A Hot, Dirty Affair Dripping with Passion and Pain
Luckily, in transition, I was able to quickly locate my support crew, Mark Hardy's partner, Gloria, who I had only met for the first time the previous night. I grabbed a 2 litre camelbak, which Mark had sensibly advised would be necessary for the 53 km of rough forest trails and the exhilarating Wingello singletrack. Gloria told me Mark was five and Ben one minute ahead and I felt confident I could close the gap as endurance became the dominant factor.
I motored up the first half of the 'Great Wall', but after the plateau I lost traction and dismounted. It was enough, however, to close the gap on Ben Edols. We rode together for some time before I lost some ground and Ben was calling out for me to stay with the pace. I kept eating and drinking and hoped I could keep my opposition in view. Halfway Hill and the Kick were negotiated and I was back with Ben and a number of other Manly based riders.
At the second transition, I spotted Gloria again and shed the camelbak and took on a fresh bottle. Peta Mullins and Rebecca Locke, second and third respectively in elite women, rolled into transition just behind me. After the allotted five minutes, Peta, Bec and two other riders began the final 27 km Gu Stage. For the first kilometre of flat dirt road, I stayed behind the two girls as they swapped turns, but soon felt guilty as the speed slowed and took up the pace making myself. Peta swapped turns but Bec and the two male riders were suffering. A singletrack descent called Jack's Jaunt was followed by an uphill climb back to Penrose State Forest. Peta was still behind me but the others had faded. I was happy to keep driving the pace, it was almost a compliment that Peta was content to stay on my wheel. Second place was assured but surely Jenny was not going to fade this late into the race. I was going to inform Peta of this fact but then thought better of it. Peta is mountain and road bike royalty. She didn't need me to tell her my version of how the race was unfolding.
As I descended towards the event centre, I caught a tiring John Miller, my teammate from our Mont 24 hour success, and we were able to cross the line together. Another fling was flung. I achieved my goal of finishing within the top 15 in Masters with 12th place and 50th overall. Ben was to finish seven minutes behind, while Mike Israel, Guy Cowan and Gary Harwood finished in the three places ahead of me. Trent Moore broke his chain, managed to lose it in the grass and lost valuable time to finish a disappointing 22nd. Peta Mullins won the female elite event for the second year running, while the unfortunate Jenny Fay withdrew after a second puncture and a broken seatpost.