This weekend I had the amazing experience of racing in the iconic Snowy Mountains. I was challenged with 5 stages across 3 days of pure mountain bike pain and bliss. Starting at an altitude of 1260m the race tested me with over 100km of rugged mountain terrain, technical single track, a mammoth ascent, and some awe-inspiring downhills. One of the highlights was the new edition of the ‘Thredbo All Mountain Descent’. The chair lift ride to the top was spectacular and the adrenaline rush of the 9km downhill trail from one of Australia’s highest peaks left a pretty big smile on my face. Also relieved to have made it to the bottom with all limbs and teeth intact. Here is a little recap of how this off road triathlete faired in the stages.
Stage 1- Crackenback happy hour time trial
Being an endurance athlete makes these fast stages a painful experience. But I have been working on pedal power and speed and let it rip for stage 1. We started with 30-second intervals between riders, and I rode like a woman being chased!! The fear of being caught by the rider behind carries some serious motivation to ride FAST. I placed in 5th position with some very close times amongst the racers, the realisation that this was going to be a tough and competitive stage race had set in.
Stage 2- Thredbo summit smash
Anything that has an uphill is fine by me. 21.5km climb from Lake Crackenback to the Thredbo village made for a very enjoyable race. It was this stage that I was able to put a few minutes into some of my close competitors and edge my way into the top 3. The race was along fast flowing single track that ran alongside the Thredbo River and had some amazing bridge crossings to ride over.
Stage 3- Thredbo all mountain descent
This was the stage I was a little nervous about, partly because we hadn’t had the opportunity to pre ride this stage of the race so I was unsure of the course and the terrain. Pre riding the course is such a valuable part of racing as it gives you a good idea of what you are in for and how to approach the race. With this in mind I was confident my private health insurance was up to date should I be taken out in the vertical challenge!! The trail was so enjoyable and slowly I was able to find my flow and pick up speed. This was not my strongest stage but happy to finish with a reasonable time and not too far behind the more confident riders in my category. Dropping to 4th position I knew my best day was to come on the final day with the longer stages.
Stage 4- the gravity check
The reverse of the Thredbo summit smash, this stage I knew I had to really push the downhill sections to compete with the racers who were confident on the descents. In these stage races every minute and every second counts toward the overall result, with this in mind I rode solid for most of the race and then attacked in the final 4km of the race when I was in close proximity to a fellow rider who was also competing for a spot on the podium. With a strong finish I was able to increase my lead over some of the other racers and knew I was a chance at the podium if continued to ride well in the final stage.
Stage 5- Release the cracken 45km marathon
I rode up to the start line with excitement for the final stage. My legs were feeling sore from the last 4 stages but I knew if anyone could outlast the other riders it was going to be me. 45km is a long way to go on a mountain bike but many years of racing Ironman gives you a sense of what it takes to hang in there and leave nothing in the tank. We were treated to a unique race start with 2 horsemen cracking their whips just like the man from Snowy River. It was just amazing and when the race started we raced along side the running horses, whips cracking!!!
The race was broken down to 3 15km laps. I was leading the first lap and feeling good. By the second lap I could see my other competitors and we were all riding strong and in striking distance. With this in mind I knew my final lap had to be a complete all out ride to the finish, pushing myself to give myself every chance to secure a spot on the podium. I rode the hills as hard as I could and found flow and speed on the downhill sections, I could honesty say my last lap was my finest and I was focused on not making any mistakes at this point in the race. I managed to put 4 minutes into my close competitors and secure 2nd place overall on the podium!
It was such a reward after a hard 3 days of racing to be on the podium with these great competitors. This is a big step in the right direction for improving my mountain bike leg for racing off road triathlon and Xterra. I have taken so much away both physically and mentally from this experience and look forward to taking on a few more of these mountain bike stage races ☺
Now time to reflect and recover from the Snowies and look forward to the next few big weeks of racing ahead!
Next stop is the 50km Otway Odyssey mountain bike race in Forrest on 20/2/16. Closely followed by the National Australian off road triathlon championships in the Snowy Mountains on the 27/2/16. Stay tuned.
Many thanks everyone for your continued support!