2011 Cape Epic
After a couple of sleepless nights in Cape Town and after many months of anticipation, the race had finally arrived. Prologue time trials in the Tour de France are a couple of minutes long, but the Cape Epic’s idea of a prologue was a 27 kilometre affair which was anything but straightforward. We overcame 750 metres of vertical elevation and an annoying mechanical which ruined our fun on the descent and ended up 9th, a few minutes down on the quick ladies. It wasn’t an ideal start to the race but we had hundreds of kilometres to go, in fact, about 700 kilometres.
We rolled out at 7:10am this morning, ten minutes behind the top UCI guys and the top 5 females. Jen and I set off with the intention of riding the stage “comfortably hard”. The course was described as being one of the toughest of the 8 stages, if not the toughest. They weren’t lying and we had some really tough moments during the stage. In the end though, we really enjoyed the stage and this enjoyment translated into a 4th place finish. This result, which took nearly five and half hours to achieve, felt awesome.
It was at this point we started to find our groove. We knew the days would be long and just focussed on making it to the end of each day with our bikes, body and partner in one piece and able to face another day. At this point, I realised how lucky I was to be there, side by side with Jen – who really was the ultimate partner. We didn’t do a lot of talking out there but quickly found that our non-verbal communication spoke volumes.
The third stage was a big loop which started and finished at the Saronsberg Winery and covered 104 kilometres. The mountains that surrounded us reached up to the sky. It was incredibly beautiful, but was a clear indication that we would be climbing a fair bit on that day. This was indeed the case with an early climb taking us from 200 metres to over 1000 metres in about six kilometres. It was a technical trail and there was bumper to bumper traffic jams at times. Knowing that we would see this trail in the other direction some 80 kilometres later was the only consolation!
Once we reached the summit of the climb we were treated to some spectacular views of the Witzenberg Valley which we would basically be circumnavigating. It was a spectacular setting with lush fields of apple orchards and plantations, farm workers and local schoolchildren who cheered hysterically as we made our way through their villages and properties.
We then approached the fast and technical descent. It was our chance to make up some time and we agreed that I would go ahead as I’m more aggressive with passing (maybe I have a deeper voice). My aggression was not working on this day and frustration led to risk-taking and a short-cut to pass a stubborn male rider took me into a rock-garden which bashed my chain and took a few chain-ring teeth…and my chain. While I might be aggressive with passing, I’m not great with mechanical repairs and a slow-pit stop was rescued by a couple of nice guys who stopped to help us…yes wheel out the stereotypes, I didn’t care – I just wanted to pedal my bike!
Although thankful for the Good Samaritans’ work, the chain snapped again with 5.5 kilometres to go, this time taking the front derailleur with it. So after the first 98.5 kilometres took us five and half hours, the last 5.5 kilometres took us nearly one and half hours…this was one tough day.
Stage four was “hump day”. We’d found our groove, lost it with some mechanicals and it was time to find it again and look toward finishing this epic adventure. Despite our misadventures we were still in fifth overall but had switched off from racing for the moment. We were content to get through the race at a comfortable pace. The rollout was bliss as we headed away from Saronsberg winery on beautifully smooth tarmac. This dream start quickly turned to a nightmare though as we were pointed up a revolting climb with loose rocks and very little traction. Our patience was tested and broken on a few occasions. The track, in reality, was less of a problem than those throwing themselves across the track in front of us…
It was a true test for the start of hump day but the rest of the stage was relatively straightforward (apart from another puncture) and finishing was quite a relief.
Stage five looked like it could have been another hump day when we punctured in the first kilometre. It’s a true sign that you’ve adapted to the realities of stage racing when you puncture and you don’t really care. Your body Is thankful for the rest and you just go about your business. This sort of thing was almost forgotten when we encountered some of the steepest climbs on the route lay ahead of us in the stage. We started to battle and the short stage seemed to take an eternity. We knew we were having a bad day when the top-seeded guys started to catch us (they start 30 minutes behind), but getting to see Christophe Sauser and Burry Stander pass us meant that Pete and Lewy weren’t far away. We were almost looking forward to seeing them but as we charged on into the finish chute had managed to hold them off…until the announcer called out that Pete and Lewy were just behind us.
This Cape Epic really is a roller coaster and after a day of being beaten and broken, I don’t think I’ve ever felt as good on the bike as what I did on stage six. It was a monster with 143 kilometres which included 2350 metres of vertical gain.. I was pretty nervous because I don’t think I’ve ever ridden 143 kilometres ever… maybe on flat and smooth tarmac, but not more than once, I’d definitely remember…it turns out I needn’t have worried.
The day started out in a big bunch and it was kind of unnerving. Over-zealous riders surrounded us on their bouncy weapons, clad in hydro paks, chunky tyres and screeching brakes. We hurtled along farm roads, interspersed with tarmac and then hit the first climb of the day, dropping a good 30 kph off the speedo. From the bottom, riders formed a zigzagging pattern up to the crest of the pass. It was slow going over the loose surface and a stark contrast to the lead-in. At the top, Jen and I caught sight of one of the other female pairs who were ahead of us in the general classification, they must have been having a bad day because they didn’t look like they were in any hurry.
The long day passed relatively painlessly, we just kept on plugging away and ticking the kilometres off. The kilometres and climbs seemed to merge together, we passed riders and were passed and when we eventually made our way into the finish straight, we had no idea where we were coming in. As we neared the finish chute, the guy on the mike got more and more amplified and I started to wonder if we’d won…maybe we passed the other girls at such a blistering pace we didn’t notice them…surely not! I was blown away by the red carpet treatment we received for coming in third…If we received this sort of reception, I’d love to know how they ramp it up for first…I don’t think I’ll finding out anytime soon.
With a tantalising 99 kilometres of racing and another day of over 2100 metres of climbing, stage seven was tough enough. Overcast conditions loomed and provided some rain out on course, but it didn’t turn too nasty. We raced over some fast gravel roads after some rolling punchy hills at the start. This stage had some great singletrack and some really fun trails leading to the finish. Given that the stage was the second last in the tour, the combination of navigating your broken body through sweet singletrack, inching ever closer to the end of this tour, was great.
The eighth and final stage started in Oak Valley and finished at Laurensford Wine Estate. It was a relief that we only had to ride 65km today. We began with several challenging climbs and then had to dismount and walk for about 2 kilometres along an historic wagon trail. This was as a mark of respect for the Vootrekker pioneers who ventured into the interior of South Africa in the 1850’s. We started to ride again and soon came to a technical section of single-track. Jen and I became stuck behind some slower riders but as we were not in contention for GC we enjoyed the chance to cruise for a while. Then the terrain opened out into sandy fire roads running through open paddocks. Jen and I got into a good rhythm and picked plenty of good lines through the sand. The last 5km of the stage was hard pack fire road and flat. Finally it was time to open the throttle. Jen sat on a guy’s wheel and I tacked on behind her. This guy was really driving it; his partner struggled to stay on my wheel. We got a great train going and overtook heaps of riders. A few managed to jump onto the back of us. We felt emotional and it was a fantastic sensation to be exploding out of the air. We finished on a high and the 15 thousand cheering supporters added to our euphoria.
The race organisers excelled themselves with the lunches for the final stage. Jen, Pete, Lewie and I sat on the grass and feasted on chicken, prawns and delicious salad. We raised our glasses and drank a toast to Jimi.
It’s a weird feeling being back in Melbourne, jet lagged, sore and feeling very displaced. Although the epic is only 8 days long, they were some of the most absorbing days of my life. After all, how often do you get to ride in a far away place, over wild and rugged terrain and up and down gargantuan mountains?Not often. Although I pulled up everyday feeling like I’d been pummelled by a herd of angry rhinos, I’m really missing it.
The ‘ride on, Willo’ sticker was emblazoned on my top tube, there for me to look at whenever I needed a little extra fortitude. For Jimi this race was the Holy Grail of Mountain Biking and completing it was his dream. I didn’t set about doing this race thinking that I could finish it for him, my slow pace and inept mechanical ability would have frustrated him too much. Perhaps it’s better described as a tribute, an acknowledgment of how much he meant to me, and always will. The Cape Epic is a race that I wouldn’t have otherwise started, getting to the finish line was only made possible because of the positive influence Jimi had on my life.
A massive thankyou to Giant and Swell Design Group for helping get both Jen and I to South Africa! And thanks also to everyone who has shown their support and kindness over the last year.
2011 Otway Odyssey
19th Feb, 2011
Whether it’s justified or not the Otway has a reputation as being a brutally tough race. I raced the Otway for the first time in 2009, supposedly the best conditions yet for the suffer fest. Despite this though that day still resonates as my toughest day on a bike. Jimi didn’t race that year but he got to see the aftermath first hand. He joked in the proceeding days that I’d taken on a half-there existence, looking straight through him when ever he spoke and responding to his questions some five minutes later with ‘sorry, what did you say?’. He also told people that we went through more milk that week than ever before because I would continue pouring milk on my cereal well after the bowl was full. Jimi did like to exaggerate.
I was having another one of those half-there moments. We’d only been racing for a few minutes and already I was looking up the road as a leading bunch of 8 or so girls were disappearing into the distance. I was quickly becoming cannon fodder and the race had barely started. I cursed myself and my useless legs and tried to focus on minimizing the damage.
Over the top of the climb I managed to catch up to Jo Wall. We rode together for the next 20km or so. I was trying hard to do my bit for our 2 man team but I was getting the distinct impression that Jo was at best soft pedaling whenever I went to the front. One didn’t require a crystal ball to know that Jo was in for a good day.
The first 30km was a pseudo roadie course. It had rained so much that the original hike up to Wild Dog road had to be rerouted via a gravel road. Beyond that there was a bit more tarmac and then it was onto some rugged 4WD trails with some super fast and loose descents. Jo and I were still together and we’d just caught and passed a couple of girls that were in the leading bunch over the KOM. I was starting to feel like I was back in the race.
It was a lot of fun negotiating the ruts and fallen debris. But we were losing altitude and that was making me feel very nervous. With Apollo Bay being at the bottom of the hill and Forrest being at the top of the (big) hill, I wanted to feel like I was chipping away at the vertical gain. On the other side of a creek crossing I guess I got my wish, albeit coated in slime and goo. A gesture from the local council who thought it was a good idea to grade the gravel road a couple of weeks out from a mountain bike race. Note to self: careful what you wish for.
Up ahead I could see Jo moving forward with fluid rhythm. Meanwhile, I stood in static motion, my wheels were spinning but I was going nowhere. I shuffled around, every-which way, but my tyres just didn’t want to grip. I had no choice but to get off and run. When the ground leveled out a little I jumped back on and luckily found that sweet spot in my pedaling stroke.
At around the same time Chris Jongewaard and Ben Mather came barreling past. They were moving with such speed that the explosion of air they left in their wake nearly blew me off my bike. I remembered where Chris caught me in 2009, it was another 15 or so minutes up the road. Not even the early changes resulting in a shorter course had been able to give me an advantage. No doubt the wheels were getting wobbly, both literally and metaphorically.
When I finally crested the top of the gooey climb I was on my own. I pedaled hard on the downhill taking a few risks along the way. Eventually I caught sight of Jess and Naomi and a little further down the hill I could see the other leading girls. I’d been injected with enthusiasm and subsequently overdosed. Instead of getting off my bike in the knee deep mud pit, I opted to stay on my bike. I was nothing more than a passenger digging my fingernails deep into the grips and hoping for the best. I may have made up a few seconds and a couple of places but it was about to cost me dearly.
I was approaching Peta Mullins when my pedal stroke came to an abrupt holt. I jumped off my bike thinking that something had jammed in my rear derailleur. As it turned out it was simply all the mud that had collected in the spacing in and around the shock and bottom bracket. After taking my rear wheel out and clearing away some of the accumulated mud I was able to get my wheel to turn again. I’d lost a lot of time though. All the girls that I had resplendently passed before the mud pit had all came back passed me while I was track side.
I was finally back on my bike, which was feeling like it had doubled in weight. The climbs kept coming. Over every steep crest and around every bend I prayed for the top. At long last it came.
My most aggressive moment in the race came when I came up behind another rider on the Red Carpet descent. I’d been having a blast and up until this point my run had been clean. It turned out to be a tough task getting around this rider and eventually my politeness gave way to a bit of gentle push and shove.
Singletrack bliss set the mood for the next 10km or so but it was far from flat with plenty of steep climbs interspersed with sweeping berms and flowing undulations. The course provided constant reminders of how much everything hurt. From my little toes up to my ears, nothing was void of feeling.
The first feed came by so quickly, (read with sarcastic tone). I picked up another couple of bottles before setting off again. The next stage gave us 20km of singletrack before hitting the feedzone again and heading out for the final 9km.
I’d just passed Jess Douglas in the Yaugher Trails and I knew that Naomi Williams wasn’t far away. When I eventually caught sight of her on the final long climb she was in a bad way. We looked at each other with similarly broken expressions and continued on in our delirious states.
The final climb of the day is called the ‘Sledgehammer’ because it’s very steep. I took one look at the greasy tyre marks and dismounted. I walked the entire climb. From here it was more singletrack — which I descended with similarly tired vagueness.
I crossed the line 6hours and 5 minutes after standing on the start line in Apollo Bay. It felt like an eternity out there with the pain and suffering in the muddy conditions and the concentration required in the singletrack. I was delirious but I was happy to cross the line in 5th place. A controversial feed outside of the allocated zone resulted in a 30 minute time penalty pushing the leader on the course back to 6th place and bumping me up to 4th. I’m also relieved that my argy bargy wasn’t in vain collecting the spoils for the fastest timed descent
Thanks for reading and thanks to my sponsors for making my day on the bike more enjoyable: Giant bikes | Adidas Eyewear | Ascend | Radical Lights | Swell Design Group. Thanks also to Emma Colson and Jo Hall for feeding me and Dwight and the Rockstar racing team for putting me up for the night.
#3 National Rd, Mt Buller, Victoria
5th Feb, 2011
My first round of the National XC Series was on the weekend. And it was wet, just like the rest of Victoria.
I arrived in Mt Buller at 6pm on Friday. I had enough time to roll around for a couple of laps. It was raining and the fog was so thick that you could barely see a tree before smacking into it. I felt de-amped—If I had of been within an hour from home I would have got back in my car and hightailed it outta there.
That night I loaded up on pasta and went to bed listening to the buckets of rain smashing against the roof. I woke up a couple of times through the night to the same sounds. The rain did ease a little between waking up and race start, but as the race wore on it only got heavier, and heavier.
Unfortunately the Mt Buller village didn’t feature in this years course. Because of new UCI regulations restricting laps from being more than 5 kilometers, the start/finish had to be thrown up next to nowhere, but somewhere not too far from single track. Despite the insipid atmosphere at race HQ, next to nowhere, I wasn’t against the shorter laps. Starting in the village adds about 2 kilometers of fireroad before you even get to the single track. So the change could only mean more single track.
Standing on the start line in the pouring rain I decided that my race start would emulate a ‘jack in the box’ and if that meant I ‘blew up’, so be it. Pulling out is a better option than creeping around in these conditions. So yeah, my head was already giving up and the race hadn’t even started.
We started on an upward fireroad. It was fast and rocky for about 800 meters before diverting into single track. I made my way to the front and lead the way through the puddles and mud. By the 3km mark, when the course opened up onto fireroad the inevitable happened, I blew up. This would have come as a massive surprise to everyone.* I went backwards as the field made their way past the implosion. I took gentle peddle strokes as I tried to get out of oxygen debt. It took a long time and just as I was about to get washed away in the deluge, like discarded waste, I hit the top of the ascent and the start of the downhill.
I used the downhill to mentally regroup. Despite mud cakes using my eye sockets as baking tins, I started to enjoy myself. This did come as a surprise. No matter how tough it gets in cross country racing there’s always the downhill to act as a pain eraser, very quickly it all becomes worthwhile.
So after a couple of hours I finished in 10th place, some 10 minutes down. I wont be gloating about this one at the pub on Friday night but it was a good kick off for a busy race schedule ahead. The conditions weren’t ideal but the Mt Buller trails are a real treat, regardless of what the weather gods are prescribing. It was a fun day.
Well done to my Cape Epic racing partner and coach Jenni King for coming in second behind Rowena Fry.
It’s roughly 50 days to the first stage of the Cape Epic. While it sounds like a long time, it’s a narrow window to prepare for 8 days of 800 odd kilometers. There’s never been a better reason not to pull out of a race.
Thanks for reading and thanks to my sponsors for making my day on the bike more enjoyable:
Giant bikes | Adidas Eyewear | Ascend | Radical Lights | Swell Design Group
Cape to Cape 2010
The 3rd coming
Three years ago James and I rolled up to the start line of the inaugural Cape to Cape stage race in Western Australia not quite knowing what to expect. We had such a fantastic time that we wished we could fast forward through the next 12 months and head straight back to the far west for the next instalment.
After the recent third instalment of this great race, I reflected upon the positive progression since its inception. Undoubtedly the event has succeeded building on the experiences and the lessons learned each year to deliver a stronger, bigger and better event every year.
The indelible memories from 2008 and 2009 will be treasured for the rest of my life and it’s fair to say that returning to ride the 2010 edition was always going to be an emotional experience.
Shaun Lewis and I arrived in Perth late on the Tuesday evening before the race. We spent the night in Perth and had a few hours to look around preceding an early afternoon departure to Margaret River. We decided to hunt around town, but first a mountain biker needs to eat. We fortuitously stumbled upon ‘Ride to Work Day’, an Australia-wide annual awareness day that promotes cycling safety… but more importantly it offered lots of edible freebies courtesy of the local industry. We got talking to a few locals who knew all about the Cape to Cape. They were enthusiastic and both Shaun and I were starting to get excited.
After a packed morning of sightseeing in Perth and a longer-than-expected bus trip, by the time we arrived in Hamelin Bay we were exhausted. With our cabins less than 50 metres from the beach, we could practically dangle our feet and suck in the crisp ocean air from the comfort of our balconies.
The most significant change for 2010 was the announcement that the 2010 Cape to Cape would be a ‘race’, an official one. In previous years, the Cape had been held as an informal race and didn’t formally recognise place-getter. While the non-race format hadn’t decreased the jubilation that high-place getters felt in the past, this year would be different.
At the first edition of the Cape to Cape, the event organisers admitted they weren’t mountain bikers and it’s fair to say that this was reflected in certain aspects of the event. By the second edition, there was no denying the event team had learnt a lot. A few dozen locals had given their insights into the local trails, race director Jason Dover had bought himself a mountain bike and heaps of rider feedback had been wholly digested. It was a clear recipe for success. With such positive progression achieved in its first year, I was expecting big things in 2011.
As a result of the event being announced as a race and a lucrative cash pool being offered for the high place getters, the talent at the pointy end of the field was growing in depth. In the men’s category, Chris Jongewaard’s name was on the start list as was Olympian Dan McConnell. Add to that the trio of Josh Carlson, Shaun Lewis and Troy Glennan from the Rockstar racing team the race was shaping up to be a cracker.
While dangling our feet in Hamelin Bay was relaxing, we were here to race, and race we did. The Cape kicked off once again at the picturesque sight of Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, the tallest Lighthouse in mainland Australia. We were greeted with the awesome force of the fierce Southern Ocean and powerful Indian Ocean crashing against the Cape, bringing with it a breathtaking wind-chill.
Before the racing commenced, the race co-director Jason Dover made mention of James. We sat in silence for one minute and remembered James’ enthusiasm and passion for this event, he was also a great friend to all those within the event’s organisational team and invariably added a whole dimension of colour and flavour to the event.
With these thoughts at the forefront of our minds, we set off to start this great race, starting with a tough climb. The race quickly split up and I found myself in a leading group of three.
With heart rates going through the roof were directed off the fireroad and onto a fast descent with caution signs marking the way over big water bars. Beyond that we continued descending and negotiating over uneven and lose surfaces. It was fast going and our little bunch was loving it.
This year’s first stage differed from last year. There were a few new sections of fast singletrack. You couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear at these points. Whether it was the simple thrill of the flowing trail or the belching enthusiasm echoing from AMB’s Sick Mick Ross, I can’t be sure, but it was over too soon and before we knew it we were negotiating big and slow sand dunes before hitting the beach section – which is an unfortunate feature of day one. Some don’t mind it, others could take it or leave it while some, like me, find it both soul-(and bike-) destroying.
At the front of the race, bad luck meant that Chris Jongewaard had to stop to fix a puncture which allowed Dan McConnell to gain a minute at the end of day one. I found a second wind after the beach bash and managed to reel in Rebecca Henderson who had taken off earlier in the stage and I went on to finish first among the women. It was a good start!
Hamelin Bay was a great setting for the usual post race de-brief. Riders sat around the race village and refuelled on Ascent bars and drinks. For most, the focus was on chatting to fellow riders about war stories from the day while enjoying the beautiful setting.
On day two we set off from Hamlin Bay. This stage is potentially one of the most beautiful stages of any stage race I’ve competed in. Early on in the stage, the course winds its way through the infamous Boranup Forest, over log jumps, sweeping berms and then through some spectacular canopy-lined descents.
The last 5 kilometres was made up of bitumen and cycling paths and my energy supplies were running on vapours. It was tough going and just as I was about to yell expletives into thin air the course took a right hand turn into a treacherous and sandy section of singletrack. It was only bearable because I that the finish line lay waiting at the other end of the section. The trials and tribulations of the final few arduous kilometres quickly dissolved when my eyes fell upon the magnificent turquoise water of Surfer’s Point at Prevally Bay. I was fatigued and hungry but that sight still took my breath away.
Chris Jongewaard took out day two honours with Troy Glennan snapping at his heels. I had a great early start to the stage which provided a valuable buffer for my rapid decline in the latter part of the stage and managed to gain a few more valuable minutes over the other girls.
While on the bike, electrolytes and gels may have been the nutrition of choice but off the bike, the Margaret River region offered much more, and each evening riders were met with an array of fine culinary delights.
Of all the nightly functions, the night at Colonial Brewery is as convivial as they come. These guys sure know how to appease a bunch of hungry mountain bikers. The bench mark was set high in years one and two and I was expecting the works once again and was not disappointed. The beer is morish and the food is too – seafood, pasta, salads and juicy red meet, does it get any better? Not really.
The third day brought with it the Margaret River special stage – the premier singletrack stage. Last year the singletrack through the pine plantation outside of Margaret River was flowy in sections but mostly rough and bumpy due to the trails being freshly cut in the preceding days. This year however, they were bedded-in and ready to handle the stampede. At the front of the race Chris Jongewaard lead the pointy end through the highly anticipated section of singletrack. Unfortunately Chris got a little more than he bargained for when his bars snapped in two after landing unexpectedly hard after launching off what turned out to be quite a large kicker.
Never one to succumb to the challenges which rise up against him, Chris quickly jumped up dusted himself off proceeded to ride his bike as fast as he could with half a bar to keep him in contention for the overall title. Chris finished second to Josh Carlson in an impressive display of riding on a pretty mangled bike.
In the women’s race, Katherine Oshea and Rebecca Henderson pushed each other the entire stage with Katherine eventually getting the better of Rebecca to take her first stage win for the event.
There’s no doubt that the race aspect was adding a new and interesting dimension to the event in addition to the great trails, great atmosphere, great food and stunning scenery. As the race wore on, the shuffling of positions at the front of the race was making it damn near impossible to predict the outcome in both the men’s and women’s categories.
Each day, the course style was different which allowed riders with different strengths to mix it up at the front. This had a significant bearing on race tactics and, as a result, alliances were formed and strengthened each day. The Rockstar team of Lewis, Carlson and Glennan were taking full advantage of their individual and collective skill sets, with one of the boys placing in each of the three stages including Josh’s win on day three. mixing up of course styles encouraged a constant shuffling of positions things both interesting and unpredictable.
So on the eve of the final day, whispering groups were gathering to design their cunning race plans. Of note, local boys Rowan Brown and John Gregg worked together to apply pressure to their interstate rivals. Rowan has been riding at the front of the Cape to Cape since day dot and despite the increased depth of talent attending each year he has managed to hold his position near the pointy end and this year was no exception.
The excitement on day four was palpable. As riders gathered around the start line at Riverglen Estate we were briefed for the final time. The focus of the briefing was the final 5 kilometres. Never before has the Meelup Park officially been open to mountain bikers, despite it boasting a spectacular network of trails. The surface is hard, rock hard and covered in loose pea gravel. for the gravel, but notideal for the 50 odd kilometres of bitumen and fire that we would have to ride before we even reached that section. So “sketchy” it would have to be…. I was a show similar to Bambi on Ice.
During this final stage, I was in front of both Katherine and Rebecca but I was on my own and had been for a long time. I was looking over my shoulder every minute knowing that their arrival was imminent. When the inevitable happened and I was caught, I barely managed to hold their wheels. Rebecca was on a mission. She went straight to the front and dragged the rest of us, including Katherine, into the final few kilometres through Meelup Park.
Rebecca clearly had more in the tank than the rest of us and after a few hard pedal strokes disappeared into the trees. No one responded. Katherine pulled ahead of me but when I finally crossed the finish line I heard the announcer say that I had finished in second place. I scanned the sea of exhausted faces in the finish chute hoping that the announcer had made a mistake, but he hadn’t. A few minutes later Rebecca arrived into the finish, having gone off piste. Rebecca’s bad luck was Katherine’s good fortune though and she claimed the day’s spoils.
Chris took out the final day’s stage, followed ever-so-closely by Dan and Josh. As a result, Dan won the men’s category in a time of 7 hours and 57 minutes while Chris and Josh took second and third a little further back. I was able to finish first among the women in 9 hours and 43 minutes.
Finishing such a spectacular race is always bitter-sweet. The buzz and personal satisfaction of making it to the finish line on the final day is always significant, but on the other hand, slouched over my bike at Geographe Bay, I felt a tinge of disappointment that the race had come to an end.
Perhaps it was being in this familiar place with so many fond memories, that James’ presence was as strong as it had been over the four days. It was easy imagining him right there, cracking jokes and talking to anyone and everyone, exchanging stories full of ebullience. It’s what he thrived on and it’s what he loved so much about the Cape to Cape.
There’s no doubt that the Cape to Cape is establishing itself as one of Australia’s premier stage races. Like a fizzy drink that never goes flat, the enthusiasm and passion that James and I were met with in year one is still as carbonated as ever.
Each year since its inception, rider numbers have doubled from that of the previous year, growing to approximately 400 in 2010. The attractive setting is the cornerstone of the Cape to Cape, but it’s the commitment and execution that ensures the event’s continued success.
If I was told that I was only allowed one race for 2011 I could make a decision in a heart beat. And it’s not just the sentimental attachments that will keep me going back to the Cape to Cape in 2011 and beyond…