The best thing about racing is where one can find oneself. The Gippsland MTB event - the 6 Hour at Blores Hill takes me to Gippsland. And of all the great places I get to in Victoria, Gippsland is up there with my favourites.
Heyfield is the kind of place you'd imagine European based ex-pats dreaming of. Its clean, quiet, calm and quintessentially Australian without reeking of defensive jingoism. As you drive into Heyfield it sort of wraps its arms around you, inviting you to casually listen in to the jovial conversations of the locals and to witness school kids taking the long way home on their rebirthed bikes. In a strange way, it feels like a home.
Kyllie and I had been to Heyfield before, fine dined, finer wined and left feeling like we'd been given a healthy rubbing with a loofah made of clean fresh air.
During last years incarnation of the BLores Hill 6 Hour I was nursed around the course at break-neck speed by a certain Kevin Skidmore, turned myself inside out, suffered like a quitting smoker and crossed the line in a exhausted, lactic infused third place in Vets.
Recon ride video, shake it like you mean it.
This year, I wanted to win. I'd taken open podiums and category wins in the last three six hour races I'd competed in (missing race reports for Albury and Forrest coming soon) and despite an upset stomach and a fledgling cold in the week prior, I was enjoying the way that '3 from 3' sounded in my mind.
|Shhh...I'm being relaxed. Abington Farm|
Come race day and I was excited. I always am, but this time I thought that all my ducks were lining up.
On the starting grid I bantered amiably with Corey Davies and relived the opening 200 meters over and over in my mind - having repeated it as my warm up.
And when the gates were opened, I was one of the first birds through the chute and found myself hitched to the wheels of the team elites, flying through the opening stanza, getting prepped to power through the kicking singletrack that is the Blores Hill circuit.
Fifteen minutes in and I was feeling like my own tailwind. I was bouncing around in the red zone but I could have been bouncing on a jumpy castle for all I cared. I had more free speed than a corrupt customs official and was living the mid-race equivalent of the high life - but unknown to me, I was under surveillance - and the bonk-police were closing in. After two laps leading the solo category I glanced back and saw Tobias Lestrell leading a group of low numbers right up to my back wheel. Corey Davies, Phil Orr and sitting in like a syringe hidden in beach sand, was a very composed and altogether scary 40+ hitman Tim Jamieson.
|Tim Jamieson, frightening from any angle|
I spent the next few laps sitting in a cave. Both my hip flexors were killing me, I had stupidly let myself food flat, get dehydrated and knew that ol' TJ was mashing the pedals like they were root vegetables. I would see him heading out for a new lap as I came in - meaning about a 40 second gap - and infuriatingly thats where it stayed for the next 3 or 4 laps - but despite refuelling and replenishing and I couldn't bridge over to him.
|Mrs Archer - bringing sweetness to the|
Eventually I was able to get some rhythm, and actually started enjoying myself a little more. I was having a bit of a yarn with some of the three hour riders when my back end started feeling a little squishy. Way squishy.
One CO2 bulb burnt and I was on my way again. Squishy though had decided to come with me. There were another four stops for air/CO2 before I started my last lap. By now I was scared again. Being the first loser is bad enough, but losing to the first loser is worse. So I powered up for my final loop and prepared to withdraw everything from the account.
With squish still floating around under my saddle and having already chewed up another CO2 I thought that brutal pace would be the better part of valour. I spent that last lap out of my saddle, weighted up over the front wheel, listening to my rear tyre burping through the corners like a hick at Oktoberfest. To cap off the paranoia, team racer Richard Vrins had caught me with 300 meters to go and challenged me to a sprint finish - which after 40 minutes out of faux-sprinting I needed like having my lips stitched together.
|A lines - A study in marginal returns on investment|
When all the numbers were counted, Tobias Lestrell had pipped Phil Orr and Corey Davies for the open win, Tim Jamieson towelled me up to the tune of 8 minutes (a shellacking) relegating me to 5th and 2nd in Open and Masters categories respectively. Kyllie, partnered up with Jimmy Lefebvre crushed it to finish a category second. Golden.
A big shout out to everyone who had a crack at a super-honest loop, to the Gippsland MTB club for turning on a super friendly but killer race, to Cycles Galleria and Pro4rmance Sports Nutrition for all the wicked kit I need to belt myself in such a fashion and to Kev and Kenny, Jimmy, Craig and Ross for packing away all the kit when I was still shuffling around like a zombie.
Times. In the words of Malachi Moxon, people only remember the times. Check-em out. Race results and Vic Enduro Series results.