Cape to Cape was a couple weeks ago now but things have been a bit busy and I've had a chance to sit down and write after the Tour of Tasmania on the road last week... That race report will be up in the coming days! So here's some words and photos from Cape to Cape 2017.
Not having raced since the Port to Port in May, I was unsure of my racing fitness. I was excited to spend the week ‘campervanning’ with teammate Tas Nankervis. The goal for the week: racing for the top step of the overall podium against the best mountain bikers in the country while having an awesome time at one of the best run mountain bike races in the country. Here’s how it unfolded!
Tues 17 Oct: Travel day 1
My 11am flight to Perth delayed until 7:30pm. Organized for Tas and his brother Russell to pick up the camper. Made it to caravan park near Perth airport at 11pm.
Wed 18 Oct: Travel day 2
Started early to get to Margaret River for registration and to ride a bit of stage 1. Another Nankervis (Bron) let us park the camper in the driveway of her accommodation.
Thurs 19 Oct: Race day 1 Xanadu Winery 55km
This was a very fast stage and started on long rolling fire roads where the pace was very high and sticks were flying everywhere. I missed the front group and had to work hard to get back on the back of it. Once we got into the single track it settled down a bit as everyone enjoyed the awesome flowing trails in compartment 10 area of the pine forest. Sitting comfortably in the group abruptly ended as I hit a log rollover wrong and was catapulted over the bars. Once I got my bearings and made sure the bike was okay the chase was back on. About 5km later I reached the back of the front group just in time for them to start attacking each other again, ensuring that I wouldn’t be able to ride to the finish with them. At 55km I saw the ‘5k to go’ sign and with a sinking feeling realized they had told us the stage was shorter than it actually was. I rode the last 5k of steep goat tracks and fire roads with heavy legs thinking this was going to be a long and hard week of racing.
Fri 20 Oct: Race day 2 morning - Leeuwin Estate 63km, afternoon – fat tyre crit
Another awesome day of racing was lined up for today, Tas and I decided to drive the camper out to Leeuwin Estate so we could get home quicker before the fat tyre crit. Again the stage started out on fire roads with sticks and debris flying everywhere at high speed before enjoying the loamy single track of the Boranup Forest. Today the front group stayed together through the single track before getting onto the Highway to Hell. I tried to look up and take in the view of the ocean laid out in front of us without losing my line through the rocks and dust at 50km/h.
After the climb back from the beach there was another rocky and sandy fire road descent where Kyle Ward didn’t see a rock and flipped over the bars, it was not pretty. I stopped to help him up and straight away could tell his collar bone was toast, he wanted to get back on and ride and he seemed to not be in too much pain. That was until he could feel the two bones pieces scraping against each other. We walked for a little while as there was meant to be an aid station about 2km further. Mark Tupalski stopped as he was going by and took over the positive vibes coordination and got Kyle the rest of the way to the first aid tent while I did my best to limit losses on time. When I got to the finish I let the organizers know what had happened, and they arranged the best way to move forward with Kyle’s situation. He’s currently in full recovery mode, walking the dogs and riding the trainer starting to prepare for next season. The organizers gave me the same time as the group of guys I was with, a true complement to the nature of the event ensuring everyone is competitive but also out there to have a good time and help others if they need it.
The afternoon stage was a race for the top 20 men and top 15 women riding around the Margaret River high school oval for 15 minutes. A very fast and spectator friendly event involving a lot of fun and hard, high intensity racing.
Sat 21 Oct: Race day 3 Colonial Brewery 56km
Waking up this morning I could tell the legs were going to have a hard time on the stage. They were slow to get going and felt like they weren’t excited for this single track heavy race. In the early part of the race, again on the dirt roads for the first 15-20km Dan McConnell, Paul Van Der Ploeg, and Chris Hamilton went for the early breakaway and nobody chased them down. Going into the “Middle Earth” single track I had a lapse in concentration and ran into a tree, getting passed by a lot of masters riders. I used all the energy I had to get around one or two at a time and eventually ran out of steam and rode the rest of the race in their group, conceding about 2 mins on the main group of riders I had been with in the first two days.
Sun 22 Oct: Race day 4 Margaret River 50km
Finally found some legs on the last day of the race! I decided to attack on the road just at the end of the neutral roll through town. I put my head down and rode my legs off for the first 5k and then looked around to find Brendan Johnston and Tas coming up behind me. I got on their wheel, and we continued working hard together to keep ahead of the chasing group. The best parts of the day was riding through the Compartment 10 trails again and working well with the two other guys. I was confident that Tas had his second place secured and was there to help him in case anything happened. Luckily we both made it through the race accident free! Our trio missed a turn coming into the last 5 or so km of the stage and ended up out on the highway for a longer than we wanted. The lead moto guided us back to the trails and the race was on again (even though we added ~1.5k to the race). Brendan started to wind it up with 800m to go. My legs decided they had had enough for the day, and I watched him and Tas ride away to finish the stage in first and second, as I came through with my best result of the week in third.
Overall, I loved the week of racing, spending time with mates, and meeting so many new people. Finishing in 7th overall, I didn’t quite get the result I was hoping for although the week definitely reminded me why I love racing mountain bikes… It’s hard, but it’s hard for everyone else too, and once you get to the finish you have so many stories to share and compare over a cold beer.
I can’t put into words the professionalism and work that has gone into making this event as good as it is. I think everyone who’s had a chance to be a part of the event over the past ten years has had a similar experience and fallen more in love with the mountain biking community for the camaraderie and easy going atmosphere that these events attract. A huge thank you again to everyone who made this trip and event possible, and I look forward to being back again next year!