Ahhh, the joys of the final day of a stage race. That feeling you get knowing that there is just one more bit of pain to go…
Stage 4 started out at Colonial Brewery, and was rumoured to be a flat fast ‘burn up’. The GC winners were unlikely to change today, but in the minor placings there was still room for movement – in both men’s and women’s race, as well as the men’s masters race being very tight.
The minute the race moved from ‘neutralised’ to ‘on’, the attacks started flying. The tone was set for the day. Mark Fenner and Kyle Ward both launched together and we were racing. Shaun Lewis was doing a great job of work chasing down and neutralising moves, both for himself, and also his team mate Blair. Nothing looked like it was going to stick.
It actually became really obvious that individual riders, or even pairs of friends, couldn’t really do anything against the bigger teams like TORQ (4 riders in the lead bunch) and Trek (3 riders in the lead bunch). Time and again attacks went, only for the mix to be wrong, or for the race to just decide they shouldn’t be allowed to get away.
If this reads like it was a road race, then I’m doing a good job of describing it. There were long-ish sections of singletrack, but after a week racing each other, everyone knew that wheels weren’t to be dropped, and none were.
The initial lead group of about 25 riders that formed early in the day was the same with 5km to go.
The final 5km was a bit of a surprise to those that hadn’t raced the course before – street furniture, bike paths, and back gardens! It really felt like a Belgian Kermesse. Then, without warning and in a sense out of character with the stage thus far, we hit a highly technical section of pea gravel singletrack that took the race right up to the finishing straight – the 18th fairway of the local country club.
That final singletrack saw a couple of little gaps open, and some risks taken. In the end, Pete Hatton took the stage, with Andy Blair 2nd and Brendan in 3rd. Flying down behind them was Kyle Ward, who realised he would be close to Hatton on the GC, so had the race for every last meter. Kyles risks were rewarded, he finished 4th on the stage, but also held off Pete Hatton on the GC by a single second.
Despite some valiant attempts, Mark Fenner couldn’t get away from the front of the race today, and thus couldn’t put any time into Jon Gregg. It’s an interesting dynamic having their race within the main ‘elite’ race, as scenarios that are played out in both categories but in the same bunch on the road are unrelated, but ultimately have a direct impact on the overall result.
I have to say that I felt sorry for Fenner, as he really tried to get away today, but Gregg did everything he needed to, and raced perfectly against what was essentially a full TORQ team.
Either way you look at it, the guys raced hard, head to head, on all the stages, and barely anything split them in the end.
In the women’s race, Jenny Fay had taken and early lead in the race, but the open nature of the course meant that it was destined not to stick. She was joined by stage 1 sensation, and ‘driver’ Jo Bennett. Jo was still in the race for 2nd place, despite slipping to 3rd overall behind Tory Thomas (who was behind on the stage, working with team mate Peta Mullens). Jenny and Jo worked together right up until the final climb, where they split, with Jenny taking the stage win and the overall GC. Jo battled home, giving it everything to try and take back 2nd on the GC, but it wasn’t to be. Tory came over the line shortly after and maintained her 2nd position on GC.
Swell-Specialized as a team had an excellent race, and should be congratulated on their double win. Shaun and Andy make a potent combination in the men’s race, and Jenny Has the strength and the racing smarts to win the women’s race for a 2nd year running.
In the top 6 or 7 men, there were a few ‘solo’ riders – who were there without a team. So it can be done. Adrian Jackson in 2nd was on his own, as was Pete Hatton and Kyle Ward. The best rider will pretty much alway come out on top in an mtb race, and Andy proved that. However, there is no question that he was able to race differently and be more relaxed because of huge amount of great work from Shaun. It will be hard to beat a ‘team’ as a group of individuals.
So – that’s it for the Cape to Cape 2013. A fantastic race with some great trails, great people, and great wine! Will I be coming back? Yes.
The greatest testament to be paid to this race, other than the smiles on the faces of all the riders, was the comment made by my (non riding) girlfriend at dinner last night, over a glass of wine as the sun set on the west-coast:
“You can come to this race again, and I’ll come with you. Early start, finished by lunchtime, then the rest of the day to enjoy the wonderful area together – the perfect compromise”.
I couldn’t agree more.