Wednesday;I start the haul to Canberra. It was a hot and boring drive up with all four windows of the car down for most of the journey. I finally get there early evening, unpack then head off to the Airport to pickup Dave who is flying in from Adelaide.
Thursday; Dave and myself had a respectable rise then out to Mt. Stromlo to ride the course. My impressions were that the course was technically soft. I'd been here a few months back to ride the Scott 24hr Enduro and there wasn't a part of this XC course that was harder than the Enduro course. Our course was also not the ones the Elites would ride. They had a true XC course. This wasn't going to be to my advantage was the thought. At least I was familiar with most of it.
Friday; Out on course again then back to put the legs up and rest for the remainder of the day. My dad had made the trip to Canberra too. He was going to feed me, so we spent some time going over what he needed to do in the afternoon.
Saturday - Race Day
It was finally here. Something both myself and Dave had been training up for. It was time to see if it would pay off.
After getting my transponder attached by the officials to my bike it was off around the road crit circuit to get my legs primed. It was windy and getting hotter by the minute. Mt.Stromlo is a barren place.
With 15mins till race time, I head over to get marshaled into our seeded position on the start line. I was carrying #603 and was on the front of the grid for the 1st time due to my placings in the last two National rounds. One minute is called before race start. 30 seconds... 15 seconds and the gun could go off at any second after that... It goes off and we are down the straight then funneled quickly into a tunnel and straight into single track. I'm third wheel and happy to watch from here. Out of the 1st of the single track and onto a short flat section of fire road. I pass Graeme Allbon and slot into 2nd wheel behind Brian John before the next section of single track. This section is a twisting power climb and Brian is riding it smoothly. As we climb and turn back on ourselves I get to see the field getting strung out. We pop out onto the next section of fire road. It's a short punchy up then a fast sweeping downward right hander that runs you into the major climb of the circuit which is disappointingly fire road all the way to the top. I push it hard being careful not to pop before the top. A short down before onto the single track to the bottom. Brian leads us into this and I'm second wheel. It has lots of burms, a few table tops then a small rock garden before out into an open field that is the feed zone. They have set it up so you can feed twice in a lap. My strategy is to feed the second time through so it's straight past the tents for me this time.
A small section of fire road before the next single track and a single speeder sprints for it 1st. I notice his move and I'm second wheel again. He's a local and has this false flat section wired and we pull away from the rest of them. Unfortunately we come up on some of the under 15's race traffic and it's not long before our gap is nullified from not being able to pass. More fire road then it's a section of single track that flows with speed while gently descending. Graeme is back on the front for this section and is really flying. That's the last we see of the single speeder. Back to the feed zone now and I get the chance to spot dad in the large crowd before sweeping around and collecting a fresh bottle. Now it's fast flowing open single track back to the start\finish line with the order of Graeme, myself and Brian.
The order stays this way through to the twisty power climb and to the base of the major climb. Again we all hit it hard to see if anyone will break. The top is close and I'm real careful to make sure I pop going over not before. There's a surge from Graeme and I match it and I'm into the single track descent 1st. It's time to test the waters as I bomb it and a gap starts to form. I notice D.C on the side of the trail two thirds of the way down as he gives me encouragement from his bike. Feed zone again and I get a glimpse of my slender lead. Back into the single speeder single track and I'm on the gas. D.C is there again at the end of it egging me on before I'm back into the fast flowing section. Graeme was fast in this section so I milk it for all it's worth looking back when I can but I'm not seeing him. A small up hill section of fire road before into single track back to the feed zone for a freshie from dad, then bombing it back to the start\finish. That lap felt perfect and I'm ready to try and replicate it for the last as I get the bell.
I'm on the twisty power climb and start to think "what if Graeme is negative splitting this last lap?!" so I start punching it out of the switch backs to maintain maximum speed up the climb. I'm onto the major climb, it switches back and I get a glimpse of Graeme starting the climb. Time to hurt and leave a lot on the climb. There's a guy sitting on the side of the hill and he gives me encouragement. It's time to try and lengthen the gap so I bomb the descent as fast as I dare to. It's head down through the feed zone and into the next section of single track. D.C is at the end of the section again keeping me going flat out at it. Next is the fast flowing gentle down. I'm hooking into the corners then out of one my rear tire gets air, skips out, lands and thankfully bites into the trail without allowing me to be thrown from my bike. Thank-you-tire. It's the last of the small sections of upward fire road and I can see D.C at the top. This is the last section where you can really smash yourself so I do before heading into the single track with floppy blood drained arms. Through the feed zone and no need for a bottle but dad is there anyway with the dregs of my others if I need it. I'm on the fast flowing descent heading toward the finish. I ease off this time to limit something going wrong and nothing does and I find myself on the start\finish straight with just fresh air between me and the inflatable finish arch. It's quiet, dead quiet and I start doubting that it's the last lap. I'm over the line still with doubt and disbelief that I've finished 1st. Then I remember hearing the bell lap and I relax and roll to the side where D.C and Dave are there to congratulate me.
Graeme Allbon comes in and we shake, then Brian John. D.C hands me his phone and it's Director Sportif so I give him the good news!
I stick around for the Elite Women & Mens race and get a bunch of pictures of Australias finest MTBers thrashing it out for the big one.