The Giant Odyssey has matured to become a pinnacle annual event for many elite marathon mountain bike riders, well attended by both national and international riders. In the last two years, the Rapid Ascent team have honed the 100km course, modifying it into a logistically more appropriate ‘clover leaf’ circuit with riders starting, transitioning and finishing in Forrest. There are also a 15km Pinoeer and 50km Shorty option for those riders a little daunted by the idea of tackling the 100km course. This is the first year I have stayed in Forrest town and I was very impressed with the accommodation (Forrest Gate: an alpaca farm B&B 4-5km from town) and the local Brewery, a great breakfast, lunch and dinner venue. In short, Forrest is a fantastic venue for riders and their families alike, with easy access to the Great Ocean Road and an easy two hour drive from Tullamarine (or one hour from Avalon airport).
The caliber of rider attending the Odyssey is always well above average, so take your A-game and leave your excuses at home. Irrespective of the category you race it will be GAME ON from start to finish. This year there was some competition with the UCI World Cup XCO in Cairns but over 1300 riders toed the start line yesterday in Forrest, full credit to Rapid Ascent.
The elite women’s field was a sea of black, white and pink with a five strong LIV-GIANT contingent set to dominate; Jo Bennett, Rebecca Locke, Naomi Williams, Terri Rhodes and Jess Douglas. The start was dark and frosty with a 0630 briefing for a 0640 start, Argghhh! Fortunately there is plenty of ‘warm up’ time in the opening kilometres but when you hit the sand be ready as the friendly peloton chat dissipates immediately and the road turns up, up, up. I was privy to the front of the elite female race to the KOM and a bit further, by then Rebecca Locke had broken away and earned herself a comfortable 2 minute lead that, by the 98km finish, she extended to 17 minutes. I rode with Jo Bennett and Naomi Williams to the top of the sledgehammer then saw them disappear over the horizon.
In a race like this it is very important to try and keep your head together for the whole 98km, easy to say retrospectively but sometimes not so easy in the heat of the moment. I did brilliantly for the first 90km and rode comfortably in fourth place but I had deluded myself into believing it was all downhill from 85km…I completely forgot that the last 8km was a very taxing single track section that required full concentration. In my head I had the closing kilometres on the road and when it wasn’t I completely freaked, despite many kind words of encouragement from the male riders around me, my race pretty much finished there. I implore the Rapid Ascent team to consider this in future.. maybe?.. or not?..Terri Rhodes caught me in the single track and tried to encourage me on but I knew Jess wouldn’t be far behind and I had nothing left in my brain to fight her off. Jess passed me in the final kilometre and I felt like a lead sinker. I am not sure if this is something that happens often to riders toward the end of a race but for me it was a first and it is not a pleasant feeling and one I will try in ernest to prevent in future. Looking forward, an experience like this is great motivation to do a few more longer climbs before Craft BIKE Trans Alp in July.
I finished in 6th, a little disappointed not to be in the top five but the pedigree of the girls on the podium made me proud to finish in the top 10 and to actually FINISH this race is an achievement to be proud of as it is truly an epic journey, the toughest mountain bike marathon event in Australia. Rebecca Locke smashed the course and finished with a convincing lead over Jo Bennett with Naomi Williams in third, Terri Rhodes fourth and Jess Douglas fifth, an awesome performance from the Liv Giant girls on a very very tough 98km course.
The Otway Odyssey was the second in the Maverick Marathon Series and the rider standings can be found on the Maverick Marathon Series website. Jenny Fay and Dylan Cooper (the winning pair from Capital Punishment, the first race in the Maverick Marathon Series) were racing in Atherton this weekend so Shaun Lewis and I enjoyed the yellow jersey of the Maverick Series for the Giant Odyssey. Shaun placed 2nd at the Odyssey so our standings in the Maverick Series will not be challenged and we will both be wearing yellow at the Kowalski Classic in September (21/09/2014).
The male elite race saw a convincing five minute win to Chris Jongerwaard with a photo required to split second (Shaun Lewis) and third (Adrian Jackson), Sam Chancellor (forth) and James Downing (fifth) rounded out the top five.
Full Giant Odyssey 2014 results can be viewed HERE