I have always wanted to do the Willo. I have heard great things about the course and the race itself however, it's an annual event to remember James. I had the pleasure of meeting him on several occasions both through marathon events and I was there to see James win the 24 Hour Solo World Championships in 2008. He was actually the rider who gave up his marathon race for me in 2008 when I crashed into a tree and broke my back.
The Willo was the first race on my new Pivot Les 29er. I picked it up Saturday, swapped over seats, handlebars, etc and took it out for a test ride around Mt Annan. The bike rode great. It felt light, fast and it seemed to absorb a lot of the roughness that Mt Annan is known for. I used this ride to get the bike setup but a pre-ride is also useful to ensure all the nuts and bolts are done up tight enough...
I stayed at Jason Moxam's house, just an easy 60min drive from the race to avoid camping in the cooler Southern Highlands. That was a luxury I could get use to. Pre-race, I signed on and went out for a warm up spin. On the start line there were lots of familiar faces and a few riders that had made the trip to Forest to race in the Maverick series. Maybe I should have tried the double up.
From the gun the race pace was solid but I was determined not to be too far behind heading into the first single track. In fact, I ended up almost last as my handlebars came loose and I didn't have an allen key on me. I headed back towards the start were I was lucky enough to find one. By the time I did get back on the bike I had lots of work to do to make up positions. While I was doing track stands behind riders in the first single track, the race leaders were charging off. I worked harder than I should have and almost cooked myself catching back to around 15th after the first lap of three. The second lap I was still with a group in around 10th place and by the start of the last lap I was in the top 10. I managed to pick up a few positions and after a sprint finish managed 5th, still a fair way behind the top few.
I'm so glad I came down to do this race, I was really impressed with the choice of course and single track. I really need to head down just for an explore some time. I was impressed with the riders out on track. It seemed like everyone was there fun.
A big thanks to Jet Black Products for getting my bike sorted by this weekend. They have done a great job in putting together some Pivot Bikes for me to ride this year. Thanks Jason for the lift, dinner and accommodation. Thanks Meg and your crew for putting together such a worthwhile event. Another big thanks to G8 for getting me to this race!