Photo courtesy Brendon MulloyTo say I was looking forward to this race would be understating it ever so slightly! This being the first race in nearly 4 months, it felt like I had been training for so long, I wondered if I would be able to remember everything I needed to race and it took all my powers of mind control not to spending every waking moment thinking about the upcoming test.
Knowing the organisers had set a fast course, my goals were not to use the granny gear and to finish in under 4 hours. You never know who is going to turn up to these things so a Top 10 finish is always a good feeling. Any better is a bonus and when Fenz didn't show at the start, that was one less machine I had to worry about!
The week lead up was pretty much perfect, with just a couple of nice easy rides to keep the legs open, but I really had very little idea of where I would stand in this field.
As we rolled out, the pace was hot as usual but I found I could settle into a sustainable pace and still keep in touch with the young guns, so far so good. It must be said from the outset that the track was a ripper. Just the right balance of flowing single track, some fast fire road and a couple of climbs to keep everyone honest, without any heartbreakers.
Again the Ellsworth 29er was the weapon of choice and I am constantly amazed at what this bike is capable of. Just over 3.5 hours at race pace and I only had to clip out once when I ran wide on a soft corner. The slightly wider handlebars with bar ends are great but there were a couple of tree gates where I clipped the bark with the bar end trying to squeeze through the eye of a needle at speed. During the week I fitted a new Crossmark (2.1) on the back in place of the tired old Racing Ralph (2.25) and there was an instant improvement in handling and stability thanks to the smaller bag and stiffer side walls.
As the 1st lap progressed I formed a little trio with Garry and one other rider, but I soon found myself riding off the front and building a little buffer.
The race pretty much continued without event and I was enjoying riding to my heart rate, keeping the pace up and the gels going down and just enjoying railing the corners. On the 2nd and 3rd laps there was a little traffic to negotiate, but most riders were quick to make room for me to pass, so thanks for that guys.
I knew Garry wasn't far behind as he called out to me on every switchback so I knew he had me in his sights. On the second lap at about the 15km mark he made his move and put 40 seconds into me. I knew we were riding for 1st and 2nd so decided to keep riding my own race and if I caught him later then I'd challenge otherwise I'd be happy with 2nd and so it was.
It was great seeing so many TORC riders there all riding strong and performing well as always, with a good number making the podium. Well done Martine, Larri, Garry and Steve!
So that was the warm up, looking forward to Capital Punishment next weekend, let's hope the weather holds!
What I ate: 6 gel, 2.5 ltr TORC energy