Yesterday was a surprise result for me at Cape to Cape. 23rd doesn’t sound like much to write home about, and I have finished better on the first stage at Cape to Cape in other years. But I also had different fitness those times. On stage one this year, I went in with very moderate expectations, and came out a little better than expected.
With an evening of a few beers, a pizza, and lots of general chit chat amongst friends, it was time to do it all again. Ok, there were differences, like a stage that was nearly twice as long, not muddy, flatter, and I’d opted to ride out to the race with Alex Malone, the man 1 second ahead of me on GC. I let him sit in the wind the whole ride to Leeuwin Estate. It’s a tactics thing.
After the usual shuffle into the elite pen (no, I don’t know how I manage to still enter into it either) we all settled in for the start. Nothing went crazy at the start, the pace certainly lifted, I drifted back as usual, and in time we went from flat farm roads to flat gravel paths then flat double track.
Finally there were some smaller rises and dips and some slightly wet roots and things thinned down a bit.
I was a lot further back than yesterday, but was actually feeling ok, and trying to make progress on the fast and wide singletrack. But it was so fast, that you were often spinning out anyway. I did drop my chain at one point as I have neglected to adjust the clutch properly on my derailleur (will do that tonight) and I did my best to chase back on.
Like at Port to Port, I’m riding on sensations, with my Wahoo ELEMNT in my Camelbak. Partly this is because I couldn’t find a spare mount, and partly because I’ve come into Cape to Cape needing to get fit for The Pioneer. It’s quite imminent so I’m happy to go deep and figure it out from there.
And that is exactly the situation I found myself in.
Coming towards the feedzone I was being caught, and was overtaken by a flying Holly Harris and a merry crew, all laughing and sharing the fun in riding primo trails at speed. I was a little less comfortable, and knew that I hadn’t been drinking enough and I hadn’t really eaten much either. Neither are successful strategies for a stage race, but with a hectic start it was hard to get a hand off the bars often to get food or some sports drink from my bottle. And now, I would pay the price.
I struggled to turn the pedals, and soon Paul van der Ploeg caught me, heckling from afar at how spectacularly I’d blown up. He even commented that a rider with my experience shouldn’t make a mistake like that. Which is true.
I struggled on (slowly. Really, really slowly) working my way through a couple of curious German gels that were still in the food bag coming home from Europe, and descended to the beach as another group caught and passed me. Then another. Then one more. Yes I’m ok. Then another. Then it was Sam Hill. Then I don’t know how many more groups past me and I still seemed to be climbing away from the beach. Then we went onto sand. You know, the energy sapping trail surface. FFS.
I was caught my solo riders, happy riders, quiet riders, guys mixing capri-length baggy shorts and aero helmets, and Samara Sheppard who by all accounts was meant to be terribly ill!
In the end it was Peta Mullens who caught me, but then rode with me too. I wasn’t looking for company, or sympathy, but Peta is so easy to chat to and get along with and riding Cape to Cape ostensibly for the same reason as me (to get fit, NOW) that she was probably the best company out of the whole 1300 or 1400 riders out there.
As ever, finishing a race leads me to wonder what happened at the front. It was great to hear Jayden Ward won the stage, helped by his brother Kyle. There’s no change to the GC at the front of open men’s but it is so close in the top 5 that the race is very open. Holly Harris has moved into the women’s lead with her stage win, with Renata Bucher in 2nd. Full results are online.
I rode back to the hotel with Alex (I had him sit in the wind again, just in case there is a miracle tomorrow and I can make up time from my 118th place today) and as I flagged on a small rise he gave me the rest of his Allens Party Mix. Sometimes, glucose is the answer.
Photos: Dave Acree and Tim Bardsley-Smith