The Cape to Cape 2013
It felt like no sooner had I swung my leg off the road bike at the National Masters I was swinging it back over the top tube of the 29’er CUBE MTB. It was always going to be a very busy time of year with client programs, schedules, business commitments and racing, but, the reality was slapping upside the face as I boarded the plane for Perth to race the 2013 Cape to Cape.
I was in really good condition going into the C2C. The previous week I had won the gold medal at the National masters ITT and had a 4th in the Crit and covered all the riders I needed to in the road race to take the overall Champion of Champions jersey for the 2nd time, so, I was confident of being up the pointy end. I was tired though. A 14 hour day sorting programs and chatting to my riders and a 3.30am wake up to catch a flight was not ideal, but, I was frothing to get back on the dirt and race the Cape to Cape. The year before I had placed 2nd to Jon Gregg, but, in reality I wasn’t very fit and struggled all week, this time around I wanted to make a real race of it.
I was hooking up with some great friends before the race in Perth Mark and Sarah Hunter and would then travel down with Sarah who was racing as well on the Wednesday. Poor Dean had decided to bring over the team Land Rover and trailer to support the team and had been having some issues over the Nullarbor. He after picking up the team at the airport would meet with me in Margret River the day before the event and we could all hatch the team Torq plan of action.
The morning of the first stage was perfect, warm, sunny and just a classic WA day. It is such a great time of year for the race. After suffering a mostly cold a wet winter, most of the Aussie MTB crew are just peaking to race in the warm and dry conditions and this year the starting line up looked like a who’s who of Aussie MTB, the start list really was truly impressive. The first stage is always a real shocker to the system, it punches straight up a climb and BOOM, and it’s on like Donkey Kong. Everyone always underestimates the impact of this first stage, both physically and for the overall GC.
Yep, BOOM, one minute we are all taking the piss on the start line the next, 450 watts chewing the bars up the climb. It goes straight into a steep, sandy double track decent and it was carnage going into it as usual. A rider dropped it right in front and that’s it we were chasing from the get go. I clawed back up to Jon and pushed a little clear on Heart Break Hill, but, the next down he came flying past in the sand. The yo yoing didn’t stop until we were nearly at the beach.
Paul VDP fresh off a break was doing it tough and dropped a wheel and I had to cross it myself, then I binned it on the D into a super sandy corner. I lost the group and with it the momentum for the dreaded beach. By the time I got onto it I could see Jon and his group about 100 meters up the beach. Try as I might I only held the same distance and exited the beach just behind D-Mac and Morgs. We punched it and I chewed as hard on the bars as I could, but, I couldn’t close the gap and ended up coming in around 50 or so seconds behind Jon.
This was not ideal and I knew it would now be very difficult to pin back time. It was a tough stage as usual and I had felt great, but, lost time due to a poxy crash and some poor tech skills in the sand. Oh well another day tomorrow and I would certainly come out swinging.
The long stage that finishes in the winery is always a cracker for me, it is a little more road like and the year before I have attacked with Shaun Lewis on one of the longer road sections, would the opportunity arise again this year? We smacked it off the start again and it was on, about 15km in Peter Hatton attacked and I couldn’t resist and jumped out the bunch to follow. This move created a little split in the pack and after we had been reeled in I drifted to the back of the group and couldn’t see Jon. Punch it; I moved forward and the group smacked it hard. This could be the chance to split and distance Jon gaining the minute back.
Unfortunately super strong team mate and FTP Training rider Mark Tupalski had crashed and was driving it back to the lead group, he had company in tow however and Jon was brought back up to the group. The chance was gone. I had one more go before a massive sandy downhill and again had distance, but, a cautious lead group with visibility nonexistent were going quite slow and again Jon easily joined the back of the group. In fact he came straight through and put me on the defensive trying to chase back on at the bottom. This was how it was going to be, we started playing cat and mouse and playing around and a group from behind caught up to us on the flat roads leading up to the finish.
It was going to come to a sprint and I just sat on the wheel. When it opened up a easily came around and got 2nd in the bunch behind Paul VDP to make it one stage all, but, only gaining 3 seconds!! After a 2 hour 48 minute stage run off with a normalised power of over 300 watts the thought of the Red Bull shoot out was not exactly what I was after, but, as is the way at the C2C the team had a short rest and legged it over to the pine forest to hit the Shoot Out. I always want to just take it easy as each year someone has a massive off at the short full gas event. I took it steady and came in with a few bonus seconds, but, more importantly all my skin;o) #WINNING.
This stage has just got better and better over the past few years with the work of the local trail building crew like Brooksey the pines is simply awesome. After the initial full gas pedal to the metal start which actually included a 7km neutralised section through the town, which was just great we hit the trails and all hell broke loose. With the lead group all together entering the first section of single track, I was feeling great and very comfortable, sitting just behind Jon, then disaster struck.
A rider went down right in front of me and a couple of other guys and the lead group were gone. I chased and chased and quite literally buried myself on every section of trail I could to even get a glimpse of the pack, but, nothing. For over 20km I chased on my own and finally I begun to real in a few riders and after a section of road I was back in the game. It had cost a massive effort, but, I still felt great and I could still win the stage from Jon as he could only be a little way up the road now? Coming around the next corner I could see him and it looked like he had been dropped from the lead group, here was my chance.
As soon as we caught him I smacked it up the gutter on the right of the track, I looked behind could he follow me? Yep there he was, ever the competitor he was on it and punched across the gap and onto my wheel. I sat up and reconsidered my options. It didn’t look like I would gain any time again, so, we started the game of cat and mouse leading into the finish.
It was here I made my mistake, I didn’t remember the finish quite as it was and while I was right on his wheel going into the final sections, the small bottle neck into the finish shoot caught me out as Chris Hamilton not realising we were going to catch him just before the line came across to the right and I had to brake to avoid crashing. This effectively stopped me being able to sprint it put for the stage win and the rough grass and 100m section didn’t allow me to get back on Jons wheel. I was gutted after all the work and chasing I had done to get back into the race. It would all come down to the last stage.
Classic, I woke up feeling terrible with a massive sore throat and pounding head!!! Oh well you never know when this happens if you are going to go ok or be quite literally running like a nose. As soon as the lead car accelerated off the front I hit it up the right and had a gap, the bunch chased back on. I hit it again the group chased back on, I hit it again and I got a gap and it was growing. I focused on holding the power on at threshold 350 – 360 watts on the flat and 400 watts on the climbs and started to gain time.
For around 15km the gap grew and shrunk, at one time I had about 40 seconds and the lead group were out of sight. I was hoping another non GC rider would be allowed to slip off the front and help me up the front, but, it wasn’t to be. As we came into the Middle Earth the group reeled me in and I wasn’t happy. Why chase me, it should have been Jon that was on the front driving it to bring me back and I was a little pissed off. Still I was feeling very good and I would go again for sure.
The single track through Middle Earth was awesome and we all stayed together, so, as soon as we came out onto the next road section I manoeuvred though the pack and picked up Ben Forbes and said lets hit it. Again we smashed it up the right and got the gap, I looked back to see Jon trying to get across then sitting up, this might just work. We punched it and it felt good, but the dynamics of the group meant it would come back together again. I was now starting to feel the efforts and knew the final few kms would be tough, BUT, Jon was looking tired as well.
I went once more to try and cross a gap to Wardy, but, didn’t have the gas left and decided to sit up. The final climb was the climb to many and I lost contact with the group and ended up tapping it out though the golf club to the finish. I had tried to win the race and in doing so had scuppered my chances of a stage win, but, I was happy. I had left it all out there on the day and tried everything to win the GC and in doing so had ended up losing a little time, but, 2nd was secure, so, I had to go for it.
Yet again the Cape to Cape was a amazing 4 days racing, filled with all the components of a wicked MTB stage race, I would be back again next year for sure. A massive thanks to all the crew that put in the hard yards to make an event like this possible, it was the best yet this year guys, CHAPEAU.
Dean Clark what a champ you are mate driving all the way over from VIC to look after your MTB team, massive props mate, none of us could do it without you. Ed you ripper, you gave so much of your time to keep all our bikes running smoothly all week, I owe you more than a few beers mate. To all the Torq team sponsors we are lucky enough to ride the amazing CUBE 29’er hardtail with Sram xx1 and Sram carbon wheels. What an amazing set up, super stiff, light and responsive in all areas, a rocket ship. Our new Schwalbe tyres were amazing awesome grip and fast rolling, light weight and not a puncture between the team all week. Our Adidas Evil Eyes were also amazing all week and the ability to stay fog free, hold the sweat from dripping in the eyes is better than any other sports glasses out there.