Rise of a Formidable Rival
In life, when all seems perfect and it appears that events could not have been scripted any better a beast of fate almost inevitably rears its ugly head and shatters the illusion of perfection. Being of a superstitious nature I refrain from claiming how great life is for fear of tempting fate and losing the bliss I might currently possess.
And so it was, on this sunny winters day in June that my dream of becoming a World Champion in 24 hour mountain biking appeared a mere chimera.
Andrew Wells was amongst my challengers at Ourimbah and along with Alex Koojiman, these were the riders I needed to beat to win today's race. I found myself on the front row at the start and this helped propel me to the front of the pack during the all too familiar chaos of the uphill fireroad start. As we veered left into the singletrack Stu Adams lost his line and sent several riders into orbit. I unclipped but managed to keep some momentum to avoid any further damage. The rapid start had lifted my heart rate into the red and I backed off the pace and settled into a more manageable tempo. I was sure I was ahead of Andrew and Alex and those ahead were primarily team riders on a 'gun' first lap and Mark Tupalski and Ed Mcdonald who would be contesting line honours in the elite solos.
This year I was keen to avoid this situation by getting a fast start and pre-warned Andrew Wells before the commencement of the race. To my surprise, I lapped Andrew who seemed to be struggling. He had, indeed, been involved in a crash at the rollover during the first lap and had injured his back. He gamely continued for the 7 hours to record a creditable 6th place.
On passing Andrew, I knew one of my major threats was eliminated and I probably relaxed a little too much. I had to keep pushing because Alex was still out there and it would be folly to let him back into contention. Without a support crew I was unaware of my position but with an hour left to race I was told by Wendy Stevenson that I was 2nd. Second! Alex must be ahead. I put the hammer down as much as I could considering I had nearly 6 hours of racing in my legs. He must be tiring I kept telling myself. I will catch him.
Two laps went past rapidly and I crossed the line with an unknown rider who had followed my wheel the whole final lap. Was that Alex? I stayed ahead of him just in case. I was informed that I had finished 2nd...but not to Alex. Benjy Morris had moved up into Masters as he is due to turn 40 this year. With a string of excellent results in enduro racing Benjy is a formidable opponent. What is more, he is going to be a major rival in the World's in October. My only consolation is that I know now what or who I am up against. My nirvana may have been shattered but I have nearly 4 months to re-build it and ultimately slay the beast of self-doubt.