The Torq Allstar pair of Luke Fetch and Beijing Olympian Dan McConnell won the inaugural Terra Australia, which wrapped up last weekend. Seventy riders covered a total of 550km of the Victorian High Country starting at Falls Creek and finishing in Wangaratta seven days later.
The Victorian pair of McConnell and Fetch found themselves in second place for most of the seven stages after a disastrous first stage which involved multiple punctures. The Total Rush team of Mark Fenner and Sam Bach secured a 33-minute advantage over the Torq Allstars. To their credit, the Total Rush team managed to ride strongly and held the overall lead for the first four stages keeping the strong Torq Allstar team at bay. Riding in the yellow jersey was a new experience for Sam Bach.
"The jersey gives you strength," said Bach. "We are competitive beasts and we wanted this win so bad. The young guys (McConnell and Fetch) were just too fast in the end."
The Torq Allstar team finally took the overall lead on the fifth stage and finished just 20 minutes in front of Total Rush with the BMC team of Troy Bailey and Joel Donney placing third overall.
The talking point of the week was what bike to bring back for next year as the course was as its name implied - an epic journey. For all riders it was one of the hardest weeks of riding they have ever done. Bikes were subject to a brutal examination, particularly in the High Country as the riders traversed and descended through alpine meadows and ridge lines that would be lucky to see any traffic whether it be car, bike or hikers.
With the end result beyond doubt, the leading teams arranged for the final stage between Beechworth and Wangaratta to be a neutral or non-competitive stage with all riders coming through the finish line together.
"I was riding up a hill with an Olympian on my left and a World Champion on my right and we were having a chat about mountain biking," said Stuart McIntosh, a local rider from Beechworth. "It was a great experience and highlighted the fact that we had all been on the same journey, just at different speeds!"
The seven day stage event was a resounding success with competitors describing the stages as brutal, breathtaking and brilliant.
"It was a tough week of riding," said Zoe King, one of Australia's best female racers. King's team placed a creditable fourth overall and won the mixed pairs category.
"It was hard but a good hit out. It's definitely been good training," said Dan McConnell after winning as he boarded a plane to travel to the World Cup in South Africa.