I got an email a few weeks ago from Wild Horizons letting me know I had a free Jersey for racing in every Highland Fling. The Fling is one of those races that just must be done. It's a good way to guage form as it attracts the best riders. This race has always been one of the biggest marathon events in Australia and after winning the 2010 Elite 100km I was pretty keen to give the 100 mile a go for a change. I have done the 100 mile on 2 occasions but I have always finished second. This year I was keen not only for the win but I also wanted to get under the 7hr mark.
Camping with a baby wasn't an option so the race really started on Sunday morning getting from Mittagong to Bundernoon for rego. The very helpful lady at the rego table emphasised the importance of me stapling my second number on my back but made no reference to the critical transponder in the bag...
After a few desperate phone calls I managed to get my transponder and got to the start line with 2 spare minutes. The race felt like it started out fast but there was no surging or attacks off the front which was far more enjoyable!
The first transition was a little strange with some riders choosing to ride straight through whilst most stopped to make the most of the untimed 5 mins. I was first in and last out to try and gain any time advantage I could. I was expecting the race to be pretty close.
Starting the second stage about 20 seconds behind after using as much as my free time as possible, I was left with the task of catching back up to the lead boys. This wasn't too much of a problem and it was then a battle for the first spot into the single track. At this stage of the race it's worth racing for as there are usually a few strong guys around who just can't ride single track fast. Andy Fellows beat me into the first 2 sections and put the pace on. At the third single track he let me in first and I was trying to ride fairly quick to to stay out of his way.
Approaching the drink station Andy and I had a little lead over the rest of the field. It was the next climb after the drink station that Andy seemed to sit up. I tried to encourage him to stay with me but even with some soft pedalling I seemed to be getting further up the road. I wasn't keen to ride the rest of the race by myself due to the amount of firetrail but I was starting to feel pretty good so I just found a comfy pace and rode.
At the end of this lap I started to do the maths. If I managed to do the second lap in around 2hr 30min and the last lap in under 2hrs I would be close to doing a sub 7hr race. After coming across the line in 7hr 40mins on my last attemp I was prety keen to see what I could do. I know Dennis Van Mill who has won the race 4 times had gone low 7hr so a sub 7hr time would be fantastic.
By having a good aim now I tried to keep the pace on. I was a happy to finish my second lap of the 50km loop faster than my first. With just under 5hrs on the clock had around 30kms left of the race I was feeling pretty optimistic about getting in under 7hrs.
As I started the last loop all I was thinking about was the massive grass climb towards the end of the race. I felt like my pace had dropped off significantly but acording to the results only one Elite rider was faster in this section!
I rode past the 5km to go sign with just over 6hrs on the clock. Doing the maths I could see it would not have been a problem for sub 7hrs. There was quite a bit of traffic around during this last loop with both 50km and 100km riders on the course. It was great to see so many people out having fun. It was reassuring to be on the Shotz electrolyte. I can still recall my earlier days attempting the Fling with both legs cramping as I didn't know better.
Coming accross the line I still felt pretty good and managed to sneak a little wheelie in :)
A big thanks to Jen, Kylie and Archie for feeding me. It's a long day out for the 100mile support crew. I tried to get home as soon as I could!
I'm not sure what GSC did to my bike but it felt quick.
It was also great to hear Tony from JetBlack had a crack at the Fling. It's great when brand owners get out and use the products they sell.
The 26er behaved itself during the race but I'll be on the 29er for next year. Look out for a super blinged up Merida Big 9 very soon.