Arriving at the Callala Bay RSL, I had plenty of time for rego, get dressed and final adjustments to the bike, check tyre pressures etc. After a brief warm up I went back to the car just before heading for the start and realised my front tyre had gone completely flat. What The? There didn’t seem to be any holes so I quickly pumped it back up and chucked my hand pump in the CamelBak just in case it turned out to be a recurring problem. The start was good although being a few rows back on the grid, gives the front runners an immediate advantage once the field strings out to a long single file, but not to be deterred I pushed hard to maintain the same pace and kept the front runners in sight for most of the first stage.
The legs were feeling great and I was holding 85% max HR for extended periods, but figured I had nothing to lose so continued to push hard to see how long I could last. Apart from a stomach upset at the 60km mark, I pushed hard all day and ended up averaging 80% for the whole ride which I was pretty happy about. Gavin Williams and I had plans to team up and try and work together which worked pretty well to the KOM mark at which point Gav destroyed me. I saw him again briefly at the 60km mark but at that point I couldn’t hold any more gels down so had to back off a touch until my stomach sorted itself out.
For a relatively flat course this KOM kinda hurts
In the middle section a nice little group of about 10 riders formed and we all worked pretty well together to make good ground. Inevitably there were a few spills from guys who tried to get an advantage by riding through the mud holes, only to go over the bars in a shower of mud as the hole plummeted to depths not previously imagined. The bike handling skills were again sorely tested especially when you are climbing a track with 30cm deep ruts common and slippery clay ridges barely wider than your tyre the only ridable line. Line selection was critical as it was always a battle to keep the back wheel on track rather than sliding into the rut forcing you dab your foot.
My only near spill was on a descent when my front tyre caught a dried mud rut and I nearly came a cropper at speed but was able to throw my leg out and stay upright, even warding off the usual cramp such a kick can bring on.
Coondoo was lonely but I was still making good speed. By this stage the demons had crept back into my X0 SRAM drivetrain (fact is they never really leave!) and the small chain ring had well and truly packed it in as the chain sucked after only one or two pedal strokes. I thought about lubing the chain, but I hate stopping so it was the 39t for the second 50km which worked out alright and make me get out of the saddle and push hard on some of the climbs. That being said I think everyone had some form of mechanical at some stage so it was a great leveller and thankfully my front tyre was behaving itself.
MTB Racing can be a lonely track
Now at about 80k’s I was starting think I might pick up Gav again while I kept looking back to see if any other members of our group were catching me. Sure enough at the 95k mark I caught sight of Gav again so I bided my time to catch him to make sure I was fresh. I would need to beat him by a few seconds if I was going to swap positions with him. At one point Gav slowed for a big puddle and I saw my chance and floored it straight through the mud to create a gap but to Gav’s credit he got back on my wheel so now we’d have to battle it out to the finish. I mean let’s face it, that’s a hubbard move anyway so my determination to drop Gav wasn’t quite 100%. I attacked one more time but couldn’t shake him, it seemed he’d been resting up for the last few k’s so his legs were ready to tango. Onto the golf course and he took the lead and I jumped on his wheel. I am sure the 50k riders we were passing at TT speed must have thought we were crazy, but in our minds we were racing for a top 5 finish so it was definitely on. Rounding the last corner a wayward branch ripped into my arm, Gav attacked and in the end just had too much power for me to get close, beating me by 7 seconds.
Now organisers please note, I know this place is muddy at the best of times. We expect that and to a degree we kinda like it every now and again but really you HAVE TO cut out that section thru Comberton Grange with 10k’s to go. It’s no way to finish a race and it is the worst mud right at the point when your bike least needs it. I know it is probably the quickest way back or there is some other reason, but please consider canning this section as it NEVER dries out. I was following a 50k rider into an ominous pit of filth and she was almost swallowed whole! Otherwise it is a well run event ably supported by the local community and the ice cream and exotic fruit cocktail at the finish was something to savour!
Notable absentee today was Ed “Gears” McDonald who is probably riding a cyclocross bike to the Flinders ranges or something equally silly (Turns out he was mixing it up with Victoria’s finest MTBer’s).
This was my first 100ker since CapPun2011 so it was great to return to this race format, it challenged me to new depths and I am stoked with my result, it was an awesome day and as always the MTB community were cool and chatty and friendly while still finding time to put me in the hurt box. Great to see Cam Peterson there too leave his roadie in the shed and come over to the dark side. He carved out an awesome time and raised more than an eyebrow from a few of the MTB aristocracy and of course looked fresh as a daisy afterwards. Nice one Cam. Machine!
In the end I finished in 5 hours 9 minutes, a long day in the muddy office for sure and 7th in the Masters (18th overall not counting the Elites) and just 4 minutes off 3rd place which goes to show how close these races can get.
Thanks to all those who supported me again in this crazy pursuit of speed, the Eastments for putting me up Friday night, my family for allowing me to and Turramurra Cyclery for your continued support in so many ways