Coach says, this is it, last race for the year better make it a good one. I couldnt help feeling like I turned up a little under done, but there is nothing wrong with being well rested and with my three roadie mates joining us at the Pony Club for the full MTB experience, plus my two boys in tow, there wasnt really anything to do but just enjoy the event. Tom and Liam each had their new bikes and were loving being away from home and camping. After an easy drive down, setup, rego and dinner, we settled into an easy chat before the expected rain shower began right on bed time. Tommy got his wish and got to hear the rain falling on the tent, while there I was getting soaked inside my "0.5" man tent that is too small, too old and just too bad, so in I dive with the boys. Even though it's a 3 man tent, there wasnt an abundance of room and my two boys love a good sleep walk and talk, so needless to say my sleep wasnt quite uninterupted but I am used to that before a race and still bounced out of bed at 5:30 for breakfast or rice cereal, sustagen and caffiene.
It is a gorgeous day, but we quickly realise it is going to be a hot and sweaty affair and I am going to need every bit of that 3 litres of Endura in my Camelbak. On the start, all the regulars are there. It really is an amazing sport where the social and competitive aspects gel so seamlessly and the friends I have made at these races I know are friends for life.
I get a good spot near the front thanks to Ray and then we are off and straight away I feel great, the legs are strong, the heart rate is contained and I am holding onto the front bunch, I have my racing legs today.
Thankfully the horror first 10km of last year are cut and pasted to another stage and there are no horrible queues into single track. There is plenty of fire road to sort out the field and to my surprise the trails are dusty dry and the Ellsworth is eating it up so much so the first stage is all over in an hour. The next stage is just as great and I feel good. Not wanting to lose touch with the leaders, I roll through transition and get into a fast bunch. I pass Andrew and JMac who are refuelling for the miler and am in touch with Gary which is a big shot in the arm for me going though Bayliss Beauty. I get a good run into the wall and up I go to head into the single track on the front. I know the pace is still pretty hot and the HR still hasnt gone below 85% but I want to ride hard today and give it everything I've got and the nutrition seems to be hanging in there. My race continues to run to plan and I am constantly swapping with two other riders Murray and George but I can steadily feel my stomach starting to reject the concoction of gels and Endura and the first little twinges of cramp are start to appear.
The Frequent Riders lounge is a welcome pit stop from which I take on some GU drink and head off towards Halfway Hill and The Kick. Again the legs feel good and I dont struggle too much up these climbs as much as in previous years. Next is Outer Limits, another hilly section and I make the critical mistake of getting off the bike on the last pinch before the pastures and bang, the massive cramp strikes my right quad and hammy. There is nothing to do but take a seat for a couple of minutes have a good long drink and wait for it to settle. The guys I have been racing with all offer me drinks as they roll past and JMac passes me too. Soon enough I am rolling again with Steve Knight coming up behind me which I am thankful for and I latch onto to his wheel as we hit the fast roads back into Wingello, but alas the left leg "throws a rod" and I have to stop pedalling to let the cramp subside as Steve disappears in a cloud of dust.
The energy levels are still good and soon the cramps are back in the their box and I make it back into town just a minute behind Steve. Another bottle of GU and we roll out together with Murray and George, the fast four. The final stage is one of beauty with some new trails and we all hoot and hollar as we pelt down a farm road through a gate and completely miss the sharp right hander and end up riding very wide through some long thick grass. There is single track and some more fireroad and I am happy to find the cramps seem to be holding off. The free bike wash looms up pretty quick and then we hit the Boundary Road knowing from previous years we are close to home...but what???? as 50km riders head back up the boundary we are directed in the opposite direction and you can almost hear the evil cackle of Huw as he takes us on a killer loop, the same loop we used to do at the start of the race, but in reverse and it is just one pinch after the next. George has dropped off a while back and Murray has put the hammer down so it is just Steve and I to push each other on. I know he'll be ahead of me on adjusted time as I crossed the start line first and didnt spend much time in transitions but I decide to stick with him even though he is fighting off the cramps big time. This last 10km is tough at this stage of the race during the hottest part of the day. On one very steep pinch I decide to keep riding but over the top I am blinded by the sudden pool of salty sweat pooling into my eyes. Brokeback Mountain is also a test of the spirit but still the energy levels up good and the cramps seem to be gone for good. Across the creek and Steve says he cant hang on any longer but I tell him just to hold my wheel and we can finish this together.
Finally we return to the boundary road, Murray takes the long choice and we go the shorter beating him to the post. The last bitumin is also a blast, after such a long hard race, it is a rush to lock off the suspension, shove it in the dog and ride a pace line back into town and Steve and I cross the line together in 5th and 7th positions respectively. My time of 5:26 is 30 mins off the previous two years so I am stoked with that and I find my boys have also had their success with Tom getting 5th in his age and Liam winning his age race.
Thanks to Turramurra Cyclery for this awesome Ellsworth 29er. It did not miss a beat all day! Thanks and congrats to all the TORC and Peloton Sports riders for your awesome results and especially to Steve Knight for teaming up at the end and pushing me to the finish.
Thanks to my family, first my gorgeous wife Sarah who bears with all my training and racing. Without airing too much dirty laundry, we had a bit of a barny the week prior to this race but it was great making up and it was a wake up call to me to keep things in perspective. My kids Danielle, Liam and Thomas, you guys rock!
Thanks also to my coach Dave Hunt of FTP, this year has been absolutely beyond expectations and next year is looking very exciting.
And finally to all the organisers, sponsors and volunteers who made this race possible. Special mention to the race commentator who kept the throng entertained all day and delivered his kiss to a grimy sweaty cheek at the end of the race as promised for correctly answering the quiz question. Nice one!