I was a very late entry in what was to be me 2nd ever Flight Centre Cycle Epic. I'd realised there was a bit of a date clash for me with the HPRW Club Champs Road Race on the Saturday. Run on a hilly and usually windy road course, the road race was due to start at 1:30 and would run for 2hrs and therefore finish around 4pm. Backing up to ride SS at the Epic was always going to be tough ask. To make it even tougher, it was my first week in a new job in the city, so back to commuting and to top it off our home was broken in to, which apart from consuming time with police, insurance, reassessing security was somewhat disconcerting.
Saturday's race turned out to me tougher and more tactical than I ever thought, and in the end went poorly for me and took a heap out of me. Roll around Sunday morning, and I was not the least bit interested in climbing big hills, descending rocky descents and flat boring road sections on a one gear bike. I was a little excited that the SS category was well represented with 18 riders. Thankfully Andy had picked up our race packs the day before saving us a mega early start(as if 5am isn't early enough). Thankfully I had got everything ready as possible the day before, so when I arrived at OHV I could fairly leisurely get ready. Unlike last year where I last rode a geared MTB, this year the SS category were the last of the waves to roll off. I was expecting to meet serious traffic, but apart from the 1st climb where I still managed to pass a lot of riders but taking to the grass, I had less problems than last year as backed up single trail. I rolled away casually at the start, but as I saw a bunch of SS riders heading in to the distance, my race face appeared and I upped the cadence in pursuit.
I caught Josh Bamford and we settled in to a nice pace chating, but also aware there were a few SS riders ahead. My legs were feeling heavy, and I knew I was in for a long day in the saddle. Josh and I made our way through the field on the first climb, but as it got steep Josh disappeared in to the distance, but somewhere on the descent I saw him running back towards us(somehow I knew he was retrieving a drink bottle). I happy to get out to the first road section on a functioning bike as it was in this section last year that my race ended with a broken chain. The flat section that followed is one of the sections despised by single speeders, which is followed by a tough, but more SS friendly climb that seems to go up and up and my legs were feeling like lumps of lead. I think I even contemplated hopping off the bike at this stage, but a climb like that always has its rewards, and with it new burst of energy. This was followed by the infamous flat section in to Mulgowie. Having passed me on the previous climb, I could see Josh ahead of me, and I pushed to catch him using the pace line of geared bikes where I could. I caught Josh and we worked in to the wind.
The worst part of this section however is not the wind, or the flatness, but knowing what comes next. Its the climb that makes the Epic what it is. In reality, it is another SS friendly section, even though it means a bit of walking near the top. Somewhere on this climb Josh disappeared again. The descent is full on for XC style riding. Its bumpy and long, and I could smell burning brakes. I was lucky to have put 2 bottles in the transition area because somewhere around the 40K mark, I lost one of my electrolyte bottles...the full one, having emptied the other first to be changed out at the 50K point. The 50k point was THE point that everyone thought would be the start of the fun, because it was thought to be 37k of sweet single trail. However it was also the point where fatigue and heat were really starting to kick in. It proved to be both fun and hard. These are sections of trail I know well having done hundreds of ks in various events over the last couple of years, and despite often coming up to slower riders, I was quite passive in passing them, by this stage I was just looking forward to the end.
Some how I had caught Josh again, and he was starting to hurt, we rode together for a while and he said his support said we were currently 2nd and 3rd. Given my head space coming in to this race and how I was feeling right then, I'd have been happy with 3rd, but heading up Ladder, Josh had to dismount and I managed to keep pedalling and realised it was my chance to push ahead.
It was starting to get hot, and there were times where it felt like I was the only person on the trails with no riders in sight. When I did catch riders I was generally happy to follow for a while. The sections of trail were starting to look the same (sometimes they were), but at least the ks were ticking by. Geared riders were starting to start looking for lower gears on the climbs(while I wished for the same), but it meant I was catching and passing more and more riders, perhaps some from the 50k event. To my horror, we dropped to the grass section heading towards Mt Mort Rd for the second time. I didn't enjoy this flat, SS unfriendly section the first time, so doing it a 2nd time really felt like a chore. It was also quite open, not shade from the sun and no protection from a slight wind.. but at least once we got through it we were nearly done. Once I hit escalator, I got another energy burst and when I got the fire road home, it was full steam ahead.
In the end I crossed the finish line in 5:00:29, in 2 position Single Speed 7 minutes behind Ollie Whalley and 4 minutes ahead of Ashley Howlett. Congrats to Ollie on a great ride, and well done to Ashley.
Thanks to Hayden, Fleur, OHV, all the organisers, volunteers, and of course all the riders. I loved and hated this years event so much more than last years, but there is a fair chance I'll be back next year.
Categorised results can be found here.
Overall results can be found here.