With an already full October I was planning on giving this race a miss however, I managed to score a lift from Newcastle with Andrew Lloyd and had an entry covered from making the podium in 2014. The Kowalski was one of my favorite races of 2014 and I think it wins again this year. A marathon race with 95% single track is always a good ingredient however, its the quality of single track that really makes this race special. There is a lot of love that has gone into making these trails and the Kowalski Brothers have once again put together a course that takes in the best trails.
The full marathon course is broken down into 3 sections. The first 25km stays close and does a loop around Kowen which includes some new sections of trails that were quite challenging. The race started with less than 1km of fireroad before heading into single track for most of this loop. The last few km offered some passing opportunities as a few kms of firetrails were thrown in. From the start I wanted to make sure I was in a good position hitting the first single track and I was happy sitting in the top 5 or 6 riders until a dropped chain had me off the back wondering why people use the a 1 X setup! Around 15km into the course I started to have funny feeling around my bottom bracket and sure enough, they were about to jump off as I had forget to tighten the locking bolts. After loosing so much time with these 2 issues I made an effort to have fun as I was so far off the positions and wanted to make the most of the Kowen Trails. Rolling through transition I was already 4 minutes off the pace after 25km so I set the goal to loose less than 4 mins per 25km for the rest of the race.
The second part of the race was a 50km loop out to Sparrow Hill. These trails are fast and quite straight forward, nothing too challenging however, knowing the course would have been an advantage. Due to the shear volume of corners, I had heaps of opportunity to learn how to ride my Mach 429SL and by the end of this section I started to feel far more confident taking corners at speed.
Heading out into the last 25km section I thought I heard the commentator mention I was sitting in 4th place. If there were 8 people in front of me I was keen to catch 1 or 2 before the finish line and I did. I rolled past Brendon Johnson with around 15km to go and Dylan Cooper as I rode up the last hill. Heading down the last decent my chain dropped again. This left me with the choice of trying to maintain my speed and roll down the hill before fixing it or loosing my momentum but being able to increase my speed where possible. I went for the second option and Dylan caught me as I rejoined the track. Coming out of the last single track along the finish straight left for a 50m sprint. The finish shared a common crossing with riders from different distances and as it narrowed made it a little to crazy for Dylan to sneak past. I was pleasantly surprised to find I actually came across the line in 2nd not the 7th I thought I was sprinting for!