To make the 1,800km trip to Illinbah in Queensland myself and a good friend of mine, Rosemary, turned the week leading up to the race into a road trip holiday.
We left on the Monday and had accommodation booked from the Wednesday till race day on the edge of Tamborine National Park. There'd been lots of rain in the area over the weeks prior and more right up to the Thursday. Surprisingly the course wasn't a washout during Friday's practice but there was still parts of the course that were very wet and muddy, mostly in the technical sections making things very interesting.
I really enjoyed the course and by the third lap I felt comfortable on it. The one hassle being a freshly cut switched back climb section of single track that had one corner that I found difficult to ride due to it being soggy and my rear wheel was losing traction through it.
Thankfully come race day, the forecast thunderstorms didn't happen overnight, so I stuck with the same tyres used during practice. The course was probably slightly less soggy than the day before.
The marshalling area and start line was great as I got to chat to a few of the locals with one of them asking me out on a Sunday ride on some of the local trails, which unfortunately I couldn't take him up on due to us starting the drive back to Melbourne straight after the race. With one minute called the chat stopped as we all got ready for the charge along the grassy flat Start\Finish that then rose and turned right past the feed zone before heading into the first of the single track. By this point I was fourth wheel and as the single track kept climbing I came to realise that third wheel would have been better as a gap started to form between second and third. I noticed the guy in front's rear tyre and thought it was under done for the first of the soggy technical drops we were about to enter so I backed off to give myself some room. We were both through it without incident and onto the 1st flat passable section. The guy in front was now closing the gap so I just sat in for the tow. Into another climbing section that was in an open field. The track was freshly cut too so this is where I was able to pick two of the guys in front off. The guy in first was motoring and had a huge gap. So large was his gap that I thought he wasn't able to sustain it for the race. Through one of the soggy sections then a rocky water crossing before into the longest climb of the course. This had the tricky soggy switch backs and I end up dabbing through the apex but I don't lose too much momentum. More climbing and towards the top we go under a bridge for the Down Hill course. It's soggy here and I pick a bad line and end up spinning the back and have to run through the bridge till it's dry enough to mount again. A guy passes me. The single track turns and kicks up into a pinch before the top and into the next and most technical down section. I don't want to be behind this guy going into the technical down so I concentrate and pass him on the pinch. Into the down and I'm enjoying it even though it seems wetter than yesterday. Into a steep single rut section that's got run off trickling down it and I'm off! The front wheel let go. I'm up and going before I know it and there's no sense of the guy I'd passed at the top. A section of undulating single track now to calm the mind and get back into the swing of things. An open pastural section with no sight of first place or third before heading back into more excellent thick scrub single track. Another water crossing, a bit of a climb then into a flowing switch back burmed descending that is a delight to carve. This feeds you into an awesome A/B rock garden descent before popping out of the scrub into pastural land back to the start\finish. No sign of first place but I can keep a watchful eye on third as I head up the rise for the first feed and words of encouragement from Rosemary. Towards the end of the second lap just before the burmed descent, the chain sucks in between the cassette and the wheel. Last time I had one of these while out riding I timed myself and it took two minutes to free the bloody thing! Thankfully this time I'm back on in no more than 30 seconds. As I descend through the burms I check for Mr third and can't see him through the thick scrub. Another flawless feed from Rosemary and it's pretty much the same as the last one with the other riders. I'd remembered speaking to Clint (Mr third) at the start\finish before we got underway. He was into the enduro stuff so he'd have long legs. I was feeling the pinch coming into the third lap. If I could keep it clean and hold him over the major climb, I'd be in for a show with second place. Onto the major climb and Clint is closing as I'm on the lower slope through the soggy switch backs. I listen to my body and make sure I don't over cook as you need some in reserve to punch over the top through the pinch. I'm over and still in second. I descend with more brake this time to make sure I'm through to the bottom without incident. Last time through the undulating single track isn't pretty but I'm through to the burms cleanly. Again I'm through the last of the technical sections with a bit more brake just to make sure then onto the last of the flat pastural land cursing but keeping a watchful eye for Clint. I make the 180 degree turn into the Start\Finish straight and Clint isn't far behind as he's gassing for the finish. I'm over the line ahead of him and take Second! We catch up after the race and thank each other for a fun piece of racing then it's off to the Coomera river to wash the bike before packing it away into the car and heading back to Melbourne.