The town of St Albans first settled in 1842 & surveyed in 1837 as the village of macdonald is located 20 km North of Wisemans Ferry & has a lot of history dating back to the convict days where they built the 3rd oldest pub "The Settlers Arms Inn" (originally Jurds Hotel) in Australia along with one of the oldest churches among other historic buildings so that has always made it a great place to camp for the event where the town becomes a festival for mountain bike riders.
After grabbing some extra carbohydrates for dinner on the way down we arrived at 7:30 pm checking in with registration before I set up my hiking tent in a new paddock just open for camping due to all other designated camping paddocks being full for the event camping. I managed to jump into the sleeping bag at around 9 pm so I could get a good nights sleep before race start at 7 am but there was alot of cars entering during the night with everyone pitching tents & it was hard to get off to sleep, then all of a sudden I woke up wanting to go to the toilet & all was quiet at around midnight where the night still seemed quiet warm after expecting cold temperatures. After falling back to sleep I then got woken again at 3 am when the cars already started to arrive getting ready for the race ( the sky was still clear but the temperature was starting to drop). After falling back to sleep once again I was next woken by rain falling on the tent at 5 am & laid there mentally preparing myself for a wet race, but fortunately the rain did not last long as the cold winds started to increase.
As the sunlight began to let me see, I got up & had breakfast, then started to organise myself for racing in happy spirits knowing that the sky had not many clouds lingering around after the shower of rain earlier in the morning.
I thought I would make my way to the start line half an hour early after warming up to get a good spot but was shocked to see the start line packed with riders already. Walking my bike around the barriers to the back of the riders already lined up I heard my name being called out from the crowd of riders asking me to hand over my bike & jump the barrier to get a good spot midway in the first wave of riders, where it was pointed out that I was now in front of some of my toughest competition in my category. As the start sounded it still took 10 seconds or so till my spot in the pack started to move & I had to pick small gaps in front to move forward getting closer to the lead riders careful not to get knocked off in the attempt. I managed to find my way through some riders to put myself about 20 m back from the front where I was getting sucked along in the draft with no effort at 40 km/h before hitting the first dirt track at around 7 km into the race. I knew the first of two big climbs in the race was coming up & I tried to move through to the front for a clear run at the steep climb but was unable to gain many positions without putting myself in danger of falling off in a ditch on the side of the road. Upon reaching the climb all the riders came to a sudden stop before walking up the steep part of the hill where I was forced to do the same knowing that the leaders would now have a head start from me. As soon as I was able to get back on the bike I pushed hard calling for track in front of me hoping all the walkers would listen & move off to the side ( I was finally making some progress ) as I weaved in & out of slower riders near the top of the climb before regaining my breath on the first short descent. After a while the track turns to the right for the 100k riders & gets into the fun part of the race where in past races I remembered struggling to get up & over some of the worn, rocky sandstone step ups that dotted the convict built trail that was used in yesteryear as a passage way into the valley on horseback. I have been mountain biking for years now & noticed a lot of other riders around me seem to struggle in the technical terrain more than me so I took the advantage to ride hard & try & keep the momentum flowing over the rising & falling sandstone making it far less fatiguing than in the past while keeping my average pace high. The Giant Anthem Advanced X 29r ate the terrain nearly like it did not exist making my race feel nearly effortless compared to the old 26 inch wheel I had raced the course on previous times, as if I was cheating nearly.
I chose to carry a water bottle on my bike & a 2 litre hydration pack on my back planning to refill it at the 50 km mark but upon reaching the water station I had only drank around a litre because of the strong cool winds keeping my core temperature down & decided to push on & maybe fill up at the 68 km water station if I had to. I pushed on still gaining places & occasionally resting for short periods behind slower riders before the fun descent down Shepherds Gully onto a fire road that took you to the 68 km water station & kayak bridge river crossing. I noticed I had still not drank much from my pack & decided to go straight over the bridge at full speed & chase down the next rider in front. The next part of the race found me riding on my own into a strong head wind toward the last of the big climbs where I managed to catch up to some more riders now starting to feel the effects of maybe going out to hard at the start. There was a rider that I passed 5 km or so back that had now caught back onto my back wheel. As I tried to shake him over the last 20 km of the race I managed to keep reeling in riders before looking over my shoulder at who the rider was drafting off me, realizing that around 6 riders I had passed were now all drafting behind me. I immediately slowed the pace looking back at the riders waiting for one to take the lead for a bit so I could rest my legs before hitting it hard to the finish. No one was interested at first till I kept looking over my shoulder & slowing down even more where I then slipped back behind taking some more Shotz carbohydrate gel making shore I had an advantage over the competition I had picked up along the way. After taking on some fuel & getting a little rest I attacked before the last descent down Jacks Track where I managed to shake off all but two of the riders. I kept pushing hard into the last sandy river crossing where I bogged down into the sand having to carry my bike into the river & out the other side now knowing these guys were going to sit on my wheel down the last 4 km of dirt road so I slowed the pace up once again until a pack of 50 km race riders came past calling for the road, so I took the advantage of jumping on the back to regain some energy knowing the guys that were trailing me would not take a turn into the wind. I sat behind for a few km till one of the riders behind finally decided it was time to make a sprint for the finish line on the last small hill about a km out where I responded with now sitting on his wheels along with another rider. As I seen the town of St Albans come into view I locked out the suspension & attacked into the lead looking over my shoulder for a counter response, but they had nothing left as I passed over the finish line in 6th position in 40 -49 years & 15th over all.
Surprisingly I felt as if I could have ridden home after the ride & I was very happy with the result knocking off around 20 minutes from my personal best time I had done in my early 30's & the only thing I was disappointed with was getting held up on the first climb by all the walkers.
I'm already looking forward to 2015 where the race organizers are talking about maybe altering the course in some way, but I really hope they don't change much because when your fit this race is awesome :-)