Now in it’s 9th year, the Convict 100 has developed into quite a popular marathon. It has a lot going for it, being a short drive north west from Sydney, on terrain that many people ride on, and that isn’t overly technical. Maximum Adventure run a great event, and now that the course has changed very little, it makes for a great way to ‘benchmark’ your marathon ability by comparing your times from year to year.
Conditions for the race on Saturday 4th May were just about perfect. Light cloud cover meant the early 7am start wasn’t as cold as in years past. The temperature did not soar as the sun rose above the sandstone ridge lines, and the cooler temperatures were appreciated.
The field that was amassed for the elite race did end up lacking a little depth from the 2012 edition – without being part of the highly successful Real Insurance XCM Series, there were less Victorians and Queenslanders. Thankfully, Sydney and Canberra’s elite racers attended to make the front of the race pretty sharp.
The start of the Convict 100 changes a litre each year. I recall Troy Glennan blasting off the front in 2010. In 2011 it was Matt Fleming setting a hard and fast pace on the sealed road out of St Albans. Last year, the pace was ‘slow’ as everyone ended up watching each other.
This year, Andy Blair (Swell-Specialized) pushed the pace a little to see who would respond. Was this to be the start of continual double plays from himself and team mate Shaun Lewis? Brendan Johnston was attentive, and the group went from strung out to a bunch, until Shaun Lewis, Johnston and Andrew Hall created a small gap. For entertainment, I bridged across and soon after Ben Howarth joined. The group was right on us so I figured it was status quo until Andrew Hall asked me to hurry up, having left a 10m gap to Howarth.
I hadn’t realised we had a gap.
Swapping turns until the start of the climb, we arrived there with an average speed of 38.5km/h. I had time to check on my GPS, as I figured I was about to get sucked up. Hall and Johnston rode ahead, and I did my best to stay with Lewis. Over the top we were soon caught by Andy Blair, Kyle Ward and Michael Crosby (Jnr Shippo). This was not anything like the group from before the climb. I could talk, breathe, see… plus I could also fumble around on the descents. I was very average today.
So in time, we were also caught by James Downing, Jason English, Sebastian Jayne and Anthony Shippard. It was a substantial group. I dangled, and pondered how the two teams represented would play it out. Hall was ahead, with his Cannondale team mate James ‘JD’ downing in our group. Lewis and Blair were together for Swell Specialized. Blair is a smooth pedaler, but seemed focused on keeping his legs fresh, easing over the climbs. Perhaps an attack up the Womerah range was on the cards?
Out of the first feed I lost contact. Finding your bottle in race number order gets harder when you forget your race number. We hit the ‘Convict Trail’ and it was spread out. I caught Jayne, then got onto Shippard’s wheel. His lines are well rehearsed, and he rides a very measured race. So this was good company. JD was ahead but was later just out of sight.
Into 10 Mile Hollow, we were 2 minutes behind the leaders, but soon I was alone as Shippard out classed me up the climb. I bumbled around the next 15km, riding poor lines, and generally dropping speed. Part way through I came upon Blair, who had flatted and was wrestling with his valve. It seemed highly likely I would see him again. After Sheppards Gully, I hit the 2nd feed zone cross eyed. And as such I walked the bridge – and still almost fell off. I ate a fair bit on the next road stretch.
The last section was purgatory. Off the road and onto the Womerah range I saw team mate Graeme Arnott catching me. That’s fine. It’s odd when I beat him. Then Andy Blair caught me, said g’day and disappeared. Graeme soon did the same, reminding me just to keep pushing until the end.
The Womerah range feels like an Alpine climb hidden in the north west on tired legs. I moved very slowly, and was grateful to hit Jacks Track. Gratefully I kept it together and finished in about 4:15 – possibly my fastest time in this race, although only a little faster than 2010.
Shaun Lewis came to the line with Jason English, and outsprinted him. There are few people who can get it over the Wombat in a sprint finish. Johnston was third, having been in the leading brake until 40km with Andrew Hall. Michael Crosby came in 4th – having lost the lead group with 15km to go after dropping a bottle (and cage?) and returning to collect it. Hall finished 5th.
Jenny Fay rode well, and showed how professional she is by riding to beat her previous course record. Cresting the first climb with Imogen Smith, she crept away with consistent, planned pacing. Smith rode in second, until a hunger flat and too many dropped bottles caught up with her and Subaru-MarathonMTB.com racer Naomi Hansen passed her. That was the result at the line, with about 15 minutes between each rider.
The mood at the finish was great as usual. With the options of beer, water or both, many racers finish happy.