At a time when more mountain bikers are choosing holidays over events, the Cape to Cape mountain bike race in Western Australia continues to attract an unusually large and diverse crowd. So what is the secret behind the success of Australia’s largest multi-day mountain bike stage race?
Kath Bicknell, Presented by
Kath Bicknell

4 Jun 2018 - 9:06 AM  UPDATED 6 Jun 2018 - 3:12 PM

Based in and around Margaret River, with a format that makes the Cape to Cape MTB as much a holiday as a race, the secret formula is surprisingly simple. “Your ride is over by noon, giving you all afternoon to explore our region day after day,” said Michael Brookes, a passionate local who has competed in almost every edition of the event since it began with about 80 riders in 2008.

“The atmosphere is always exciting and feels adventurous,” he added, describing the appeal of point-to-point stages rather than a lap format race. “It is always new trail coming at you.”

This atmosphere continues once riders step off their bikes as well. “Each day it’s buzzing with riders sharing their achievements and stories, making friends that, in a lot of cases, become mates for life, I am sure.”

With stages ranging from 50 to 63 kilometres over the four-day event, riders spend the mornings taking in the unique landscapes of South Western Australia from the forest and coastal trails. The afternoons are then free to explore the region’s other unique attractions on foot, by bike, or by recovering from the morning’s pedal with a refreshing dip in the Indian Ocean.

“The Margaret River region boasts the best beaches,” said Brookes. “And over 100 wineries, a dozen craft breweries, ancient limestone caves and towering Karri and Marri forests are all within an easy ride or short drive.”

“Brookesy”, who got into mountain biking after racing BMX in the early 80s, runs Margaret River Mountain Bike Tours. His passion for showcasing the region’s best trails and diverse environment is obvious in the way he talks about the event.

Held in the third week of October, the Cape to Cape MTB is open to everyone from elite riders to first-time racers. The ages 40-49 male category, the category where you’ll find Brookesy, is by far the most popular. These riders made up just over a third of the field in 2017. The most popular categories for women last year were an even split between the Open (under 40) category and the 40-49 age bracket.

“The participant numbers kept doubling year on year for a while,” said Brookes. “Now it is capped to a nicely controlled amount. The event and its trails appeal to a larger, diverse group of mountain bikers and their friends and families.”

Bringing together around 1500 entrants last year, the 70 or so elite riders start out at the front so riders in other categories can enjoy the trails in their own time without feeling anxious about holding others up. Staggered start waves mean participants take off with about 150 like-minded riders at a time and can opt for a later start if mornings just aren't their thing.

The terrain is varied but the overall elevation gain is low. This makes each stage feel more achievable in comparison to some of the tougher races out there and leaves riders with energy left over for exploring the region in the afternoon.

With so much on offer, the hardest part of the event appears to be heading back home. Or in Brookesy’s case, saying goodbye to the all the participants, who he refers to as part of the Cape to Cape family.

With the variety of trails changing every year and a landscape that begs for further exploration, a riding holiday with an extended mountain biking family certainly has an exciting appeal. Some secrets, it turns out, were made to be shared.

The Margaret River Region of Western Australia  offers world-class food and wine surrounded by beautiful beaches with incredible surf breaks and whale-watching opportunities. The region and surrounding South West is one of only 36 bio-diversity hotspots on Earth and encompasses prehistoric cave systems, tall tree Karri and Marri forests with an abundance of seasonal wildflowers.