This weekend marks what could be regarded as Australia’s opening race for the Marathon season. The 5th Edition of the Otway Odyssey is being held this Saturday 19th February, in Victoria.
World Champions, Australian Champions, past winners and past non-finishers will all be taking the start in Apollo Bay, before climbing up to Forrest to race through some of the nations best singletrack network.
The Otway is regarded as one of Australia’s best run, and most difficult marathons. Even being the weekend prior to the National Cross Country Championships, there is a stellar line up of riders. MarathonMTB.com spoke to 2010 winner and current MTB Orienteering World Champion Adrian Jackson, about how Saturday morning may infold.
“It is going to be a very different race to last year with Chris [Jongewaard] back. I expect it to be more like 2008 when no one saw him after the first 10km! Lachie might be up for the challenge of going with him, but I expect most of us will be riding for 2nd place.”
Jongewaard is always a force to be reckoned with – but will he be keeping something in reserve for the National Champs in Adelaide just 6 days later?
The field at the Otway is always deep, due to the quality of event, location and the prize money. Jackson was easily able to list off plenty of other riders who could take the win on the day.
“Pete Hatton showed some good form last week and Matty, Lewi, Gordo and English are always up there.” Jackson is referring to the previous National XC Round, and Matt Fleming, Shaun Lewis, Craig Gordon and Jason English. However, these riders are only from three different teams: Rockstar Racing, Merida-Flight Centre, and Clarence St Cyclery.
“Team tactics might come into it – if Chris isn’t far ahead then me and English aren’t going to force the pace, and Rockstar will do the same if Lewi or Gordo are away. But it really comes down to who has the legs in the last 30km or so. It all depends how many matches you have burnt in the first 70km as to how you go once you are out in the Yaughter singltrack loop, and if you are in a good position heading out for the final 13km loop then you will be motivated enough to push through the pain!”
The Women’s field is no less stacked, with World 24hr Solo Champion Jess Douglas already anticipating the pain.
“I know it hurts, it just depends on the day how much I can hurt. Last year was not so good – I hurt in the first 10km and never came good. This year I will try and go a bit faster. That’s all I can do.”
Also in the running are Gracie Elvin, Peta Mullens, Niki Fisher and Jo Wall. But like the mens race, we can only know on the day how it will play out. With 1,750 riders, the race is about more than just Australia’s Elite.
Recovering from two bouts of cancer, Daniel Schlage from the ACT used to race BMX, road and mountain bikes. It will be his first race back since 2005.
Sixty-eight year young rider, Geoff Kemp, from NSW, reckons he’s retiring from work to take up full time mountain biking after only doing it “seriously” for the last two years.
Ashley Morphet (Vic) seems to have big mountain pedigree despite listing himself as a beginner – he’s ridden from Lhasa to Kathmandu via Everest.
For Troy Boote from Warnambool, Vic, it will be a mountainous effort just to finish the Otway Odyssey this year – he broke his neck in 2010, the event being his first back in the saddle since coming a cropper. Sensibly, he’s sticking with the 50km ‘Shorty’.
Sam Evans, from Ringwood, Victoria, has perhaps put in the most training – he’s fresh back in January from a 20,000km bike ride around the world.
Neil Bennett (Vic) is at the elite end of the field riding for the Tekin Suspension XC Team. He is a notable entrant for the fact that he competes at such a high level despite being afflicted by Type 1 Diabetes, which means he constantly risks the effects of low blood glucose. He’ll be joined by Justin Morris, now riding for the MarathonMTB.com Race Team, formerly of Team Type1 USA, a group of pro riders who raise awareness of T1 diabetics worldwide.
However it pans out, all riders are in for a tough day. The start of the race is brutal, with consistent climbing – rewarded by fantastic singletrack and a final blow with the Sledgehammer.
The MarathonMTB.com Race Team will be debuting with three of their riders racing on Saturday. Mike Blewitt, Sam Moorhouse and Justin Morris will be venturing south to try their luck. Regardless of their success, you will be able to read about it on the MarathonMTB.com Race Team website, or read about Moorhouse’s pre-race thoughts here.