My first decent hit back at an MTB event since the 100km Giant Odyssey where we all bashed our way through the sweet trails of Forrest on that sunny Saturday in March. Not to say I’ve not been clocking up mileage since then, but we all know the difference between that twitchy race vibe and a weekend warrior training ride through your local tracks. Races provide you with exposure to new track networks, hype, atmosphere and the chance to see how shit you really are in comparison to other riders #realitycheck . Six Hours in the Saddle was here to deliver.
For Marcelle and I this was intended to replicate the awesome race experience we had at Forrest. Sadly on this occasion, Marcelle had to withdraw. A pretty nasty relapse during the previous week had completely sapped her of the strength needed to compete. Reluctantly donning her “sensible hat” she made the call on the Thursday prior….credit to the race organisers, they sympathised with her position and kindly provided a race credit for a future event of her choosing.
So….a boys’ trip it is then. Picking Grant up at the sprightly hour of 0515 we made our way north to Beechworth…a mere 3+hrs around the corner. It was an easy drive up as the rising sun cracked open what was to be a perfect, cloudless (ish) sky for the day ahead.
Pulling into the parking area at around 0830, the place was a hive of activity with the usual parade of second-mortgage-bike-bling…..trying our hardest not to point and stare. Searching for a park, I spotted mate and MTB hard-man, Jason Archer, setting up a rather impressive transition area complete with a nicely sponsored Pivot marquee. Being the gentleman, he extended a kind invitation to the two poor cousins…allowing us to stash our transition boxes within, making refuelling between laps a total breeze…thanks mate.
So…with basic housekeeping taken care of, it was time to nervously wander about in random patterns, throwing in a token warm-up ride up the nearest hill before catching up with Arch after his 9km “warm-up/recce” lap. When you ask a rider of this maniacal capacity for his thoughts on the course and he replies, “Tough and technical”….you know you’re in for a rough day out.
And so it began….it was a mass start from the bottom of a reasonable hill, climbing an 8% / 500m pinch that was obviously designed to thin out the mass of riders. My first thoughts were that the short 8.6km single track loops were going to be awash with congestion and frustration. After the first 3-4km this clearly wasn’t the case as riders found their positions quickly and any overtakes were completed with all the manners of a Swiss finishing school.
I won’t lie. Despite the fact I usually take residence in the anonymity of the middle third, I am still a competitive mfker and can get a bit medieval about it at times. This being said, I remained acutely conscious of where Grant was and knew by the end of the first lap he was only about 60 seconds off my back wheel…this explains why my second lap was my fastest for the day 😉
But this friendly motivation was soon to evaporate as I eyeballed him standing in the crowd when I finished my 4th lap. “What the fuck are you doing?!?” poured out of my face at a high pitch. Poor bastard had to limp his bike back with a snapped derailleur cable and blown seal on the rear shock. Game over. I suggested we discreetly switch to a pair and take turns for the rest of the day (my legs were praying he would accept), but apparently he had just consumed a burger and his mum always told him not to exercise after a big meal, therefore he elected to take a 90min nanna nap in the back of the van instead. *insert jealous face here*
So it was on with the show. While the course was indeed taking its toll with every lap, I was feeling more at ease with the various challenges it had on offer. Shame this feeling wasn’t more prevalent while the pins were a little fresher though. HOWEVER…allow me to introduce you to my newly discovered race fuel….with all organic ingredients, this should be illegal it’s so good…
- 3 ripe bananas
- 3-4 heaped scoops of a peanut butter/cacao blend
- generous pouring of raw honey
- pink salt to taste
- handful of cacao nibs
Thoroughly hand mash and mix this in a large bowl until it’s a fairly consistent glossy paste and scrape into a suitable screw top jar (makes around 250g). Take your prized Suunto spork and treat yourself to a heaped sporkful every lap. I’m telling you….there were times that this was all that was pulling me through the course. “Come on, old fella…keep going and you can have another dose”. I was like a rat in a cocaine experiment.
What I did find right from the get-go was that Arch’s two-word synopsis of the course could not have rung truer. Tough. Technical. Switchback rock-gardens were a-plenty, along with tight squeezes between tree lines or rocky outcrops and very little respite between climbs. It just felt like you had to have power down the entire time. After the first lap I could not recollect much joy from the course, however this improved as I became more familiar as the hours passed.
Usually hitting the plush trails of Lysterfield, I don’t get a huge amount of exposure to the really technical stuff and that was clearly evident. More often than not I was getting through them ok but my lines were S-H-I-T, with my torque far outweighing my IQ. I was spending energy like a cash cannon at the ‘rippers and felt something like a combination of the two guys pictured below…
Anyway…after just accepting this as the norm (for now), I continued to knuckle down and pull back as many riders as possible, finishing my 8th lap with 8 minutes remaining on the race clock. I could either call it quits there or take my entitlement to roll another lap. Unable to cope with the thought of blousing out, I scoffed some more “race coke” and took off….winding out my 9th and final lap…clocking up 79.8km in 6:36.29. This lends some perspective as to the difficulty of this course as I covered the 100km Giant Odyssey in 6:37.12.
It was a tough course that challenged me all day. Thanks to Bikes Direct, my Superfly FS9 was tight and faultless despite the harsh treatment I threw at it, so all up I was really happy with my end result. I finished 49/104 Overall and 14/36 Solo Male….but here’s the kicker….due to my apparent inattentiveness during the online registration, I entered as a Solo Male…failing to see there was a Solo (40+) Male category. Idiot. Had I have registered correctly, I would have won the bloody thing…so, for the sake of my own ego and sheer rarity of the occasion, I hereby claim that title – beating the announced winner by 8.55 (sorry, Duncan).
Massive kudos to Arch….dominating yet again, taking the Elite Male Pairs and overall win alongside Ben May, together completing a massive 12 laps in 6:12.15. I was treated to a high speed overtake at one stage…taking the form of a barking “Get off my fucking track!” followed by a grinning ginger blur.
The drive home, although suffering with aching pins, was no big deal as my mental state was a happy place. Finally nice to land on our doorstep by around 9pm with a huge serve of takeaway pad thai and duck pancakes in my hand, soon to be inhaled in record time. As always, a huge tip of the hat to Protein Supplies Australia for being the oil that greases this never-die VW Combi engine with high mileage and to Rock Tape Australia for holding the pieces together…on this occasion, the fiery Rock Sauce silenced what is usually a persistent back ache during these long hauls.
While I am really looking forward to our next MTB outing, my eyes are now fixated upon what is being badged as the toughest foot race in Australia…75km and 20+hrs of “the unknown” is fast approaching on the horizon. I’ve already purchased my brown trousers.