Current 24-hour solo World Champion Jason English is looking forward to racing the 100km Otway Odyssey mountain bike marathon this weekend in Forrest, Australia, on February 20.
English is a first-timer at the event, but he comes into it in good form. "The Otway Odyssey is more competitive than the cross country mountain bike Australian Champs, with more big hitters than any other race," said English, who is curious to see what the race is all about.
He has been scrambling to get his preferred bike set-up ready in time, and he's betting on a new hardtail for the weekend after previewing the course a few weeks ago with Forrest locals Jess and Norm Douglas.
Although not known for his hill-climbing prowess, English said he aims to hold on to the front bunch in the initial climb out of Apollo Bay and then make his move on the singletrack around Forrest, capitalising on some inside information gleaned from his pre-ride.
In a reflection of the quality of the field attending, organizers have given the 24-hour racer just the fourth-place ranking to start the men's race. However, English says he is getting faster over the "shorter" distances and is keen to prove his worth over the "100km sprint".
He recently matched the pace of the cross country racers with a first place at the Dirtworks 100km and the BMC Mountains to Beach stage race.
Fortunately for English, the Otway Odyssey is considered to be on the harder end of the spectrum in Australian marathon events, which may allow him to peg back a place or two as others fatigue.
Given the presence of former 24-hour solo World Champions James Williamson and Craig Gordon, five-time cross country national champion Sid Taberlay, 2007 Otway Odyssey race winner Murray Spink and numerous others who could knock them off including Dan McConnell, Shaun Lewis, Locky Norris, Adrian Jackson, Ben Hogarth, Paul van der Ploeg, Matthew Fleming and Troy Glennen, English will have his work cut out for him.