The Otway Odyssey is one of the best mountain bike marathons in the Oceania region, with the 17th edition taking place through Victoria’s Otway Ranges on February 25, 2023. While the Otway Odyssey is known for crowning top riders in the 100km elite race, that distance is just one of three key event distance options – with two more events put on specifically for younger riders. Challenging yourself on the 100km course may not be for you, so let’s take a look at what’s on offer in each event so you can find the best fit.
100km Otway Odyssey
There’s no doubt about it, this is the big one. From the very first year that the Otway Odyssey ran, racers knew it was a force to be reckoned with. Like any good marathon race, the course is one that brings the race to the riders. It’s a demanding course that chips away at riders, challenging them with climbs and descents, plus serpentine singletrack to test their mental and physical agility while a few hours deep into the race. In the first year, riders were surprised to come across the purpose-made singletrack at Forrest, riding trails that would soon typify the riding in the area. Throw in about 2500m of climbing, and it’s a considerable day out.
Over summer, the network is being refurbished, as the trails built almost 20 years ago were showing their age. So because of that, at this point we can’t be sure exactly what the course will entail. But you can be certain that you will head out of Forrest on fast back roads, with small climbs thinning down the bunch. Elite women will have their own start, with elite men and all other age groups half an hour later. Kudos to Rapid Ascent for letting the elite women have their own race. This has fallen out of the programming for some other major marathons in Australia – including the National Championships.
A mix of forestry trails and dirt roads will keep the pressure on, before heading to the Red Carpet timed descent. Don’t be fooled – it’s not all downhill. But it’s one trail that already has had some major overhauls and it’s fast and fun. You’ll come back to Forrest and through a feedzone after this, then head out into the Yaugher Loop.
This section has a slow singltrack climb to start (maybe it’s only slow if you haven’t paced yourself well?) and spends a lot of time on the singletrack network. Expect less flat corners, more berms and a lot more flow in this section for 2023. But keep eating and drinking as you’re not home free. The course takes you back to Forrest, but there is 23km still to go, and it’s a bit tough. You pretty much climb all the way out of the footy ground at Forrest, before a spur trail that drops down, typically with a fair sized rut that you either need to commit to early on or work hard to avoid. Choose your poison. At the base, you’rre greeted by your means to get out. The Sledgehammer. On it’s own, it’s not a terrible climb. Yeah it’s steep, and has some loose sections that will test your traction while climbing perched on the tip of your saddle. But given almost everyone will be at the 5 hour mark at this point, save for the fastest dozen riders – this is also a palce where people can really unravel.
MUST READ: Pro tips for the Otway Odyssey
But don’t stress – it’s just a bike race! So even if you want to stop, throw your bike down and give up – the race still isn’t over until you cross the finish line. Pick yourself up and keep moving. A few more kilometres will have you back at the footy ground, ready to celebrate finishing the 100km Otway Odyssey, which is a huge achievement.
50km Otway Shorty
Mid or half distance marathons are extremely popular. And it’s not hard to see why. You get to escape the small circuits of a lap-based race, but not put yourself in the kind of hole that a 100km race can create. That’s the idea, but if you look at the pace the young kids attack the 50km event, you’d be surprised if they don’t make themselves ill!
Rapid Ascent have created the 50km Otway Shorty to find the middle ground between being something enjoyable, and a challenge worth achieving. The race starts and finished in Forrest, and there is an eMTB category that starts 5 minutes before the rest of the race at 8am. Expect a fast start out of Forrest, in the same manner as the 100km event at first, but you’ll be swinging back to Forrest and the Yaugher trails much sooner. The middle half of the race is packed with singletrack, after plenty of time on open terrain to get some elbow room.
At this point, you’re likely to be on the refurbished trails, but Rapid Ascent will make the final call on the exact trail line up once the work is done. And speaking of work being done, keep something in the tank for the second half, as the climbs start to kit after about the 24km mark. Climbing means descending as well, and one of the descents is the Red Carpet descent, so get after it!
With just under 1000m of climbing, great trails and some challenging climbs, the 50km Otway Shorty packs a lot in, with plenty of punch. Get ready to start fast, rail the trails and then be set for a strong finish and you should have a great day on the bike.
The 30km Rookie and the Odyssey Angels event avoid the brashness of the 50km and 100km events by running on the Sunday instead of the Saturday. This means there is more room on the trails, less ego with riders in other distances coming up to pass other riders, and in general a completely different atmosphere.
If you’re keen to check out the Odyssey weekend, but want a more enjoyable entry to marathon events or off road cycling events – you’re in the right place. The 30km Rookie event avoids the big climbs and technical singletrack, instead focusing on a more immersive experience in the forests. The events start around 9:30, with eMTB riders off first, then a mixed gender start, and the women’s Odyssey Angels start at 9:45am. An undulating climb leads you to the lower section of the Red Carpet descent for a whole lot of fun factor.
After a trip back to the footy ground you then do the flowing trails on the Yaugher Loop, finishing with a descent back to the Forrest football grounds.
If you want a challenge you can do, this is an ideal way to test the waters for an off-road event.
This event is on for the bigger kids, those in their mid-teens and beginner riders.. It’s a mix of easier 4WD trails and some flowing singletrack. You can be sure that this course will provide an immersive mountain bike experience, within the right limits.
For the truly tiny kids, this event takes place right on the Forrest Football ground. It’s a small little course set up near the event expo that is perfect for balance bikes. This course is the best for rider assistance, with hand ups and mechanical support available at any point of the course, if the need arises.
If you haven’t been to the Otway Odyssey recently, then make 2023 your return. While there are courses for just about any rider, the big change will be the updated trails, adding a little bit of fresh fun when you’re starting to feel the pinch of the event.
The whole weekend is a great weekend of off-road cycling – it is well worth reading over the Race Day information on the Rapid Ascent website, to make sure you’re all set for a big day on the trails.