All systems were go when I finally got the all clear from the doctor - the dreaded Ross River virus had gone! I was free to start training again albeit easing into new program. The Mawson Marathon had come up on the radar as a new event, raced in pairs, travelling along the length of the Mawson Trail from Blinman to Melrose covering a total of 360km and it looked like a bit of fun.
I had chatted with Andrew Bell about the event when we competed in Wildside in the New Year and he seemed to think it would be pretty funky and that the terrain, although not technically testing, was beautiful to travel through. Last year the event was completed as a staged tour and was very successful. This year the event was going to be held as a point to point, pairs, non-stop race, as well as a stage race.
So, after getting a little bit of training done and starting to regain a little bit of fitness, the Torq team of Mark "Tupac" Tupalski and "Fenz" started the ball rolling in preparation for the point to point race. New considerations needed to be addressed which were very different to the usual circuit type 24 hour race. Nutrition, hydration, bike choice and general logistics were planned alongside Team Captain and all-round super star Dean Clark.
Everything started to take shape and before we knew it we were all in the small town of Blinman getting ready for the start. It was certainly cold and the weather conditions looked like a block headwind the entire way to Melrose. After a lengthy briefing most riders got a fidgety night's sleep in anticipation of the early start the next morning. So on Friday the 11th of June, we all lined up ready for the start. The film crews were busy interviewing riders and the race staff were busy checking we had all the essential items in our rucksacks or on the bikes. Then the gun went off!
Twenty four pairs of riders rolled out of Blinman on the first 10km of black top. There was a jovial spirit in the peloton before Chris Jongeward smacked it in the big dog and laid down his intentions for the day. Brett Anderson, his teammate, and South Australian 24-hour champion was going to be in for a long hard day at the office. Jason English and Andrew Bell quickly gave chase followed by Tupalski and Fenz along with Bellchambers and McAvoy. And this exact same scenario played out again as soon as we hit the dirt. Brett and Chris smacked it hard at cross country pace, Jason and Andrew tried to bridge the gap and the rest of us scrambled to follow.
Holding 400 plus watts, discretion was going to be the better part of valor and although Mark and I were pushing hard we decided to ease off the gas a little. Bellchambers punctured and we didn’t see these guys again for a fair few hours. Jason and Andrew also decided to sit up a little and the four of us rolled turns for a few hours in hot pursuit of the South Australian dynamic duo.
The race settled into a pattern. After the initial three hours, the usual feelings of being strong gave way to a little hunger knock, which gave way to feeling strong again. This can be a usual pattern in endurance racing and just knowing that you will come through a bad spell, eating and hydrating correctly, gives you the spirit to dig in and power on. Andrew and Jason pushed on during one of these bad spells and created a good gap but the race was far from over.
The terrain held big challenges, not in a technical sense, but in the long, never-ending false flats and headwinds that seemed to sap your strength and play havoc with your mind and motivation. It was a time to really dig into the suitcase of courage and summon your reserves of perseverance. Tupac rode superbly, and bit by bit, we began to claw back time on Jason and Andrew. By the time we pulled into Quorn in the darkness, there were only four minutes separating us. Behind us McAvoy and Bellchambers were also putting on a last charge and were only a few minutes behind us. The last stage from Quorn to Melrose was going to decide second, third and fourth place. The South Australian Team were just too far up the road and barring a major mechanical were not going to get caught.
Dean was frantically jumping up and down, gesticulating that Jason and Andrew's tail lights could be seen further up the trail, it was certainly time to hit time trial mode. As we pulled out of Quorn, Bellchambers and McAvoy passed us coming in to the feed stop. It was all systems go after 12 hours of racing. The average speed to this point was close to 27km/hr!
After pushing as hard as we could we just couldn't close the gap on Jason and Andrew and they ended up finishing just over five minutes ahead of us. Behind, however, we had broken the spirits of McAvoy and Bellchambers and they realized in this final leg that we were not going to roll over and give in. They came in a further 15 minutes behind us.
And so that was it! 360km in just over 14 hours. An incredibly fast race and one which I will not forget in a hurry as the pace was definitely on from the start to the finish and to be that close after that long is testament to a great race.
Having raced for the first time with Tupac, I was astonished by his resolve and his dogged determination. I was also astounded by the amount of times that he had to stop for a piss! He certainly must have a bladder the size of a pea and within his next training program I am definitely going to incorporate learning how to pee on the bike.
Cheers and see you on the trails,
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