They always say that some races leave the best for last. I’m not sure that’s the case for Cape to Cape, and I think plenty of people would agree that they leave the best bits for Stage 3. This might sound controversial, but I think the trails in The Pines, and the new trails we rode at the finish, might trump those of Middle Earth, which are on the cards for Stage 4.
Regardless, today was stage 3 and day 3 (or 4?) of what is quickly becoming my training camp for The Pioneer. And that’s not to treat Cape to Cape with any disrespect, but I want to be able to challenge for a top 5 in Mixed at The Pioneer with my wife Imogen Smith. And it’s desperately clear that my riding and racing here at Cape to Cape is all about survival. I want to get fitter. I have to get fitter. I’m chasing some TSS and gainz.
I was pretty groggy waking up this morning, and packing up my Camelbak Rim Runner daypack/school bag with things I thought I might need like a DSLR, leg warmers, car wash tokens, snacks, gels, an apple and warm jacket, I really wondered if I wanted to ride out again. 10km extra each way isn’t bad, but when you have a car parked outside and a disposition for taking the easy option… I was a little torn.
But ride I did, with a likely crew including race leader Brendan Johnston, Jon Odams, Sarah and Reece Tucknott, Briony Mattocks and my media adversary Alex Malone. Alex managed to put me in the head cross wind, learning from my savvy moves yesterday.
With a start right in Margaret River, this stage has a procession through the streets before a soft restart on Carters Road. This type of start doesn’t suit me, and I enter the dirt in about 300th position normally. And the same happened today.
I worked my way up, finally recognising people who passed me near the end of yesterday, including the aero-helmeted, baggy shorts and knee guards guy. No offence if you are reading this, but the attire does have some stark contrasts. But I have a red bike with an orange fork – so what right do I have to comment?
By all accounts it is a hectic start to the race, as the rolling sort of double track that we turn onto is all about finding your position. Mine was too far back and I had to work hard on the climbs on the rough lines to move up. Back from 300th the first places come easily, but it becomes more hard fought further along.
I ended up in a good small group including David Harris, and we caught up to EWS Champ Sam Hill. We had entered The Pines, where the trails grow, but we also rode in the Not Pines areas, where the pine trees had been forested. This was less fun with wind and occasional drizzle. But thanks to the rain on previous days, the trails were running so, so well. I probably had more fun on the trails than in other years, and I didn’t even feel too awkward or slow. Just normal amounts.
Still, Sam Hill rolled back up to our group, and being the classy rider he is, he was just chill. No calls of track, no need to show how good he was. He just rode in the group and was chill.
As I’m riding on sensations without my GPS on the bars, I do tend to wonder how far in we are. It’s not really worth thinking about because you still need to pedal hard and ride the trails in front of you. It does become a bit of a mystery tour as you are mostly in the trees and you don’t get to see major land marks because the racing here is so flat.
I kept my snacking up but still it felt like there were always more trails. We headed across to the new section, with big banked berms and fresh red dirt that was still being turned into trail this week. Our group now had David Harris, Samara Sheppard, Alex Malone (the skirmish today was tight) and Old Mate.
It was fast to the end, and that’s exactly how it was out the front, with Brendan Johnston being attacked all day long by Cam Ivory and Kyle Ward. Johnston won the stage, but Ward is less than 10 seconds behind him and Ivory is another minute back. Holly Harris won the stage with Renata Bucher in 2nd, and Samara Sheppard in 3rd, which is the exact positions on GC too.
We rolled out looking for lunch until we realised it wasn’t even 10:30am yet, and instead rode back into the headwind towards the coast. That’s another day at the Cape to Cape training camp done. Tomorrow is going to be a hard one, and I’d love to see the fireworks at the front – although I’ll settle in to watch the action around me, as racing here is pretty damn fun no matter where you are in the field.