The Otway Odyssey has long established itself as one of the premier XCM events on the Australian calendar. Many other races have been and gone since this race has continued to evolve. The 2020 edition was an encouraging sign of the health, quality and depth of the XCM scene in Australia with a big entry list of 1500+ riders and arguably the most prestigious elite field ever to be assembled.
In the men’s current XCM national champion Brendan Johnston was joined on the start line by many others who were vying to dislodge Brendan’s crown as the king of XCM racing in Australia. Eyes were on 2018 XCM champion Cameron Ivory as well as Reece Tucknott, Tasman and Russ Nankervis, U23 XCO national champ Alex Lack, road racer Ayden Toovey, the evergreen Adrian Jackson and new marathonmtb.com team recruit Sam Fox among others. The race would begin with these protagonists taking to the front on the10km road section that gets the odyssey underway, a good opportunity to warm the legs before the brutal action begins off road. Large bunch riding on MTB’s is a somewhat different sensation to a group of road riders, subsequently the smarter, key players of thius race are always sure to stay positioned well to the pointy end of the start group which can involve numerous touches of wheels on the swift rolling beginning of the race. Once on the dirt and the first major climb of the day named the ‘corporate ladder’ the race always sorts itself out pretty quickly a group formed on this climb and stayed together until the summit of the KOM prize in the race at the 27km mark. Here Johnston, Ivory, Nankervis x2, Lack, Fox, Tucknott and Hucker had established themselves as the in form riders of the day.
However drama would strike on the first section of singletrack which is notorious for it’s deep ruts and overgrowth. Here Johnston would succumb to a broken derailleur and Tasman Nankervis an irepairable rear flat. These 2 subsequently had to abandon the event riding back to the start/finish together on their malfunctioning machines. This left the remainder of the group with a battle royale to duke out for the remaining 2 loops that make up the Otway Odyssey.
Loop 2 is often referred to as the favourite loop of many riders, the ‘yaugher loop’ is predominantly singletrack and has minimal elevation gain. With some rain in the week preceding the trails were riding superbly and many a hoot & holler could be heard as the numerous race distance groups enjoyed the sweeping berms, jumps and flowy trails of the Forrest region.
It was in the notoriously difficult 3rd loop that the real action to determine a race winner was to go down. A long, demanding fire trail to the top of the timed ‘magic carpet’ descent was where the action would go down. Attacks were being thrown by the lean power of Russ Nankervis along with Reece Tucknott and Sam Fox. Alex Lack reportedly did a big burner turn on the front trying to dislodge his companions for good but to no avail. It was the race experience, nuance and undeniable fitness of current road pro Robbie Hucker that would win the day however, calmly matching each move and then being able to launch and consolidate a race winning gap in the closing stages proved to be the move of the day as he soloed to win his first ever Otway Odyssey. The class of Cameron Ivory was not to be denied never giving up to come in approximately 2minutes in arears. Then another 2min to Reece Tucknott in 3rd with Sam Fox a very solid 4th for the 19 year old Tasmanian. Russ Nankervis would round out the top 5.
With mechanicals dictating the day for a few favourites it was still a stunning days racing which was highlighted by the happenings of the women’s field. A SPRINT finish would decide the winner between 2 former Otway champions Renata Bucher and Peta Mullens. Mullens would take the vistory adding to her numerous Odyssey crowns. Courtney Sherwell chasing home for 3rd. Full results here.
Upon the podium presentations an announcement was made concerning the 15th running of the Otway Odyssey in 2021. It was announced that the race will return to its roots next year with a start line on the Great Ocean Road in Apollo Bay for the 100km riders before the riders make their way up the spectacular climb to Forrest in the Otway ranges. This scenic route helped make this race an icon in the early days of its success. Newer riders will now have the chance to experience the somewhat mythical climb up ‘Wild Dog Road’. Riders were offered spoons for the bucket of cement on display to prepare in ‘hardening up’ for the mammoth climb in February 2021.
Racing continues tomorrow with the Great Otway Gravel Grind (GOGG). A 97km race on the dirt roads in the area.