What a difference a day makes. Today’s start for stage 2 of the 2015 Cape to Cape started under rainy, grey skies as showers swept in over Hamelin Bay, providing a welcome change from yesterday’s searing heat. The stage started with a long road and gravel climb, which quickly turned to singletrack, before taking in the incredibly fast, fun forest trails that the Margaret River region is known for.
In spite of some fabulous singletrack, including the incredibly quick ‘Sam Hill Downhill’, today was widely acknowledged as ‘the roadie stage’, with some long stretches of bitumen and several flat, open sections on fire road and gravel where winds and bunch dynamics played a big role.
In the men’s race, Kyle Ward proved too strong in sandy section and escaped over some steep pinch climbs mid-race, and the next bunch of several elite riders, including leader Mark Tupalski, chased for the next fifteen kilometres or so. Their race ended in a bunch sprint, with Nick Morgan in second and Craig Cooke in third, while Kyle Ward took a fabulous solo win, having time trialled through flat, open fire road solo for nearly a quarter of the race. In the women’s Peta Mullens’ road nous proved useful in the latter half of the race, putting a good few minutes into me as I struggled with the wind and a very silly crash. Local gun Sarah McLachlan has moved into third.
My race started fabulously and went downhill from there. With such a packed course, every mistake costs dearly: for example at one point I was forced off my line by someone keen to move up one place in the line of 15 riders, and collected a gigantic stick between my fork and front wheel, which stopped me rather abruptly. After wrenching it out and getting back on my bike, I must have lost 25 places! I was happy with how I rode in the early climbs and singletrack, but as the trails opened out and got flatter, windier, and faster, I became increasingly bitter (can you tell?) and began to struggle with accelerations and at times confusing bunch riding (!), losing dozens of good wheels before crashing on some off camber gravel on – wait for it – a wide open fire road. Some poor guy and his bike landed on top of me, I corked my calf causing it to seize up and me emit some alarming wails, and basically went into damage control for the final 7km. I was glad to cross the line. Yesterday’s techy climbs definitely suited me better! And sand, I love the sand!
Tonight’s Sundown Shootout has time bonuses and cold hard cash on offer for the top racers. We’ve got about an hour left to rest, then it’s back on the bikes for another helping. Tomorrow’s 58km stage starts with a 7km neutral roll before taking in some of the Margaret River’s finest singletrack.