There was much anticipation at Forrest 0645 Saturday morning when the elite female field tyred the start line of the new Kona Odyssey 100km course. It was one of the largest and strongest female elite fields I have seen at this, or any other marathon MTB event in Australia. I counted 30 females at the start and, from the results, 25 elite female finishers. These numbers alone are cause for celebration, but when you look deeper into the start list and start throwing around names like Peta Mullins (2012 Kona Odyssey winner), Renata Bucher (the Swiss miss of XTERRA), Jenny Fay (Real Insurance XCM series winner 2012), Jess Douglas (24h World Champion), Naomi Williams and Bec Locke (both super strong roadies Liv/Giant) and we have the makings of a REAL race!
In previous years the Kona Odyssey has started in Apollo Bay and finished in Forrest. This year Rapid Ascent modified the course to start and finish in Forrest, a ploy to include more of the fabulous Forrest trails making up 45% of the course. Logistically, this circular format is easier than point to point for many of the competitors and spectators as it annuls the question of “how do we get back to Apollo Bay after the race” and allows a central point for spectators and race festivities. But for those of us that elected to stay in Apollo Bay, for reasons of comfort and culinary delight, and race Elite Women, the 0415 alarm necessary to ensure coffee time in Forrest pre-race is just plain rude!
The start of the new course was very sociable, open tar and fire road allowing ample warm up time, enough to make up for the warm up that, for reasons of coffee, didn’t happen in the dark at 0630. The elite women rode in group formation and chatted away the easy start miles until a nasty sandy climb switched the group to race mode and it was game on! The group split with Peta, Jenny and Renate getting away in the sand while Bec and I followed with Naomi not too far behind. Jenny attacked up the KOM and secured the queen of the mountain (QOM) only to crash in one of the deep ruts on the descent she “bounced off knee and head” and “between anger and pain I was out”, ending her race in the first 30km.
Peta and Renata led the womens field through the first transition (38km) in 1:50 minutes with Bec Locke, Naomi Williams and myself in the chase group, some 7-8 minutes back. I can safely say that the female elite positions were set by the first transition. I rode with the Liv/Giant girls for as long as I could before backing off to ensure a finish. I have learnt that crossing that little red ‘line’ too early in a 100km race does not end well. Speaking to riders after the event this decision was more than justified as many riders ‘blew’ themselves early and lost positions in the grovel home.
Post race Peta recalled an “enjoyable” race, identifying a different style of racing I can only attribute to riding alongside a professional athlete like Renata. A mutual respect was born and allowed the lead ladies to work together to maintain their lead. I think too often we lose sight of the big picture and in a 100km race it helps to have friends, in the end the stronger rider always wins. In this event Renata was the stronger rider and rode to a one-minute lead ahead of Peta with Bec Locke in third and myself in fourth.
Peta is now heading to the Subaru MTBA National XCO championships in Canberra and then off to South Africa for Absa Cape Epic where she is racing a team with her partner Jarrod. Renata is continuing her XTERRA training in Australia before heading overseas for competition. Bec Locke has a road focus or this year. And me? I am heading to Avoca for the Marathon Challenge (Big Hill Events), primarily because I hear it is based at a winery..:)