The Flight Centre Epic is a must do race. This is the first marathon event that I ever raced and the changes over the past 10 years have been great. The end result is a course that is sufficiently challenging with heaps of fun single track. There is enough climbing to sort out the elite boys but nothing that seemed to go on for too long.
Knowing that the day was going to be hot I started my Shotz elctrolyte fluid intake a couple of days out from the event. I wasn't sure how the drink stations were going to work so I took both a camelbak and an assortment of bottles to rego and race briefing. In the end I missed out on the bottle drops, had no support and chose to stop and fill bottles as the race went on. Being a fairly rough track I was a little torn between bikes but opted for the Big 9 (29er hardtail) as I would be racing it the following week in the Kowaski Classic in Canberra.
From the start of the race I managed to hide in the back of the lead group with the aim of staying there for the 5km road section around the 20km mark. There must have been 20 riders together at the 25km drink station where I stopped to fill up my bottle and had to sit on 38km/hr for quite a few mintues to catch back up. Luckily the pace was only a little over 30km/hr.
Once I caught back up the first and only really big climb of the day started. I managed to stay with the top few across the top and we soon had a group of AJ, Ben Forbes, Andy Blair and myself. This group stayed together for the next 20km into the start/finish where we headed out for the final 37km. Soon after this point Ben dropped off, another few kilometres and AJ was getting some cramps leaving Andy and myself to keep the pace on. There aren't many races where you need to be dodging magpies but this was one of them. They weren't interested in the guy in red but seemed to have a fancy for green. As we continued to ride around we exchanged comments on how cool these trails are. I think there needs to be more events out at Hidden Vale to appreciate the extent of the trail network.
With 8km to go the race started to get interesting. This is the point where the 50km and 87km riders merge. It is also the last drink station before the finish. I had to stop to fill my bottle which gave Andy some breathing space and an opportunity to capitalise on a gap and this he did. He was gone. I smashed down the disappointing amount of fluid I was able to painfully extract from the drink barrel and wound up some xc pace. I could get glimpses of Andy from time to time however, there was always a convey of 50km riders between us and it felt like I wasn't getting any favours from them! After 6km of riding at a pretty high intensity the course opened up to grass paddock fireroad and I was able to bridge across to him. The silly tactics started and with a few attacks I was still holding onto Andy's wheel waiting for the final sprint. The sprint did come but with a short run from the single track to the line, Andy held his position and I rolled through .3 of a second behind. The timing printouts only published to the nearest second had us down for the same time however, the computer program had a more detailed split to give the end result.
Being able to catch up to Andy during the race felt like a win to me. I was happy to walk away with second knowing that I raced hard, didn't hold back and still felt strong at the end. Only 4 weeks to the 24hr Solo World Champs so all seems good. I just need to stay on the bike for a change!
Thanks to my brother Mat for letting me borrow his car so I could do this race.
I need to also thank:
Gordon Street Cycles who got my bike rebuilt ready to race, Shotz for those magic electrolyte tabs to take the cramps away, BBD and Thule for the flights and Merida and Shimano for the JetBlack blinged Big 9!