Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Shimano Grand Prix 4hr – Mt Annan

Words by: Belinda Althaus.

A little nervous and apprehensive was an understatement for this event for me.  Lack of training over winter, a bout of the lingering cold and I wasn’t exactly feeling tiptop shape for a 4hr race.  However I was determined to change my mind set from the past few months and instead of worrying about what I hadn’t done, I decided I was going to think about what I would do.  That would be, “get out and go for a ride”.  So I did. 

The morning was an early one, packing the last few things before it was a two hour drive to the event.  On the upside the drive was really straight forward, so I didn’t have to think which turn to take, or trying to read maps on the trip; this was a bonus and lowered the anxiety.  I arrived at the botanical gardens, got a park close to the start and cruised up to the event centre.  After popping into a few fellow riding friends, I managed to secure a position close by the track to setup my feed station.  I was cruising around having a great ole’ time, until I overheard the microphone advising us that rider briefing was in five minutes with the race starting immediately after….It had come to my attention all of a sudden that the race was starting an hour earlier then I had anticipated!! No time to waste or go for a final nervous toilet stop. I sorted out the remainder of my bottles, stuffed gels in the back and removed any unnecessary clothing.  It was race time.

Having no great expectations except to just get out and go for a ride, I held back in positioning in the pack.  I had never ridden at Mt Annan, and hadn’t managed a practice so I was aware to try not getting in the way of the fast riders.  The race started rather calmly.  It was a nice cruise around the car park which unfortunately didn’t split the pack up and then a bottle neck into the single track.  This could be a slow first lap, but I was happy because this gave me a nice opportunity to check out all the twists and turns, pinch climbs and descends, hairpins upon hairpins and an approximate timing of each lap.

I knew who some of my competitors were but I hadn’t seen them before the race and therefore I didn’t know how I was going in position.  I kept my pace consistent and my second lap was remarkably quicker then the first.  This can be a positive thing but then again a negative as it means you have more laps to do….Either way 4 hours is 4 hours, it beats doing 7hrs (compliment to all those 7hr riders, you’re an inspiration!).  Around the 3rd lap I came across another female rider.  She was consistent.  Many times I passed on the climbs, and then she would catch me on the downhill rock gardens.  I figured by the end of the 4th lap this was a fellow competitor and put the foot down to make a clear gap.  Three hours rolled around and the hands were a little sore, the legs were yelling a little at me, and I was questioning myself “why hadn’t I ridden a little more recently…”  This wasn’t the time to question however, it was time to dig deep, grimace a little more and just get the job done.  So I did.  The fire inside had ignited and I was happy being out riding, pushing out of the comfort zone and just having a GREAT DAY OF RIDING.

I came through the finishing chute after 7 laps, more then spent but proud of my efforts.  I passed on the beer, this was not the time…After a quick clean up and a feed I checked out the results, and was surprised to see that I had made it to the bottom step of the podium.  I was a clear lap behind 1st place rider Brooke Rowlands and 2nd place rider Wendy Stevenson, but considering my lack of preparation this was to be expected, not to mention these girls are masters of the game!
Mt Annan is a great track.  The trails pack their punch in challenges and I was more then impressed with its flow.

Well done to all the ladies in the 4hr Elite category, and to the many other fellow riders.  Many thanks also to the great team at Rocky Trail Entertainment for another stella event and to Berry Mountain Cycles for their continued support and assistance in keeping my bike running top notch.

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