Xterra Aus finish
Xterra Aus finish

Recently I headed abroad for the first 2 international races on foreign soil. This year, opting for english speaking countries in the land down under, Australia & New Zealand. So, excited about my travels, I set off & 30 odd hours later landed in Melbourne Australia.

Fortunately my cousin lives in Melbourne, so he had invited me to shack up with him for a couple of days while I recovered from jetlag. He showed me around the city & we did the kind of things tourists do… exploring & snapping pics at the most random buildings & sites.

On the Thursday, prior to raceday, it was time to head out to Anglesea,along the infamous Great Ocean Road, for the first race of the trip, Xterra Australia.

Arriving there, first thing was first, check out the bike course. The Aussies are a laid back bunch, deciding to only mark the course the morning prior to raceday… So decided to do some riding around the area. I discovered the most beautiful views, singletracks & fun filled riding. Eventually getting to know the course on the Saturday afternoon.

I had seen the line-up of participants, so I really needed to be confident heading to this start line. Among them, Ben Allen, Oli Shaw, Rory Downie & 3 x Olympian ITU athlete Courtney Atkinson. The course would be fast, the distances being a 1.3km Ocean swim, 26km fast mtb & 10km beach run.

Raceday.

Being alone in a foreign country is never easy. I headed down to the start & scouted the swim course. I tried to keep my nerves calm by settling into my own rhythm & I felt ok, quietly confident. The Tasman sea can be pretty rough as I’d seen the week leading up, but we awoke raceday to flat, near perfect racing conditions.

As the horn sounded, there was a mad 50m run into the sea. I went out hard & settled into a good tempo. I exited the water in 5th, about 2min back on Ben & Courtney & with lots of work to do. The bike course was rolling on good surface with some smooth singletrack & very little technical. I pushed hard on the climbs & tried to be as smooth as possible. I moved into 3rd off the bike, a mere 1min10sec off the pace to Courtney & a further 1min to Ben.

The run was along the Great Ocean Road footpath with the odd soft sand beach section thrown in. I found a solid tempo, but could not close the gap to the leaders, rounding off the podium in 3rd, a good start to the trip.

Off to New Zealand, I arrived in Rotorua, eager to pose a bigger challenge for the top step of the podium. My wife had organised a home stay for me about 15min ride from the start. I enjoyed riding the area in & around Redwood Forest & Dave, my home stay host, enjoyed showing me the Xterra course & the trails around this mountain bike haven. The week flew by, but this time I knew the course & was amped to put myself to the test.

Once again, a star studded line-up with plenty of XC mountain bikers also joining in on the fun. The swim would be a fast 1km sprint in the Blue Lake, followed by a 26km technical mtb in Redwood Forest & a 11km, 2 lap trail run around the lake.

I was set.

We set off with a dry start & being a short swim, the water was a turbine of panic. Rounding the first bouy I started to find my groove, knowing in my mind that I needed a good enough swim to set up a proper start to this race. I exited in around 6th place. Again, leaving myself with much work, I set off hard & quickly moved into 3rd. As we headed into the first technical section, I heard chain mashing against the derailleur cage. I immediately jumped off the assess. This would be the story of the bike leg. I felt so strong on the bike, but only managed to limit the damage & ended up nursing my bike through a course I knew well & should have exited far closer to the front. I entered T2 in 4th place, about 1min30sec off the front.

I chased hard through the technical run loop, not knowing on my progress in the chase to Ben. As I ran through halfway, I received a split that Ben was only 1min10sec ahead. Again I dug deep to pursue the chase, once again falling short, this time only 19sec separating myself & the top step of the podium to Ben.

I am happy with the result, but do wonder what might have been…

2013 has started off with a bang! It is already April & the first part of my season is already history. I am excited about the results & I look forward in great anticipation to the second half of a great year.

Time for a break & then a build up to 70.3 Switzerland in June.