absolutely nothing for the atmosphere of tenting when doing such a difficult event and will gladly pay the extra money for a decent bed and a porcelain scooter. The camper van option looks good but you are still stuck with porta loos and for that price I would rather stay in five-star accommodation.
GT: I don’t think you can do an Epic without spending some time in the tented camp, else you’re simply short-changing yourself on the experience. Though, truth be told, the B&Bs are a very welcome break but travelling to and fro can be very tiring. If I had to do it again, I would spend more time in the tents and less in B&Bs. I think if one is in the race for a podium, a camper van is essential – though that does not seem to apply to Barti Bucher!
10. Which energy/endurance products did you use during your preparation and during the event and why?
CL: Cytomax, of course! Are there other brands?
GT: I used Cytomax products. The performance drink is legendary and well worth the extra cost. There is a lot to be said for imported products coming from USA FDA-regulated labs. I find that I use far less Cytomax in comparison to other brands, so a small serving just seems to last forever. The Cytomax energy drops are great and I have cut back drastically on the use of gels. The drops are a lot easier to digest by sucking them slowly rather than trying to gulp down wolf-sized bites of energy bars.
11. What were your pre-race goals and did you achieve them?
CL: We achieved most of our goals – getting a top 10 in Grand Masters. Of course one has to finish, which was the primary goal. I had a big crash in the Garden Route 300 just three weeks before Epic and this was a huge setback for me. We were really hoping to be more competitive in the Grand Masters class but mountain biking is a very humbling sport and we will live to fight another day.
GT: Finishing the Epic is a major achievement. It’s so easy to make a mistake and finish in the back of a bakkie. We wanted a top 10 in the Grand Masters, which we achieved with an eighth place. It’s a real privilege to ride in the company of guys like Alex Stieda (first North American to wear the Tour De France yellow jersey) and Tom Ritchey. Anything better would have been a bonus. We had some bad luck with Craig’s earlier heavy crash and his injuries definitely affected him over the course of the event. All credit to him for hanging in and finishing.
12. Based on your previous Cape Epic experiences, please rate the following out of 10:
Excellent. I always tell people you have to actually see the show to see how big and how slick the Absa Cape Epic machine is, however the toilets this year were definitely not up to scratch or as clean as previous years.
Excellent. Points lost for delays at registration and toilets. The latter were not up to scratch this year and probably the reason for all the tummy bugs.
The food is good considering the numbers catered for.
CL: What can I say about the course? It is the Epic. I will say however that stage one with the never-ending sand was probably the hardest stage I have ever done.
Some say the sand was not mountain biking but I disagree. It is and it tests your skills.
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