Neil does a MTB event in Aus

Cape-to-Cape 4 day mountain bike race Margaret River

Dates: Oct 19th-22nd

Having been in Australia now for 9months I decided it was time to get my ass in to gear and do one of the bigger local races. Touted, as one of the Premier mountain bike stage races in Australia the Cape-to-Cape (C2C) mountain bike race now in its 10th year was the one I picked to do. After getting Kent to put me on a crash course fitness program I was more or less ready to ride 4 days on mostly muscle memory – moving country with a little one an expecting to train regularly was probably an oversight on my part…

Before I get in to the race I thought it would be interesting to compare the C2C to something like Wines2whales (W2W), a race many of us are pretty familiar with and where Kent taught me the unforgettable phrase “walk it off” when I actually had broken my ankle. So what do you get for a $600 entry fee? Pretty much that – an entry fee. No tent, no accommodation, no race pack, no jacket or tog bag but you do get a cycling shirt – David Ellis this cycling shirt is worse than the W2W one’s you love to point out on the green belt mtb routes. That’s it I paid my $600 (about R6600 as I write this – could be R7000 by the time it goes to print…) and headed down South to Margaret River – the wine and surf area of Western Australia (WA) where Ironman WA is basically held every year in Dec.

Day 1 55km – (Actual distance 67km) Day 1 started and finished at one of the premier wine farms in the Margaret River area. Your start group is decided upon how you rate yourself and where you think you will finish overall out of 2000 riders. I put myself in B-group (stop laughing Claire) suggesting I would finish in the top 300 riders. Groups head off in 15min intervals, as the majority of the race is single track. Like any mtb race apparently the race is won and lost in the first 750m as everyone takes off at a ridiculous speed but quickly settles down and we wind the majority of the route through wine farms with short sharp climbs (no mountains but some pretty brutal inclines throughout the day). The riding is pretty technical and Australian route designers are obsessed with 2 things – riding over fallen trees and lying about the distances. If there is a tree that has fallen over guaranteed the single track will veer that way and you will have to ride over it. The last 20km were brutal with lots of really steep climbing and fool me for believing the distance I finished all my nutrition and juice at 50km thinking I had 5km to go only to find out I needed to see 17km more worth of wine farms on a day that got in to the high 30’s. The race village at the end was also very disappointing with no food or drinks for riders other than a rehydrate stand that you could fill your bottle up at. Want your bike washed for the day – no problems $15 for that stage please (R200 basically per stage)

Day 2 70km (Actual distance 77km) The rollout on day 2 left Leeuwen wine farm, one of the most spectacular wine farms I have ever visited. Again though it felt that the wine farm hosting the race more tolerated the mtb’ers than embraced them. A race village tucked away on one of the backfields, very little riding through the vineyards and even less food stalls/ drinks/ entertainment for spectators. What did follow was some of the most unbelievable mountain biking I have ever done. Thick forest riding with unreal single track interspersed with riding along the coast down to the beach and along cliff paths normally reserved for walkers only. It had a lot more jeep track riding as well, a bit more like South African mtb’ing really. The Boranup Forest really was quite unreal although you had to be careful for kangaroos on the thin trails. It was one of those days on a mtb that you just didn’t want to end and by a long way the best stage of the 4 days. What would have made it really good was a welcoming finish line again the end of stage rider comforts that you get at a race like W2W were just not there.

Day 3 60km- (Actual distance 67km). Punted as the best stage of the race with 30km of single track running through a region known as Middle Earth. A mountain bike forest with trails used exclusively by mtb’ers. Translation – more fallen trees to ride over/ along/ under. Everyone was saying it would be a very technical stage with a 15km jeep track sprint to the single track and then a 15km sprint back again after doing the single track trails. The trails did not disappoint and it was 37km of awesome fun cross-country riding through thick natural forest. Again Australian route designers have strange sense of humor diverting trails through small rivers that look rideable but suddenly get really deep leading to an unexpected swim.  What I did learn though is that the Aussies take safety very seriously – if someone crashes (me) lots of people stop and check you out – none of the SA hardcore sort yourself out boet, it was a nice touch as almost the whole front 10riders of B stopped to check I was ok coming out of a sharp corner. To me although this was apparently the best stage of the 4 I still felt Stage 2 trumped it because of its diversity and lack of 15km Timetrial to the finish after 3 hrs. of sleep because my 18month old son decided the night before was party time whoop whoop…

Day 4 50km- (Actual 57km) The “play-day” of the 4 days visiting some of the best built trails in the Margaret River town area itself. Table-tops/ berms/ jumps were the order of the day (with chicken runs thankfully alongside all the jumps). Thunder storms the night before left the course as a mud bath, which made the going quite tough at times with, tired legs. It really was a fun stage until with what I thought was 2km to go I spotted a 10km to go sign – numerous expletives followed this and a complete sense of humor failure all of which turned out to be in vain as it was another odd twist of Aussie trail builder habits. Happily managed to finish in one piece and landed up 92 overall out of 2000 riders so was pretty happy to crack the top 100 and get an invite in to A-batch for next year.

So overall would I do the race again – definitely! Was it as good as the equivalent type of race back home? Probably similar to W2W for scenery and variation but the rider experience and catering we get in SA races far outstrips this Stage race in Australia. Values for money, SA races are dam good and really well run events! We should count ourselves lucky for what we have and how many really good events we have. This is the only mtb stage event in WA in the year!

Thanks to Kent for getting me to a reasonable race shape – and Kent yes I will admit it for you in writing “People listen to your coach – with only 3months of sessions Kent managed to get me in to reasonable shape, I should really listen more often…”

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