What an awesome race! I had been looking forward to this race for a long time. In January I went down to pre-ride some of the course with locals Norm and Jess Douglass and ever since I've been watching the days tick over as the race approached. Leading up to the event I was phoning JetBlack almost daily to see if my hard tail was going to turn up in time. Oh well, it should arrive next week.
This race was only possible with the help of the guys from Rapid Ascent who made the race more affordable for me, Noel and Darryl from Shotz Nutrition for arranging my transport to and from the airport and Norm and Jess for the putting me up in 'The Loft'.
Race day began with a 4:30am wake up call from Norm so we would get to Apollo Bay in time for Jess' 6:45am race start. Arriving in Apollo bay at 5:30am, it was blowy and already quite warm.
When I was getting setup I was offered the chance to ride with a camera on my helmet. Thinking I wouldn't be riding with the top boys on my 24hr bikes I agreed as I was just planning on having a "fun" ride. When the race started I was really happy with the pace. I think my heart rate was sitting around mid 130's but I knew this would only last to the first climb. As we hit the first climb I must have been sitting in 40th place. I was maintaining a significant 180+ bmp and I was happy to not go any harder! I kept trying to stay on the back of a group so I would have people to ride with later on in the race. Looking at the timing I just managed to sneak into the top 30 after the first climb.
The second climb was much tougher and I ended up walking a significant component due to the xx and lack of low gear but I possibly would have done the same regardless of gears! It wasn't until about 40mins into the race that I caught the top single speed rider!
Once I finished the second big climb about 15km into the race it was time to try and pedal along the tar. I was struggling. I was thinking I needed to move my seat back and get a traditional set back seat post just as three Drapac team riders and James Williamson flew past. I jumped on the back and tried to do my best to film all the boys swapping off and smashing it up the tar road. As we heading off into the next series of tracks we caught Shaun Lewis. Down one of the next descents we went past Sid Taberlay fixing a flat tyre and I was thinking I would have been getting close to 20th overall.
I was really keen to be first onto the Red Carpet as this was a timed run. When I had the chance move to the front of the group at the top of what I thought would be the start of the red carpet I took it. It turned out not to be it so I had to keep the pace on a little to make sure I would get a clean run. I initially started to go fast down this section, as soon as I hit the little climb I hit the lock out stood up to drive it up the hill and quickly sat back down and knocked it down a few gears. My legs were fried! I pedaled easy up this section then let gravity do its thing for the rest of the run. I had to wait for a few of the girls down this section but they were quite happy to give me the track and could see I was on a mission! I ended up with the 3rd fasted downhill which I was happy with considering traffic and how easy I had to take it up the climb... and how sweet is this trail!
At the bottom of the Red Carpet I was planning on waiting for the boys to catch up and so pedaled at 90% of race pace but I couldn't see them. At the 50km mark I was apparently only 2-3min behind the leaders but I found this hard to believe considering I felt like I was just having a fun race. Riding through the 4,5,6 trails I was taking it easier on the hills to see if the boys were going to catch up but I was still ahead so I though I might have a bit of a go and started to wind it up a little. Heading into the 67km transition I grabbed my bottle and ducked into the 20km of single track that was used for the Kona. I thought I must have been catching up to one of the Torque Nutrition girls during this stage as I thought all the blokes would be miles up the road but it turned out to be Luke Fetch that I followed for the rest of this section. We also went past a pretty wiped out Matt Flemming who had been smashing the race super hard.
Heading through the final transition I missed my feed and I chose to head onto the last stage with 200ml in my camelbak for the last 18km. I sucked down a caffeine gel but didn't have the water to flush it down! The helmet-cam started to come loose at this stage and was smashing me in the side of the head! I was riding carefully up the hills in my dehydrated state and wasn't prepared to push it too hard at this stage. I watched Luke ride off as I struggled to untangle the camera from my helmet up the last hill. I was stoked with a 5th place considering my fun approach to the race. What an awesome weekend!