One day to race day and all is quiet at camp.
Most of the team arrived on Tuesday morning, convening at Melbourne airport between 8am and 11am. We required 3 vans and one truck to transport the 25 riders (another 4 to join us later), 5 team management and 27 bikes to Alexandra, a 90 minute drive north east of Melbourne.
Alexandra is a very small township with one main street, a handful of pubs, the usual hardware shop, supermarket, Laundromat, Library, Café, and apparently a very good Op shop. Basically it was a one horse town and not much to see. The accommodation was not much better – very basic with no cooking facilities. Admittedly the hotel staff were very accommodating and provided one BBQ, one barely working microwave, plates and cutlery for 35 people to cook with.
Since most of us began the day at around 4am, it seemed to take forever to get to the Redgate Motel, organise the rooms, assemble the bikes and get to the supermarket. Finally a few of us got on our bikes to spin the legs at about 5pm.
Day two saw a full day of action for the downhillers who were driven 200km north from Alexandra to ride the touted "one of the longest run in the southern hemisphere". 5 runs, dropping 800m in 9 minutes. There was a wicked rock garden, and some cool wooden jumps. All reports back were excellent. The guys and Scarlett had an awesome day despite the broken bikes.
Meanwhile the cross country riders were instructed to ride the 26km to Eildon to get a feel for the area and maybe walk part of the course as full access to the course was denied until Thursday. Of course, when we got to the village, the circuit was fully marked and rideable. The course is technical winding amongst barren trees on hard packed dirt. Fully dusty. Some pieces flowed well but on the whole it is very stop start. Many hairpins require a sharp decrease in speed and some gaps between trees just wide enough for a set of handlebars. There is a bit of climbing with one very steep climb which will be extremely testing in the race. No gnarly drops. The course is one of power and endurance.
4 of us missed the others who headed for home. But lucky us, we got a motor-pace off the van. John just needs to learn how to take the hills though!
Day three: the down hillers walked their course. And the cross-country riders practiced numerous laps of a difficult to remember course. There was a bit of action in the pits - there was testing of tyres and tyre pressures, a replacement valve for Bec's forks, a little first aiding when Scott and Sam had some high speed crashes, and then Hilton snapped a bar end. It was hot but overcast with a hint of smoke from the forest fires in the air however the forecast was for rain later in the evening. I don't think anyone truly believed the forecast since it hadn't rained here since New Years day. Back at camp there was heaps of bike maintenance to keep Brian and Alden busy. That evening the rain came down. It was consistent all night long.
Day four and it was back to the course in totally different conditions. The down hillers got about 8 runs in on a not so technical, though off camber, slippery and muddy course. But it was about three and a half minutes of fun. The cross-country riders took in a quiet lap again testing tyres and a few different lines in the slippery conditions.
Now it's a time of resting up. Cross Country races are on tomorrow (Saturday) and Downhill on Sunday.
Saturday - Race Day
I know far too well that one must get a good start to have a good race. And this was not a good start. By the time I got up to speed there were 9 women in front of me. We started along a wide 4WD track that climbed then dipped before heading into the tight single track. It seemed like the brakes went on as we weaved amongst the barren tree's and winding around the other side I could see Mary and Susy open up a gap. It was impossible to pass so all one could do was sit tight until an opportunity arose to get around the outside. That moment came so I attacked and called on your left – but the Aussie wasn't going to have a bar of that and doubled her speed to block me. On one of the numerous logs we had to hop I buzzed her back wheel to the delight of the crowd who were yelling "a bit of aargie bargie from the girls" in their broad Aussie accents. Finally I passed her and started to gain momentum. I passed another Aussie then closed the gap on Sadie. The sharp steep climb near the end of the lap killed the legs on the first time around and I couldn't help but think about the next 3 times up that hill. I passed Sadie and moved into 6th, with another Aussie Nicky Guidex just in sight. Scattered around the circuit there were Kiwis and Aussies providing split times and positions. Mary had opened up a staggering lead within the first lap. During the 2nd and 3rd laps Nicky and I played cat and mouse. I would pass her on the climbs and she would pass me on the descents.
The weather had come to the party and as forecast was about 30 degrees. It was quite a contrast to the previous day. And with numerous sport and recreational riders racing on the course earlier in the morning, the track was in mint condition and not as sketchy as when we first rode it on Wednesday. The race was going to be shorter since we were given 4 laps instead of 5 and with anticipated lap times of 25 minutes, we thought our race would be little over 1 hour 30 minutes.
As the bell rang and I headed into the final lap I was encouraged to give it heaps and that I did. With a split of 20 seconds to Dellys Franke I went on the hunt. Before the hill I caught her and again Nicky was in sight. I came right up on her tail on the climb but didn't have that extra bit to pass her. I was with her over the top but her downhill skills surpassed me and she left me behind. I finished in 5th place in a time of 1 hour 36 minutes.
1st Mary Grigson (AUS)
2nd Lisa Matthieson (AUS)
3rd Susy Pryde (NZL)
4th Nicky Guidex (AUS)
5th Robyn Wong (NZL)
6th Dellys Franke (AUS)
7th Sadie Parker (NZL)
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