Bloody Horns of Complacency
The Male Masters Solo Category included 42 riders and the list included some of the finest exponents of the discipline. Garry James, fresh from a successful foray in The Trans Alps stage race in Austria, was the clear favourite. Jason McAvoy (2nd in Round 1 at Taree) loomed as a major threat, while Dave Langley (4th in Round 1) had just completed two weeks hill training in the Pyrenees and was likely to carry good form into this race. Throw in Trent Moore, Paul Brodie and Richard Peil and a tough day was certainly in the offing.
As is the norm in most mountain bike races, the self-seeding at the start is often a farce but I managed to position myself close to the front and made a quick start through the fireroad thereby avoiding the bottle-neck into the singletrack. But on only the 2nd lap I heard a loud crack and I feared my race was already over. I slowed, checked down on the bike and somehow all seemed well and I carried on with no shortage of relief.
At the end of lap seven, I was in 4th position and as I came for a new bottle in transition I pulled up alongside Trent Moore. As we left for the next lap, a battle for supremacy unfolded reminiscent of past battles, particularly in this very series two years ago when we finished first and second overall. I would pull away on some of the short climbs but then, after the descents, he would be on my back wheel once again. At the end of lap 8, I grasped the opportunity to sneak past a slower rider at the end of a short fireroad and ducked into the singletrack. Trent missed the opportunity and was held up long enough for me to put in a significant gap he would be unable to close. Enduro racing is not just about physical ability, but so much is fought out in the head; any mental advantage can be critical and opening a gap on a fellow competitor is a massive mental boost and conversely. This very fact was to be my downfall later in the race.
For the first five hours I have to admit I was feeling really strong. On lap nine I had overtaken Jason McAvoy, who was having mechanical problems, and he was soon to withdraw from the race altogether. I crossed under the bridge as Dave Langley went over it. This represented at least 4 minutes lead and so I continued in my pursuit of Garry James who was a fair way up the track. I was feeling smug and pretty secure in 2nd place. However, it was at this point my body started to retaliate under the constant physiological stress I was placing it under. My rear tyre was low on pressure and had punctured and repaired itself in two different places. Furthermore, I had tinkered with my nutrition strategy and, as a consequence, I had not consumed enough 'Optimizer' energy drink. I switched from my protein and carbohydrate solution to flat coke in order to inject a caffeine and sugar hit which I had been told only a few days earlier was a trick triathletes often use in the final stretch of the run leg in order to come home with a 'wet sail'. It didn't work and I felt 'no lift' but just remember coating my teeth with acid and sugar. Suddenly Dave Langley appeared on my shoulder and chirped 'Just one lap to go', then literally cruised past. I immediately was held up by a slower rider and he was gone...along with my will and my second place.
This was another great event from the Chocolate Foot Organisers Joe and Fi. The series is becoming extremely popular and this year the competition is fierce not least because the World 24 hour looms just ten weeks away. The next race will be held on the 29th September at Awaba and close battles and ferocious racing is guaranteed.