Woohoo, wow, what an amazing experience again! The Terra was yet again a highlight of my racing year and provided all the ingredients that add up to what real mountain bike riding is all about.
Some days were massive with huge climbs and stunning vistas, others were shorter singletrack dominated stages during which you could open up and get the motor purring.
This year I teamed up with Jo Wall, one of my Torq teammates, and we were up against the Giant duo of Jess Douglas and Brad Davies. The plan was simple - smash it on the climbs and try to open up small time gaps on each stage.
The plan was rudely shaken on day one with a snapped mech hanger and a big crash for Jo after suffering a front wheel puncture. We lost nearly 15 minutes on day one. We knew we had put the pressure on as the trail went up, so we regrouped and went onto day 2 with the intention of just trying to take a few minutes back on the trail up to Dinner Plain.
Straight out of the start, it was clear that Jess wasn't happy with the pace, so we hit it hard. It was one of those stages that simply goes on and on and the final 30km climb up to Dinner Plain after 5+ hours driving it was brutal. We hung tough and Jo, as was to become the norm for the week, rode like a champion. By the close of play we had taken back the 15 minutes and extended our lead out to about 15 minutes, all in all, a great day at the office.
Day 3 featured a slight change of course due to the massive rainfall this summer, but, heck, it was a change for the better. It was quite possibly the toughest stage so far with relentless super steep pinch climbs after the descent off Hotham. The day ended with a cracking bit of singletrack into Bright and a sprint finish with my Torq team mates, Jo, Becky and Katherine, awesome fun.
Day 4 was the TTT and the chance for some short but intense riding and a little rest before the Buff on day 5. Again Jo just smashed it, and we blitzed around the flowing singletrack in one hour and 10 minutes to maintain a healthy lead over the Giant pair.
Day 5 was the Buffalo stage with 115km and with 4,000 vertical meters, it was always going to be brutal, but the heavy rain made it even more so and for five hours we battled through savage conditions of epic proportions. This was truly a day to test the metal and after splitting a sidewall of the front wall of Jo's tire on the start of the descent off Buff it was looking like we would lose all our time. It took everything we had, all our CO2, all our tubes and gel wrappers to fix and by the time we did Jess and Brad had come and gone. It was damage limitation time and as soon as we hit the road I went into TT mode and smashed the tarmac. By the time we started the final climb I had managed to drag us back onto the wheel of Jess and Brad and as soon as we did Jo attacked and we made a gap. We held on to the finish and after nearly siven hour 30 minutes in the saddle a well deserved coke.
We were starting to really motor, and Jo was simply getting stronger and stronger each day, so, by day 6 with a 40+ minute first climb, it was time to go on the attack and try to win a stage overall. We smashed it and by the top of the first climb only the Yeti Gu boys could stay with us. We started easy and wound it up, I would just whisper let's attack when we get up to that group and bang - Jo would just smash it up the gutter. The look on the guys faces and the body language as she did so was enough to tell me they were all being dropped for good that day. We simply pinned it, but, couldn't shake the limpets attached to our wheels and coming into the finish after dragging the Gu boys around for most of the day they attached us on the gates and this meant I was the last to shut the last gate into the finish!
Needless to say we didn't get back on and came in 15 seconds behind them, not, happy. On the road, I would not have been so charitable, they would have been in the gutter, 'nough said!
The last day was awesome with all the singletrack Beechworth could offer and a chance to move up into the top three overall for Jo and me. We smacked it as hard as we could and ended up moving up one place over Team Brave into fifth just a couple of mins off the overall podium.
I was enthralled by the race this year, even more so that three years ago when I was doing battle with D-Mac and Fetch. Riding with Jo was just great and to be part of the Torq team this time around added the final dimension to the whole race.
Jo, you smashed it mate and I would ride with you any day of the week mate in any race, you rock. I look forward to seeing where this form and huge heart takes you mate. Maybe a very long race in a few weeks time, eh?
I would like to thank Dean and Gen from Torq for there continued support and everything they do for us and the sport of mountain biking in Australia. Thanks to Monza for the fastest Cubes and tricked out XX, love ya work. Thanks also to Aussie Butt Cream for looking after me and to Date, Oz Riders, Hid Tech and Skins for keeping me going.
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The only UCI-registered mountain bike team in Australia, the TORQ Performance Nutrition team features some of Australia's top racers and future stars, including current national and Oceania Champion Dan McConnell
For 2011-2012, TORQ racers are targeting the Australian Mountain Bike National Series, National Championships and Oceania Continental Championships. The team's top priority is racing Olympic distance cross country events, but it is also mixing things up with some short track, marathon and endurance events - and maybe even some road races.
Some members will head abroad for the World Cups - an important part of Australian national team selection process for the 2011 World Championships. In the past two years, the team has grown to include some new faces with some great results to back them up.
McConnell, who represented Australia at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, is perhaps the team's most well-known member. Mark Fenner, Brenton Jones, Mark Tupalski, Luke Fetch, Robbie Hucker, Jenni King, Katherine O'Shea, Joanna Wall and Becky Mates are also on the roster. Members take turns writing diary entries.