Was looking forward to this race. After breaking the 6hr mark last year, I was aiming to to hit somewhere between 5 - 5 1/2 hrs.
Prep before the race was limited to mainly 50km length rides, but thought this would get me through given the course as I remembered was relatively flat.
Arrived Saturday late arvo, registered, and then came the rain. Rain fell pretty heavily for a couple of hours and then eased off during the night. Got to race start next morning and the paddock at the start area looked very boggy - this was going to be a bit different then last year I thought.
Anyway started in the second group middle pack - found that the front pack started to break away after a couple of k's so put the foot down a bit and jumped on the tail of this group. that's when we hit some narrow washed out double tracked and a series of boggy waterholes. Through here there was lots of stops and starts and I could find little or no rythem. Found it hard following others so closely, and just wanted a clear bit of track for myself so that I could choose my own line rather then this follow the leader stuff.
Somewhere in this first 25 had some rear mech issues with all the mud, but managed to clear this and hit the single track. These first uphill single tracks were also pretty boggy and hard work. Again it was hard to get a any real momentum grinding thru this pasty mush. 5 km intervals seem to be the longest 5 km intervals that I can remember - energy levels were really taking a beating.
58km stop was a godsend, and I spent some time here to hydrate, cleanup the bike and get myself back together. Glad I did because I felt much better for the last 40 kms. The track was much drier in the second half, and this helped encourage you to push much harder. I think I was averaging around 20 km/hr for this leg.
The single track in the last section of course was much drier and fast - really enjoyed this, andthe hard tail was perfect for this course. stacks of 29ers on the course, and I finally caught up to Brian on one of the firetral climbs. He past me early in the day when I had some issues. You can really see the extra effort required when you are chasing a 29er up a long slow hill.
Crossed the finished line feeling pretty good, but was not expecting a great time. Was a little surprised that I was close to 6 hrs, as I did not feel like this was even possible after the first 40 km.
This would still rate as one of my favorite races, with some great single track and fire road combinations. Would probably avoid this course if it is as wet on the lead up.