My excitement turned to a little anxiety when the start waves were published and I was relegated to Wave 2. To be honest I probably didn't rate myself as a Wave 1 rider, but looking down the list all my regular sparring partners were in Wave 1, so I had to accept a race plan of chasing very hard all day. Local legend Grantley Butterfield, promptly gave me a dose of HTFU and encouraged me to start in Wave 1 and so it was on a glorious mild Autumn morning that I fronted up like the badgeless guy with the clipboard, albeit it in the "wrong" wave but who was going to stop me? That being said I did sit at the back of the wave so as not to raise too many eyebrows and hoped that the timing mats would take care of my sneaky self promotion.
Warming up in the dark is always fun and before long we were charging up the the fireroad. I didn't have a great position so all I could do at this stage was ride at a comfortable pace and wait for the gaps to open up. The other big change for me was the resurrection of the Ellsworth Enlightenment 29er carbon hardtail, fresh with a 1x10 setup. This bike has been on the shelf for a couple of years due to a non-reliable drivetrain but with some input from Jordan and Camo at Ride in Workshop and a few parts at mate's rates from Mike Blewitt Marathon MTB, this bike was now race ready again. And didn't it go hard. I loved riding it again, so agile and light and compliant. Don't get me wrong, I've had some great races on my alloy Giant Anthems, but there is nothing quite like riding a carbon hardtail on the sweetest single track around.
|And we're off, with Brett Bellchambers preferring to give the field a headstart. We rode most of the race together, errr that is he dropped me on the climbs and then I'd catch up on the flats again.|
|Focussing on smooth and flow-ful riding, looking for the millimetre perfect line on some hand made single track|
The rest of the first section was a perfect mix of fireroad and dusty dry schlerophyll eucalypt forest. I loved the course, last time I rode the race was in 2011 and endured the endless grassy airport fairways. It was so good to ride this alternative route and made for some really enjoyable riding and with one little pinch over Majura, we crossed the mats for a welcome breather. The feed station was a great place to have a chat, refuel and pick a bunch to roll out with. Tristan White and Wayne Dickinson were there so I followed them out and meandered our way up to Black Mountain for the restart. It's a strange phenomenon once you reach the restart. Everyone stops, noone wanting to be the first over the mat for fear of being a marked man and giving up precious seconds at the finish, but you cant stand there all day, so just as I rolled out, Steve Henry and Rob Weiser came through, you beauty! A couple of mates I know who will work hard as a group. The track around Black Mountain was nice and sketchy just to keep everyone on their toes and there were a number of punctures through this section. After the legs warmed up again I felt OK, but a few of the hills around the Arboretum soon started to take their toll and in the headwind to Stromlo I dropped a wheel. At this stage, I was really starting to tire but with just 15km and one climb to go I put everything I had left into the pedals and finished with a shredding descent off Stromlo.
|Great shot with Telstra Tower in the background, I'm really hurting on the front and only smiling for the camera|
Well done to Matt Rizzuto and Minter Barnard, tearing the Master's field to pieces to take 1st and 2nd with a 15 min gap to Wayne Dickinson in 3rd and a further 5 minutes covering the next 5 places. For me, I beat my time from 2011 by 35 mins so I was very happy with my 6th place in Masters and 44th overall. Thanks again to the Butterfields for putting me up Friday night. You always make me feel at home! You martians (Canberra locals) have it made; fancy having a 5 minute roll home to shower and recover after a 100km MTB race?
The final pleasure after a great ride with mates on the best trails was the vibe at the finish enjoying a beer and some good food in the sun. That's why we race