Five tips to ace the Varsity MTB Challenge

Five tips to ace the Varsity MTB Challenge

Get your preparation right for the inaugural Varsity MTB Challenge, and you’ll have a blast. Here’s why.

The very first Varsity MTB Challenge takes place on 1-2 October, and because it’s a completely new event, no-one knows exactly what to expect. But with the route having been designed to test the varsity racing snakes, it’s safe to say it’s going to challenge the rest of the field too. As always, the best strategy is to be prepared.

1.Train hills
At just over 50km each, the stages aren’t the longest but they do involve plenty of climbing: 1400m on Stage One and 1100m on Stage Two. None of the climbs are particularly technical, but there’ll be both long, grinding ascents and shorter, steeper uphills. For instance, Stage One features a 15km-long climb straight from the gun. “That’s a really long climb,” says route designer Pieter van Wyk. “Especially for guys from up-country who aren’t used to climbs like that.”

Ensure you don’t get caught out by including plenty of vertical metres in your long training rides. And some uphill interval sessions will stand you in good stead for the punchier inclines of Stage Two.

2.Boss the singletrack
“The trails at Boschendal will definitely be a highlight,” says Van Wyk of the freshly cut trails that await on Stage Two. “Every climb will be rewarded with some really nice singletrack. It’s nice and flowing, but it’s fairly fast if you race it. You’ll need a lot of skill to get down fast.”

If you’re not used to it, your body can take a pounding on singletrack, so swap out some of that jeeptrack riding and instead hone your skills on narrower, more interesting, more meandering paths.

3.Stay with the endurance training
The Varsity MTB Challenge is a stage race, which means your fatigue will be accumulating through the two days. On Stage Two, the four main climbs only start after 20km, and for the next 15km, your only respite will be on the above-mentioned singletrack. So you’re going to want some multi-day endurance in your legs. Back-to-back training days will help build that capacity, so you can tuck into the post-stage lunches with a smile.

4.Prep your gear now
As race day approaches, your free time will magically evaporate. Get the jump on your To Do list by sorting all your bike issues asap. Service, lube or check-up? Schedule it now. Nail all those other finicky decisions too, like tyre choice, tyre pressure, and on-bike hydration and nutrition. Remember, springtime in the Cape is fickle: pack arm- and leg-warmers, and a waterproof gilet or rain-jacket.

5.Keep sight of the big picture
Stay on top of the logistics – things like start and cut-off times, route profiles, transport and accommodation details – but don’t forget that the main priority at Varsity MTB Challenge is to make new mates, connect with old friends, and soak up that special varsity vibe that you can’t find anywhere else. Bring your A game, and have a good time.

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