Mountain biking for a cause

Mark Morical Published Mar 12, 2014 at 12:11AM

Cape Epic

It’s an eight-day, 445-mile mountain bike stage race throughout Western Cape, South Africa, happening March 23-30. The race includes nearly 50,000 feet of climbing and is labeled “the untamed African MTB race.” For more information, visit www.cape-epic.com.

Kids in the Game

This is a nonprofit based in Bend that provides financial support for underprivileged youth to get active and gain access to sports programs. For more information or to donate, visit www.kidsinthe game.org.

Fundraiser at Silver Moon

Brian Grossman will talk about racing the Cape Epic and about Kids in the Game at an event Friday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Bend’s Silver Moon Brewery. The brewery will release a special Cape Epic IPA. A portion of the proceeds from the event, and from sales of the IPA throughout the race, benefit Kids in the Game.

It has been called the Tour de France of mountain bike stage races. The eight-day Cape Epic in South Africa spans nearly 500 miles and includes 50,000 feet of elevation gain in temperatures that can soar above 100 degrees.

Even the best have succumbed to the grueling challenge of the annual Cape Epic. Adam Craig, an Olympic mountain biker from Bend, could not finish the race in 2012 due to severe dehydration stemming from a stomach issue.

“The party line at the Epic is SURVIVAL,” Craig wrote in his blog shortly after pulling out of that race. “It’s what the eventual winners are doing just as much as the poor blokes that are out there for 10 hours per day, every day, surviving. It’s a serious test of being.”

Bend’s Brian Grossman is intent on being one of those “poor blokes.”

You see, the Cape Epic is not just for seasoned pros like Craig, 32, who happens to be one of the strongest mountain bikers in America. Recreational riders like Grossman, 48, can also register for the race, which includes 1,200 cyclists competing in two-rider teams.

Grossman is racing the Cape Epic later this month to raise funds and awareness for Kids in the Game, a Bend nonprofit he co-founded that provides financial support for underprivileged youths to help them get active and participate in sports.

Two years ago, Grossman completed the Marathon Des Sables, a seven-day running race in the Sahara Desert of Morocco that was his first such effort in support of Kids in the Game. Recharged and motivated, he has been training since July for the Cape Epic, which he says has been on his bucket list for more than eight years.

Grossman raised more than $50,000 for Kids in the Game through the Marathon Des Sables, and now his goal is to raise $48,720 — $1 for every foot of vertical gain in the Cape Epic. He will speak about the race and Kids in the Game at Bend’s Silver Moon Brewing this Friday night, when the brewery plans to release its new Cape Epic IPA brew.

Grossman says he is “more afraid” of the Cape Epic than he was the Marathon Des Sables. His goal for the mountain bike race is simply to survive and finish.

“I’m not a fast guy, but I can go all day,” he says. “But there are time cutoffs with this race. The challenge for me will be making those cutoffs. I’ll need to be stronger than I’ve ever been as a rider. The mental, emotional side of it, it’s no time to have any moments of weakness or doubts in your head.”

Grossman will ride with teammate Tom Turley, a friend from Denver with whom he has taken on numerous mountain biking and mountaineering adventures. Turley — who Grossman says has participated in the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain, 26 times — is certainly crazy enough to attempt the Cape Epic.

“I wanted somebody who’s a stronger rider than I am,” Grossman says of Turley, also 48. “It was hard to find somebody who was willing to do it and capable of it.”

Grossman and Turley, who will compete in the Masters 40-50 category, figure to be two of the older riders in the event.

The Cape Epic has been redesigned each year since its inception in 2004. The race takes bikers through unexplored landscapes and breathtaking vistas along dirt roads and singletrack throughout Western Cape, South Africa. Teammates must stay within two minutes of each other as a safety precaution during the stage race. Riders in the Cape Epic average about 60 miles per day.

It is a full-service race, meaning a crew will provide food, water and tented race villages for the mountain bikers throughout the event. Riders sleep in tents each night after completing that day’s stage.

Grossman, a stepfather of two who has worked as a lawyer and a software entrepreneur, has stayed relatively fit since completing the Marathon Des Sables. But he admits he needed to get into prime cycling form for the Cape Epic, which he decided more than a year ago that he would race.

He says he has dropped his weight from 212 pounds to 186 through a combination of running, road biking, mountain biking, power pilates, and riding a trainer in his garage. He has also been using a fat bike, which has much wider than normal tires to handle the snow and mud of Central Oregon winters.

Grossman has made two trips to Northern California this winter to train in fairer weather. He focused on logging long days with lots of climbing in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

“The number one challenge is that I’m a slow climber,” Grossman says. “If I’m able to climb at 4 miles an hour, versus 3 miles an hour, that could be the difference between making it and not making it. If we’re behind, we’ll have to take risks on descents. But our goal is to survive and have some fun with it.”

Although laser-focused on his training and preparation, Grossman has never lost sight of his main motivation for undertaking the Cape Epic. He says Kids in the Game, now operating in 22 states, has helped provide access to sports programs for more than 5,300 kids — 2,100 of whom live in Central Oregon.

“The ultimate goal,” Grossman says, “is the impact we can have on these kids.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0318, mmorical@bendbulletin.com

Riders make their way up the mountain during stage 1 of the 2012 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Robertson Primary School in Robertson, South Africa on the 26 March 2012 Photo by Karin Schermbrucker/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS
Photo courtesy Cape Epic The Cape Epic mountain bike race in South Africa includes nearly 50,000 feet of elevation gain.
Courtesy Silver Moon Brewing This is the label for Silver Moon Brewings new Cape Epic IPA, which will be released at a fundraiser Friday to benefit the local nonprofit Kids in the Game.
Photo courtesy Adam Craig Bend pro mountain biker Adam Craig gestures to the grueling nature of the Cape Epic as he reaches the finish of one of the stages of the 2012 race in South Africa.
Rob Kerr / The Bulletin Bend resident Brian Grossman is racing in the Cape Epic mountain bike race in South Africa to raise funds for a local nonprofit, Kids in the Game.
Rob Kerr / The Bulletin Brian Grossman is racing to help raise money for a nonprofit he helped found, Kids in the Game.
Rob Kerr / The Bulletin Brian Grossman, photographed near Shevlin Park, is racing the Cape Epic, an eight-day, 445-mile mountain bike race in South Africa that includes 48,720 feet of vertical climbing in temperatures more than 100 degrees.
Rob Kerr / The Bulletin Brian Grossman, of Bend, is racing the Cape Epic, an eight-day, 445-mile mountain bike race in South Africa.