There aren’t many certainties in mountain bike racing, but a few ring true for the Otway Odyssey: you can’t under estimate the course and the race’s difficulty – and you shouldn’t bet against Peta Mullens.
Forrest, in Victoria has welcomed riders to the Otway Odyssey MTB Marathon since 2007. The event’s high standard is a natural allure to many of Australia’s best mountain bike riders who know they will get a high quality race on a demanding route. This year Peta Mullens and Dan McConnell won the 100km title event.
Mullens won her history-making 7th Otway Odyssey MTB title in the women’s division in 5:25:10, ahead of a stunning elite field.
“I had a consistent smooth day so I think we should call Chris Jongewaard because I’m one up on him now with the most Odyssey wins!” laughed Mullens.
Mullens fought her way to the front of the field ahead of multiple National MTB Champion and Olympic representative Henderson who unfortunately suffered mechanicals through the race. Henderson finished in 5:31:13, with in-form Samara Sheppard coming home third in 5:32:31. Unfortunately, Sheppard had mechanical issues of her own.
“Bec’s definitely a better bike rider, however I think my consistency on the Odyssey course paid off – it’s my favourite marathon!” said Mullens. “It was unfortunate she had a bit of trouble with her puncture; and then Samara’s mechanical too – but I’m flattered to be on the podium with these girls” said Mullens.
Henderson may not have had the race she planned but it was great to hear her respect for the event and the raw race account.
“Obviously not quite as planned today with a flat tyre and wheel change; and to be fair I lost the race vibe a bit,” said Henderson. “It’s one thing to be lonely out the front; but when you’re lonely and you don’t know where you are in the race, it’s very different.”
“The Odyssey is always a good day out though; I’ve always received a really warm welcome and it’s what’s brought me back the last three years,” added Henderson.
Elite men’s Otway Odyssey title fight
With the National XCO Championships out of the way, many riders turned their attention to the Otway Odyssey. So you can bet that the big guns would be firing!
For a lot of the 100km course the tight front group swapped blows, but the crowd at Forrest were in for a treat with a sprint finish. Dan McConnell outsprinted 2022 Odyssey winner Brendan Johnston to post an impressive finishing time of 4:36:20 for the win, just two seconds clear of Johnston in 4:36:22. Multiple King of the Otways Winner Tasman Nankervis was only 17 seconds back in third place (4:36:39).
“It was a really hard day as the Odyssey always is so I’m super happy to come in with the win!” said McConnell. “I was a bit worried about that last loop so thought I’d put a bit of pressure on through the singletrack sections,” said McConnell. “I don’t think there was a word spoken in that last bit; both Trekky (Johnston) and I held our cards pretty close – neither of us wanted to do too much or we’d get under attack!”
From Johnston’s perspective, “That was harder than I was expecting with AJ detonating everyone including himself in the middle singletrack, so it’s always satisfying to get it done. I put the pressure on where I could but Dan was with me all the time, right to the massive sprint at the end!”
Hot action in the 50km Otway Shorty
The 50km Otway Shorty event was also held and was equally as challenging especially on some of the new singletrack sections incorporated in to the 2023 course. The men’s’ race was won by Eddie Worrall in 2:23:12, with Sam Harberts in second place (2:25:02) and Cameron Bayly only just behind in third (2:25:04).
Worrall couldn’t’ wipe the smile of his face with the win.
“It was savage out there; wet and hard to see, but far out it’s so awesome!” said Worrall. “I come from a road background so to mix it up on the trails, it’s just so much better because everyone’s chilled out; everyone’s gee’d up, it’s unreal!”
Elizabeth Nuspan was our female 50km winner in a time of 2:46:18. It was Nuspan’s first time at the Odyssey, surprising herself with the win after a bit of encouragement on course and shaking off the pre-race nerves.
“It was a really tough course and I wasn’t expecting it to rain too so with the conditions really grippy and some encouragement from the boys, I was stoked to come through first!” said Nuspan.
Young-gun Ruby Taylor was in second place (2:48:09) and Wendy McAlpine in third (2:49:53).
Event organisers Rapid Ascent were thrilled with the riding on show so far this weekend.
“This really is one of the best mountain biking weekends down here in the Otways, despite the cooler conditions,” said General Manager, Sam Maffett.
“Riding these courses isn’t for the faint hearted – and that’s why we love designing courses that feature those long flowing sections of single track and the many lung-busting climbs,” said Maffett. “It was great to see the riders rise to the challenge and cross the finish line with big wet and dusty smiles.”
“Thank you to everyone for continually supporting the Odyssey event weekend as we celebrate 17 years; and to the locals of Forrest who frequently dedicate their time to helping maintain these epic trails,” said Maffett.
2023 OVERALL RESULTS:
Otway Odyssey 100km
Top 3 Male
1. Dan McConnell 4:36:20
2. Brendan Johnston 4:36:22
3. Tasman Nankervis 4:36:39
Top 3 Female
- Peta Mullens 5:25:10
- Bec Henderson 5:31:13
- Samara Sheppard 5:32:31
Otway Shorty 50km
Top 3 Male
- Eddie Worrall 2:23:12
- Sam Harberts 2:25:02
- Cameron Bayly 2:25:04
Top 3 Female
- Elizabeth Nuspan 2:46:18
- Ruby Taylor 2:48:09
- Wendy McAlpine 2:49:53