Last year Merida / Flight Centre team mate AJ and I crossed the line first. This year the competition was looking serious with quite a few riders coming off some good form as part of their XCM campaign. My plan was to try not to get dropped on the climbs as had happened during most other marathon races this year.
From the start there were no real significant attacks, a few people had a go off the front but with lots of road around the 25km mark a solo rider would never get too far. In the first 20km I stayed with the top 3 or 4 riders on each climb. Each time we hit the flat the lead group would reform and there would be 20 riders together.
The decisive climb is at the 26km mark. I didn't do any pace setting here I was just trying to stay with the top boys. Trenton Day, Andrew Fellows and Aiden Lefmann seemed like they were climbing too easily. I was sitting on 190bpm and at several times during the climb had decided to let the boys go. After a lot of hurt I managed to catch back up not too far from the top of the climb. The next drink station we went through was actually designed for a later section of the race as we looped past at both 37km and around 76km. I wasn't aware of this and swapped a half full bottle for a new one. The bottle ejected straight away which had me running back up the track in search for a phantom bottle. After giving up it was a chase back to the 3 boys who weren't waiting for any lost drink bottles! I caught back up as the track turned single and shortly after we were taking turns out the front. I knew I would start to suffer from having no fluid but survived to the 50km mark where JP was passing bottles to the Merida team riders. With a new drink bottle and familiar single track I had ridden as part of a 24hr race I though I would wind up the intensity a little. The group of 4 of us dropped to 3 almost immediately. Another 2km and I was riding alone with Trenton. I'm not sure how I managed to get away but around the 60km race point I had a very small lead. Not far later I passed an 8km to go sign and didn't know if I should trust the Garmin and hold the pace back or if I should give it everything knowing there would be less that 20mins of racing. As the 8km came and went I was starting to run low on fluids. I was starting to develop a fluid related head ache due to my low intake. At the 76km drink station I made the decision to loose some of the time I had on the boys to ensure I could finish the race well. I drank down 2 full biddons of Shotz before throwing a 3rd on my bike. I had also consumed my 10 gels so I grabbed a handful of lollies which I smashed down then and saved a few for the final 10km.
I think I made the right decision looking after myself, immediately the headache went away and I started to feel pretty good. I still couldn't see 2nd place and I tried to be as polite as possible as I raced through masses of 50km riders. I was stoked to come across the line and win this race. It it was my best marathon race all year. I think I have finally got the 29er thing worked out!
The biggest challenge of the whole race was leaving presentation at 2:20pm and getting to check in at the Brisbane Airport before 3:25pm.
A big thanks to JP for doing bottles and my Dad for racing the Epic and to the airport!