Barclay's 605km Challenge: Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Goals at the Cape Epic

Thursday 25 Apr 2024

Barclay Harvey, our Head of Sport, recently took on the incredible 605km Cape Epic which took place between the 17th and 24th March.

Founded in 2004, the Absa Cape Epic is a physically gruelling and mentally demanding mountain bike multi-stage race set in South Africa's Western Cape region taking place over eight days. 2024 was the twentieth edition of the challenge and featured 16 500 metres of climbing, with every stage designed to test teams to the limit. The terrain is as varied as it is harsh, with dusty and demanding gravel roads, strenuous rocky climbs, thrilling technical descents, refreshing river crossings, and fast forest single tracks.

Widely considered one of the hardest mountain bike races in the world, Barclay was originally planning to take part in 2020, however COVID appeared, and the race got cancelled.


Barclay explains: “Every now and again I like to set myself a physical challenge. Four years ago, in 2020 we entered this race however it got cancelled. Our entry rolled for several years but in 2024, unless we took part we would lose our entry fee. The Cape Epic is the world's toughest mountain bike race there's no point in doing things by halves. A group of friends from Jersey discussed it and thought he would give it a go.”

No stranger to marathons and triathlons for the last 20 years, Barclay decided to try a different challenge: “as I'm getting older the running element of these events becomes harder on your body and so doing more cycling was a no brainer for me. A lot of the events I've competed in the past have been one day events. What's unique about the Cape epic is that this is an 8-day event so in some respects there's no rest for the wicked.”

Barclay started training for the 605km 2024 event in July 2023.

“I had to be very disciplined with my training.  The regime pretty much meant doing something every day for seven to eight months. This was a combination of training at home on the spin bike, cycling endlessly on the North Coast, as well as doing many strength and conditioning sessions.”


“Another big part of this was to make sure that my nutrition and diet was well managed.  Most weekends meant that I had to do anything between five and six hours of Training on the bike.  I was fortunate enough that my family and wife were very supportive of this.  On a lot of days, I often trained twice: early in the morning and then when I got home from work.”

“My goals that I set myself were wanting to finish the race and I wanted to enjoy it, smile and at the same time have a bit of an adventure. I'd set myself a goal of taking each day one step at a time and I think this was a wise approach.  I managed to finish the race with a smile and therefore achieved my goals.”

“To be honest this race was brutal. The heat was extreme and the course very challenging. Cycling for 6 and a half to 7 and a half hours a day was tough, and you literally had to concentrate for all of that time. One small loss of concentration often LED to a crash.”

“I knew it would be difficult, but I also had confidence that I'd prepared well and done the training required for this.”

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“My motivation during the training was quite simple in that I knew that if I had prepared well then taking part would be easier. I adopted the attitude that you just had to get it done. During the event itself I must have said to myself thousands of times “you can do this”.”

“For me staying fit and active makes me a better husband and father.  I also find that exercise allows me to work better and be more productive. Often if I'm having a bad day, exercise, no matter how small, allows me to clear my head and reset myself.”

A huge well done to Barclay for completing this enormous challenge!



Barclay’s advice for anyone wanting to take part in a similar challenge:

“Do the training and prepare well - I made sure I did a lot of strength and conditioning that was specific to mountain biking. My advice is whatever your challenge is, do specific training to the event or the sport that you are taking part in.”

“Understand your equipment and what nutrition your body needs to stay hydrated and make sure your head is in the game, you must maintain a very high positive mental attitude.”