Muddy Champs Start Defence at Chilly Cape to Cape
Muddy Champs Start Defence at Chilly Cape to Cape
Cape Leeuwin’s wild weather has been the down fall of many a sailing ship over the centuries, but the blustery, cold conditions, horizontal rain and red mud couldn’t stop more than 1100 dedicated mountain bike mates from letting the good times roll on Cape to Cape’s stunning trails.
It was mud caked defending champions Brendan Johnston and Kiwi Samara Sheppard who handled the tough conditions best with both putting in stunning performances, confirming they are the riders to beat in the iconic four day MTB stage race in the South West region of Western Australia.
A win at Cape to Cape will secure Johnston the MTB Triple Crown (Port to Port, Reef to Reef and Cape to Cape) so the brutal conditions weren’t what he expected and only added to his pre-race nerves.
“We normally get postcard conditions, so it was a real change and definitely an interesting day. I rode straight from the car and I sat in the GIANT trailer to keep out of the wind and rain until race start. It was blowing a gale and sideways rain, so I thought that was the best option. When you have this sort of weather at the start you never know what to expect. “
“I get particularly nervous coming into stages like this because you have no reference point and don’t know how everyone is going or what the conditions are like. No-one had been out there to check it out and once you get on course it is go, go, go. I am in good shape and I am super pleased with how I went.”
While the red mud had the competitors riding blind, the on course commentator was no better off with riders barely recognisable until they crossed the line.
“It was literally going out and returning on the first fire road which was the worst part. Apart from that we were fine. The mud makes it really hard to see and that is the worst part. You are flying down these roads at 40-50kmh and there is just grit in your face and you are just trying to find or follow the track. It is difficult that is for sure.”
“We had a good group of four at the front and were riding pretty well together which always makes for a good stage. Once you get away over Heartbreak Hill, the first big climb, you need to have a group that commits and goes with it and we had that with Kyle (Ward), Andrin (Beeli) and Reece (Tucknott) so it was a good day.”
“Coming into the finish we all just sat on Kyle. He was happy to lead out, well I don’t know if he was happy to or not, but he did. I just came over the top of them at the end and I am happy with how the legs are.”
“Tomorrow is another good stage and there are some sections there, that if you are going well, where you can get away and steal some time. Then of course we have the Urban time trial in the afternoon in Margaret River which will be great for spectators and will suit some of the other guys more than me. Tomorrow is a big day,” Johnston said.
Kiwi Samara Sheppard is looking for a Cape to Cape threepeat and she wasn’t going to let wind, rain and mud ruin her day.
“It was definitely not what I expected, especially after yesterday’s beautiful weather but this morning the heavens opened up. It is all part of it and it is still a great bike race, no matter what the weather. I grew up in Wellington, New Zealand and we get rain 70 per cent of the year so I am quite familiar with the wind and muddy conditions. It is a bit tricky, but I am not complaining.”
“You use a lot more energy riding on your own, but you can ride more consistently and you visibility is better. So being out front is the safest place to be. The intention coming over was to defend this title and the goal since last year to try has been to crack three in a row. Nothing is for certain after stage one, but it is a great start that is for sure. Now it is time to get cleaned up and tomorrow we will give it another go,” she laughed.
A mud splattered second placed woman, Holly Harris, was putting a positive spin on the challenging conditions and her new ‘mud pack’.
“I am just trying out a new beauty routine and I really think it is paying off for me,” she teased. “Overall the course was pretty good. found the hardest part was coming home on the wet muddy fire road.”
“I was so cold and wet at the start and I couldn’t warm up, but everyone had that problem. There was definitely a bit of chain suck and all that sort of fun stuff you expect in these conditions, but it was awesome fun. It was mountain biking in its truest form. It was a good challenge and it shows how tough us mountain bikers are. I am definitely happy with how the day ended up and stoked to bring home a second place in such a strong field of women riders. It is pretty cool,” she said.
General Classification Stage one
1 Open Brendan JOHNSTON (#1) 01:20:37
2 Open Reece TUCKNOTT (#3) 01:20:37
3 Open Andrin BEELI (#12) 01:20:39
1 Open Samara SHEPPARD (#50) 01:32:29
2 Open Holly HARRIS (#52) 01:34:36
3 Open Renata BUCHER (#55) 01:35:03