Reverse or not it's still an awesome MTB Race
I drove down earlier than usual on Friday afternoon & got a good camping spot by the river. I normally get there late & am left with long grass in a corner paddock or something.
I was greeted by nice warm weather on arrival for the first time at St Albans & race day was to be warm also but with a chance of light rain.
As I lied on my comfy new Sea to Summit sleeping mat the next morning I could hear the cars starting to roll in for the event & I started to get anxious for the race start. The start of the Convict has always been awkward with the masses of slower riders lining up an hour before race start making it impossible to get near the front unless you lined up in the start shoot when they did, not preparing your body with a proper warm up before putting your leg muscles under the strains of anaerobic climbing power on the first descent hill.
Jason English & I went for a small spin down the road after breakfast just before the start to get the blood moving around the body before Jase lined up for the elite start that went off 10 mins before the age group riders. I nearly entered elite just so I could get a good start in the event myself. I did not care about where I placed as much as doing a good race time so it was an option but one I will maybe do in 2017.
I lined up behind all the riders already on the start & noticed that riders I normally compete near were all the way up near the front. Your race time starts as you cross the start timing mat but if your not with riders you want to be competitive against it makes it hard to work out how hard you should push yourself to be at the front of your age group.
I was not let go until the third group of riders, around twenty minutes after the elite riders had left & there was nobody in my group that's face was familiar to me. No one there to push the pace for a podium position.
I started working my way up through the mass of riders seeing if I could get another rider to come with me. finally just after the sandy Macdonald river crossing I caught up to Martin Wisata from Rocky Trail & knew I would possibly have someone to work with knowing that he has done a few Croc Trophy races in the past. Sure enough after passing him on Jacks Track climb he went back around me on the first descent, this went on through the sandy undulating Womerah Range trail that went along the top of the mountain range. Coming down from the range onto St Albans rd I was on the chase again only to find Martin filling his drink bottle before crossing the famous canoe bridge where I went back in front again. I did the convict the last time with one bottle & a hydration pack, not having to stop at any drink stations, saving me valuable time & already it seemed to be working again.
The canoe bridge in previous years had only been two planks wide & was a real hoot to ride, but this year they decided to make it like a super hwy with four planks. It was a bit of a disappointment with no challenge as I rode across & I thought back years ago when I first entered the 100km just to ride the bridge & how you had to skid down a steep sandy bank just to get on it before balancing across. It was a shame to see this change to what it is now.
With all the chasing I had done in the first 33 km riding up Shepherds Gully became a chore as I once again remembered how fun & challenging it was to ride down it in the oposite direction. Once a fun single trail though the dense forest Shepherds Gully has now been graded into a super highway that you could drive a truck up.
All of a sudden I was becoming tired & found myself riding not much faster than those around me anymore & I knew the hardest was yet to come as we started hitting sandstone steps along the Old Great North Road that was built by the convicts.
My drive train was starting to sound really unhealthy with all the sand flicking up onto it from wet ground in the light rain & I was planning to do a quick stop to lube it up again at the 50 km Ten Mile Hollow. There was a volunteer that directed up around a left hand corner & I thought it was to the aid station but looked down at the GPS map noticing that it was now behind me. I don't know if he thought we looked like we didn't need to stop or what was going on but it was now behind us.
Riding up all the steps in the sandstone I was struggling big time & the route seemed to be a lot more uphill in the 2016 direction. Was I imagining it or was my fitness way down from last time racing in the other direction?
I remember having to get off once in the other direction at a large step up but in this direction I must have been off my bike 4 times already.
after being whipped by overgrown wet prickly bushes for what seemed like hours I finally reached Sullivans Arms fire trail where the track started to widen out now 30 km from the finish. For some reason I thought the last 30 km would be mostly downhill but this was not the case as we rode along the top of another mountain range before finally descending down a the steep private road where I lost concentration bottoming out my forks in a large wash away on the high side of a contour bank nearly sending me over the bars.
From there the race was straight forward along the side of paddocks at Wrights Creek road until hitting the tar for the charge over the finish line in St Albans.
Congratulations to Jason English who went on the win the race this year just over record time ahead of Tristan Ward & Mark Williams.