I drove up on the Saturday so I could take a couple of laps around the course to get a feel for it. I'd describe it as being pinchy, tight, rocky and short. One of my sisters live in Woodend, so it was back to hers for the night with 'Director Sportif' picking me up on his way through Sunday morning.
We got there with plenty of time to get sorted and warm up. Race Start was late and 'different' to what everyone had told me was going to happen. Instead of each class getting a small gap between starts, they decided to group them. So 1st to go was Elite & Expert (my class) Men. My start wasn't as good as I'd hoped and by the time we got around the start loop to the single track, it felt like I was too far back. "Not to worry, 1st XC race, just stay upright and start picking them off" Not too long after the 1st ST section was open paddock, so I open the gas and take a few spots back. I'm well into max HR by now and I go into auto pilot so it all starts to become a bit of a blur from here on. Now we're racing! I get through the 1st lap and I realise I haven't had a drop of fluid, oops! I won't need a new bottle this time around then. Lap 2 I juggle putting the hammer down in the open sections and drinking while smashing the pinches and trying to stay smooth on the twisty tight stuff. At this point I'm glad I got a few laps in yesterday as I seem to be remembering most of the course.
I think it was lap 3 when traffic starts coming into play. Post race hindsight leads me to think that it's Elites dropping off the pointy end as passing isn't as easy as it gets later on. I think it's this lap that I have 'a moment' when I have a front wheel washout in a sandy fast sweeping right hander. Thankfully I save it from being an 'off'.
Lap 4 really fucking hurts and I start to have a duel with what I thought was an Expert rider due to his number. There's parts of the Single Track that he gets a gap on me and others where I'm on his ass. He senses this and asks if I want to come around and I try to explain under the stress that I don't think I'm going any faster overall. Again I neglect drinking and eating as much as I should so I use the open start\finish area to try and play catch up. DS had setup a small card table for us to put our bottles on in the feed zone. As you ride past, slow a touch, pluck a bottle of the table and keep going, works a treat!
'Dueller' had put the hammer down in the feed zone and was ahead quite a bit heading up the drag to the 2nd ST section. I don't chase, just keep the foot down and not long into the solid ST I'm back onto his tail. This lap we are seeing more of the other classes coming backwards but the passing is easier as they are more willing to let us through. 'Dueller' calls 'Track' and I call '2 coming through'. I spot Tim McColl in the 2nd half of the lap, note his geographical position and start a 'one cat-and-dog, two cat-and-dog' count going. I'm 30secs down on Tim. "How many other X-Spurts between me and him? Arh, just keep smashing it" Feed Zone for the last time and I still have half a bottle on board so I'm not going to need another. Then as I round the corner I see D.S standing at the card table ready to hand me a bottle! "What's he doing there?!" I notice he has one that is full of electrolyte ready to pass up, I yell "CLEAR-BOTTLE-WATER" and he makes a lightening quick change and I'm magnificently presented with a bottle of water! I dump most of it over my head and discard the rest. It's time to bury one's self. More slow moving easy passing traffic and I'm still behind 'Dueller', faster in some sections, slower in others. I see Tim again at the same point, at the same time. More cat & dogging, out to 40secs now.
I get to the crumbling burms section and D.S is there and gives me a time check; "45secs, just keep it clean!". There's a fast straight down up a small pinch over a rock step and into some trees. I'm on Duellers' ass heading up the pinch, then I'm distracted... During the week 'The Pope' was calling in quite a lot to be 'polished'. I decided to keep the mojo in so I was race ready. I was also adding to a scientific experiment that Atomic K was conducting. He's also experimented, but had gone the other way. Up until now I'd say my experiment was working well. I had fire, I had stamina, I was charged... But on the side of the track some guy had deployed dirty race tactics and planted his HOT girlfriend. I got 'slightly distracted'. Over the pinch and heading into the trees I line up the rock step... "Holy SHIT MORE delightfully looking females! What the HELL IS GOING ON?!" and that's it, I'm distracted enough to hit the 1st corner in the trees too fast and come to a stop. Then the guy (Elite) behind me bumps into me. "SHIT, SHIT, SHIT!!! OK, chill... just ride". Now there's an Elite guy between me and Dueller. 2 more fast burms in the open paddock, through a gate and I hammer it around the Elite guy and past Dueller, who seems to have no fight(!?). It turns out he has an Expert number but is racing in Elite!? Over the line and still not 100% sure if I've done the 5 laps, so I sorta keep it going while I look around trying to find some indication. Tim sees me and yells out, so I stop near the card table. D.S appears and reckons I could be 2nd. WTF?!
We pack up and there's a delay in the results as the Organisers sort out a 'computer problem'. It gets sorted and I get 2nd! Holy fuck! Does that mean I'm off my MTB P Plates?
My Polar data here & here.
Pictures from the day here.