Australian mountain bikers like the challenge of a stage race. The proof is there multiple times each year, when keen Australian mountain bikers head to South Africa, or Canada, or the USA, or Western Europe, to pursue a riding holiday that focuses on a challenging stage race. This isn’t something that only elite racers do – a lot of passionate riders ‘live the dream’ too. After all, there are very few professional athletes in marathon style mountain bike – but a lot a riders and racers who love their sport.
So with Australians so happy to travel, why don’t they stay at home to race? We have been spoilt for choice, with the Crocodile Trophy running for close to 20 years through various guises. The Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro has changed names and shape, but remains an excellent XC style Stage Race in Central Australia. Yet the days where 500 racers fly to Alice Springs are gone. The Mountains to the Beach was a well respected Stage Race, along a great route from the Snowy Mountains to the South Coast. Numbers dwindled, and a great race format is now a tour.
And yet we see the Cape to Cape, which has gone from strength to strength, building on racers feedback each year to become an Australian Stage Race that sells out, months before the race begins. Anthony Shippard is one of many Elite racers who will be attending this year, and he will be reporting for MarathonMTB.com.
“The Cape to Cape stage race has grown over the last few years to arguably become the #1 MTB stage race in Australia. A very high quality Elite field, with such depth, is always an attraction, but its also clear that an event which requires time from work and family, travel plans, and logistics yet still sells out 1200 spots – not just to elite riders without families or ‘real-life’ commitments – but all sorts, from across Australia, is doing something very well that is rightly recognised. I’m delighted to be part of it this year.”
With experience as a professional triathlete, and having raced the Cape Epic, Shippard is aware of what draws Elite racers and amateurs alike.
“Stage racing in world mountain biking has really taken off overseas, and is catching on in Australia. The Cape to Cape is at the forefront of bringing that stage race experience to the mountain bikers of Australia, with a well run event, supported by both the bike industry as well as the local WA economy.
Unlike some of the big ‘trans’ stage races across the globe, the Cape to Cape stays in one area. With the high labour costs in Australia, and the need to make bike racing family friendly, this is not a bad thing.
“Stage racing with friends is such good fun, and so different from one day events” explains Shippard. “I have raced the Cape Epic in South Africa, the Langkawi Mountain Bike Challenge in Malaysia and also the Red Center Enduro in Alice Springs. I have wanted to get over to WA to race the Cape to Cape because I have heard its a fantastic event – certainly on par to the ones I have had the pleasure of suffering through so far.”
“I’m looking forward to bringing the Cape to Cape to the readers of MarathonMTB from two perspectives. The first is for those that follow MTB racing Australia, who know the riders from other events, who have friends racing, and who look for results every day. For these riders, I’ll give them some additional insight, into how the race unfolded – where the selections were made, who crashed, who punctured, who attacked, and who chased down.”
The second perspective I look forward to bringing is for those reader not familar with Aus MTB. They dont know the riders, nor do they know the terrain or location, or beauty of the fantastic location. Maybe I can inspire one international traveller to the race for 2014 in the same way I was inspired to travel to the Cape Epic having read about it from overseas.”
And that is part of the joy of a mountain bike stage race. You get to travel. You get to spend time with friends, old or new, in great locations doing what you love.
“I’m really looking forward to working on some of the build-up to the race this year. Team racing has really become a feature of single day MTB racing in Australia, and this is sure to be a continued theme in a stage race, where protecting leads, isolating riders, and wearing down team members all become a feature. Leading into the event, I’m looking forward to speaking to some of the key teams in the race and talking through their plans (the ones they will share at least) for the 4 days of racing.”
So check back for more insights from Shippard, or follow him on twitter: @antship.