Q: 2017 marks the ten year anniversary of the Cape to Cape MTB – let’s celebrate this milestone accomplishment!
A: It is amazing when you sometimes stop and think about where the event started and how popular it has become. I know in those first couple of years there was a lot of conversations between Chris and myself as to what we were doing and if it would ever be big enough to be a profitable event. After having less than one hundred riders in the first year we knew we had to hold the course, so to speak, but also listen to the feedback of riders from those early years to keep working on making the event better each year.
It is well documented now the input of James Williamson and Rohin Adams from the first few years and in later years from Andy Blair, Dan McConnell, Bec Henderson and heaps of others who all saw the long term potential of the event and gave us plenty of feedback. I will never forget the passion from the outset of James Williamson for our event, I think he saw the ten year vision before even we did. And then the annual input of Rohin Adams, to have come back every year and give us so much knowledge on the technical side of the sport which we were lacking has also been invaluable.
Q: What excites you the most about the 2017 Cape to Cape MTB?
A: The fact that we have made it to year ten is pretty awesome in itself. But the chance to tip the whole event concept upside down for one year and create four special stages is going to be pretty damn cool as a one off event. We threw around a lot of ideas, running the event in reverse (North to South), having two Margaret River special stages to finish on the weekend, running double the field one day after the next on the same course. A heap of good ideas but the one that stuck was creating four special stages each with a nod to the various locations and trails we have used over the past 9 years, some of which we can no longer include in the traditional Cape to Cape MTB course.
In essence we are treating the course design for year ten like a greatest hits album. I consider it the course that I would love to ride if I was going to do the event. You see I don’t really like sandy hill climbs (Stage 1) and not a fan of smashing out high intensity kms on tarmac in big packs (Stage 4) so pretty much all of those trails will be missing from this year. For those who have said that they will not do Cape to Cape MTB because they would never survive the first day then now they have no excuse!
But really it offers us the chance to change things up for one year, to allow extra riders to make it a really big field to celebrate year ten, but still keep most of the annual highlights of the traditional Cape to Cape MTB. We will still have Boranup Forest, Highway to Hell, Contos Climb, the Vineyards, Ten Mile Brook Trail, Wharncliffe Mill, The Pines and Middle Earth. Plus we will revisit some old favourite locations including Riverglen, Surfers Point and Prevelly/Gnarabup. And the course design will be capped off with the new Compartment 10 trails plus hopefully a sprinkling of the Creek Trails in South Carters.
Q: What is your highlight of the proposed Stage 1?
A: We are working to finalise the exact Stage 1 course now (and each of the stages still require final approval from the shires, DPaW and other stakeholders). But based on our initial planning the highlight for me would have to be returning out to Surfers Point. I think it was the 2010 event when we finished Stage 2 out there. It is a remarkable place and the trails we have found to take riders out there are not going to be an easy ride and will bring back memories of some of the traditional challenges of Stage 1.
There might also be some hike a bike around some sand dunes near the River Mouth but I can promise the slog will be worth it when riders see the incredible views. Our reccy trip out there recently left us in awe at a couple of spots we found which are certain to be major highlights of the first special stage.
Q: What is your highlight of the proposed Stage 2?
A: We are planning to start and finish Stage 2 at a new location, Leeuwin Estate. This will be an awesome venue and a highlight in itself. But the course we have designed loops down to Boranup Forest along the old Rails Trail and incorporates pretty much all of the trails in Boranup Forest out to Contos Beach and then back to Leeuwin that we use in the normal Stage 2 of Cape to Cape MTB. The highlight is by coming down to Boranup from the north we keep riders off all of the road they normally ride out of Hamelin Bay up to Boranup so this course is going to be the ultimate Boranup Special Stage.
Q: What is your highlight of the proposed Stage 3?
A: This one is pretty simple. We are planning to use pretty much all of the trail network out at Middle Earth should approvals go to plan. That is over 20km of amazing single track (we normally just use a 5-6km alignment through there on Stage 4). So this will be a massive treat for those riders who love Middle Earth as they will literally be able to overdose in these sweet trails.
We have designed a course out from the Start/Finish at Colonial that will have a new way to get to Middle Earth and then the return to Colonial will be the traditional start to Stage 4 but in reverse. This is going to be one hell of a special stage!
Q: What is your highlight of the proposed Stage 4?
A: I think being allowed to Start and Finish in the main street of Margaret River and take over the town for the day. I promise the course will do justice to the normal expectations around a Margaret River Special Stage as we now have so many trails to choose from. In fact, due to the trails available we will be using a number of the trails around Wharncliffe Mille, Compartment 10 and The Pines in the Stage 1 alignment for Year Ten as well. But starting and finishing in the main street will be amazing and no doubt a new experience and buzz for those riders who have ridden down the main street in previous years as part of the mass rollout for our traditional start to Stage 3.
Q: After such a success in 2016, will there be a Sundown Shootout in 2017?
A: Originally we had decided to shelve the Sundown Shootout for Year Ten of the Cape to Cape MTB due to the extended start times and larger fields. After the success of the Shootout in 2016 there was some pressure to bring it back but after throwing the idea around in a recent management meeting everyone felt that it put too much pressure on the event team so the decision has been made to not have the Sundown Shootout in 2017.
Instead we will plan some fun exhibition type events around the Event Village which will be set up in the centre of Margaret River for the week of the event. Each night we will have presentations in there along with some fun riding events and bands playing on a stage around food trucks, sponsors displays and lots of other goings on. It is going to be the spot to go each night so we will have the entertainment there rather than the nightly dinners and Sundown Shootout from previous years.
Q: It is always the most asked question on Thursday morning, what is happening with the beach?
A: Haha. Well, Deepdene Beach will not be in Stage 1 so nobody has to worry about that one! But there are plans to take riders out toward the ocean for some beautiful views around Surfers Point and the Rivermouth. I expect there might be some beach riding there or at least some beach running for a very short distance (well short compared to the normal Stage 1 beach). So riders will not be completely done with the sand dunes and beach experience!
Q: With the centralisation of the event into Margaret River for 2017, do you see the event returning to its original point to point format?
A: Yes the plan from our perspective is that this is a one-off to celebrate year ten and that the 2018 event will run the traditional Cape to Cape MTB course that every knows and loves (well maybe loves/hates)? Until we run the event this year we will really not know how well it works as it is a significant change but one we think will offer a lot of benefits for those who have not done the Cape to Cape MTB before due to the logistical challenges it presents. Starting and finishing from the same location for each stage will be a dream for the rider and we are confident we are going to deliver four bangers when it comes to the stages. So we will have to see what the response is after this year’s event and whether there would be a demand to see it again in the future but for the purpose of clarity we certainly plan to do the traditional course in 2018 and that is not negotiable in my mind right now.
Starting and finishing from the same location for each stage will be a dream for the rider and we are confident we are going to deliver four bangers when it comes to the stages. So we will have to see what the response is after this year’s event and whether there would be a demand to see it again in the future but for the purpose of clarity we certainly plan to do the traditional course in 2018 and that is not negotiable in my mind right now.
Q: Who is your money on for a victory in the male and female elite field in 2017?
A: Well it is really hard to pick a winner this far out. Come to think of it I find it really hard to pick the winner standing at the start line of Stage 1. Plus I think I pumped up Cam Ivory as the dark horse last year and put the kiss of death on him (or at least food poisoning).
But to give you an answer I am going to throw it out there and tip our favourite Giant Team rider Paul van der Ploeg for the men. I think the course redesign (without the traditional Stage 1 which has never suited him) will work in his favour. He has always ridden well on the other stages and been up the front and if my memory serves me correct he has previously won each of the other stages. So I am going to go with the big Vandy nine months out and hope I don’t put the mozz on him. For the women I am going to tip Bec Henderson. I have pulled her name out hoping both her and Dan will return to the event in year ten (and there is no way I could choose between Samara Sheppard and Peta Mullens after their amazing racing last year).