Nestled in the mountain biking mecca that is Forrest, the 100km Giant Odyssey never disappoints. This long-haul MTB marathon pulls you through some of the best trails around…sometimes randomly….even occasionally…providing enough distraction via scenery and sick downhills to cast aside the pain and torment that comes with that kind of territory.
Marcelle and I were grinning like little idiots as we happily set off around mid-day Saturday, allowing an arrival time that bestowed upon us the luxury of hand-picking the best spot to set up our glamping gear (sweet pics below). Once base-glamp was established it was onto the mandatory jitters of checking bikes and gear no less than 20 times. Once my OCD was (partially) satisfied I ran our transition boxes down to the event arena, ready for an early start the following morning.
A short time later we were joined by Marissa & Grant who kindly provided me with much mirth and entertainment setting up their tent et al while I swanned about in an oversized chair quaffing micro-brewery beers.
Unfortunately, Grant was too efficient for me to really max out my enjoyment before we all made a bee-line to the Forrest Brewery for a hearty pre-race feed and a couple of hand-made beers. A perfect way to see out the day and prep for the action that lies ahead.
As with the previous year it was brass-balls freezing overnight, with 2ºC greeting us when alarms went off at around 0445. After a semifreddo nervous poo, a quick feed on Marissa’s AMAZING (!) Rocket & Beets shakes and Marcelle’s nutrient-dense and appropriately badged “Amazeballs” (patent pending) we were all powered up and ready to hit the road. A cruisy 1km roll down the road merged us into the swelling crowd of lycra, mega-bucks bike bling and neck-down alopecia….ready for the 0700 kick off.
We all kissed, hugged and high-fived before parting company…Marcelle and Marissa took a position in the back row of the grid while Grant and I self-seeded in the hack-pack “middle ring” category, a few rows back from the “big ring” thoroughbreds…all frothing at the mouth. There was little time for nut scratching, with the starter’s horn blasting about 30 seconds later…propelling us forward.
Once we did our 5% penance on the bitumen for the first 5km, spreading the field out a bit, the rest of the journey was nothing but sweet single track (45%) , fast fire trail (33%) and unsealed road (12%). The race experience was special….weather was perfect, trails were sticky and gear was faultless. The only drama was totally self inflicted where I (HTF?) managed to disconnect myself from the bike on some mildly technical sandy downhill, kindly donating some flesh to Mother Earth in the process and still sporting the scars today.
The climbing was pretty brutal but with so many riders around you always had someone in the distance for distraction and motivation. I went through a phase in the 50-75km range where I swapped positions with the same guy at least a dozen times before he began to put distance between us. Two horns protruded through the top of my helmet….unbeknownst to him, a violent rage ensued.
As the 29″ wheels of my trusty steed ate up the final miles, I spotted him again, laughed out loud, muttered expletives and gunned it. I was pretty sure that he felt comfortable with his position…considering me trashed and well off his back wheel. Hitting the final downhill, I emptied the tank – even absurdly trying to engage some kind of stealth mode as I came within ear shot….turning the pedals just enough to silence the whirring rear derailleur hub. Wearing a massive grin and uttering razor-sharp wit, I cut the inside line onto the final piece of single track. “Bastard!” was all I could hear at first, before he began sledging me as I nervously tried defend my line on the loose gravel before hitting the grass of the footy oval. At that point it was a TDF stage finish sprint to the line….and I was Cavendish. My legs were toasted from the chase and the f*cker beat me by a bike length. Bastard!
Despite the rebuffed challenge, I was pumped…coming in 45 minutes faster than 2014. After that, it was all about feeding and getting track fragments scrubbed from various cuts and scrapes by medics until Grant rolled in shortly after. Needless to say the shared beers in the sunshine tasted nothing short of “elite”. We did the usual walk around….sussing out the merch on offer, enjoying the tunes, oggling at machines out of our pay grade and just letting the pins chill out for a while.
It wasn’t long before a battle-weary, yet defiant and totally stoked Marcelle crossed the line. Indeed suffering, but beside herself with the buzz that only comes from accomplishing something that was previously thought out of reach. This was a MASSIVE milestone for her….with such complicated health obstacles to overcome, proud doesn’t begin to describe it. I was in awe and can’t wait to see what she pulls out of the bag next year.
About 30 minutes later, Marissa crossed the line after dragging herself through the course despite savage back pain that kicked in at around the 30km mark. It would have been so easy to just pull out, but she stuck at it and mashed her way through the remaining 70-clicks….knowing her legs needed these miles for the upcoming Tour de Timor 2015. She’ll kill it.
The Odyssey has now become our benchmark….I know we’ll be back again…all with our own numbers to beat.
In case I haven’t spouted on enough about the race and the awesome course in general, here’s the word from some local and international gurus…
Can’t get this clip to run on your device? Click here.
As I sign off, massive kudos must go to Jason Archer esq. A good mate and a monster rider of mountain bikes….featuring on the starting grid since the race’s conception, and now completing his 11th consecutive Odyssey.
Also a word-smith of the highest order….check his blog here.