The start was at Kowen forest and pretty much hit up all of the best trails in this area before heading to Sutton road for some singletrack action. From here it went across some awful grass paddocks to get to the base of Mount Ainslie before heading over to Mount Majura. After Majura, it was a 10km untimed section to the base of Black Mountain. After cruising up the saddle the course wandered through the Cork plantation, arboretum then finished up at Stromlo for some awesome singletrack.
Everyone was super twitchy on the start and we broke the timing mats while the race was being called up. Some riders broke the start as the count down from 10 seconds started. The start wasn't too different to a short track or cross country in that it was flat out to position yourself well for the first 2 km before the first bit of singletrack. Looking around, I was surprised at some of the riders who seemed to be writing cheques that their bodies would not be able to cash at a later stage.
I managed to get into the singletrack in about the top 15 or so which was not too bad, but unfortunately this lost contact with the lead group of 8 or so. No big deal at this stage as it was only about 5 km into the race. By the 10 km mark, I was riding with Jarrod Hughes and another guy and we were swapping off along the fireroad to keep the lead group at about 30 seconds.
Marc Williams and Dylan Cooper had slight mechanical issues and we managed to pick these guys up. I mentioned to Dylan that the lead group was only just up the road, and he put the hammer down and dragged us all back up to the main bunch. He latched onto them, but Marc, Jarrod and I weren't staying on that train. We settled into a rhythm and motored on down into Sutton Road which was a predominantly downhill run.
By the 3km road section of Sutton Road, we also picked up Brent Miller who was caught in no man's land. This bolstered our strength and we all pulled through down Sutton Road and up over into the defence land, where Jarrod had an unfortunate flat tyre. Around the airport we could see Peter Hatton and Brendan Johnston. Up over the saddle and into Majura, Peter had done a flyer, we lost Brent, and had picked up Brendan.
Majura trails were fast and flowing and had a good amount of wear showing after the 50km racers had been through. Marc and I went through the feedzone at Majura vineyard and dropped brendan. We smashed it back through the tight and twisty singletrack where the grip was just sensational.
When we exited the forest, this was the start of the untimed section. I was fortunate that this part went within 100m of my house so I popped home, and got some more drinks, some fresh gloves, new glasses and some more energy gels. Sweet as! Most of the guys I talked to in the top 10 also did the same.
At the end of the untimed section at the base of Black Mountain, it was time to wake back up and get the legs and lungs ready for the climb and the hammer out to Stromlo. It was here where I was starting to pick up the backmarkers of the 50km event. This was about 30 odd km to go, so it was also a place to start emptying the tank.
I got to Stromlo and paced my way up the climb so as not to blow everything. I also ensured that I kept my tyres in good shape. There are a lot of razor sharp rocks out here and I was running 450gram tyres with paper thin sidewalls! The descent down Skyline and the luge was awesome, a light dusting of rain making the tracks super grippy.
The race course veered off to Slant Six and made its way out to Double Dissolution via Willow's link before heading back down to the finish line which was situated on the road crit track. I didn't know it during the race, but I was fortunate to finish in 1st place across the line and was met with a massive amount of fanfare and applause. I wasn't counting my chickens though as I knew that the untimed section would definitely play a part in the final result.
I was fortunate to be interviewed by SBS's Jim Trail, the Cyclenation crew and some journalist students from Canberra uni. Always good to feel like a rockstar for 15 minutes!
In the end I was right about the overall result. I came in 9th in Elite, which I was stoked with based on the quality of the field. Dylan Cooper had a great win with Peter Hatton and Ben Mather rounding out the podium.
My adjusted time in the end was 3:54:31, (90km) but total riding time was 4:17:52, (100km), so it was definitely a fast 100km event. Due to this it was also pretty easy to put out a fair bit of effort with my heart rate averaging about 167 for the whole time. I was pretty spent at the end and was satisfied that I had put everything into it that I could.
Later that afternoon, we all went to Brendan Johnston's house for a BBQ prior to heading to the Crowne Plaza hotel for the presentation. This was an awesome affair with hundreds of riders staying on to eat drink socialise and party.
The event this year far surpassed last years in so many ways. Last year was epic and unique, this one was an excellent follow up for many different reasons. Congratulations for putting on an excellent show and making 1700 mountain bikers happy for an awesome day out on the trails.
Photos to come shortly.