I have been heading over to Margaret River for the Cape to Cape for the last 5 years. It’s pretty amazing looking back over the years and seeing how it has evolved, from a small gathering of 100 riders in 2008 to 1100 riders in 2012. The race certainly had so much going for it from the outset, location being just one of many. With fine tuning and rider demand increasing each year, the Cape to Cape maintains a uniqueness that sometimes gets absorbed in growth, it seems that this race gets bigger and better year in and year out.
It was my first time racing a 29er (my 26er is dealing with the betrayal) Giant provided me with the XTC hard tail and short of creating miracles it lived up to my expectations over the four days of racing.
I was lucky to share my accommodation with the Flow Magazine crew and New Zealander Nic Leary, who all made sure that the time between stages was as entertaining as the race itself. Mick Ross and Chris Southwood impressed me, and lots of other people by maintaining as much energy on the bike as off, which is really saying something. Nic ended up finishing 3rd which was an awesome effort in such a strong female field.
Stage 1 seemed like a much longer affair this time around. In previous years stage 1 has always felt like a short stage; a climb, some sand, a beach, more sand and tarmac towards the end. My memory for details has never been that good and now there are 1099 people who can vouch for this too. Yes, there’s quite a bit more going on in stage 1 than my swiss cheese description (because there are a lot of holes in swiss cheese).
I never got into any type of rhythm during stage 1, it felt tough in all regards. I tried to stay with riders but whenever the course turned upward my legs had other ideas. As I continually moved back through the field I slowly gave in. When I eventually crossed the finish line at Hamelin Bay I knew that I was a long way down, so I very quickly turned my attention to other people and finding out about their race and when that was done I headed to the water at Hamelin Bay.
Stage 1 was again the decisive stage among the men and women, both Lachie Norris and Jenny Fay went on to take the overall win. Jenny increased her lead daily while Lachie’s lead was chipped into a bit but not enough to change the overall results.
Stage 2 starts at Hamelin Bay and from start to finish the scenery is stunning. Early on the course made its way through Boranup Forest which is a truly breath taking experience in itself. I tried to enjoy the riding but my legs were really struggling, I had nothing. On the up side I looked around a lot more on this stage than I have in other years, but at the slow pace I was traveling at it was going to be a very long day. Luckily a Giant train consisting of Craig, Brad and Mark passed me with 20 kilometres to go, I dug deep and grabbed their wheel and managed to stay with them all the way to the finish line at Zanadu Winery. I felt very grateful for their tow and happy that I had been able to push a bit deeper.
No doubt the first two days of racing felt really tough. It is often the case that I go into races questioning my fitness and wishing I’d done more riding, prepared better, perhaps eaten less chocolate and had a lot less to drink leading into the race, all that is pretty standard and this race was no exception. But I also found myself thinking a little deeper about what it is that I want to get out of racing these days. I’ve always enjoyed racing no matter where my fitness is at—racing is always hard no matter how fit you are—but it’s fair to say there’s a lot more satisfaction at the finish line when you’ve achieved a great result or achieved the goal you set out to achieve.
Stage 3 is just about everyones favourite stage, the Margaret River special stage. With more single track than the other 3 stages combined. The event crew and locals have been working tirelessly on making this single track as fun as possible, it’s been a work in progress since year 2 and it’s well and truly paid off. Tracks that used to be bumpy and slow going are now fast, flowing, beautifully ‘bedded in’ and made complete with perfectly positioned berms. The stage finished at Colonnial Brewery, the location for that nights function.
The last 2 days of racing really stand out for me. I can contribute a lot of that to the fact I rode with my close friend Jenni King, Jen had just got home from 5 days of racing at the Tour of Langkawi, where she finished 8th in a mostly european field. With weary legs she didn’t have the punch to ride at the front of the race so after 2 days of racing she rode back in the field with me. I am a big fan of pairs racing—shared experiences are in my opinion so much more fulfilling—so I was very grateful to Jen for hanging back with me as there were numerous occasions when she clearly dropped the anchor for my benefit.
The organisers of the Cape to Cape have always maintained that the nights during the Cape to Cape are as integral as the days themselves. Therefore the functions throughout the event are an important element to the overall experience. The Colonial Brewey function has always been a favourite, after all what more could a mountain biker want than a plate overflowing with food and so many choices of beer on tap. The guys at the brewery have hit the nail on the head.
Stage racing is such a physical and emotional journey, sometimes it feels like you wake up with a different set of legs each morning, how you felt the previous day can sometimes bear no indication of how you will might feel the next. Although there are ups and downs, there’s also opportunity to regroup and tweak your attitude so that you can give things another shot. Perhaps my fondness for stage racing is a reflection of my inconsistent energy levels, I am not sure, but amongst the elation of finishing I can always count on there being a tinge of sadness knowing that I have crossed the finish line for the last time.
The organisers have done something pretty special with this event, they’ve managed to build a race that accommodates all types of riders, from the serious recreational to the super elite. It’s a noticeable aspect and key feature to the events success, with more and more industry keen to jump on board.
For me the event was made extra special having my sponsors Giant there supporting the riders and also riding in the event. Thanks to Dom and Alistair for making sure that I had a smooth running bike over the four days and thanks also to Al for helping to get us to the finish line on the final stage.
Thanks to my sponsors, Giant, Shimano, Adidas and thanks for reading.