Last year I was flown to Perth to do this race in a joint effort with Shotz nutrition and Trievents. Apparently they didn't hate my work so the opportunity came up again this year and I quickly accepted. The course is great but deceptively tough and the people like, Tony Tucknott from Perth MTB Club, are just incredibly passionate about their riding.
Its not just a junket though and I, Andy Blair, Gracie Elvin and Jason English visited 6 primary and secondary schools, doing Q&A with the students, a roll around with them if they had bike and even a mini race utilizing a set of stairs and a beach volleyball sandpit just to give them a proper taste of mountainbiking. Some kids were more receptive than others but if it encourages just one of them to get into the sport and maybe go on to represent Australia I think that would be pretty cool.
Our plans for a roll before race day were thwarted by a freezing torrential downpour so I didn't have the chance to have a first ride on my new Santa Cruz Blur XC. Luckily the guys at For The Riders are complete wizzes at building and setting up bikes. During the race everything just worked and my position felt like I was riding an 'old faithful' for the upteenth time. Even my new shop-issue knicks were non-chaffing. But do as I say, not as I do - no new gear on race day kiddies!
Darryl from Shotz thought it would be a great idea to have Gracie at the race to "give me some competition". We are pretty evenly matched most of the time in XCO and I was looking over my shoulder the whole race expecting her to stomp past me on the flats as she's an excellent TT rider. By her own admission she ended up having a creeper but I'm glad another one of our top riders has experienced the race so they can recommend it to others.
I hit the first 40km hard as that was where most of the climbing was. After the feed zone there is a long stretch of bitumen that you do not want to get caught on alone so I was lucky to be riding in the Mens Masters group for most of the remaining 60km (or not, as they were setting a hot pace, attacking each other frequently). Although the climbs are not long it is just continuous rollers for the whole course which gets very taxing. Dealing with the unfamiliar surfaces of pea-gravel and the infamous green clay that is like riding on ice, all adds to the challenge. I keep banging on about the singletrack here but it really is THAT good.
Finishing up with a convincing win I was happy to chalk the first one up for the new sponsors of FTR and Santa Cruz - hopefully the first of many for the next season. In marathons I think what you feel in your last hour of racing reflects what you did in the first hour. I hydrated well with the Shotz tabs and regularly took in the gels to avoid the 3-hour-blues when you run out of sugar and start to wonder why you put yourself through these things. Remember: its not your head, its your stomach talking!
See you at the next one.