Rocking up to the track it was great to see all the regulars and the Masters field featured all the usual contenders with Peter Selkrig the one notable exception who was racing CX. Conditions were perfect and on a quick warm up I was happy to find the legs werent too dead after a big week of training. Macca quipped "you look too fresh" and he was right, sometimes the legs can still surprise, so as we leapt from the start line, I slotted into 1st place in the masters and tapped out a good lap.
For every metre of flow that Awaba has you can count on a metre of technical rocky trail and this time was no exception so I was very happy to be on the Anthem duallie as I floated down some of the bumpier ascents. After an hour I backed of the pace a touch, as the goal for today was to finish comfortably. Jason went past first and then a train of riders with Dave and Phil looking very strong along with Matt Clutterham. OK I thought, 4th is good, no need to dig into the suitcase of courage right now and so the day wore on.
With about 3 hours to go, I caught a glimpse of Matt up the trail and soon caught and passed him, we had a bit of a chat and decided to ride together to maintain our pace. Matt was comfortably in 5th place in the Opens so we put in 3 good laps with me on the front tapping out my consistent diesel pace.
Coming into transition with 2 laps to go we caught a glimpse of Phil's jersey, he took one look at us and took off like a scalded cat to preserve his lead. No problem, I feel good, let's see what happens. Matt commented how hard Phil had countered and we both wondered if he had enough left to stay away.
Coming round for the last lap, the pit guys gave me a split and said 2nd and 3rd were just 30 secs ahead. 2nd and 3rd? Hmmm that means someone is fading. Time to pin the ears back. With just 40 mins left to race, my legs were feeling fresh, I'd eaten and drunk well all day, so Matty wished me well and I lit it up. I caught Dave first on the climb, he was sitting on empty and running on gel fumes. He kindly waved me past and bid me good luck in catching Phil who was "1 minute up the track". It was clearly on now and not normally being so competitive, the little voice inside was saying "What are you waiting for? An invitation? Get moving". I started to see Phil on the switch backs and determined to catch him before salad bowl. Right on cue, I pulled up beside him at the end of the fireroad but Phil had the line so I tucked in behind him. Phil's shoulders no seemed like an impassable blockade now but I sat in patient waiting for a chance to pounce. Sure enough on MurderHorn, Phil lost a little traction and I snuck past at the top, then recovered on the sniggle before putting in a big attack on the fireroad to gap Phil. To Phil's credit he never sat up and the final margin was just 12 seconds at the finish.
Congrats to Jason who rode strong all day and outclassed the rest of the Masters to take 1st and special thanks to Kylie who always provides neutral support for us guys in the interests of close racing. It is a true testament to the comeraderie in the Masters field that we race each other hard and fair and then enjoy the banter and a cold drink together when it's all over happy for each other no matter the result.
Thanks again Chocolate Foot and HMBA for an awesome event, to Turramurra Cyclery who continue to support me in so many ways and my family who have to put up with a grinning, dirty, smelly man coming home late Sunday afternoon gushing all about his big day out. Next weekend it's the Scott where I will be racing with my social mixed masters team just chilling and dialling in the trails of Stromlo then it's the main event for the year, after which I say bring on Summer and the beach!