The Highland Fling is always a must do event on my calender. I really enjoy the way this race is run and the ratio of single track to fire road. It is always an interesting race as there are benefits of working together for a large component of this race.
The night before the race I made the most of the meal at the community hall which happens to also be the rego hall. It was fantastic. I need to thank the marshal who thought that I needed his sticky date pudding more than he did. I regretted it afterwards but the food was so tasty!
Tenting was the choice of accommodation for the night and we were directed to the overflow paddock at the pony club. Rain during the night had me wondering about the integrity of the track however we woke to a clear sky. It was warm early on so I increased my fluid intake and started preparing for a hot day out.
It was amazing watching all the 100mile and 100km age group riders start. Their start was 30mins in front of the elite 100km riders. As I watched them take off I thought about trying to get passed many of them later in the day!
As the race started I was quite happy sitting back to see how it would all unfold. Well, that was my race plan. I then found I was just trying to stay with the top riders as I watched my max heart being maintained for far too long.
Somewhere is the first 10-15km Matt Flemming rode off the font in his usual unbelievable pace. It was quite depressing to be sitting on my max heart rate and see him ride away. He seems to have a habit of charging away up the road. The Rockstar boys had quite a few riders in both the 50km and 100km elite event so there were a few riders who were able to work to try and get Shuan Lewis down the road. Josh Carlson was quite happy to bust his guts out the front as he was a 50km rider and I'm surprised he didn't catch us up to Matt with the pace he was putting on.
Coming into transition there were some small attempts by some riders to put a gap in before the untimed section however we all seemed to come across the line fairly close to each other. Matt was a couple of minutes up the road at this stage.
We left the untimed section and I must have been a little slow getting sorted so Troy who also rides for Rockstar got to the front and started smashing the pace. I had to work pretty hard to get back on. I didn't realise but after a few kilometres Pete Hatton also rode away from the group leaving a small group of about 5-6 of us trying to work together. In the end the chase group got smaller and smaller then there was just Andy Blair, Shuan and myself. We were setting a pretty good pace and I wasn't enjoying the speed that these guys were pushing up the hills. I was thinking we were now racing for third. Eventually they seemed to slow down slightly and I tried to maintain the same pace.
I was quite surprised to see Matt and Pete about a kilometre later towards the top of one of the last hills heading back into town. I was sure they had seen me and I was convinced they would be giving it everything to away. I was determined to get on to their wheel before the final gravel road back into town and watched my heart rate sit at about 95% max for what felt like 5 minutes. I must have just got on their wheel before they started to wind up the pace heading into town and we worked together to put a gap into Andy and Shaun. I soon started to get a few crampy twinges which reminded me to get some more electrolyte down!
We made the most of the final untimed section and let the timer tick almost right down to 5 minutes. I filled the camelbak up with another 1.5L of Shotz electrolyte and took another water bottle on the bike just in case. We headed out from transition at a pretty serious pace. Matt was pretty flogged by this stage and was just trying to hang onto the back. When we hit the first single track I was at the front. I was feeling pretty good at this stage so I tried not to slow down too much as the gradient increased and I could see Matt drop off initially and then Pete.
When the single track opened up to fireroad I decided to see what I had left in the tank. I really started to wind the pace up and I was surprised that I could still pedal quite hard despite the ridiculous intensity early on. As the race continued I was convincing myself that the big hills were all over and I could just punch up all the small hill and have fun. I was out of the seat for all the climbs and I was enjoying how good the bike felt through all the single track and dips and fun sections, that is, until I crossed one of the last water crossing and headed up. I wasn't too concerned as I had convinced myself this was a hill right near the start/finish so I tried to push up it pretty hard. I enjoyed the next little down hill but I really wasn't prepared for massive grass hill that came next. There were people walking every where and I could see why. Over the other side I had to re-convince myself that it was all flat and downhill in order to wind the pace back up! I was back into familiar territory as I started to recognise the final few kilometers from last year. When I got to the "your call" section I went for the shorter harder way and I couldn't recall it being so slow and tough going. I lost all my rhythm going up this climb and it took me a while to wind it up again at the top. I was still nervous about being caught at this stage but I was happy in that I was feeling strong and knew I was giving it everything. Even the last few kilometres felt fast. I just backed it off for a wheelie across the line!
A big thanks first to Jen for hanging out in the sun and being my support all day. She even managed to medivac Craig Amour back to the race HQ for some ambulance action.
Darcy from Gordon Street Cycles must have redone everything on the bike to get it in perfect race condition. It went great, I can't believe how much racier the new bike felt compared to the 2010 model!
I was loving the Shotz electrolyte tabs during this race. I think I had a total of 11 to keep the cramps away!
It was great to see all the Anytime Fitness crew at the race. They must be happy with both the Male and Female Elite wins!
And thanks to JetBlack for keeping my bikes updated and for the new Stan's wheelsets.