Arriving in Melbourne I was met by Beth, a friend's friend who got me up to the race. Jess Douglas and the crew from Forrest worked out accommodation and managed to get me on the start line (carbo loaded on all you can eat pizza) on time.
Looking at the starting list Sunday morning I knew we were in for a tough race. I was picking Ben Mather to win after an impressive King Of the Mountain and Sprint King result at the Grafton to Inverell the weekend before. I finished a fair way off the top guys in that race!
I'm not sure how I manged to get a position on the front row but being in front was a short lived experience. When the gun fired the pace was on. The first part of the track was through some undulating fire roads that sorted out who would be racing. There was a clear change in scenery as we came out into farmlands and hit some steeper climbs and slippery wet sections. It was here the top group got away and I wasn't part of it. I got left off the back with James Williamson and I worked pretty hard to catch up to Shaun Lewis who was just off the back. After a quick rest behind Shaun I managed to catch back up to the main group. There were a few attacks at this stage of the race however the pace backed off significantly which allowed me to work on recovery.
From about the 30km to 90km mark the pace was quite reasonable there were a few climbs that kept testing the legs however I was enjoying how comfortable this race pace felt. With about 12km to go the group started to split slightly. Coming into the last drink station the group of about 10 started to spread out. Going into the last checkpoint at 10km to go the leaders were around 200-300m away. I needed to stop and grab a bottle. There would have been 200 bottles on this table and it seemed like ages before I found mine. Throwing the bottle into the cage I knew I had some work to do to catch anyone. A couple of minutes down the road I caught up to Hamish Elliot and passed him testing my legs as I put on xc race pace. Another 2-3 mins and I caught up to Matt Flemming and snuck in front of him before a single track climb with 6km to go. At the top of the single track climb I caught and passed Shaun Lewis and Nick Menager. I caught Ben Mather and Murray Spink at the 4km sign and slowed down to their pace as there was no where to overtake. I rode with them into the last piece of single track (which I wasn't aware of at the time!) and watched as Murray slowly make a gap on us. I was trying to get past to stay with Murray but Ben, being such a strong rider, had all of my overtaking lines covered. Neil Vander Ploeg managed to catch up to me and I was annoyed the he managed to get past both me and Ben! I finally manged to get past Ben and caught up to Neil. He was smashing the pace but it was too late, Murray had developed a significant gap and finished 3 seconds ahead! Maybe next year....