We’re three-quarters of the way through Cape to Cape 2015, around the time in any stage race, no matter how long, when cracks begin to appear. There was clearly less concern for things like warm-ups this morning at the race start, some tired faces, and a few racers sporting badly laundered kit shadowed with Margaret River dust from the last two days.
The weather continues to be cool and wet, and today’s stage started in light rain that continued throughout the day, although it had little effect on the trails, most of which were under thick tree cover. The race rolled through a 7km neutral start, heading through crowds in the gorgeous township of Margaret River, before things went crazy in the first section of undulating double track.
The first five kilometres of the race were essentially a long hole-shot time trial, because there followed a good 15 or 20 kilometres of singletrack, including the famous Pines just outside of town. While the Pines (a plantation) is scheduled for logging before next year’s race, effectively destroying the singletrack there, race organisers wisely took an opportunity today to showcase some of the other fantastic trail the region has to offer, including more natural trails in local bushland with log jumps and tricky corners, which challenged riders during the second half of the race. The final 5km was punctuated by the aptly named ‘One Last Hill’, a nasty, steep, doubletrack pinch, before another fast, flat gravel road run into the Colonial Brewery, where beer on tap and plenty of fresh food greeted racers, although festivities were a little dampened by some persistent showers and a breezy conditions.
The best of the elite men formed a group of half a dozen or so during the early stages of today’s race, eventually breaking up to come down to a sprint between Kyle Ward, yesterday’s winner, and Mark Tupalski, in the leader’s jersey, with Kyle prevailing. Craig Cooke came in solo about a minute behind. Now just 28 seconds separate Kyle from Tupalski, with another 45 seconds to Craig Cooke, promising some pretty exciting and intense racing on tomorrow’s final stage. In contrast, gaps between the women continue to grow, with Peta Mullens winning again over Imogen Smith, with Marie-Claude Baars again in third.
Tomorrow’s final stage covers 64 kilometres, taking riders from Colonial Brewery to the northern tip of the region, at Dunsborough Country Club.