The 36ONE MTB Challenge offers everyone who enjoys cycling a chance to participate in the ultimate single-stage mountain bike race in South Africa. Starting and ending in Oudtshoorn, the route follows primarily gravel district roads with a few jeep tracks, short sections of single track and even a railway line section is thrown into the mix. You can enter the event as a relay team or as an endurance athlete who enjoy the long-distance challenge.
I just completed 2016 solo challenge and for those of you planning on doing it in 2017; Here are my top 6 survival tip’s if you are aiming for sub 20 hour ride.
- Training. – Note, its quality over quantity and a structured plan is very important. I was only averaging 12 hours a week leading up to 360ne. Remember, recovery is also part of training so rest on your off days and get at least 7-8 hours sleep. In the beginning of 2016 I enlisted the help of a professional coach, John Wakefield,( www.sciencetosport.com) to get me in race condition. I finished 11th GP and 3rd in my category, with only 3 months of structured training, and having come back from 12 months of no cycling, due to work constraints.
- Mental preparation: James Raaff from http://www.houseofholistichealth.com/ gave me some valuable insight: “ Leave nothing to chance. Visualise your race from start to finish. Imagine what you will wearing, from your socks to your helmet and write it down if you have. Focus on your race strategy, your race time and try stick to it as much as possible”. I wanted a top 10 and missed it by one minute by following his advice. I looked at the 2015 race results, then worked out the average speed I needed to maintain for the duration of the race. I printed out the times I was focusing on, and (much to my girlfriends annoyance) stuck them up all over our house. Remember, in ultra distance race’s, you don’t need to be the fastest, you just need to slow down the least.
- Nutrition: critical for weight management and correct fuelling on the bike, I suggest seeing a sports nutritionist. Adrian Penzhorn (http://www.foodforsport.co.za/ ) came to my rescue and he worked in in conjunction with my coach to get my weight down and to fuel correctly during racing and training. I dropped 10kg’s in 3 months ( I did have a lot to loose after a 12 month hiatus from cycling) while still improving performance. What works for me on the bike may not work for you. I really struggle getting solids down during a race and prefer liquid food. Enduren products are all natural with very subtle taste (http://www.enduren.co.za/). There are water points every 30 odd kilometres during the race. I try to keep it natural as much as possible so the baby populates are always a winner and a great source of carbs.
- Hard Tail vs Soft Tail: I chose a hardtail purely for efficiency. I wanted a good time and did not want to waste any energy on rear suspension bob or the added weight of a rear shock. The down side of a hardtail: My but did take a beating, so regular standing while pedalling was essential. Load up on chamois cream; in general I use normal camphor cream or Ass Magic. (checkout our GT Zaskar online special: http://www.bikehub.co.za/forum/classifieds/189233-still-in-box-new-2015-gt-zaskar-carbon-9r-elite/)
- Buddy up: Drafting and sharing the load between bunches is vital for recovery and to keep your average pace in check.I was fortunate enough to meet up with a strong rider (Martin Cilliers) at the Argus expo who I hadn’t seen since Cape Pioneer 2014. We did one training ride pre race and worked incredibly well together. To be honest ,he did most of the work as I clung to his back wheel during our 235 km training spin. It turned out, we did 340km’s together during the race, before I told him to drop the hammer and get his top ten as I couldn’t hang on. But crucial to both our strategy was communication and working together from the beginning.
Support: I had an awesome pit crew who where allowed at 3 checkpoints during the race. They were essential to my race strategy. Tracy Breeze, my girlfriend, took care of my nutrition requirements. While Joel Schaefer, the junior mechanic from Trail and Tar, took care of my carbon steed. Each rider in The Challenge is issued with 3 race boxes if they have no support, and these are transported to the three checkpoints. Riders in The Half will be issued with only 1 box that is transported to Checkpoint 3. Having my pit crew hand me my essentials was a valuable time saving strategy. They made me feel like an absolute champion and gave me the boost I needed to keep going.
The 2017 entries are now open: http://www.the36one.com/challenge
Trail and Tar offers mechanic support for certain events. Drop Grant message to book your support package: Grant@trailandtar.co.za