Although Libby couldn’t go back and defend her last years number one position due to an annoying knee injury, I managed to improve on my 2nd position of last year and take out the Veterano (50+) category with plenty of time to spare.
It was a more difficult race this year with much more climbing at the beginning stages, and again plenty of river crossings and some ‘peat bog’ like marshes.
7 stages in 7 days, with the biggest ascent being 2900m on day 1 in 127km and the longest stage being 172km on day 6. Originally day 4 was supposed to be 175km but it got shortened because day 3 was halted and nullified after about 40km, due to the overnight rain that made the rivers higher than expected and the one at about 50km impassable, of course that was just 10km after we had ploughed our way through the ‘peat-bog’ marsh land and it meant we had to back track through the bog again…. DOH! I think John the Scottish guy secretly loved it 🙂
After back tracking up severely steep climbs and the bog for several hours we camped out and defrosted ourselves in a few Gers for several hours before the transport arrived to take us to the next camp, not arriving there until after 7pm thus making it too late to prepare for a mega stage the next day!
My many endurance race events in the first half of the year paid off, I think I was in better race form than last year and probably mentally better prepared of what to expect over the 7 days.
The first day was the biggest mystery for me, not knowing how strong any of the other riders were, but once the first day times were announced I knew that I’d have it in the bag if I played my cards right and there were no race stopping mechanicals or any illness.
My lead over the other riders in my category increased day by day, even the day 6 gear cable snap mechanical only slowed me down and I still managed to finish 8 minutes ahead of the next Veterano rider (Dutch guy called Leon).
With about 1 hour and 45 minutes up my sleeve and having taken the top spot on all the 5 completed stages so far, the last day was going to be a formality so I decided to ride with Leon to support him to the finish, that is if he could stay ahead of the 3rd placed Veterano (Mongolian guy called Mijd).
All went according to plan, the race started at easy pace and we had a fair amount of flat land to cover before the main climbing sections. The peleton soon split into smaller groups, and our small group (including Leon as I sat on his wheel) had lost the main bunches, I jumped on the front of our small group and proceeded to pace them up to a large bunch that had set a slightly faster pace to start but seems like a good bunch to get to, after about 30km on the front we caught them, then we noticed we had caught the old Mongolian Mijd so the Veterano category podium was together.
It looked like Mijd was struggling a little as he was obviously yelling at a young Mongolian guy on the front of the bunch, to slow it down a little.
I decided to drop off the front and let Leon and Mijd fight it out for a while, when going through the first feed station most of the bunch rushed through and I stopped and re-fuelled in relaxed mode, eating, drinking and chatting to the volunteers 🙂 then chased the bunch down again over the next 10 KMs or so, after that we dropped Mijd and we pushed the pace a little to make sure he didn’t get back on.
With a fair amount of climbing happening the working bunch was splitting into many pieces, and as Leon wasn’t quite as strong we ended up with a group of three– Leon, myself and another Dutch guy called Rob— it seemed the race was settled and I was just there to support the guys to the finish, always relaxed and easy paced.
Then going up some long low gradient climb, I noticed some strange behaviour of a Mongolian on a motor bike riding through the fields in the same direction as us, and I mentioned to the Dutch guys (partly in jest) “I bet you we see the old Mijd soon… there is something fishy about that motor bike!” and sure enough 2 minutes later we see Mijd appear behind us and catching our group… I just know that wasn’t possible on his form, so we decide that he must have had some assistance to get back on to our group.
As soon as Mijd caught us he attacked our group on the next slightly steeper climb, and as Leon was on his max already he got dropped and it was left to me to chase Mijd and sit on his wheel, all the while he was chatting to me in German saying things like “let me win this one time…as a present”, and I basically said that if he fairly beats Leon it will be his day. Although as I am still convinced he had cheated a little I was not going to let him off easy.
The problem for the Mongolian was he didn’t have any back brakes (he said they rubbed too much so he took them off all together!!) so on a hairy down hill he ofcourse lost it when only braking with a front brake…. SLAM!!!!! OUCH!!!
Gathering himself quickly to stay in front of Leon, but obviously in pain and his legs were once again starting to falter. I waved at Leon and Rob to push a little harder to catch up and they did.
Over the next few climbs Leon sat glued to Mijd’s wheel and when there was finally a super fast and technical down hill, in the last 10 kms, Leon decided to attack at the right time as Mijd could not respond. Rob and I proceeded to sit on Mijd’s wheel to let Leon get a proper break and we were even falling back some distance to make Mijd think we could not quite hold his pace. At about 5 km to go Mijd gave up completely and he threw his arms in the air. Then I decided to give it some stick and see if I could chase down Leon to the line, which wasn’t easy but I managed to get his wheel in the last 500 meters, then told hime to sprint for the win, which he did and won 🙂 for which he was very thankful— top spot on the podium for Leon on the last stage! Leon did say to me after the finish “even women can fake it better than that… thanks anyway, a nice gesture!”
So in the 6 stages that counted towards the overall results, I lost 2 seconds on the last day!
As for the rest of the Canberra crew, we all finished within the time limits which is amazing seeing some when into the race not feeling well and others ended the last few days not feeling well.
Nathan rode fast but had some flats, finishing top 10 on some stages and ending on the Sportman category podium many of the days and finishing 2nd overall at the end.
Seb had some shocker days with mechanicals and sickness, but finishing day to day in consistent positions gave him the 3rd overall in the Sportman category!