An exciting new venue welcomed many returning riders to the first round of the highly regarded Chocolate Foot Singletrack Mind Series. On arrival at the event centre, I was told of the strong Masters field that was assembling for the forthcoming race including returning Champion Garry James, Jason McAvoy and the enigmatic but incredibly quick Stu Adams. I was going into the event on the back of some solid racing form and the news just helped whet my appetite. I hurriedly erected my tent and with unbridled enthusiasm set off for a quick practice lap. Despite the encroaching darkness and my failure to take any form of illumination, I sped off undeterred, even ignoring a bemused Anthony Maloney spluttering the words 'he'll never make it'.
This was to provide me with my first lesson of a testing weekend. After going a kilometre and a half in the wrong direction, I back-tracked and started the 10 kilometre loop, immediately enjoying the smooth flow of these lovingly groomed trails. My joy didn't last, as it wasn't too long before the sun dipped below the horizon, by which time I had only just passed the 4 kilometre marker. I pushed on, but now I had to adjust my pace in order to safely negotiate the many variations in the terrain. Much worse were the deeply lush rainforest sections, which would cast me in complete darkness. I was now struggling, straining my eyes and guided merely by the pale glow that emanated from the track and a scattering of white painted arrows. Suddenly, I was hit by a wing of a bat and now I certainly knew I had made a huge mistake leaving so late. I cursed my stupidity and only minutes later I was hit with a sickening thud in the chest. What hit me, I still don't know, but if I had been American it sure was a 'drop bear'. After a distressing and uncomfortable 45 minutes, I eventually saw light ahead and my nights salvation.
My next mistake was to place myself mid-pack for the start of the race. The uphill firetrail would usually provide riders with the opportunity to sort out a reasonable pecking order for negotiating the singletrack. But when I tried to overtake the slower riders by passing down the middle I was met with an array of large rocks that barred any thought of forward progress. So it was, I entered the forest already out of touch with my main rivals. Shortly after, Elvio Fernandes, incidentally one of the friendliest guys on the circuit, lost his front wheel and hit the ground with an almighty crack and I tumbled over his stricken machine. After asking twice whether he was alright he told me he was fine but I later found out he had been concussed, somehow putting in another 4 laps before retiring himself and his severely fractured helmet.
I tried to focus on closing the gap on my major rivals but the track required flow and I was punching into corners too fast and exiting with a handful of brake. In my desperation not to lose more time, I failed to drink and eat enough and, although my lap times remained consistent, they were doing nothing for my quest to catch Stu, Jason and Garry. On the 5th lap my legs had turned to chocolate and I then catapulted myself over my handlebars on an embarrassingly innocuous section of track. Shortly after, I was told my saddle bag was dangling limply from my seat post and the contents were about to be vomited into the scrub. I had to stop to salvage my bike spares and this allowed Dave Langley to pass and take 4th place. For 6 laps I chased, but Dave was able to maintain a 30-60 second gap helped by the fact he could monitor my progress each circuit when the course cut back on itself.
I finished the race dehydrated and sore. Perhaps my final mistake was over-training with nearly 100 hours and 2200 kilometres of riding, just in the month of April. Curse those Strava Challenges! Congratulations to Stu Adams who managed to hold off a fast-finishing Jason McAvoy and to Garry James, who, like Jason, had raced the seriously tough Australian Marathon Championship in Atherton, Queensland the previous Sunday. I was left to rue my mistakes but I was still pleased to have finished 5th in a strong Masters field and beating the likes of Guy Cowan and Ash Turner. The Chocolate Foot Series never fails to impress and Joe and Fi have served up another great venue with races at Nowra, Awaba, Welby and Orange still to come. With double National and World Champion Jason English committed to racing the Series, the reputation of this event will continue to flourish.
Nice write up, I had no idea about your antics in the dark or crashes... you looked so fresh at the finish. I am sure you will have a clean run at Nowra, see you down there!
Sounds like you had a tough race, you did well to come in 5th. You never give up. Well done xx
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