The 15th edition of the Cape to Cape has been run and won, with a massive field, packing plenty of firepower.
With four days of the best trails in the region lined up, quite a few familiar faces were vying for the pointy end of the race. But some young guns had other plans, well and truly leaving their mark on WA’s biggest stage race.
Here’s how it all shook out.
- Flow Destination Hub | Margaret River, WA
- From the World Tour to the Cape to Cape | Richie Porte’s S-Works Epic
- Getting Ready for Cape to Cape | Tali shares the keys to bike setup for an XC stage race
Stage One | Cape Leeuwin
Is there a more iconic start-finish location than the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse? If there is, we can’t think of it. Riders got underway from the most south-westerly point of Australia for a 35km loop. With no start wave seeding, the first stage had a lot of climbing and proportionally less singletrack compared to the remaining three days.
Right from the gun, Dan McConnell and Cam Ivory of the Trek Shimano team drove the pace and managed to build a lead of two minutes to their closest chasers by the end of the stage. Connor Wright and Juan-Pierre Van Der Merwe (Melo Velo) would end up in second, with Darby Gaebler and Joel Dodds (Giant Mandurah PCS Racing Team) in third.
This was the first time McConnell and Ivory had teamed up for a pairs race.
“It was a hard day, there’s a lot of climbing in this stage, not a lot of singletrack,” said Ivory. “We had some young guys pushing us for a lot of it, and we only just snuck away on the second last climb and got about a minute at the end, so it’s still nice and close heading into the next couple of days.”
McConnell said it was tough to find a rhythm on the opening stage with the undulating profile of the course. Looking ahead, he thought the remainder of the stages suited the pair well.
In the mixed pairs, defending champs Peta Mullens and Jarrod Moroni (Rolla RC) were back to their old tricks, not just winning the stage, but building a five-minute gap to second place Tristan Nash and Zoe Davison (Wheely Yellow), with Emma Briggs and Kyle Hamilton (Endurance Explorers) riding into third.
Even with the sizable time gap, stage one wasn’t smooth sailing for the Rolla RC pair, with Mullens hitting the deck in the final kilometres of the race. Nursing a sore shoulder across the finish, it was yet to be seen how this would affect the remaining three days on the bike.
It was Mullen’s Roxsolt Liv SRAM riders Caitlyn Brazier and Elizabeth Nuspan who would start their inaugural Cape to Cape campaign with a victory in the Women’s Pairs race, followed by Karis Aplin and Lara Sarson (Double Ds) second and Tamsin Eldridge and Josie Hardwick (The HardRidges) third.
“It’s actually my first time here, it was really good, it was loose, it caught us out a few times today, and we lost traction coming up the hills and we had to walk a bit. But we weren’t the only ones walking which was good,” said Nuspan.
I had an absolute ball, something that I’m not used to doing is mountain biking, it was a really enjoyable day, there were so many happy people out there, it was good fun.
A bit further back in the field, friend of Flow Richie Porte had a successful day, keeping the rubber side down and finishing with a smile.
Since retiring from the World Tour, Porte has been dipping his toe into gravel and mountain bike events, and Cape to Cape was the first outing on his new S-Works Epic.
“I had an absolute ball, something that I’m not used to doing is mountain biking, it was a really enjoyable day, there were so many happy people out there, it was good fun,” said Porte.
We caught up with Porte just before he jumped on a plane to WA to check out his bike and see how he was feeling about the race — click here for more.
Stage Two | Boranup
With 53km on the agenda for stage two, the day kicked off at Mr Barval Fine Wines, headed for Boranup Forest.
In the men’s, the finish order and GC are unchanged from yesterday, with McConnell and Ivory taking the stage victory. It was a closer battle today however with Connor Wright and Juan-Pierre Van Der Merwe only 30 seconds behind, and Darby Gaebler and Joel Dodds a further three minutes back.
A good-sized group materialised today, but by the 40km mark, it was down to four: Ivory and McConnell and Wright and Van Der Merwe. This group would stay together until the final 5km.
“There was a sandy climb, and Dan managed to clear it pretty well and gapped us all. I was watching my teammate just sail away into the distance, I managed to close the gap to him, and the Melo Velo boys I think struggled just a little bit more than us in the sand, and that’s where we got the small gap. I think it was only 30 seconds at the finish,” Ivory said.
Mullens and Moroni managed to win stage two with a commanding five-minute lead over Davison and Nash, with Karli and Johan Beukes (BEUKES). This was despite Mullens’ shoulder, which was worse for wear coming into the second day of the Cape to Cape.
“It was excruciating actually, I’m glad that most of today the course was in a straight line, but when I had to stop for corners I couldn’t really turn, and I couldn’t really drink. But Jarrod fed me a couple of gels, but otherwise this is our favourite course, and I think the sand really suits us. It adds a technical aspect to it,” said Mullens. “Hopefully the shoulder comes good for the singletrack, I was hoping today that we could finish with them (Davison and Nash) we’d still have a chance for the overall, so to get a gap was pretty exciting.”
In the Women’s race, it was again the Liv-Roxolt SRAM riders Brazier and Nuspan who would take the stage win, but by a staggering 50 minutes. It’s even more impressive when you take into account the misfortunes the pair experienced during the stage.
“It didn’t start off too well today, Ellie had a crash in the first five minutes of the race, so not a great start and then she popped a tyre so not a great finish either. But besides that it was definitely an adventure, and we got through it, and we finished, which is the main thing. And, we had fun,” said Brazier.
Aplin and Sarson rode into the finish in second, with Eldridge and Hardwick finishing in third position.
Stage Three | Margaret River
For the penultimate stage of the 2023 Cape to Cape, riders were set loose on Margaret River for 53km of the most famous trails in the area.
The top two steps on the podium were again occupied by familiar faces, with Ivory and McConnell at the top, putting another two minutes into Wright and Van Der Merwe. Cadel Adams and Hayden James (Winging It) were just behind in third.
Today’s stage is a singletrack-heavy tour of Compartment 10 and The Pines. With a big group rolling into the singletrack together, McConnell started pushing the pace with about 20km to go in an attempt to burn a few folks off.
“We did plan it a little bit. We’ve got years of kms in the legs so we thought we’d push the younger guys when the stage got longer. Pushing that hour 30, hour 40 mark and we just wanted to put the pressure down and hold it down, and hope they cracked, and that’s what happened. That’s years of miles for us, and it worked out pretty well,” Ivory said.
Battling injury, the defending pairs champs Mullens and Moroni continued their streak, putting another three minutes into Davison and Nash, with Karlie and Johan Beukes rounding out the podium.
“It was actually really close racing today. Zoe was only two corners behind us at one point, and we just had to battle through the singletrack where I could, and pedal hard when we hit the open sections,” said Mullens.
“It’s hard to get used to that pea gravel. When you come from the east coast that pea gravel gets you every time on the corners, every time you put the power down it’s boom and you’re sliding around,” said Moroni. “We looked behind maybe an hour in and Tristan and that were basically with us and the lead girls were right there as well, so it was very close racing.”
Following in the footsteps of their team manager, Brazier and Nuspa also made it a hat trick in impressive form. The Liv-Roxsolt SRAM riders took the 52km stage by another impressive margin, coming into the finish at Colonial Brewing 25 minutes ahead of Aplin and Sarson, with Eldridge and Hardwick in third.
“The stage definitely lived up to the hype, it was nice and flowy. We entered the trails with a good group of people that were well-matched with us, and it was on, we got to battle with them all the way to the finish,” said Nuspan.
“It would be pretty special for both of us to win, we’ve never actually won the leader’s jersey before. We’re really excited, and we really hope we can take it home with us,” she said.
Stage Four | Cape Naturaliste
The finale of the 15th edition of the Cape to Cape once again took riders on a 33km tour around Cape Naturaliste.
With today’s stage starting and finishing at Wise Wines, damp conditions added a new element for riders to contend with on the pea gravel.
In the men’s pairs, it was once again McConnell and Ivory who came out on top, but they only squeaked it out today, finishing one second ahead of Wright and Van Der Merwe, with Adams and James not far back.
“It was super fast today, I think some of the WA guys have some local knowledge out there, and they just really pushed the pace, we were just trying to hold on, it was still quite slippery out there on the pea gravel, but a little bit of wet weather made the conditions quite good,” said Ivory. “We got caught out a little coming into the finish, almost took a wrong turn and ended up on the back of the pack so we feel like we were quite lucky to get the win today, we just came back in the final moments.”
Making it a clean sweep, McConnell and Ivory would also take out the GC, followed by Wright and Van Der Merwe and Gaebler and Dodds.
In the mixed pairs, Nash and Davison outfoxed the reigning champs, beating Mullens and Moroni back to Wise Wines by two minutes, with Johan and Karlie Beukes third.
However, even without the win today, Mullens and Moroni would take the overall win, with Nash and Davidson, and Karlie and Johan Beukes rounding out the podium.
“It feels really good, I had a rough day. I pretty much wanted Jarrod to push me for the 33km, but it was great, the rain kind of settled the pea gravel, and we stayed safe and had a good race,” said Mullens. “Of all the stages it feels like the raciest race (sic) at the start, because we have that little ditch off the start and then straight along the road. So it kind of feels like a road race into a cross-country race. I think the lead guys must have washed some of the pea gravel away because it wasn’t as bad as last year.”
Nuspan and Brazier capped off a dominant performance on the fourth stage by completing their clean sweep and taking the overall win by nearly TWO HOURS! Aplin and Sarson, and Eldridge and Hardwick finished second and third overall.
“It’s been pretty special, we’ve never ridden together before so we’ve had a lot to learn throughout the week,” she said. “It was really cool, even from the base of the climb there were people running up, everyone had their phones out and were cheering, it was awesome,” Nuspan said.
And with that, the 15th edition of the Cape to Cape has come to an end for full results, head over to the Cape to Cape website.
Photos: Tim Bardsley-Smith / @tbsphotography