I have been doing the Convict 100 for years. I still recall this as the first marathon event that I rode in the Elite Category. It was back in 2007 and as I picked up my first bike sponsorship deal with Dirtworks and BMC I thought I should ride in the event that they were sponsoring in Elite. This was an event where I still remember riding past the heroes of my day, Peran Delacor, Peter Hatton, Tim Bennet, Nick Both and I remember catching Craig Gordon heading down Shepard's Gully. I pulled a wheelie behind him on the canoe bridge (much narrower back then) and managed to hold his wheel for the next 5-6km before watching him ride away for the win.
I recall making a deliberate decision in my first race in Elite to not just survive the race, but to have a go at staying with the lead riders for as long as possible. My race plan was the same this time around. I know I have holding back a little in marathons recently when the top guys ride off the front as I sit into my own comfortable pace. This time I was keen to see how I go and risk blowing up by going too hard. I also wanted to stay with a good size group as we hit the 5-6km tar section around 20km into the race. This seemed to work well and heading towards the "canoe bridge" there were around 7-8 riders still together. Tristan Ward was a couple of minutes in front of us at this stage. The next climb is where I really hurt. This is where I made the decision to give it everything and I had to. I was just able to hit the top on the wheel of Marci William and we eventually caught back up to Cory Wallace and Shaun Lewis. From the top of Shepard's Gully the track gets technical. For the first 30km the course was on well formed firetrails. From here, there was lots of drop, rocks and sandy lines to choose from. In our chase group of 5 I tried to stay on the front and push the pace to see if we could eventually catch Tristan. This happened just as the technical track opened back up to cleared firetrail. It was almost as if Tristan had been holding back a little as within 2km of catching him he attacked again up the next good climb. I went with him expecting the rest of the little chase group would follow. This wasn't the case and the 2 of us swapped off a little until the last drink station around 75km into the race. Tristan didn't grab his bottle and we kept the pace on. Tristan was pretty keen to race right to the the line and like the idea of a World Cup XCO rider vs WEMBO 24hour rider. I wasn't terrible optimistic of my sprinting ability and I was a little surprised when Tristan let me rider away with 20km to go. For some reason I felt the race would be all downhill from around this point and at times felt I had gone a little too hard on the time trial back into St Albans.
This was the first time I have ridden the track in reverse and I really liked it. It is a good idea to mix up the tracks a little to keep things interesting. It does make tactics and strategies change!
I need send a big thanks to Max Adventure for doing such a great job at putting this event on.
Thanks Dan Baker and Elvio Fernandes for the lifts, Jamie for bringing my bike and tent and Way2Live for the awesome cake :)