Well there was no rest for the wicked and after a week back at home getting my bearings I packed the car and headed up to Hidden Vale on Saturday morning for the pre-Flight Centre Epic festivities. The event, which began with the classic 100k-ish race became so popular it is now spread over 2 days with a 20km, 50km and kids events on Saturday and the half- and full-epic on Sunday.
I was a bit hesitant about racing on the Saturday, knowing I would need all my powder dry to bring it home in the 100k, but I was also looking forward to riding the Hidden Vale single track. I’d forgotten how sharp and rocky it is out there but it is incredible how much work has been put into the trails and I had a super time. Its much more fun riding it without having punched out 100ks before-hand. Taking the win I refueled for the next day and hung around with the team until we headed to our accommodation in Toowoomba.
In stark contrast to the 38 degree conditions of the 2009 Epic, I was struggling to ‘warm up’ on the crisp 3 degree morning of the 2010 edition. Initially following team mate AJs routine of riding up and down a hill, the cold windy descent was killing me. The rest of my warm up was spent standing as still as possible in the sun, waiting for the sensation to return to my fingers.
The race start was quite fast as groups formed on the road sections and everyone settled in. My main competitor, Naomi Hansen, rode beside me until the Ma Ma Creek singletrack and I did not see her again until the end of the race. Mercifully we had dry conditions this year which made the course extremely fast, and coupled with the cooler weather the race record was definitely under threat.
Arriving at half-way quite quickly I received another bidon and camel-back from feeder Aaron and continued on feeling fairly comfortable. I was looking around for groups to ride with on the long, windy road sections but unfortunately I spent most of the race alone. The legs were a bit flat after the previous months racing but I kept a bit in reserve for a personal objective – to ride the steep Laidley Gap section of the course. In my first mountain-bike race (2006 half epic) I saw that hill and thought “that’s impossible to ride…I will never do it”. There’s a good deal of personal satisfaction in being able to conquer it now and it always looks impressive!
Having the race lead it’s sometimes difficult to stay motivated, knowing how hard to ride without having someone to chase. Doing some calculations at the third checkpoint I thought if I could go under 5 hours for the race that would be a good benchmark so I pushed on for the final quarter of the race. Riding the single-track at the end was far less smooth that the previous days effort but I made it across the line in 4 hours 55 mins, taking out the race.
Now came the best part – sitting on the lawn at Spicers Hidden Vale, eating burgers, watching the sun set and listening to other participants trade stories of their days adventure. Its such a great atmosphere and really brings home to me why I love mountain-biking so much.
Thanks to Chungy from Advance Traders for the rockstar treatment, and as usual to all our sponsors for the support: Merida, Flight Centre, Shotz, Schwalbe, Lazer, Adidas, SRAM, Nightrider, Jet Black.