The Otway Odyssey is one of those must do events. Like the Highland Fling it attracts the best riders from all over, but being in Victoria some of the best riders south of the boarder also make their way to this event.
It has been on my to do list for a while, and when it was incorporated into this years Maverick Series, it was worth the extra effort to enter and include the race on the calendar.
April seemed like a good time for the event - and it was - but for me coming into the event after the Cape Epic, and a few weeks off the bike was probably not doing this event with the calibre of the field justice.
I traveled down to Forrest on the Friday, Anzac Day, where i caught up with Ant Shippard (Pepper Coaching) for a 2hr recce of the middle loop around the town of Forrest itself. 28km of great singletrack, with lots of natural obstacles had us smiling from ear to ear. Hard to go fast, given the nature of the course, but still a great FUN series of loops. A cross between Wingello and Nowra single track for those looking for a comparison.
After working out some new lines, we hit the Forrest Brewery for some lunch. the town of Forrest is a great little town tucked away in the Otway ranges. Only 30 mins from the scenic Great Ocean Road and about 1hr 45mins from Melbourne, make a great little place to escape and keep the other in the family occupied / happy. The Brewery is the hub of the town, opening up at 9am for a great breakfast, then lunch and dinner.
the menu complimented by a great range of locally brewed beers. what more could a MTB'r want ? In between rides, you can probably tell we spent a fair bit of time at this establishment.
After quick bit of sight seeing down on the Great Ocean Road, I checked in to some great accommodation www.forrestgate.com.au, situated on an Alpaca farm. Only 4km out of town, but a great little place to escape. Here i caught up with Naomi from www.MarathonMTB.com who I was sharing with over the weekend.
Saturday, had us exploring more of the network with JD (James Downing) who is currently leading the Maverick Series Masters, and in the top 5 for the series overall. The first major climb of the course is a big 400m + climb, on sandy and muddy surface, so i took the 4wd out to check out this part of the course. The grade of the climb was not too bad, but the sand and the mud (not a lot of sun gets into the southside of the
forest) would make it difficult.
Back to the Brewery for a quick bite to eat, and then sit down and watch the World Cup Downhill finals. How good is it to have live MTB'g on tele on a Saturday ?
Race Day, started with a very chilly morning. Clear skies had temperatures down around 3 degrees which had no one too eager to do to much of a warmup. The women's field started at 6:40am. Naomi was wearing the yellow series leaders jersey, which I joked would make he a good rabbit to chase. For the men's start I lined after with Super Masters leader Garry James, just behind the elite field. We ride at a very similar pace, had not ridden the race previously, so the plan was to stick together throughout the day.
The race started in a very orderly fashion, escorted on public tarred roads for the first 10km. This was great. time to warmup and to seed yourself in the field in readiness for the first big climb. When we hit the sand the large peloton quickly disseminated in to the contenders and the rest. Jongewaard riding off the front, with a 10 - 15 strong elite contingent following. I was in the next group, but as we hit the steeper grades and the muddy sections the elite field left us. Here I struggled, although my legs were strong after the epic, i didn't have the same sustained power output to hold on to the leaders. With the climb being around 50mins, i knew it was going to be a long day.
Reaching the KOM at the top, the track headed straight back down in a muddy / rutted technical descent. surprisingly i was catching the climbers who in some cases were walking some of the more technical obstacles. This lifted my spirits and kept me rolling through.
The whole of of the first loop 38km was pretty similar. Some big fireroad climbs followed by sketchy technical single track descents.
This had me yo yo ing through the field, but the category leaders were way too strong today and were out of sight by the first transition.
After 38km and 1200m climbing i hit first transition feeling pretty good. I knew the middle loop after pre riding it the days before. so i settled in for day of chasing - maybe i could consolidate a top 5 position ?
The middle ST was uneventful, except that I was fast. Knowing the course and the lines, I managed to move up through the field overtaking maybe 20 or so riders in this section. surprisingly they were all younger riders or the women's field , where were the older dudes in my category ? Unfortunately still a couple of mins ahead I found out later.
Coming into transition, Garry James was only 10 seconds ahead. This lifted my spirits. Suck down another gel, head down and away we go again.
The 3rd legs starts with another 300m climb on buffed fireroad. I was climbing well, catching the elite women field on the climb, but still not fast enough to catch the leaders. Then came the best part of the course. a section called red carpet, a fast single track descent, followed by some of the best single track I have ridden. Fast flowy sections, big technical obstacles, steep pinches, it had it all. I was in my element and forgetting i was in a race - just enjoying myself.
Then CRASH. Approaching a big log rollover on a fast descent i was carrying to much speed to stop. I went over the log - huge - and there was a 3 foot drop that went hard left on the other side. The drop was fine, but when i attempted to turn my front wheel left, it slipped on the greasy log/tree surface, sending me flying 3ft to the ground - and then came the bike directly on top of me. I was pretty shaken, but quickly tried to get up and get out of the way in case another rider came through. My shoulder, right arm and ribs were throbbing in pain.
Adrenaline took over and I was back on the bike - then I notice my bars twisted 90 degrees, and brake levers pointing to the sky. Some quick adjustments and I had the bike back into a rideable position. After this I was a little more conservative, but the track was still so much fun it was hard to go slow.
Crossing the finish line, just behind Gazza I was pretty pleased with the day. Endurance wise the distance was fine, we were riding much further and harder at the Epic. On review of the results, I was a little disappointed with my overall and category position - 44th Overall and 10th in category with a time of 05:18:08. There were some very fast guys out there across the veterans and masters categories. And a time closer to 5hrs was necessary for a top 5 category position.
This is a great race, and a great addition to the series. Given the trails, the location, accommodation options and the atmosphere I will definitely be back next year. Definitely one for your race calendar next year.
As always thanks to the great team that support SXC Racing. EVOC travel bags from Groupe Sportif make traveling easy rather than a burden. Nutrition from Essential Sports Performance Nutrition makes work / life / race balance possible. Cyclery Northside makes life easy with the best Specialized product available, and getting things ready even over the holidays after returning from Africa. Ant at Pepper Coaching, as always you know exactly what is possible and have me in the best condition for every race. This time I knew I was probably asking a bit much coming back from Africa.