Another day, another mountain bike race. But this one is a bit special, given I've been trying to do it for the past 3 years running... Unfortunately 3 years ago when the world wasn't in a pandemic, I decided not to go because I hadn't trained enough. 2 years ago it was cancelled all together due to covid, and last year it ran but being in Western Australia no one from interstate could get in!
So here I am, FINALLY, here and with what (I hope) will be enough training under my belt. I did have some great plans to do a lot of training rides for this race, but while I managed the road rides I didn't really have the chance to get on my mountain bike until literally 2 days before I flew to Perth. Thankfully that 28km ride at Narrow Neck reminded me how to (and how not to) ride a mountain bike, so as I'm building my mountain bike I feel the excitement of this race starting to kick in.
Fast forward to the next morning as I drive south to Augusta Boat Harbour and ride the 5km from the car park to Cape Leeuwin lighthouse where the race will begin. There is of course rain scheduled from 7am-8am, which hits right on cue as I park the car. After scrambling around the inside of the car getting as ready as I can without actually getting out, the rain mostly stops for me to get on the bike and head to the start line.
By the time I get to the start line the weather has recovered to perfect riding conditions and its at this point the euphoria really sets in. After a few years without a stage race, I'd forgotten just how electric the atmosphere here is. As well as the fantastic view of the cape and the lighthouse, the sight of 1000 mountain bikes is just as exciting. These are my people, and I am back baby!
The race starts like any other with a few kms of wide road for the pack to spread out, then we hit the dirt and continue up a significant climb. By the time we get into the single-track the riders have mostly spread out and I think I perfectly managed to put myself in riders of similar ability (aka speed) so there's very little discomfort in overtaking. This stage takes us up Skippy Rock road and through the bushland which it circles. The views are constantly spectacular and with the morning rain the track is actually in fantastic condition for the fast descents and steep climbs for which it is known.
Once I summit that last climb and get back on the dirt road I know its mere kms to the finish line, so I power down the final hill which I climbed only 90 minutes earlier and put everything into the last few overtakes right as I cross the finish line. I've come in at 1:57:23 which places me 188th out of the 692 solo riders, and 49th in my category.
That equates to the 27th percentile which I'm quite satisfied with, especially after a few years off, and means I get seeded in the "light blue" group for subsequent day starts, the second grouping behind the "black dot" elite riders. My constant fear in these races is that I over-seed myself, causing me to tire quickly, be overtaken constantly and just generally have a bad time. I guess tomorrow's stage will tell all, wish me luck!