Huskisson is a ridiculously big road trip for a mountain bike race. It's 8 hours from Port Macquarie meaning a day of professional development on Friday in Sydney was my only chance of making the event. After riding this race 2 years ago I was keen to come back and ride it in better conditions. Apparently the weather had been great for weeks and the trails were in the best condition they have been for a long time.
On my way down I was grateful to hear a major sponsor of the event, Darryl from Shotz Nutrition was not planning on using his bed at the corporate accommodation. I wasn't really excited about sleeping in the back of the car so I jumped at the chance to have lighting in the morning to help get organised on a winters morning on the south coast. Thanks Matt and Amanda for looking after me!
The Elite riders got to start first and after getting held up in the single track early on during the Marathon Nationals I was pretty keen to stay near the front. This plan worked really well. I had just worked up to third wheel when the track got a bit sticky at the 20km mark and I suffered from the old stick in the rear derailer trick. I couldn't work out what was going on, the thing was all twisted around but it looked fairly straight. It appeared the chain was on the wrong side of the jockey wheels so I started taking one off. As the open men and vet riders started to ride past I kept trying to get a glimpse of how the chain should flow around the jockey wheels. Either way with a bit of man handling the chain was where it should be and the derailer started to do its job.
I was around 7mins down on the group at this stage and I decided that with 4 mechanicals in 4 races it was time for me to retire from 100km racing. This was going to be the last 100km race that I need to travel more than a couple of hours for, what a waste of a weekend! After having a few successful years my results were a little depressing of late.
After 10km of chasing like a xc racer I rode past the KOM around 30km in the race. I got a split that I was down 6mins from the lead group. I knew my chance of catching anyone was slim but my goal now shifted to treat this race as a solid training ride. It took a while but I actually started to have fun and I got to think about why I race. It is for fun and to ride fast. With a few good drifts and hucks I was starting to enjoy this track. I caught up to a few of the faster elite riders who were playing stuck in the mud and I managed to crash into Nick Both as he bogged down on a creek crossing.
As I caught more riders they were under the impression that the lead group really wasn't that far away. I kept the pace on and, sure enough, at the 55km mark I was just sliding onto the back of the lead group. I was still pumped with adrenalin from the chase and it didn't take much convincing from Andy Hall to launch an immediate attack off the front. This was only going to be for fun as my legs were cooked. Any time the pace dropped off I was straight to the front to pedal. My legs were too fried to ride off the front but I wanted to get a good training run in so any chance I had to go harder I took.
After 20km of staying with this group we rolled into the last drink station. I grabbed my bottle and started rolling down the hill. As I was about to pedal I noticed the chain had dropped off so I stopped to slide it back on. I can't describe what I saw here or what happened. The chain had managed to get out of the rear derailer cage through the smallest gap. I have no idea how this happened. I was planning on walking back to the drink station as the chain looked really bad. After some careful analysis and my 'who cares it's already broken' attitude I managed to convince the carbon cage to flex enough to allow the chain to get back to where it should be.
My race was all over now, my legs were already cooked from the earlier chase. When I had caught the group at the 55km mark that was as good as a race victory for me. It was a psychological victory that maybe I still can ride 100km races successfully. With 25km to go I was another 3mins off the back. With seemingly no chance of catching the leaders again I continued the hard training ride. With 15kms to go I was surprised to ride past both AJ and Trenton Day. I rate these guys as being the best. At the 10km to go sign I caught sight of Andy Hall and set him as a target before the race ended. Unfortunately he also saw me and the race as on. I still had a Shotz caffeine gel left but as this was now just a training ride I kept to the non-caffeinated. With 5km to I felt like I had only gained 200m on him. As I caught him with 2km go I also caught the lead group in front. As my heart rate was already through the roof at this stage I was planing on dropping off as the boys wound up the pace for a sprint. I'm not sure how I managed to sneak from the back to 3rd in the sprint but I was very happy with that result. Looking back at the race I don't think I have felt this strong in a 100km event. My heart rate average was the highest I have had over this distance and I didn't fade at all, maybe I wont retire quite yet.
Big thanks to Amanda and Matt for looking after me once again and Norm for the company and PD over the weekend. This race can't be run without sponsors so a big thanks to Darryl from Shotz and On The Go for your support of the race.