It was a blue sky day at Spicers Hiddenvale today, Sunday 16th September. The 10th annual Flight Centre Cycle Epic was due to kick off at 8am, and the resort complex was full of keen mountain bikers. Some had camped overnight, others had driven in, and some had flown in to race for the generous prize money on offer.
Although originally a point to point race, the new version of the Epic is 87km of hard dirt roads and singletrack, starting and finishing right on the lawn of the resort.
The Elite field boasted 24hr World Champion Jason English, previous MTBO World Champion Adrian Jackson, Aiden Lefmann, Trenton Day, Justin Morris and Andy Fellows. The women’s race saw Jodie Willet pitted against Jenni King, Imogen Smith, Naomi Hansen, Terri Rhodes and Maggie Synge.
Soon after the start the bunch was moderately strung out as a few people tested the field with some small attacks. Nothing really stuck for the first 20 kilometres, as there was always enough open trail for riders to chase back on. At around the 22km mark, Team Type 1 racer Justin Morris launched off the front, leaving a bunch of about a dozen riders. Turning to climb onto the ridge line, Trenton Day lifted the pace and the bunch split. The front four was Day, Lefmann, Jackson and Fellows. Over the top of the climb they pulled Morris in. Behind, groups of 2 or 3 formed, with some solo tea-baggers.
In the women’s race Willett and Hansen swapped off to pull in King just before the feed at 22km. On the ridge line climb Willett made her move and got away. Hansen pulled out later due to fatigue. King ended up finishing in 2nd, with Terri Rhodes in 3rd.
After 50km, a trio of English, Lefmann and Day headed off for the last 37km loop. As Lefmann dropped back, English attacked and Day chased. Eventually, Day succumbed to the pace of English, and he crossed solo with a 5 minute lead over Day in second place. Lefmann fought his man flu to finish 3rd. Adrian Jackson rolled in for 4th, and Andy Fellows 5th.
The vibe at the finish was relaxed and happy. Weary elite racers mingled about amongst tired amateurs – all a mass of memorial Epic jerseys. The Epic was astoundingly well run this year, and hopefully it will be around for another ten years.