…at least that is what the winners time tells us. Last year the English-man was home in 4:17. A blanket finish this year had the first three over the line in 4:11! That is seriously fast for a 112 km course with lots of climbing. But times are getting quicker all over the board due, in part, to courses gradually becoming more groomed over time. Also a factor is the steady influx of olde roadies discovering the joys of the sport, including the brothers McGee, and one Bart Hickson, who placed about 20th overall (of 600) to take 2nd in the masters category. Damn! That’s another one who is going to make pipe-dreams of a podium at Dirtworks even less likely. Last year I was not unfit, but the combination of heat and a 4-beer tapering session the previous eve had me grovel my way round the circuit in 5:48. This year I was certainly less fit (only 3 days of riding in the preceding 4 weeks), but 25% more cunning – 3 beers worth of tapering the night before (I must publicly acknowledge Hams insistence to opt for desert rather than beer #4).
A perfect day dawned. Not too hot. Not even a hint of hangover. Ham and I started at the tail. I resolved not to go too hard, but to just ride the course. But 600 rabbits up the road are hard to resist. I found myself jumping from group to group. Not going too hard, but enjoying the thrill of each chase. I finished the first sector (of 3) about 2 min slower than last year. So far so good. But the first sector (27 km) is but the entre. The second and longest sector is where the hard riding (= loads of sharp climbing) really starts. At only 40 km the first twinges of cramp were noted. Man this was going to be a tough day. The next 2 hours required to complete sector 2 (53 km) were mere purgatory. Couldn’t believe the speed of the Elite field (all 4 of them at this stage) as they caned past at about the 60 km mark. Having spent the first 2 hours doing nothing but pass people, I spent the next 2 hours filtering back through the field, to finally find my place amongst similarly rooted flotsam and jetsam. Got to the final transition at about 4 hours, my only pit-stop for the race. Took on buckets of fluids and hoped to knock the last 32 off in 2 hrs. Somehow this worked out, despite having to walk each incline along the “boundary rider” and “roller coaster” sections. Discovered I could ride through cramp as long as I stayed out of the saddle in a big gear. Having initially anticipated going round in about 6:30, I was very relieved for it to all to be over in 5:53.
Although posting a similar time to last year, rather than coming in 95th, such a time was only good enough for about 220th this year, such is the improving state of the local mtb armada. A swag of people I know improved their times of 2010 by 20-40 min. I’ve just got to work out how to do the same. Ham has also vowed to put an end to the groveling (7:20 is a big day out in any language). A shorter beer taper is probably part of the equation, coupled with a few more days training. I feel that finally I’ve lost the fear of the Fling, so will be keen to see what I can do in 2012, providing I wangle an entry, of course!