I keep getting all ‘hero worship’ but heres todays chat, Matt to Karl Platt, ‘Hey Karl you doing the Munga?’ Karl to Matt ‘Yeah, it should be good but I’ve never done 24 hour racing before’, Kulhavy to Sauser ‘Hey Susie we go from the gun yeah?’ *nervous laughter from those in earshot* Sauser to Kulhavy ‘Yeah ok’
I mean seriously, what the hell is going on, I’ve seen these guys at races, I’ve technically ‘raced’ them (ie said goodbye straight after the neutral) but this has still been a very cool experience for any old (yep I’m the equivalent of a fossil in this pen) mountain biker, these guys are our apex predators and they’re probably more approachable than most, respect!
Today we seemed to rub shoulders a little more than we would have liked with the pros for all the wrong reasons, to the racing! Gun goes off, I think they are using a cannon as the entire race does a ‘woah hell’ reflex duck before setting off. Matt and I figured, we have one climb, straight into big singletrack where you will be losing tens of minutes if you’re not in a good group, so go VERY hard!
We went mental, I’m glad I didn’t have a HR monitor or the thing would have imploded, rapidly we went ‘pro speed’ out of the start, which I don’t know is like double my cyclocross start pace and for every pedal stroke I’m thinking ‘must, make, the, single, ow, track’. The road pitches rapidly, bad lines and panic send waves of unclippage through the gasping pack, more mass illogical panic, the single track is starting, hoof it! We thrash the top but there’s traffic, damn those full water bottles!
We are settling in, follow fast riders, I lose contact with Matt but not too terribly, he’ll be fine, bang, he’s not! Matt smacked a really terribly positioned rock that jutted into the single track clipping his bar and sending him flying, shoulder barging a tree and rag dolling into a field. Not to be outdone, the pro Scott rider Florian Vogel is halfway down the field with a smashed saddle and what looks to be a busted hand (it wasn’t, but that was his day done). Later, reliable sources inform us there was a touch of controversy in the big boys race as all the pros had stopped to warn other riders of the impending nightmare bar the eventual stage winning team, queue some unimpressed predators, nothing like a bit of scandal!
We lost time but true disaster was averted, dusting Matt off he sends me on my way, I finish the descent, worry how the little fella is doing and hit the beastly 2100 plus metre monster that will serve as our breakfast. Never make Matt angry, crashing makes him angry, not that you would see it on his face, he just delivers some deeply punishing pace setting. I was doing the ‘I think I’m gonna vomit, must not vomit’ thing, the road pitches, pitches and eventually hits the gradients where I get the tiniest of margins thanks to my long legs and, well, more gears, for a brief moment I can take a few breaths and reconfigure my pain management consol with a few gels and a back stretch.
“Reliable sources inform us there was a touch of controversy in the big boys race as all the pros had stopped to warn other riders of the impending nightmare bar the eventual stage winning team, queue some unimpressed predators, nothing like a bit of scandal!”
To reward Matt’s brutality we begin a descent so stupidly brilliant and long I covered my full years worth of ‘near death experiences’, my entire quota of ‘get out of jails’ and most of my sailor’s catalogue of foul language, not because it, nor I, were terrible it was quite the opposite, AWESOME. But you needed to respect this descent as ‘clippy outys’ were deadly the credo of; don’t blink, just ride it, don’t hesitate, just commit would see you safely to the bottom and with any luck build a gap on our chasers.
We trundled on, things got ‘enjoyable’ when Matt took all the wind and I did my best ‘protected rider’ impression by never offering him any help, classy me. I’m not the stronger rider, that’s clear, I’m the guy who needs to get to the finish using any means necessary. It’s ok people, we understand this, it’s not like I’m having sundaes and taking photos ok!
Last service station, refuel, hit the most squirrely single track imaginable that hangs off the side of a railroad track, my heads thinking ‘least if you fall it will be a Swiss train that finished you off, on time’. Again we’re on steep gradients, I use the advantage to tap out a rhythm I can sustain, we hit the final 10km road section and work to keep any gap on would be chasers, who as it turns out still pipped us based on their later start block and catching up, its all a bit too science for my brain right now.
One awful hike and bike later its 2km home and we trash the final wet road sections with a vengence. Done! We frustratingly finish 29th overall but consolidate our position to 21st, everyone can have a bad day, ours was an odd mix of a good, bad day, look its racing, don’t try and understand it just do it, onwards to tomorrow!
Centurion Vaude did get enough of a gap that they won the stage – and now lead GC too. Full results are online.