I took the Friday off so I could get down to Apollo Bay without being in a rush. I stopped into the Caravan Park in Skenes Creek, pitched my tent, sorted out my feed bag and headed into Apollo Bay to meet up with Loren & Eyvette at the Race Brief. Loren works at Fitzroy Cycles and was going to do the race on a rigid Single Speed! Eyvette is Loren's wife and was going to feed us both at Forrest. It had been raining off and on down this way since Wednesday and reminded us all at the Race Brief with more of the wet stuff coming from the sky. I remember at one point during the night when I got up for a leak, that the sky was clear and thinking, 'Sweet!’ It must have been short lived because when the alarm went off, it was raining. Breaky, then I threw the wet tent into the back of the car and down to where Wild Dog rd meets the Great Ocean road. Here I kitted up and rode into Apollo Bay for the start.
I'm a little late to the start line due to stage fright at the loo and thankfully Emma & Dave make room for me right up close to the front. I'm just behind the top twenty Elites and it's impressing the hell out of me being this close to such fast fucking bike riders!
We get the count down and we are off... Kinda. I have a shit start trying to clip in and Dave rightfully lets me know as the big gap in front of me fills. Thankfully the start is more subdued this year for some reason and I pick my way closer to the front by the time we get to the turn off for Wild Dog rd. The closer we get to the turn off for Busty rd the more nervous the Peloton feels and rightfully so, it's a sold pinch (3.4km @ 8.2%). Now the real race flag goes down as the big guns put their collective feet to the floor and I'm red lining it in no time trying to hold these freaks. It isn’t going to happen as I watch them ride away.
It's over the top and down into the private land section. This is where it gets messy, real messy. The 4wd track is that sodden that the soil is no longer that, but sticky greasy 'stuff'. So when the 4wd track turns upwards, and it does a lot between here and joining back onto Wild Dog rd, you’re off the bike trying to literally push shit up hill, steep hill. This would have to be the most frustrating part of the race for me, all that pushing shit up hill. "Did the pointy end of the race have to P.S.U.H too?" I remember thinking.
Finally the nightmare is over and not long after there are two of us working turns up Wild Dog rd and onto Mt Sabine. Then comes the 'rutted out with huge pots holes thrown in for good measure' descent and the guy I'd be trading turns with is down this like it's a bike path! FUCK THAT! We are still on 'sticky greasy stuff' and I want to get to the finish line. Around every corner I'm waiting to see this guy 'off' in a major way. But I don't. Instead I see another guy walking and carrying his bike that is now in two parts. This descent is punctuated with a wall of 'sticky greasy stuff' and I see 'turns trader' near the bottom. I summon forth ‘Olde Granny’ and end up riding just below him before I loose grip.
At some stage before the Red Carpet descent, I'm joined by Tim McColl & Andrew Bell. A.B leads me then T.McC into the start of the single track that is The Red Carpet. I give myself enough distance from A.B to feel comfortable and I'm feeling like the pace is fine.
Over the dam wall and up to 'trails 4, 5, 6' T.McC and myself loose A.B. From memory, I lead most of this with T.McC on my tail. By the time this is over I'm starting to feel a little spent and hope it's a passing phase that will go away after the 1st feed.
1st feed is replacing the small camelbak (used for trails 4, 5, 6) with a large camelbak to use in the Yaugher loop. I'd used two large water bottles for the climb up to the Red Carpet. These are empty and get dumped too. For some reason I think it's a good idea to dismount at this feed and nearly topple over like a newb Triathlete transitioning from the bike to the run! I pick T.McC up again as we head out to the Yaugher loop. The legs aren't feeling good at all and T.McC rides away. I try to feed on solids and find it hard as it's single track already. I keep trying to feed to see if it will lift me but making sure I don't do too many GU's, I don't want to start feeling sick too. I'm solo, my mind starts to feel the pinch and my legs heavy. Occasionally I catch a glimpse of a rider through the trees not knowing if they are in front or behind or if my mind is playing tricks. Towards the end I start to see A.B coming up from behind me, "shit, I'm losing another place...". He sits on my ass for a while then asks me how I'm feeling, "Shit" is my response, so he asks to pass and I let him. I concentrate REAL hard and manage to hold his wheel. Out on some fire road we are joined by another rider, 'CBD' (Paul Randell). A.B & CBD start chatting while I just keep it simple and hang on. CBD asks my name and how I'm feeling. "Justin... REALLY Shit". CBD: "Well, you seem to be hanging in there". Me: "Yeah I'm like an old dog". CBD: "Ha! They're the worst kinda racers!" CBD leads the single track into the 'Black Boys tight descent' and both A.B and I can't hold him. Mid 'Black Boys' A.B collects a pedal and is thrown over the bars. I ask how I can help, "Get my bike off me... ARRR, I'm cramping! Can you push my feet towards my shins!?.... Arhhh" I lead us into the 2nd feed. I ditch the Camelbak and take a large bottle for the last 15km.
A short section of single track and then onto steady fire road climb. A.B hadn’t stopped so I have a carrot for the climb. The legs seem to be responding, I find a rhythm and pass A.B… “Was that a Camelbak or a monkey I had through the Yaugher loop?” Is the thought as my legs keep giving. Near the top I come up on T.McC and punch it over. Now the climb starts to ‘stair case’ so I try to keep momentum on the small downs and punch through the climbs. Finally I’m through punching and so are my legs as I reach more single track. I’m sure this is really nice single track but I can't see it through the mud on my glasses. Thankfully there’s no moments and I’m spat out near ‘The Sledge Hammer’. As I start to ride it my lower right hamstring feels like it could cramp. I get off before it grabs a hold and walk it. This helps to stretch it too. I see blue sky through the tall trees as I look for the top.
More fire road then some single track and back onto the last of the fire road. It’s just head down and bum up to the oval and over the line.
I’m walking around in a daze not knowing what to do next. I see Shelly & T.McC and shake his hand. Shelly has the remains of the choc coated coffee beans she took from me at the start line. Yeah! Java!
I head back to the feed zone to see Eyvette and Loren leaving after his 1st feed. I eat fruit cake, clean my drive chain and put my technical shell on to keep warm. Loren’s still going to be a while so I decide to ride back to my car. It takes me an hour to poodle the 20km with 500m of climbing before I’m topping out and on the descent of Wild Dog road. It rains and I’m happy I’ve got my kick ass shell on.
Back at the car it’s a dip in Skenes Creek to wash off all the mud then into town to start eating my way back to Melbourne.
Overall race results here.
My race stats here.