Two weeks ago my fitness was pretty much as good as it get's, everything was on track for a recovery week to freshen up before the race and then I got hit with a cold, one of those little bugs that just leaves you whimpering in a fog of lethargy. Since then it's just been a case of trying to find some energy and right up until Saturday afternoon I was still feeling less than 100% and hoping a good sleep would see me right to race.
The drive down early Sunday morning was great and I scored a nice little shady place for a pit stop at the 2km mark on the course near transition and only metres from the car. The rider briefing was the funniest I have ever seen, but it was clear and informative with a brilliant demo of passing technique. I'm kinda chuffed to know that my bad luck from last round might have contributed to the new revised rider briefing. Well done Jo. Sure enough on a course where passing opportunities were few and far between, riders were showing the best of manners and I didnt see a problem all day.
The start was pretty sedate and I was happy to grad hold of JMac's wheel up the first climb and just tap away to find our place in the mad dash for single track. As the weather warms up, these races now extend for one extra hour of punishment and it soon became clear that this would be a battle of tactics and pacing.
The track had a bit of everything, a bit of flow, some techy bits, some pinchy climbs. I guess it reminded me of Appin with the all the rocks, but the most challenging segment came at around the halfway mark with a new section of trail that was very rough and tight and almost every corner off camber. It took every bit of skill and focus to keep it smooth through here and I have to say I wont be disappointed if I never ride that trail again. That being said, if the track fairies consolidate some of the rutts on corners into berms, add a few solid ramps (rather than loose rocks at the bottom of drops offs), and maybe a boardwalk or a small bridge over the creek crossings, this could be a pretty cool race track. The first descent was a ripper and I found on the Giant Anthem 29er I could tear into the sketchy ravine with confidence, just steer and hang on!
I think it was on the first lap as a group of us tackled a steep little pinch, I was second wheel when suddenly JMac came to an abrupt halt and I figured he'd dropped a chain or something, I slowed a little at the top to see if he was able to get going again but there was no sign so on I went. After just one lap it was obvious that this would be a war of attrition on both (wo)man and machine so I took the decision to enjoy the day, forget the clock, and just treat it like a full day's riding. This worked really well for a few hours, the time seemed to pass by effortlessly. The temperature began to soar and those in transition were getting concerned how dirty I was, "What happened, you OK?" a few called. It was just the combination of dry dusty trails and sweat that we all ended up looking like coal miners by the end of the day. Even today my eyes still look like someone decorated me with the eye liner on the weekend. On the trip home I stopped for fuel and some high stress chick was arguing with the shop attendant over the $2 ATM charge. I chimed in and told her "She'd made her point but wasn't going to win so move on and stop holding us all up!". She took one look at my filthy dusty face as I gave her a steely gaze. I must have looked a fright as she moved straight on and out of the shop.
The hours ticked by and every now and again I'd check back and no sign of my competing masters, then on lap 6, a buzzing free wheel came racing up behind me, Jase calls "Back in the Black! It's taken me 2 hours to catch up" and onto his wheel I jumped, rudely awakened from my social ride! It felt great to be riding for each other taking turns on the front, not talking much, happy in our own thoughts and focussing on keeping it smooth. Jase mentioned there is atleast one rider between us and leader Garry J so the goal is to stalk him down and sure enough we catch sight of Peter on lap 8. He looks like he is struggling and we whizz by but he doesnt respond so it's now a battle for 2nd or so we think! Turns out mystery man Chris T has made a comeback after Kowen and this time he means business. This guy looks the good's, basically the replica of a very strong bean pole!
At some point I pull away from Jase and the noisy freewheel goes quiet as the gap widens and I figure the energy he used to catch me earlier in the day might have taken it's toll, let's see what happens!
I started to do some sums in my head and struggle to divide 37 mins into 3.5 hours, but at some staged figured at this pace I had 5 laps to go (probably 6 but what's another lap between friends!). As the laps continued to mount, it got harder to ignore the clock, but I was having fun with my mind, shouting in my head "3 MORE LAPS TO GO" then 2, then 1, then none.....maybe. Crossing the line to start my last lap, the race clock said 7:15, so I thought I could ease off the gas a bit and just keep an eye on any chasers. I was super-sensitive to any noisy freewheel after JMac caught me on Lap 6, but the track remained quiet and I kept rolling to get back to transition at 7:56. OK now what to do, how far back was Jase? I resolved to keep rolling and asked Kylie if she could keep an eye out for any chasers and let me now when I got back to the 2km mark that came near transition. I switched off and rolled nice an easy just to get a little recovery in, but my stomach was not playing nice, time for a nature stop and keep an eye on that track, still nothing! OK I must be safe! I rolled back to my transition to find two cars had parked completely blocking access to my pit stop (nice one guys!) the look on Kylie's face said it all. Jase didn't make it but Phil has snuck in. You've got to go again to hold 3rd. OK no probs, I actually I feel OK after taking a pee and I still have a gel and a little Hammer Heed in the bottle, let's finish this. I love how you can fool your mind into thinking it's the last lap when deep down you know you've got one more.
Now Phil also has a pretty noisy free wheel, so I set a steady pace all the while looking back for the tell tale jersey but it never appeared and I was stoked to finish third. Phil rolled in just a couple of minutes later.
The following chart shows just what an arm wrestle this race was with 4 riders fighting it out for 3rd place. Chris and Garry well clear of the bunch.
All in all a really challenging and enjoyable event, thanks to TMC for your continued support. With two rounds to go the competition for series points is getting tight.
12 Hammer gels (3 with caffiene)
1 TORC bar
4 x 800ml bidon Hammer Heed (2.5 scoops)
2 x 600ml bidon Endura Optimiser