Australia has a handful of iconic marathon races – races that have a story, an impressive list of victors, and offer something that everyone enjoys – from elite to back marker. The Convict 100 is one of these, and on Saturday 3rd May, 2014, it celebrated it’s 10th anniversary.
The Convict 100 has run on a set course for a number of it’s 10 years. and the course record for the 100kms sits well under 4hrs, and is held by Shaun Lewis. It’s a fast course, and people tend to know their best time. It’s a test piece for a lot of Sydney based mountain bikers, and a prestigious win for an elite racer. In 2014, it was also the final round of the Real Insurance XCM Series, and the results would play a big role in the final ranking.
After predictions of rain and cold winds, race day dawned surprisingly mild. About 10 degrees at dawn, which is a lot warmer than it normally is at St Albans in early May, the dark clouds on the horizon still loomed ominously. But the crowds of riders were happy, lining up for a coffee, unpacking cars, rolling around, or lining up for the portaloo – there was a good vibe.
A little after 7am, riders were coralled into their start chutes outside St Albans pub, and the Elite field were off first. The men’s field was in good order, although Target-Trek riders Dylan Cooper and Brendan Johnston were notably absent. Just like 2013, the gun went and there was a surge, as Andy Blair put his aero helmet into the wind. riders bridge across and for the next 10km that’s how it played out. There would be an attack, someone would bridge, and then the group would come back over. And then a car would come around the corner as we all remembered the road wasn’t closed. That happened twice.
For more photos, see our album.
Unlike 2013, no attacks were successful, and the front group was together as it hit the 1km climb onto the range, that Strava claims has a 17% average grade. Some people dabbed on the steep sections as they lost traction, others just don’t go up that well. I dangled at the back, and remembered wise words that “the 100m at the top of the climb is one of the most important parts of the race’. With two riders alone ahead, I bridged over, to prevent being in no mans land so early.
Our merry crew rolled along the ridgeline, unsure what was happening ahead. The Convict Trail was a blast to ride, but littered with fresh blow down from recent winds and rain. Out of 10 mile hollow David Evans hit the front and towed our group of four along, dropping the Paradice rider in the process. The next technical section didn’t cause many problems, save for myself blowing up.
Gratefully, I was the second person to walk the canoe bridge, as Evans had already done so ahead of me. I don’t have a good history with that bridge – although I’ve never got wet, I’ve been close. Or cross-eyed from blowing up before getting there.
The last 30 odd kms take an age – and I was being caught and passed by quite a few people, although when finally on top of the range, I looked at my GPS and saw a race time of 3:50. Although I had 15km to go, someone had already won my race. Impressive, yet depressing at the same time. In a good group with Ben Howarth and Paris Basson, we rode the last 10km after the descent of Jack’s Track together, with Ben pipping me on the line, and Paris beating us both as he wasn’t racing Elite and started 10 minutes behind us.
Should you be told to stop entering Elite or is it something you should just ‘know’?
Our new XCM Champion, Andy Blair, had lead the race for 95km until hitting the wall, and Cory Wallace caught him in the last kilometres, with Adrian Jackson just under a minute behind. Blair finished 3rd, with his team mate and 2013 victor Shaun Lewis taking 4th ahead of Jason English.
Jenny Fay rode a stunning race, beating her own course record, and setting a new time of about 4h22min (to be confirmed). Lana Moy excelled, finishing in about 4h45min, with Larri Wallbridge 3rd, and Imogen Smith 4th. Charlie McCabe crossed for 5th in Elite women.
Of course, the series was open depending on who finished and where – but both Cory Wallace and Jenny Fay won the Real Insurance XCM Series – although 2nd and 3rd place weren’t announced.
Dubbed a National XCM Series and run by
both Mountain Bike Australia and Cycling Australia, there were no representatives from either the federation present to confirm pointscores or even shake hands at the presentation. This is a poor response to the support Real Insurance has made in backing the series and putting on $34,000 prize money, and for the work of the clubs, volunteers and race organisers who have made each race happen. Not to mention the racers who ensured they entered at least three events to qualify for the series. It’s a clear lack of respect to the mountain bikers who worked so hard to get to this position.
With talks of a new route, and preserving a classic, let’s see what Maximum Adventure have planned for the Convict 100 in 2015. Well done on running another brilliant race.