Unexpected “A” race in 5 weeks. What now?

After a few cancelled trips due to covid restrictions, I’m finally visiting family in South Africa in March. As an unexpected bonus, I noticed that the Cape Town Cycling Tour (the biggest timed cycling race in the world) is taking place while we’re there. Long story short, I’ve entered the race and want to do as well as possible. But it wasn’t in my original plan, so I’m a bit behind on adding intensity to my training.

It’s not a long race - about 110km with 1000m of elevation gain.

My training so far this season: 50 hours a month for Nov, Dec and Jan, of mostly zone 2 rides, with a little intensity sprinkled in. I did less than a handful of Zwift races during the three months. The last couple of weeks, I started doing @trevor ‘s 5X5m threshold intervals a couple times a week.

Any recommendations for how to approach my training over the next five weeks would be very welcome. The race is on March 13. I’m flying on March 9, which is today in 5 weeks’ time. Do I do some panic high intensity training or do I just continue my base building, with the 5X5’s a few times a week?

My next important race is at the end of April (Paris to Ancaster) and then I’m doing the Haute Route Dolomites in August. Those are really the only races that I care about this year.


The usual answer is “it depends”.

This is almost a home race for me; I’m Joburg based, so a 2 hour flight and I know the event well. I’m busy working with an athlete to get him race ready (he’ll be in 1A or 1B start gtoup). He’s also been doing 5x5s, 4x8s and some VO2 intervals. The goals is to get him to finish with the bunch he starts with (probably 250-280 NP for the 2h45 to 2h55 race time; wind permitting).

Have you done the event before?

Some questions:

  1. What does “do well” mean? Are you a racing snake, or just a average Joe wanting to finish in a good time?
  2. What’s your finish time for an equivalent distance/elevation gain event?
  3. How are your bunch riding skills? The groups are 100-600 in size depending on your start group.
  4. Depending on your goals for the event, how do you perform on 5-8 minute climbs? If you’ve done the event before, you’ll know the 4 major bumps on the route. Depending on the start group, you will need to hold 3-4W/Kg on this bumps (unless you’re racing Elite/U23, or just a fun rider.

I might not have all the answers i.t.o. last minute training, but I know the course, riders and conditions.

FWIW, it’s the largest “individually” timed event in the world, circa 35000 entries on race day, before COVID hit. We call it the fun ride world champs.

Thanks for the thoughtful response! Yes, I’ve done the race before, but that was 21 years ago on a MTB as part of a corporate event. I wasn’t a ‘real’ cyclist at the time. Now I have 6 years of 450-500 hours a year in my legs and take myself very seriously. :grinning:

  1. I want to be competitive in my age group (50+). I’m 53. I have no idea how strong the competition is going to be in my age group. It doesn’t really matter how well I do. This is not my job, but, like I guess most on this forum, I want to perform the best I can in the few races that I participate in.
  2. In a strong group, I expect to average around 36km/h (based on a similar race). If riding just with my buddy, we would expect to average 34km/h. A typical Saturday morning ride (not a race) in the summer is about 33km/h (three people) for that distance, with slightly less elevation. Thus, we hope to finish in 3h00 to 3h15 in ideal conditions.
  3. My bunch riding skills are not an issue. I hope to benefit greatly from riding in a strong group. We have asked for a good start group, but don’t know yet.
  4. Thankfully, 5-8 minutes is an area of strength, relative to other durations. My last three seasons show best effort 5 minute power of 340-350W, which translates to about 5.4W/kg. I’m 63kg, which helps. My zone 2/3 cutoff (5 zone model) is just above 3W/kg. My FTP was 280W at the end of the last season, so about 4.4W/kg. I haven’t recently tested. I don’t have a sprint.

Thanks again!

At 340-350W on gradients of 4-6% with some bits at 8-10% you should be fine then. The attacks happen on the last two (known as Chappies and Suikerbossie). Race time is about 2:55 - 3:05 depending on weather conditions. You’ll be expected to average about 40km/h for the first hour (Simons Town water table is the benchmark in 1 hour or less to finish race in in 3 hours). that means averaging +/- 36Km/h which you state you can do.

The GPX file can be downloaded from anyone who’s done the event. I’d recommend following Gary Beneke (ex Pro) who is in the top 10 at almost every race he does and wins many of them. He rides in Dimension Data kit (is friends with the ex Chairman of Di-Data).
The activity below was his 2019 ride.

The 2019 year race results can be found here (the group prefix is & and is mixed with riders of all ages but similar abilitiess):

As far as training for the next 5 weeks, I’d use the GPX file to create a Zwift workout and ride parts of the course. As Joe Friel says often, the close you get to your goal event the more you should train like your event.

Below are the race efforts from the GPX file. You can see the zone distribution (bottom right) it is mostly on the climbs. I’ve prescribed VO2 and AC sprints for the local athlete I’m coaching. His weakness/limiter is 4-8 minutes at close to Z5 power. He just can’t hold it long enough and is dropped 3/4 of the way up the climbs.

I can’t upload the GPX file here, but if you want it, I can share it in a Google shared folder, both the GPX file as well as ZWO.

That’s really helpful, thanks. The race strategy tips are a bonus! I will definitely add some high intensity work and also try to acclimate to higher temperatures. It’s very cold Toronto!