More hot weather. Thankfully I was getting a lift up to Mt. Buller in Director Sportif's car that's equipped with air-con that works. I've also scored well on the accommodation side of things with D.C organizing a ski lodge for a whole bunch of us!
Our race starts at 9:30am and my Polar mounted on my handle bar says it 30°C already at 9:00am. I found it difficult to get a good warm up as the roads around the ski village are either pointing up or down.
We are gridded up and I was carrying #602 giving me front row again. The count down starts and I focus on the upward pointing sealed road that then turns left 50 metres ahead. We are off and I'm around the corner 1st as the sealed road flattens, another left descending into a right hand hairpin then rises. As I smash it up the rise two others are smashing it harder. Down, then up again before a steep descent on the last of the sealed road. It's hard on the brakes as it dog legs into the first of the single track and I'm 4th wheel now. Not where I was hoping to be. As we snake our way down the black dusty burmed single track a gap starts to form between 2nd and 3rd wheel. There's only three riders ahead and the dust is pretty bad and I can feel my eyes started to water up in an unconscious effort to clear them. We come up on a large cloud of dust and it's one of the riders that was ahead. He's become a victim on the black, loose, tire thick dust. The descent slowly turns into an ascent and just before it pops out onto the 1st section of fire road there is a succession of tight difficult switch backs. I end up stopping through two of them but by the fire road I'm back in contact. Along the undulating fire road we are all together as we start to come up on the tail of the under 15's race. It's got me buggered why they don't send them off after us. The fire road is running out and there is two under 15's between me and the next section of single track. I pin it, and make it to the single track before them with room to spare unaware if any of the three other Masters riders had also made it. This next section of single track climbs and as it climbs there are more switch backs. These switch backs are like Nun's nasties. Really tight, dry and dusty. As this section climbs they get closer together and steeper. I think I succumbed to two of them. It climaxes with an ascending rock garden that you have to grind through to keep traction before finally coming out onto fire road but it keeps climbing. There is a reward at the top, a manned neutral water section. It's welcome relief as I grab a half filled plastic cup, take a sip before dumping the rest over my head then slam dunk the cup into the bin a few metres up the track. There's no sign of anyone behind then it's into the next section of single track. More descending burmed, rocky, black dusty single track that will let your front wheel go without warning. I find this section hard going even though it's a descent due to rocks. A small section of fire road, a small section of single track then onto the fire road climb back to the Ski village. James is dispensing the fresh bottles today, and I get one and head out for lap 2.
On this lap I work the ascensions for all I'm worth though the two switch back sections of single track are scrappy and I'm swearing with frustration towards the end of the second section. I'm still not seeing 2nd place though there isn't many sections that you get to see a lot so I just keep hammering away.
Another clean bottle change with James and I get the Bell. D.C is there and I confirm with him that I just heard the bell so I don't have a brain fade like I did in the Nationals. The course is taking its toll now and I'm finding it hard to keep the pace on. The switch backs are cleaner this time though I still don't ride them all clean. The ascending rock garden hurts a lot this time too, thankfully it's the last time. Still no sign of anyone from behind and as I come out of the last of the single track Director Sportif is at the side line giving me encouragement. "What's he doing there, he's supposed to be racing!?" Is the thought. I find out later that he had an 'off' which wrecked his bike and elbow. One last time up the steep section to the Village then it flattens out a bit before turning right into the section that is the feed zone. Then the finish line looms and this time I know it's time to stop once I pass it. My name and 1st place come over the P.A as I wind down after crossing the line. I'm greeted by Rosemary with a large bottle of cold water and it doesn't last long and catch up with Director Sportif to get the details of his 'off'.
Thanks to Rosemary for the use of her pics. The full Flickr set is here.
Some pics again of the Elite races are here.