Breathtaking Bike Battles By the Border of Bateman's Bay
Without doubt, the race that took place on Sunday 20th July is one that will live long in the memory. Only a few times in my racing career, have I been involved in such a hard-fought titanic battle as the one I was privileged to be a part of in the Masters Pairs at Maulbrooks Mountain Bike Park in Mogo. Like all races, there would be winners and losers, but this time there would also be heroic chases, hard-fought duelling, bodies pushed to their absolute limits, exhaustion and cramping, unfulfilled battle plans and tales of heartache and woe. Ultimately, however, there could only be one victor.
Following an unfortunate training crash, my series partner, Mike Israel, was sidelined with a broken elbow but I was fortunate enough to secure the services of Jetblack Rider, Michael Brown, just days before the race. I was aware he was a quick rider and that we should consequently remain competitive with the other top pairings. It's often difficult to know exactly who the opposition will be and, with Mogo being a long four hour drive from Sydney, it was a case of preparing for the unexpected.
Browny had volunteered to start the race and was comfortably placed as the lead riders entered the start of the single track. Jack Lavis was first to complete a lap but solo elite ride, Ed Macdonald, was soon to follow. The first few riders had opened up quite a gap on the field, demonstrating the course was taking no prisoners and was already dishing out ample servings of singletrack punishment. I didn't have to wait too much longer before Browny appeared and I was propelled down the opening descents. I managed to claw past the first rider I saw and was surprised to experience how much climbing was done in the first two kilometres. Here the track evened out and threw up some quick descents up until the four kilometre mark and more climbing followed. At the eight kilometre mark the top of the climb was reached and the snake trail awaited. This incredibly fast descent is one of the best I've ever ridden and the berms were so well constructed, even I was able to maintain velocity and stay off my brakes. I finished the lap and a check of timing revealed we were in the lead, with a minute separating the Top Three Masters Pairs.
Mountain Bike Enduro Races are a strange beast. Due to the length of time in the saddle a lot can change and this can happen very quickly. When you think all is going well, you blow up through inadequate nutrition (like I did the previous week). Conversely, when you think the stars have aligned unfavourably, the tables turn just as dramatically. This was to prove the case on this all so dramatic day in Mogo. I started my fourth lap just after the four hour mark. I, like my partner, was staying consistent and with a clearer track, now the four hour competitors have vacated the scene, there was far less chance of being held up. Not that this was ever a problem, with riders following etiquette throughout. I had really put some effort into, at least, holding our position, when it did finally happen. A rider failed to let me through at the top of the snake trail and I was held up as he continued to brake heavily through the berms. I passed him half way down and tried to repair the damage. At least, my heart rate had dropped! Although, still four and half minutes behind the lead riders we had picked up an unexpected place. Talking to Jason Morgan at transition, I was informed his partner, Paul Morgan, had punctured for the second time that day, explaining their slow start on lap one and their amazing comeback to occupy second place after six laps. They were never to fully recover from this latest setback.
As my team mate approached transition for the last time, he cried out we were leading. This was great news. Then he gasped the opposition were right on our tail, officially five seconds behind, and I knew I was in for a brutal last lap. My buddy had somehow overturned the ninety seconds and it was now up to me to keep the lead. We had come a long way and I could not face letting it all slip away now. What was more, Jason and Paul Morgan were closing fast and were themselves only a minute in arrears and charging. I immediately felt a rider jump on my back wheel and I knew Matthew Pandelus was stalking his prey, waiting for his moment. I gritted my teeth and powered up the first climb. He stuck to my wheel like glue. A rider passed by but I was relieved to see it was a rider from the Onyabike team. My rival was still waiting for his moment. I passed other riders but he remained in tow. I now got the feeling that he couldn't be any stronger than me, otherwise he would have already made his move. Like me, he must be hurting and this thought gave me the determination to keeping suffering and gradually I managed to apply more power.