This guest post has been provided by Lachlan Murray
Having cut my teeth in mountain biking around Victoria, the “VES” Six hour Enduro Series (enduro meaning endurance) was my first foray into competitive mountain bike racing. The fun of being able to ride as part of a team quickly changed to thoughts of “let’s enter individually so we can ride together”. For me though, I loved the fact that towns all over regional Victoria could showcase their trails and I was happy to oblige and go and rip around their finest tracks. Forrest was one of those towns, and locals had cut sublime flowy trails into the sandy soil around the grass trees and Otway rainforest.
Now living in Brisbane, I don’t get an opportunity every year to get to Forrest for the Otway Odyssey weekend, but with Cape Epic ahead of me next month, I received the green light to head down for the weekend.
As is the case for every marathon race, I started checking the weather forecast a good week or two in advance. With predictions of a heatwave (34°), I figured that it should affect the QLD riders relatively less than other competitors who have converged on Forrest for the Otway Odyssey. True to form, the heatwave forecast was cancelled and swapped out for 24° with 90% chance of 5mm rain. Suffice to say, the 2nd forecast held true.
We arrived Friday afternoon and the little town of Forrest was far from heaving. The caravan park (where we stayed) was completely booked out, with most competitors either staying in Colac or Apollo Bay, or commuting in the early hours before the race.
A quick dinner at the Forrest Brewery allowed us to start the carb loading (pale ale was the choice) before we turned in pretty early.
Saturday morning, we rode down to the Forrest Football Oval where race village had been set up. It was heaving, with cars, cyclists, supporters all flocking in ready for the 7am start.
One thing that works super well with the Otway Odyssey is the fact the race loops back to the race village multiple times, to riders can leave bottles, food, spares without having no worry about bottle drops out on the course. It also works for supporters, as they can cheer on their riders multiple times through the race. The 100k’ers dropped back to the race village twice before finishing, and the 50k’ers once before riding through the finish shoot.
The elite women were off at 7:00 and e-bike wave went at 7:25. 7:30 was roll out for the rest of us.
The pace was quick, as we flew up Kaanglang road, which quickly turned to dirt. Super dry conditions meant visibility through the dust was poor, but this was fixed two hours later when the heavens opened up. (More on this later)
The single track was the reason I was here, and didn’t disappoint. From flowy trails like Red Carpet, Follow the Dog, Mariners Run and Foxtail, to navigating roots, logs and grass trees through twisty singletrack, my highlight was riding some of those trails we used to ride in the SES series nearly 20 years ago.
After swinging back into race village for a 2nd time, the MC announced the first two men’s elite were approaching the finish line, so a few extra seconds in transition allowed me to see Dan McConnell edge out Brendon ‘Trekky’ Johnston for a 2sec win. From my angle, it looked as though Trekky could have been a touch unlucky having to get around a slower rider in the finish chute. That’s racing!
In the back of all the 100k’ers mind was the infamous Thompsons track hill. Included almost sadistically to torture riders, the hill comes in with a whopping 11km, 570 vertical metres gain and scheduled neatly from the 80km mark. After some soul searching, and questioning life decisions, the rain, which had previously been scattered showers, turned to RAIN, and the other riders I was with at time and I all agreed the rain was good- refreshing and taking some of the focus away from the km after km of climbing.
As we climbed, a few of the other elites were flying down the other side of the road. This buoyed us knowing that once we scale the hill, it’s all downhill 🙂
After cresting the said hill, we turned back into the bush and started the decent along double trail. Suffice to say, the pleasantries given to the rain quickly turned to WTF, as riders had to descend the 6km or so through slippery, rutted out clay. Finally though, the double trail turned back to the gravel. Those climbing the hill, seemingly all with clean body and bike, were met with descending mud-grots and must have wondered what the bloody hell they were in for further up the road.
As we crossed the line we were handed a non-alcoholic free beer – quite a difference from the MTB style of old where a real beer was handed up at the finish line. Perhaps a societal change….? Either way, it was just the thing while slinging back in a chair listening to live acoustic tunes around the race village.
Overall, it was a terrific event. Plenty of trails and distance options for the competitors and lots of atmosphere at the race village for supporters. Kids are looked after too with a Groms race
The men’s podium was rounded out with Tas Nankervas in 3rd. Women’s podium saw Peta Mullens 1st (for her 7th title), Bec McConnell 2nd and Samara Sheppard 3rd.
In the 50km Shorty”, Eddie Worrall took the top step, Sam Harberts 2nd, Cameron Bayly 3rd. Women’s results saw Elizabeth Nuspen in 1st, Ruby Taylor in 2nd and Wendy McAlpine in 3rd. You can catch the full report here.