If you think of mountain bike marathons in Australia, only a few come to mind as long-running events that still offer unique experiences for Australian mountain bikers or those visiting from further afield – and the Otway Odyssey is one of them. Event promoter Rapid Ascent have just announced that entries for the 2024 Otway Odyssey Mountain Bike Marathon and the Great Otway Gravel Grind presented by Focus, are now open. The events are scheduled to take place on 24th and 25th February 2024 in Forrest, Victoria.
After a hugely successful event in 2023, entry demand should continue to surge, solidifying the Otway Odyssey’s legacy 18 years on. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, the 100km event is a prestigious event that commands respect from those who take on the challenge. No win at the Odyssey comes easily, and those who want to test their mettle will put the Odyssey on their calendar. But the Otway Odyssey has a wide range of events, with 10km, 30km and 50km events and even a Grommet’s Ride for the tiniest riders. Throw in the Great Otway Gravel Grind on the Sunday, and Rapid Ascent deliver a fantastic weekend of offroad fun.
Sam Maffett, General Manager of Rapid Ascent, shared his enthusiasm for the event, stating, “18 years ago the Otway Odyssey was but a dream – and here we are now with one of the most prestigious MTB events in Australia!”
Maffett, together with John Jacoby, co-owner of Rapid Ascent, meticulously craft each course to encompass the crème de la crème of mountain bike trails synonymous with the area.
Jacoby affirmed, “We deliberately engineered the Odyssey courses to be tough, particularly the 100km route! It serves as a genuine trial of skill and endurance, encompassing a plethora of flowing single track, unexplored segments, heart-racing descents, and the quintessential challenge of our signature lung-busting climbs!”
Forrest will play host to the Odyssey MTB courses with the revamped trails in Forrest to once again play a key feature on each course – as introduced at the 2023 edition of the race. Forrest was an early adopter of purpose-built mountain bike trails, and the revamp has been well-received, seeing some fresh work applied to classic routes.
Peta Mullens has won 7 Otway Odyssey titles, which is the record, and is straight up when she explains why she continues to come back to Forrest.
“It’s my favourite MTB marathon,” said Mullens. “Challenging, tough and full of singletrack; and I think my consistency on the course pays off!”
Complementing the MTB races is the esteemed Great Otway Gravel Grind, referred to as “the GOGG.” This year marks its 8th edition, featuring both 97km and 49km course options.
The gravel grind races traverse the smooth, undulating dirt roads woven throughout the Otway Ranges encircling Forrest with participants being treated to panoramic vistas of the Great Ocean Road region. There are ‘time-out zones’ which offer a an interesting twist to the racing, and a welcome relief for those there for the experience, with the opportunity for a coffee break.
Lachlan McDonald, a former winner of the 49km gravel grind race noted, “It’s such a beautiful course; I took advantage of the untimed sections for a break with a coffee and a muffin, and I just loved that aspect!”
2024 will again see the continuation of the Odyssey Angel’s program, initiated in 2017. The program is dedicated to fostering female riders’ involvement in off-road events, offering a number of engaging initiatives.
All races start and finish amidst a huge bike expo and food festival at the Forrest Football Ground.
“Thank you to everyone who continues to support the Odyssey and Gravel Grind events with us; and to the locals of Forrest who regularly dedicate their time to helping maintain these epic trails,” said Maffett.
Entries for both the Otway Odyssey and Great Otway Gravel Grind are open now – head to the Rapid Ascent website for more details.