I arrived at the Airport to leave for Adelaide after a bit of a stressful road trip. You tend to forget how much traffic the motorway carries at 5am.
I arrived at the check-in knowing I was over weight. (combined weight of luggage, bike, spares etc etc.) I knew I was bit over and spent about 40 minutes on the stupid automated Jetstar phone line the day before trying to find a way to book additional luggage, but to no avail. I ended up being slugged $10 per kg of weight over the 20 kg allowance. 10 kg and another $100 later on top of my air fair I have to say I was pretty pissed off. Especially when I over heard other guys saying they had just carried most of their weight in their hand luggage - doing the right thing didn't pay off again....
The flight was good, I arrived on time and was picked up by the owner of the hire company I had booked a vehicle from.
And what a piece of crap...
The local motorway to the race track was uphill and the bongo van was flat out hitting 70 Kph.
This thing blew smoke like Bob Marley.
But to be honest it got us there and did the job.
We headed out to the race track on Friday (race day Saturday) to check out the course. I was pretty surprised to find 4X jumps in an XC track I must admit. Who said XC bikes weren't for jumping?
So I was all keen for Saturday. The track looked good just about all single track (which is the reason I race XC).
After a short warm up (big mistake) I headed over to the marshaling area to watch to start of the Elite field. I then find out that somehow I had missed my name being called and hadn't yet been fitted with a transponder, so a bit of panic set in. I was called up to the line first mainly due to last season's results and many new faces. I was pretty impressed to be at the front on the start.
The plan from the start was to try and stay in the lead 4 or 5 riders before we hit the first hill. This was mainly due to the amount of switch backs on the climb and it very easy to be slowed up and loose your rhythm.
The gun went and off we went.
Not the best start, my foot came out of the pedal on my leading leg and I lost a good few bike lengths. I pushed to try and stay with the lead few riders for the first 600 metre or so before the first climb. At this stage a realised that the local riders were pretty strong as I struggled to stay with them.
By the time we got to the top of the main climb I was definitely in an oxygen deficit. At this stage I was in about 5th with the leading 4 already a little way ahead. I hit the single track on the other side of the hill with 3 riders sitting right behind me.
After about 5 minutes with a rider pushing behind, I couldn't hold up the pace any more and had to let the 3 riders behind pass on the next wide section. By this stage I was a mess. I backed off for the next kilometre or so and tried to compose myself.
Finally I finished the first 7km lap. Boy was it harder than I thought during practice. Its kind of a funny sport cross country, sometimes you can watch someone in the middle of a race and by looking at the pace you wouldn't think they were racing. That's exactly how I felt, I was struggling to push big gears and accelerate out of corners.
By the end of the 3rd lap I was beginning to feel better, I guess how I would have felt if I had of started with a 45 minute warm up!!!!! My mate Mika who was feeding me was a big help in motivating me each time I came past the feed zone and he handed me a new bottle.
I battled on for another lap and eventually began to pass Elite riders who had mechanicals or who had just pushed themselves to hard.
I headed in to the last lap pleased that I had made it this far. Mika had handed me my last bottle and decided he would run up the hill with his camera and take so shots. He continued cutting across the track from switch back to switch back. I couldn't help but laugh as he continued to re-appear all the way to the top of the climb.
As I headed down the 'Roller Coaster' for the last time and into the last 1.5 kms ahead I could see a rider ahead. Its sometimes difficult to determine who is actually in your class, but all the same its always good to catch up to someone. By the time the finish was in sight with about 500 metres up the rocky finish section to go, I had managed to be within about 20 - 30 meters of the rider in front of me. With everything I had left I slowly dragged him in. Slowly but surely I got closer and closer up the climb. The rider realised I was there and by the time we hit the finish straight we were in full sprint for the line. (Well as full as it gets after a 2 hour race) And...
I missed. Doh! beaten by about half a bike length over the finish line. and...
He was in my class. But it felt awesome to give everything I had and really empty the cup.
By the end of the race I was down just over 8 minutes, which I guess isn't to bad over a 2 hour race. All I can say is on the day I did my best.