By day 4, I've started to get into a routine. Early night, long sleep, early morning and gearing up at the car for the start of the race. It has been a few years since I've done a stage race and I'd definitely forgotten how much I enjoyed it, so it's kind of sad to think that today is the last stage for this year's Cape to Cape.
As I pack my bags and depart Margaret River for the 4th stage today in Cape Naturaliste, I notice that the bakery which refused to serve me coffee at 4.27pm yesterday is open so I quickly stop for my hit of caffeine and hit the road. Upon arriving, I notice my rear tyre is once again flat so I quickly pump it up and feel properly ready for the start of the last stage, as I get to the start line at 8.40am for a 9.15am start.
Today's stage is shorter than most, and with less climbs, but still with more than it's fair share of single-track. I once again find myself a little slow off the start line as it takes me nearly 45 minutes for my legs to remember how to bicycle. I used to think "why would people be doing warm up laps before such a long endurance style race" because my goal was to physically survive the distance, but one thing I will definitely do now that I can definitely make the distance is pre-race warm up.
Once I re-find my legs I feel good about my pace through all the single-track and make some nice overtakes just about every time it opens up. I'm on such a roll (and have enough water left) that I don't even stop as I pass the water point, saving me a precious few minutes. Everything is great until I join the road for the final straight back to the event centre, where unfortunately the road has to be open and we have to share the space with cars. Given there are about 20,000 signs marking the cycling event, and the traffic controllers, and the fact that any cars on this road today are probably involved in some way in the event, you'd think that they would be fairly aware of cyclists, and most are, but there is always this one guy.
The cars are moving slowly (less than 10km/h) and are mostly sticking towards the middle of the road (the right of their lane) as cyclists are going single-file up the left most edge of the road. Unfortunately this one driver decided to veer towards the left of their lane just as I was passing on the left, coming within a few cms of hitting my handlebars (which would have immediately knocked me off my bike and down an embankment). Instead I put my hand up to the side of my handlebars and they hit that and "noticed" I was there. After a few expletives I continued riding past them and this is the part that really disappointed me: they wound down their window and tried to abuse me yelling "We didn't see you" in a tone that was clearly an accusation rather than any sort of apology for, you know, nearly killing me. Apart from the plethora of signs and the fact that there were a reasonably constant stream of cyclists (probably one every 30m or so) passing, their claim that they didn't see me is flawed in one very major way. Their car has blind-spot detectors which light up orange in the mirror, which I know because I saw it go orange before they veered, so they didn't "not see me", they didn't look.
A disappointing finish to an otherwise amazing event, but I will give the organisers their dues as they handled it really well when I reported it a few minutes later. They were eager to take the details of the car, in case anything further came from it, as well as make sure that I was okay and not too shaken following the incident.
After 4 days, 182km of trails, and 3269m of vertical climb, I come in with a total race time of 9:05:15 for the race placing me 56th in my category and 232nd overall, a result I am very proud of. But more importantly, this is the end of my long saga of trying to do the Cape to Cape in order to have completed all 3 mountain biking stage races in Australia which earns me the Triple Crown award.
As I watch the real winners of the various categories stand on the podium and accept their accolades (and champagne) I take a moment to reflect on how far I've come since that first 12 hour enduro mountain biking race I did in a team with 2 randoms- a teacher friend at my mum's school and an ex-student of hers. It has been 10 years since that first mountain bike race, where I properly fell in love with the sport, and having set many goals along the way I have finally achieved this one.
I'm writing this blog post after checking into my next accommodation in Busselton, while I sit at the bar of the Shelter Brewing Co brewery relaxing over a well earned tasting paddle- 4 beers for 4 stages. The only remaining question for me is what to do with the Spiderman jersey I purchased many years ago as somewhat of a joke... that stuck.
I've now done all 3 stage races in this jersey and it's a good bit of fun to be recognised and chatted to because hey, he's Spiderman- he must be friendly! The jersey itself is pretty worn and ready for the bin, so rather than buy a replacement I figured at the end of this race I'd probably just bin it, grow up and wear a normal jersey next time, but then something interesting happened. While accepting my Triple Crown award, one of the other awardees recognised me from the Port to Port in 2019, because he couldn't forget the Spiderman jersey, and I thought- whats the fun in growing up anyway?