The final round of the Australian national cross country series was held at Mount Beauty, Victoria. Before I become all journalistic and report on the radical up and down action of the ladies elite cross country race, I just need to give this area a huge plug. If ever you go to Australia then check out the Aussie Alps. Mount Beauty is a real beauty and a must ride for mountain bikers of all shapes and sizes. For the skinny climbing wizards out there then you can spend all day climbing high and still never think you're going to reach the top. Where the singletrack and variety of technical descents will leave other riders shaking for more, a few crying for their mummy, but many grinning from ear to ear as the descents feel never ending.
From Sydney the journey took 8 hours. After a 4am start and too many Aussie tunes crackling on the radio, Ian and I were well and truly ready to hit the trails when we arrived in Mount Beauty. It probably wasn't the best idea to go for a ride, as the drive took so much out of me.even though I slept most of the way. How I have survived 24 hour solo efforts I don't know, but to be fair you would sleep too if you're husband started singing 'Waltzing Matilda'. Boredom does strange things to the man.
The race course started on a wide draggy trail with a little grassy climb that really zapped your energy. It soon turned into a lovely flowing piece of single track, with a few roots and rocks to glide over, but nothing too technical. There were a couple of short steep sections that shocked the lungs into action, followed by more flowing single track, before the course widened out to a fire road trail of around 500 metres.
The second half of the course is where your technical head was well and truly needed. The top section of single track was loose and off-camber, before you rolled over some logs and made your way to a three-foot drop off. There was a long section of singletrack that followed with a mixture of wide and tight switchbacks, with small jumps and drop offs to blast over. There were a couple of cheeky little climbs in between, before you hit the 'Rock Garden'. The next 500m was extremely technical and there were longer B-line sections for riders who decided not to brave the rocks.
The first section of the rock garden actually looked a lot harder than it was, if you had a bit of speed and your confident head on that is. First you had to ride across several sharp rocks, before turning tightly on more sharp rocks, before riding down more rocks. As you can imagine I looked at it for a little while, ok a long while, before several slow attempts made me realise that unless I let go of my brakes I was going to lose some skin and look like a spanner. When I finally rode this section I knew speed was my friend. There were more rocky sections to follow, superb switchbacks and a couple of bridges. I kept whispering 'speed is your friend' and the Cotic Soda responded swiftly. I felt invincible and could feel my endorphins pumping high. As race courses go this was fair dinkum!
I was mid sentence when I caught myself saying 'I just want to ride the course one more time'. The first thing Ian taught me about mountain biking was that you never say you're going to ride one more time.
I whispered to myself 'speed is your friend' and decided to really attack the singletrack and go for gold on the drops offs and jumps. Perhaps my confidence was a little too high, as I sprinted at full speed, hoping to match Ian in the air, only to completely miss-time the jump, forget to pull on the bars, nose dive (literally) and land ever so gracefully on my head. If only this was an exaggeration. I didn't feel myself land, in fact I thought I was riding through space, as the stars drifted by. Then the pain set in and my head felt twice as large, if only it were a few more brain cells. Three Ian's were staring down on me (scary thought) and a strange tingling sensation from my shorts. From one pain to the next, I quickly moved into action as I had landed on a huge ant's nest. I decided that for now speed would not be my friend and I just wanted to collapse into bed.
The next day I was black and blue all over and every muscle in the body ached. Then to really cheer me up it rained..a lot! As the girls lined up the rain stopped a little but the damage had been done and we all knew it was going to be a tough race. As we sprinted off I found myself behind Tory Thomas who was leading the series. I waited patiently to make my move on the fireroad climb, but as I tried to find that extra zip, my legs had other ideas, and decided they were quite happy at the pace they were going. By the end of the first lap I was in third, but there were girls right on my tail. By the end of the second lap my legs felt happy again and I was making time up on the girls in front and I was really enjoying the singletrack. Every now and then I caught a glimpse of the girls in front, but they were too strong on the descent for me to make anymore time up. I crossed the line in third feeling a little bit disappointed as my legs felt too fresh for their own good. The fast twitch fibres just weren't in action today, but it was a great course and one I hope to return to in the future.
Tory Thomas won convincingly in front of her home crowd, and became the overall national series winner. Unexpectedly I managed to take second in the Australian series, after only racing three out of the four events. My pal Zoe King took third.
We were due to fly back to the UK shortly after this race, but have been advised by the Australian national coach to stay for the Oceania Championships. It was a hard decision as we have really missed the rain, sleet and cold this winter...
Looking forward to a hard race and also two weeks of interval torture as I attempt to wake my legs up from their slumber.
As always I can't thank all my family, friends and industry sponsors enough for all their support out here in Oz. A special thankyou to -
Plus I can't forget pit partner Ian Potter who has braved spider, snake and koala bear to help me race out here in the Aussie jungle.
Also thanks to the boys at Hope, Crank Bros, Cyclops Powertap and Endura.