By FOCUS REPORTER
Well-known Capetonian riders Robert Sim (44) and Douglas Brown (49) will again test their cycling and mental capabilities during the eighth edition
of the Absa Cape Epic. The legendary mountain bike stage race will see riders from around the world complete 707km’s with 14 550m of climbing from
March 27-April 3.
The race kicks off with a prologue in Tokai Forest, part of Table Mountain National park and ends eight days later at
its traditional Lourensford Wine Estate finish.
Brown (of Hout Bay), an oil exploration geologist for Tullow Oil, entered this year’s race after Sim convinced him it would be a good idea. “I
finished four Cape Epics to date, with three first positions and a second position in the Master’s category.” What makes Brown come back for more each
year is the challenge and accomplishment of completing the race. “It’s a tough adventure that is really worthwhile having in your memory bank for
reflection later – it makes you feel very good if you complete it, and terrible if you don’t!”
When asked about this year’s route Brown comments, “I prefer the original route from Knysna to the current looping style, but I don’t miss the long
open roads. The new routes are more technically challenging, which is what we should all love about mountain biking.” Sim adds, “I have not scouted any
days. However, starting in one’s own backyard (Tokai) is a bonus.”
Sim (of Higgovale), a chartered accountant turned entrepreneur, adds: “I entered the 2011 Absa Cape Epic to compete with some of the best 40 plus
mountain bike riders in the world while having a holiday. I’ve completed the race three times before. It’s an eight day meditation. When else would you
get that luxury?”
Competing as team Robert Daniel, the duo train together twice a week. “We both work full time so getting enough training time in is always a
challenge. We grab rides whenever we can which usually means solo,” says Sim.
Brown adds that because they stay near to each other they do a long ride on Table Mountain every weekend or a short hill sprint during the week.
“We also go on a few long weekend training camps in the mountains of the Western Cape.”
Training for Sim is focussed specifically on the Absa Cape Epic. “Training ticks over during the South African winter season to September. Three months
of base training October to December followed by 8 weeks of less volume but increased intensity each week. During base training I focus on fat burning
to kick start the metabolism to get closer to race weight. Some summer races thrown in on the road in January/February. Nutrition is crucial. I steer
clear of over the counter supplements or gels – I make all my own race drinks, gels and recovery drinks. Personally I steer clear of wheat, dairy
and sugar. No meat for evening meals. Lots of interim snacks so try not to ever get hungry.”
Brown highlights the importance of having the correct pace in his training description. “I have a Powertap, which I find very useful because one thing
I have learnt is that you can’t rely on your brain to tell you how hard your legs are working. I have about 15 hours max a week available to train, so I
try to make it all count. My training philosophy dictates that my pace should always be making me feel a bit uncomfortable. I travel a lot so that
is when I recover. I just try to eat moderately, and don’t stress too much about what it is, but then maybe I should.”
“Picking your partner is crucial.” Sim advises other participants, “Go with your gut feeling and not their prior race results. For a successful Absa
Cape Epic finish you also need to ensure optimal recovery after each day.”
Brown’s advice is, “Lose weight, don’t be tempted to bring the kitchen sink in your back pack, look after your drive-train and tyres by thinking
“klipspringer” rather than “warthog”, don’t train too many plodding hours -less hours at harder effort will provide a bigger gain. Venturing into your
discomfort zone often brings about the most noticeable improvements.
For normal people like us, don’t be too rigid in your training plan, train to how your body feels, if you are feeling good then go hard and burn your
legs, if you feel pap then reduce muscle tension and take it slower, keep riding slower on subsequent rides until you start to feel stronger again.”
In his opinion the key to a successful Absa Cape Epic finish is calm determination.
In his free time Sim enjoys holidays with family, especially in the Cederberg in the Cape, surfing in Indonesia, reading and relaxing. For 2011
he would like to establish and maintain a balance between work, family and biking.
To relax Brown enjoys riding and walking in the mountains with his 10 year old son Devon and 7 year old daughter Caroline. “In 2011 I would like to
complete the TransAlp if possible. I would like to see myself as a sweet and gentle person but my wife would say hard and cranky,” Brown jokingly says.