RR from Bec –
Having done both the Road & Criterium Nationals at the start of the year as well as XCO MTB nationals in March, I thought I might finish off my national campaign with the MTB marathon Champs. Making the start of the year so far pretty full on.
The marathon champs were held in Mount Joyce in QLD on a course that I would definitely not go out and ride for fun. With around 1000m of climbing each lap x 3 followed by mostly single trail descents that consisted of black diamond runs in very hot and humid conditions it was not going to be one bit easy, and had me wondering that I should really have done some more research on the course.
Standing on the start line everyone was reasonable relaxed & I was thinking being a 5hr race we would probably just tempo into it. Wrong again, the start was pretty much straight into a hill of around 3ks of at least 10% with such a fast pace it had me thinking there was no way in the world I was going to be able to hold this. At around the 10km mark and sitting in 3rd place in a group of 5 riders I made a decision to back right off to see if I could get myself to recover as I’d gone so far into the red that if I wanted any chance of finishing the race this is what needed to be done. Unfortunately around 2k after that I had a pretty nasty crash through a rock garden section where I went over the hangers into a ditch hitting my knee quiet badly, ripping my Knicks which left no one imagining what my butt looked like & destroyed yet another helmet. That’s the 3rd one this year, might need to practice my exit skills or learn to stay up right. Once back on the bike I tried to ride back into the race & settle myself down a bit.
Looking back I cooked myself in the first part of the race & was now suffering from heat stress & I just couldn’t recover. Ren (Naomi Williams) caught me at the end of the first lap & rode me with me as long as possible, but I told her to go on as she was riding well as I didn’t have anything left. Not wanting to pull out I headed out for my second lap hoping I might start to feel a little better & be able to finish the race. Once I started to feel sick & feeling a need to cry as I was off again walking a section of at least 21% in gradient I realised this was going to have to be my last lap. I rode the last lap at a pace that resembled a snail but it aloud me to get through it. Although I’m disappointed with the result I also know that I made the right choice to pull out.
The race being as difficult as it was, left a fair bit of carnage in its wake with a large proportion of the field not finishing.
Congrats to Jenny Fay who took the win, Mel Anset in 2nd and taking the Aussie jersey, Terri Rhodes in 3rd, Imogen smith & Ren in 5th place after a solid ride considering very limited training all year on the back of a few injuries. Ride of the day for me!
Also I wanted to mention Sarah Riley (LIV/giant) who finished 3rd in this race last year, was riding awesome and has really impressed me with the way she’s ridden this year and I have no doubt if she hadn’t had a crash that ended her day would have had a great one.
RR from Ren –
There’s a saying we used to use in Tassie, He, She, I, was “Talking to the Man ferns” it was in reference to a climb which has Man Ferns growing along the side the road all the way and it would be used when a rider was having a hard time, basically traveling so slowly that they were able to talk to the Man Ferns, they obviously didn’t move that quickly. During one point of the Australian Mountain bike Marathon Champs, up at Mt Joyce Qld on the weekend, I looked down to see an ant pretty much walking along with me as I was riding, I thought of this saying, there were no Man Ferns to talk too, but it’s fair to say I was “talking to the ants” for a bit!
The course, 3 laps of 25km, 75km total, was relatively short for a Marathon race, normally they are around 100km, the reason for the shortened distance, a bloody hard course. Basically a lap went – hard up, tech’y hard down, hard up, tech’y hard down, mostly single track, and with minimal places to really relax and get a bit of rest bite, the conditions were also going to be testing being very warm humid.
The race went out very fast, straight onto the first climb, a solid up, lose, bumpy, fire road for a few km’s, then into single track and kept climbing for another 30 min or so. The tempo out of the start was a shock to the system and when we hit the climb I knew I was starting to get towards my upper levels of current go. Having hardly no racing or general training for that matter in the legs due to injury, being realistic to the fact that I was going to have a hard time just getting through the distance, let alone the terrain and heat, red lining the start was not the best option and so I rode within myself, holding a bit in the tank. Holding yourself back and watching the race ride away isn’t an easy thing to do, often though there is a need for some risk analysis, had I tried to hang on longer at the start I am pretty sure all that would have been achieved was a large explosion resulting in DNF’ing early on. The climb was pretty step and as it zig zag up ahead I had a good view of the lead of the race, and it wasn’t hanging around as the leaders fought for position, meanwhile I tried to settled into my own tempo and well just ride along really. I passed Sarah Riley sitting at the neutral feed zone at the top of climb one, a wound to the Knee, ok but out of the race, really disappointing for her as she was travelling well at the time.
My talking with the Ants came about relatively early in the race, I struggled to get into a rhythm due to the hard nature of the course, I simple wasn’t ready for something like this and head games on just getting through the first lap were alive and well. After hitting the first decent it was more apparent that it was going to be a really hard day out, with little rest as you bounced your way down the thing, every muscle in your body contracting as you hang on for the ride.
The second climb decent combo was much the same, but with a nasty bit of fire road in the middle that had a lot running / walking up during the race, me included (normally you look forward to the fire road for a bit of rest!). One the second decent I picked up Bec (Rebecca Locke), clearly having had an off as I could see her buttock cheek form a little way behind, (her Knicks not being that old yet so I knew they couldn’t have been Porn star Knicks (this a term given to a really old pair of Knicks that should have been thrown a long time ago because of their see-through nature)) She was a bit worse for wear having come off solid on the first decent and was looking like she would be out at the end of the lap. We rode together to the finish and she decided to keep going for another lap, part way through though she told me to keep going as she rode tempo, she pulled the pin at the end of that lap, again very disappointing for her after having some great form leading in.
Going into the final lap was unknown territory for me, it was putting me up there in time on the bike that I hadn’t done for a little while, let alone on this type of terrain. There was a fair old chance that I was about to go into blow yourself up/ cramp/ LaLa land time, I had a giggle to the guys in the feed zone about it before I left, little did they know I was being serious, having said that I remained positive knowing I kept a little spare. The Lap did indeed hurt more than the first two, it was also getting hotter as we got into the middle of the day, my Tassie skin turning a tomato red colour, I did start to cramp, and I was getting tied. Had the sun stayed out I think the last 10km or so would have been a epic battle for me to get to the finish but somewhere during the last decent the temperature dropped a little as some huge dark clouds rolled in. It was like an instant blot of energy as I could smell the finish and my temperature dropped, going faster than I had gone all day. It became a race against the clouds, didn’t win though and the heavens opened with a bang and crash with only a few Km’s to go. I couldn’t believe I’d been out there for over 5 hours, stayed relatively clean, had no offs, but then ended up almost swimming through mud to get through the last few km! I rolled over the line covered in mud and soaked through, the jump in the damn I had been so looking forward to seemed kind of pointless!
Apart from the first part of the first climb I never saw the front of the race, in fact it was a bit of solitude battle out there, but I am happy that I raced in a way I thought would be my best chance of getting through, having had a very slow and frustrating start to the season. The result wasn’t a focus but I did in the end pick up 5th which was nice.
Well done to Jenny fay, Mel Anset, Terri Rhodes, and Imogen Smith on top 4, Also big congrats to Mel on taking the Aussie Jersey as first Aussie in the race.
Wishing all those who had offs and a hard day at the office a speedy recovery!
For more on the real insurance Marathon Champs have a look a the event website www.cycling.realinsurance.com.au
They have also done a great Video wrap of the Championships here http://cycling.realinsurance.com.au/video-australian-mountain-bike-marathon-championships/