How important is the support of family and friends when taking on one of the biggest mountain bike races like the Cape Epic?  


LB: It is a massive undertaking, especially when your life is jam-packed with family, friends, sports, activities and work commitments. It would be impossible to do it without the support and understanding of your family, especially your wife. Minter and I have very supportive wives, but as with most things in life it involves compromise. Unlike pro athletes, it is virtually impossible to put in 25 hours a week on the bike with proper post recover sessions. When you have busy family lives it is a matter of squeezing in quality training sessions when you can and also forgoing good recovery time post-training. That is just the nature of the game.


MB: I have a very understanding wife and I think she appreciates that riding keeps me sane and healthy. When we were still living in Sydney, I got a lot of push back given the family time I was taking up riding my bike. This changed quite a bit after moving to Bright. Everyone rides in Bright, even my wife! She now has a better appreciation for the sense of freedom and release a few hours out on trails gives you.  The main struggle is to balance commitments of housework, kids and their sporting activities. Luckily a lot of this takes place after school, so not really riding time. My 11-year-old plays cricket on Saturday mornings and we all know how long that takes! I try and get out early on those days so that I can make it back in time to see some of the game. I sometimes help with umpiring but standing in the sun for three hours is not the ideal recovery after a ride!


Diet is one of the most talked about subject when it comes to MTB & Road Riding. A balanced diet, high in fibre, vegetables, fruits and protein is essential for maintaining weight, energy levels and aids the recovery process. Has your diet changed since training for the Cape Epic?


LB: I typically eat pretty healthy and most of my vices are relatively healthy foods, i.e. cashews, raw coconut chips, almond butter. My biggest vice is dark chocolate, actually super dark chocolate! I just can’t get enough of the bitterness of 90% Lindt Dark Chocolate. For a race, like the Cape Epic, which involves a lot of climbing on steep pitches being lighter is undoubtedly an advantage. In the lead up to the race, I try to reduce my carb intake but after an intense training session though you can’t go past a good hot cappuccino with a thick slice of homemade banana bread slathered with butter!


MB: Being a South African brought up in the old Western Transvaal I do love red meat, fatty foods and beer. That said, those food groups do not support race weight as you need to be light! Normally I start watching my diet a month before an event. I stick to lean meats like chicken, nuts, veggies and I stay away from sugar. This year I have also cut back on my two big cups of coffee a day, now it is just one large cappuccino and then a cold brew. My treat is Greek yoghurt with frozen berries and nuts.


Do you have some race tips as well as general ride tips?

MB: When it comes to racing, try and stay with the group but don’t set the pace. Take your turn. If you are having a bad day – consolidate. Don’t ride yourself into the ground as it is hard to recover thereafter. A lesson we learned on Day 1 at the Swiss Epic. 


Riding should be fun. Do your slogs but also remember to go ride some single track. It’s not life or death, so missing a day’s training is not the end of the world – don’t beat yourself up. Try and ride with people as strong or stronger than you, nothing like a bit of competition to help increase your VO2. Try and keep a balance, I say try as I am very guilty of getting absorbed in my cycling and forgetting about the more important things such as kids cricket!


How does one mentally prepare for the Cape Epic?


LB: When looking at the stats it can be daunting. As per the official 2019 Ride Guide:  Eight days, 624 kilometres and 16 650 meters of climbing – the bare statistics tell less than half the story. Rugged mountain trails, bone-jarring dual tracks, windswept gravel roads and sand lie between the Prologue at the University of Cape Town and the Grand Finale at Val de Vie Estate. Hard not to gulp after reading that! The way to look at it is a that it is a race made of numerous parts and then breaking it down by simply looking at it stage by stage.  Focus on the most challenging sections which are typically the large climbs and then telling yourself that once you have made it through these segments you are home and hosed!  It also helps to know that there is a large, hot cappuccino with extra chocolate sprinkles waiting at the end as well as the some of the best dark chocolate South Africa has on offer!


Pairs Racing is fast becoming one of the most popular race formats, especially in stage races. The Cape Epic has in fact been a pairs race since it started 16 years ago, so in a way it was ahead of the curve! Pairs racing is a unique format as it brings into play the nature of “team” in a fairly individual sport such as bike racing. What is your experience regarding this format?


The key to working well as a team of two is to compromise. You and your partner need to be able to perform well together under highly stressful situations. Each partner needs to understand that to reach the end of each stage as quickly as possible you both have to sacrifice some of your personal goals for the greater good of the team. Pairs racing really is a great format and once you experience it, it is very easy to fall in love with it!


The Cape Epic is a brutally tough race on both bike and body. What are the key rules when it comes to tackling a race of this magnitude



    •    Wash your hands constantly. Nothing worse than having your race ruined by a stomach bug!
    •    Eat and drink a lot during and after the race. Recovery is key.
    •    Have a thick skin – it’s not all sunshine and roses when it comes to racing. Make sure you are prepared to make compromises as you are racing with a partner.
    •    Bury your pride – it is okay to hold onto a jersey if you are having a bad day.
    •    Be aware of your partner’s strengths and weaknesses as well as your own.
    •    Laugh at yourself – you’re not racing for a pot of gold or immortality!
    •    Make sure your bike has had a thorough service before you fly out and assemble and check as soon as you arrive at your destination. You don’t want to be scrambling around the day before the race to fix something that got damaged in transit. Start with at least a new chain, new brake pads and ensure there is sufficient sealant in your tyres. Don’t forget about your suspension either!
    •    Get a good feel for the terrain you will be covering and adapt your bike accordingly.
    •    Have the right tyres – more time is lost repairing tyres than time gained saving a few grams
    •    Always take out travel insurance. And make sure you have proper race coverage – in fact just call Velosure! They know all about bike and bike racing since it is their speciality!



    •    Don’t try and win the race in the first hour or first day.
    •    Don’t live off gels – your stomach can’t cope with five gels a day for eight days.
    •    Don’t get offended.
    •    Don’t lose sight (or sound) of your riding partner.
    •    Despite the pressures of racing, everyone in the race is still human and deserves to be there just as much as you. Be respectful and courteous to other racers. There is such a thing as karma!