Since its inception, the Cape to Cape MTB race in Western Australia has continued to grow in size and importance. From a humble beginning, the Cape to Cape MTB Race is now one of the biggest mountain bike stage races in the world, attracting over 1000 keen mountain bikers to the Margaret River region for four days of mountain biking.
For many, the Cape to Cape may be their first foray in mountain bike stage racing, and given the days are shorter than many marathon stage races, it’s a perfect introduction to the multi-day discipline. Whether it is your first mountain bike stage race or not, it is always worth going in prepared.
Here’s a look at what to expect from the course in 2016, and how you can make sure your legs, bike, stomach and kit bag are ready for it.
The 2016 Cape to Cape course
The Cape to Cape travels from Cape Leeuwin to Dunsborough Country Club over the four days from 20-23 October, and stage one is one of the most spectacular race starts in Australia, with riders lined up past the lighthouse along a strip of magnificent West Australian coast line.
This first stage covers 41.2km, and soon after the start there is a dirt road climb leading into a fast left hander and sandy double track descent. Enjoy the free speed as for the next few kilometres you’ll be climbing a big hill, before then descending back down and doing it all again. There is lots of sandy fire trail, and an amazing run up the beach before your final run in to Hamelin Bay.
The second stage starts at Hamelin Bay and makes tracks to Xanadu Winery. It’s accented by limestone rock and some loamy trails, and there is no denying the finish will be tough if you’re a solo rider and the wind has picked up. Keep something in the tank for the finish.
Stage three starts at Xanadu Winery and rolls through the streets of Margaret River, before sending riders into the best selection of singletrack in the whole race. Keep it wide open and look ahead, but don’t burn all your matches – the last few pinch climbs to Colonial Brewery will need some muscle.
Stage four is no final day parade, and while it’s likely there will be a race for the overall lead on up front, chances are everyone else will be defending their position too. After a fast start on farm roads, the singletrack of Middle Earth awaits, and this could actually be the most enjoyable section of the whole race, with the trails lovingly carved into the natural bush. Once done, you need to get it into top gear as the route traverses farm land and forest to the Dunsborough Country Club, with the final kilometres snaking through the club’s singletrack network.
The complete route details are still being released – check out the Cape to Cape website closer to the event date.
Preparing your legs for Cape to Cape
At this point, if you’re considering entering Cape to Cape and haven’t, you’d want to have some good base fitness. But there is still time to work on some efforts that will help you get through the race, and probably assist in being more competitive.
Compared to many stage races around the globe Cape to Cape is relatively flat. You will pedal a lot, and freewheel very little. You will ride in some softer, sandier conditions, and quite likely in the wind. So it may seem obvious, but it will be worth making sure some of your time on the bike is on the road, or rolling firetrail. Better yet, if you have a road bike ride with your local bunch and get used to the changes in speed, and higher output required to match others pace. On the open sections of the route small groups will form, especially the closer to the front of the race you are. Your ability to not get dropped, and match the pace of the group and work in it efficiently will make a difference.
But – while you won’t be in the alps, you will still be climbing. Building a day of hill repeats into your weekly riding will be worthwhile. Keep the pressure on the pedals, the heart rate and breathing barely manageable, and aim to use a hill that takes about 6 minutes to climb and 2 -3 minutes to descend.
Time on the bike is your friend though for the next 3 weeks, making sure your body is comfortable riding on consecutive days. If you want help with your training for goals beyond Cape to Cape, seek advice from the experts.
Don’t neglect your singletrack skills, as some focused skills sessions so you can carry speed through corners better will be a real bonus for your enjoyment, and your race time.
Preparing your bike for the Cape to Cape
Nothing is more devastating than arriving at a destination with a bike that isn’t working, and perhaps the wrong tyres or gearing. The Cape to Cape suits a hardtail or short travel full-suspension bike for those chasing podiums. For everyone else, just settle on what you have and make sure it works.
Now is a great time to get on the phone to your local bike shop to book your bike in for a once over, especially given the wet weather most of us have been dealing with recently. Have your brake pads checked, your bottom bracket, headset and hub bearings, plus jockey wheels, chain, cassette and chain rings. Let them know you’re going to Cape to Cape, and what you’ll be putting your bike through.
You might choose to think about tyres too – something with a medium to low tread height and big bag, plus some sidewall strength will be perfect. I’ll run 2.2″ Maxxis Ikon EXO tyres front and rear, and with no more than about 24psi to keep them floating nicely. I will also use a dry lube unless there is wet weather – Ride Mechanic Bike Milk or Bike Mix should be perfect, and will make sure cleaning up after each stage isn’t too hard.
Keeping the tank topped up at Cape to Cape
Most people don’t have trouble eating enough at a bike race – in fact plenty of people over eat. But you should focus on eating at the right time. So that might be a case of having an easily digestible breakfast (keep the full English for Monday morning post race), and have food you’ll eat in the race at hand ready to go – even from waiting on the start line. This might be bananas, dates, figs, or sports nutrition. Don’t go nuts with sports drinks if you don’t usually drink them. Think about how long you will be on the bike each day and do a basic nutrition plan, you’ll need between 60 and 90g of carbohydrate per hour, and probably 750mL of fluid per hour too – more if you’re a heavy sweater. You might like to check out some guidelines by the AIS.
Of course, while not hunger flatting in a stage is a goal, you want to make sure you rehydrate and refuel well post stage. Yes, Stage two and three finish where alcohol is served… but have some real fluids and a meal first! Treat your first refreshing alcoholic beverage as a treat once you’ve ticked your nutrition boxes.
What to take to Cape to Cape
Well, that should be obvious, right? A bike, some clothes, towel… well yes. But don’t forget a few things that can make a difference. Aim to take 4 sets of riding gear incase you aren’t able to wash. Take spares that are appropriate to your bike. The Cape to Cape has a mechanical service, but if your bike needs something unique and they don’t have it – you could be stuck.
If you’re a bit more DIY, make sure your travel toolkit has a clean rag and one for the drivetrain – a chain lube of your choice, shock pump, mini pump, chain tool, allen keys, quick link, some spare bolts for rotors, cleats and bottle cages, electrical tape, spare brake pads and a sharpened spoke, they’re useful for all sorts of things.
You’re at a bike race, but be ready for a night out anyway! The Cape to Cape is crammed with other social activities, so don’t be the loser sat in your free t-shirt from the 2004 Mont 24hr, that should have moved to the rag pile 12 years ago. Take a camera to capture some of the memories before and after the stage. Mountain biking, and especially travelling to races, is about the people you meet and the experiences you have. Whether you capture that on your phone, a GoPro or a larger camera – it helps create priceless memories. Most importantly – take your sense of humour and sense of adventure!
So what’s left? Double check your flight booking and accommodation, keep riding your bike, and get set to have an awesome four days in Western Australia.