The week leading up to this event was spent mainly on twitter wiping out smack-talk bushfires that kept rising from within the 2602 postcode. SInglespeed as a viable option, to beard or not to beard, whether your accountant would approve of you using a power meter, and appropriate choice of socks were all important topics that were discussed, and in the end rule number 5 topped them all. In unanimous agreement, this would be how this race would be raced.
Kylie and I drove up the day before and scouted the back 25km of the course. The back yamma 100km race is a 2 x 50km event. This is a pretty cool dynamic, allowing you to pick up food and drinks when you come through after your first lap. The general consensus was that the back 25 was pretty hard and that the wind would play a part in this race.
I also got the chance to catch up with my brother on Saturday afternoon who was doing his first bike race in about 12 years. He had driven down from Orange and was really excited to be racing this event. We set up the Cannondale tent and Liam looked after it over night whilst we went back into Parkes and chilled out in the motel room watching air crash investigation, eating Pasta Carbonara and Cheesecake.
At 5:30am on Sunday we were up and off to the race HQ. Double shot espresso was the first port of call and Kylie did the honours while I got the bikes prepped. Everyone started rolling in and getting all there stuff together. The anticipation for the start of the race was building. Everyone was doing their warm ups, getting their food together and enjoying the chilled atmosphere of event central.
At 7:55am I headed over to the start and got in line and talked some crap. I was slightly molested by Brett Bellchambers on the start line. This woke me up pretty quickly! It probably had something to do with the inappropriate twitter photos being sent back and forth over the last 12 hours. I guess it is a singlespeeder thing. Or maybe a beard thing.
The gun went off at 8am on the dot and everyone clipped in. I knew that there were a handful of superfast dudes on the starting line. Brett Bellchambers, Joel Ryan, Andrew Hall, Ed McDonald and Jason McAvoy (non-2602) were all guys I had to keep a check on. 200 metres into the race, and it was already at 40km/hr on the slightly downhill sloping fireroad. We crossed a perpendicular fireroad and with the slight tailwind and shaped embankment, I was able to launch totally over the entire track being crossed.
Ed soon came by with his non-aero baggie pants flapping madly in the wind putting in a bit of an early attack. Brett was spinning like crazy as we got up to 45km/hr. Joel Ryan came through just before the singletrack entry and called me to get on his wheel. We hit the singletrack still at 40km/hr and just kept it pinned through the entire section. When we got to the fireroad I looked around and we were pretty much down to about 4 or 5. Joel had done some major damage to the field. From here we had a nice false flat uphill into a deep cross wind. Andrew and Ed were driving the train up here which was spread out in an echelon a Belgian would be proud of.
When we got close to the end of the fireroad, I ramped up the pace a bit and Brett matched me and went one better and got into the singletrack climb just in front. We were now down to brett, ed, Andrew and myself. Brett was pretty keen to drop as many players from the pack as he could. He was turning a massive gear on his SS - 36:13 or something like that, and was absolutely motoring. As we spilled out onto the long fireroad section, I kept the pace high and drilled it with the tailwind pushing speeds back up over 40km/hr.
The race then got into a slight holding pattern as the singletrack kept things interesting and relatively stable. Brett and I swapped turns on the front as the wind swept through the bush making life both fast and slow depending on which way you were headed. By the 25km mark we had pretty much dropped Ed, and Andrew's elastic was getting a good workout at the 40km mark as he battled some front derailleur issues. Coming into the 47km fireroad climb, Brett and I agreed to a truce through the feed zone. I am pretty sure that this is one the rules. No attacking through the feed zone. It is definitely one of the unwritten rules of cycling that's for sure.
I was enjoying the descent down into event headquarters and the start of the 2nd lap. I know when the dirt feeling is good, because I look for things that appear as jumps and try and gap them. They are only small sometimes, but it makes the flow feel awesome. I stopped for 10 seconds or so and got new bottles and gels, then took off looking around for Brett. I couldn't see him. I cruised down the fireroad eating and drinking and looked behind for ages. Still couldn't see him. I thought maybe he had stopped to order a burger or something. When I couldn't see him for the entire long straight fireroad, I decided to get on with my back 50km.
My mental calculations put the front 50km actually at 51.5km at 1 hour 54 minutes based on my speedo. So we were hauling. This was with the start and a fresh pack of riders to beat the wind. Always makes a big difference at making the pace. It was going to be a little harder going solo. But that was how the race now presented itself. I put in a big effort over the next 30 minutes to take advantage of the prevailing wind and open up the gap. I was still looking around on every long fireroad section trying to see if Brett was chasing me down. I know his abilities on a bike and did not discount him coming back.
The 2nd time on the trails was better. The trails had been ridden over, sand worms now showing where the terrain dictated where you place the tyres for maximum grip. I kept stomping out a pretty high tempo as I still wasn't 100% where the other guys were, and wanted to ensure that the gap I had stayed pretty high. The kilometres between 60 and 85 went relatively quickly for a change, and it wasn't until the 90km mark that the countdown began to reel off the last 13km. Mental note having been made that this was going to be a 103km race. When I got through the last of the creek bed wall rides, I knew that the rolling fireroads were up next. I got out of the saddle and kept the pace high here and to also put this rise behind me. The last bits of singletrack were sweet and I really enjoyed the run down to the creek and through to the event headquarters and the massive start finish banner, which in this case was now my finish.
I crossed the line in 1st place for the 2nd year in a row in a time of 3:52 for 103km - this turned out to be an average speed of 26.6km/hr, needless to say, that is pretty quick for a mtb race. Last year's average speed was 26.4km/hr (for 100km) which is quite comparable. I actually thought that this year the race was harder. The back 25km was actually 28km and was a little harder. Fresh track, slightly tighter singletrack and also the wind played a big part this year, making the race really hard when battling the headwinds. Everyone I talked to said the same. Huge factor in the overall scheme of things. This also contributed a little to the slower 2nd 50km ~ 1:58, compared to the 1:54 for the first 50. That's how it goes I guess!
Standout things from the race:
- Strength of Jeebus (Bellchambers). Dude is a machine.
- Getting coated in mud after Ed rode through the only puddle on the course.
- Racing kangaroos along fireroads
- Catching up with my brother and family at a race (haven't done that since 1991)
- Kylie winning the 50km for the 2nd year in a row
- Good crew from Canberra making the trip up
- Phil Tucker getting his Katy Perry CD from the car and putting it on the stereo at the restaurant Sunday night
- Monday morning recovery breakfast (pancakes and icecream) and coffee in Parkes
- Excellent race organisation and event layout
- Fast course
- Dry course
- Sasquatch doing burnouts on the trike
Everyone I talked to had a blast. This course offers something for everyone, which is a pretty rare thing. I love how fast you can race the 100km on a mtb. Other people I talked to liked how achievable the 100km was. Again, though, people loved how fast it was. The organisers definitely did a really good job yet again, promoting this event and drawing people into the township of Parkes. I was impressed with my brother coming out and giving it a go and achieving his pre-race objective, Got to be happy with that. Nice one Limbo!
I will definitely be back again next year that's for sure!!