There is a given about preparation for a major bicycle event covering about 100 km: practise on courses as close as you can find to the actual route. This goes for the 109km Cape Town Cycle Tour on 6 March 2016, but it takes a good deal of discipline and sensible commitment.
If you’re taking part, here are the best areas to train safely in South Africa:
Cape Town cyclists should ride as close as possible to the actual route, allowing for the restrictions where cycling is illegal and dangerous. Close to Muizenberg you have carte blanche, and can always estimate the elevation profile of closed sections, and do variations of Constantia Nek, Chapman’s Peak in reverse, and even Blackhill.
Northern Suburbs riders – take careful, early Sunday, warm-up rides into the Southern Suburbs (meet the family for lunch in Sea Point and cadge a lift home). But reversing the route always chucks in a stimulating variation that improves familiarity with the course. The Slangkop Lighthouse ‘pass’ won’t do any harm and, even when following the route in the right direction, this is worth considering in place of the rather placid Ocean View ‘climb’.
In the Northern Suburbs hilly options abound and can be structured to simulate the elevations (see the Tour map) you will encounter – but the experience will be very different because of the openness, the ‘rolling’ quality of the hills and their exposure to wind. They also lack the unique scenic distractions so typical of the Tour. But training is training and hills are hills. Riding Pedal Power Association fun rides in the Northern Suburbs is excellent preparation for riding in a 35 000-strong pack on the big day, and particularly useful for honing bunch-riding skills.
Cyclist Neil Bawden trains for the Tour in the north of Johannesburg, where he and his friends have a structured programme of route options. Their long ride is a 130km loop from Broadacres up Protea Ridge and then, just before the Magaliesberg, past Maropeng and back to the bottom of Protea Ridge (past Sterkfontein Hospital) and home (1750m climbing).
They also do a ‘medium-hard’ 90km stretch up Protea Ridge with 1 350m of climbing, and recommend hill repeats up the ridge that will add 10km and 200m of climbing per loop. They have a ‘flat’ time-trial (1 000m climbing!) option of 78km – Broadacres/Cyclelab to Sterkfontein Caves and a ‘medium’ Broadacres to Lion Park, with 900m climbing.
South of Joburg, Neil’s friends do 40km and 60km loops in and around Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve near Heidelberg with “fabulous hill climbs.” There’s also a loop from Circus Café to Suikerbosrand and back. Two others are:
- From the Kliprivier Road robot and Swartkoppies Road, past the Lido Hotel, Eye of Africa and then back over the highway onto the ‘Steps’ route.
- A 55km loop from the same point but out to Walkerville and past the Cheese Factory.
In Durban, Sean Lucien and his King’s Park Cycling Club crowd start most of their rides at Blue Lagoon (near the parking-safe Moses Mabhida Stadium).
- Tuesdays take them to Umgeni Road/Mountbatten Drive, on the M19 to New Germany, Old Main Road, up and down Cowies Hill to M13 and 45, past King George V Hospital to Alpine Road then back to Umgeni Road and Blue Lagoon.
- Wednesdays are ‘fast and flat’: M4 north to Umdloti Bridge and back to Blue Lagoon (35km).
- Thursdays they do their Circuit Mayhem inter-club 5.5km beachfront sprint circuit (normally 10 laps). Sean says it is very good training for following lines and for drafting but is not for the faint-hearted, with averages hitting 42km an hour.
- Fridays are a slow, single-speed, 20km ‘coffee and shoot the breeze’ in preparation for big weekend outings.
- Saturdays offer two options of long rides (each about 120km at an average of 30km an hour and about 1 500m of climbing: M4 to Ballito circle, right then left at KFC to Salt Rock, back to Ballito and home on the M4. Or through town to Sydney Road/Edwin Swales Drive to the Bluff. Then Doon Road/Brighton Road/Wade Parsons Road, right into Tara, left into Badulla Drive and then Marine into Lighthouse to Bluff again and back to Edwin Swales. From here it’s up Jacob’s Ladder to Pinetown, onto the M13 to the Hillcrest turn, then down the M13 through Pinetown to the M19 Umgeni Road and back.
- Sunday’s long ride (95km) takes the M4 to Westbrook, down Watson highway to the Airport Link Road (have some coffee) and then reverses the route back home.
Wherever you are, try at least 100km at the weekend, with a 50km or so mid-week, and shorter, high intensity rides on two other week days. For the mixed-bag of 35 000 riders on race day there can be no one programme of how hard to go: you must research the symptoms of over-training and avoid the seductive allure of excess.
There are conflicting opinions on how to conduct yourself in the week prior to the race, but the consensus is still towards doing as little as possible (but not nothing) and to rest, hydrate a little more and, modestly, increase your carbohydrate intake. Best of luck and happy riding!
Words and Pictures courtesy of the Cycle Tour Media Office