Rain yesterday afternoon and overnight created a heavy track for the 2011 Otway Odyssey. Regardless, racers were mostly upbeat in Apollo Bay, where the second biggest Mountain Bike Marathon starts.
The pace was steady out of town, and boosted considerably in the last kilometre before the climb into the ranges. Race organisers Rapid Ascent have provided the following account of the event:
Jongewaard crossed the line six minutes ahead of Ben Mather, having fended off repeated attacks as the pair muscled through 100 kilometres of rain lashed wilderness. World 24 Hour Solo mountain biking champion, Jason English took a close run third, a mere half minute further afield of Mathers. Last year’s winner Adrian Jackson came home fifth behind Lachlan Norris, an early favourite who overcame mechanical problems to remain in the Top Five.
Jongewaard’s win is all the more impressive given the revelation that he knocked himself out riding trails on a new dual suspension bike in his home state only last weekend.
“I had concussion for three days,” said Jongewaard who admitted to still being a “little cloudy in the head” at the start line.
“I wasn’t feeling great early on; I just didn’t have my usual confidence. (Fourth placegetter) Lachie Norris was going hard and broke away early. I just kept on his wheels and hung on. Once I got the lead back I just concentrated on blocking any attacks. Unfortunately for Lachie his chain broke. If that hadn’t have happened I think it would have been a much tighter battle all the way today.”
While Jongewaard seemed to be in cruise mode having stretched his lead of Mathers in the latter stages, the National XC Series leader reckons he was hurting all the same. “I could feel the wall coming, so I just concentrated on staving it off. The [infamous final hill climb] Sledgehammer still got me, though. I tried to tell myself it would be rideable – I got 50 metres in before I was off the bike.”
Jongewaard rates this, his third win at Forrest, as a huge mental boost as he heads to the National Championships next weekend with visions of the Olympics (London, 2012) beyond that.
“I’ve been given leave (under parole conditions) to travel interstate, so I’m hoping the powers that be – so long as I keep performing as well as I have been – see that this is my job and perhaps I’ll be able to travel to compete internationally. We’ll see – but the win certainly gives me confidence going into the Nationals in Adelaide next weekend.
Second placegetter Ben Mathers was happy with his podium, pointing to Jongewaard’s strength on the descent as a game changer.
“He was just super strong on the singletrack and the timed descent. I just couldn’t go with him. From then on I was just trying to make sure I held ground on the guys behind me, which thankfully I managed to do. I would have been happy with a top ten, so I’m wrapped with second place.”
Protest and heartbreak in women’s elite standings
It was a case of jubilation and then tears in the women’s elite field when U23 national champion Gracie Elvin crossed the line first only to discover she had been handed a 30 minute time penalty by race officials for a rule-breaking indiscretion.
Elvin overcame crippling cramp at the 80 kilometer mark to hold off Peta Mullens by nearly five minutes, but to no avail with her time penalty relegating her result from a win – “possibly the biggest of my life,” said Elvin at the finish prior to learning of her penalty – to a sixth placing.
The ruling bumped Peta Mullens up a place on the dias to take the official race title and AU$4000 prize money with Jo Wall elevated to second place, coming in less than a minute behind Mullens’ 5:51:53 time. Rebecca Locke took official third placing in 6:08:19.
Elvin, who like Jongewaard has her sights set on the National Championships and the London Olympics in 2012, was visibly upset at the decision, taken after she took a hydration pack from crew while on the course, an act that she was unaware of being against race rules.
Race directors were sympathetic to Elvin’s case but determined that as a professional she should have known the rules.
“Gracie had a brilliant ride, no doubt,” says Rapid Ascent’s Sam Maffett. “But we’ve had complaints from competitors in the past years about riders gaining assistance on course, so we made it perfectly clear in all rider briefing information that such assistance outside of the designated area at Forrest Football Ground was against the rules.
“Having been made aware of the situation, it would be unfair on other riders not to follow through on a penalty for a broken rule – even if that transgression was made unawares by a competitor. We applaud her for crossing the line first and respect her for the talent that she clearly has. Hopefully she will accept the decision gracefully and return next year to have another crack – she’s a champion rider and we’d welcome her back to prove herself again.”
The Otway Odyssey lived up to its name in the minds of the 1700-strong field, with 15km, 50km and 100km category riders all facing wet, slippery and muddy conditions on the trails surrounding the township of Forrest in Victoria’s south west. Riders crossed the line smiling with mud-caked faces and limbs, and only the odd broken collarbone, injured ankle or claret tinged body part, all just grist for the storytelling mill come tomorrow.”
1. Chris Jongewaard 4:22:06
2. Ben Mathers 4:30:22
3. Jason English 4:31:05
4. Lachlan Norris 4:32:21
5. Adrian Jackson 4:36:36
1. Peta Mullens 5:51.53
2. Jo Wall 5:52:17
3. Rebecca Locke 6:08:19
4. Niki Fisher 6:11:33
5. Jessica Douglas 6:14:08
6. Gracie Elvin 5:47:63 + 30 minute penalty (6:17:63)
But what of the Drapac riders who received ‘illegal’ assistance on the sealed road section? Have they received time penalties?
Stay tuned for reports from the MarathonMTB.com Race Team members who were in attendance.