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Highland Fling 2014 - how hard can it be?

Blades_Utd's picture

By Blades_Utd - Posted on 10 November 2014

Re: This ride meeting: 
2014 Highland Fling
Sxc Racing
Position (Overall): 
Race Category: 
Position (Category): 

I’m not sure really where to start with this write up as I have mixed feelings about this year’s Fling, both of satisfaction on the outcome and the lingering sensations of pain in my legs that caused it.

Last year I finished the race in 5:23 and in 33rd in category (vets), this year I rode about 1 minute quicker and finished 2nd (for the last time in vets), I think this goes to show the toughness of the route changes in 2014 – the race simply felt hard, from beginning to end.

No need to give an overview pre-race, arrived and registered all as expected thanks to the seamless organisation of Wild Horizons and the exceptional volunteers.
I lined up near to the front alongside Sxc Racing teammates Dave O’Connell and Gary Davison, a lot of the Manly/Tongers group were there, as well as regular training partners Chitts and Minter.

Soon enough we were under way and managed to get away clean, I had to put in a little dig to get onto the back of the main bunch and then sat in. According to strava the race was ON as I PR’d the first climb and my strategy for not going too deep into the red too early was already being challenged. The race began to split on the first main climb and across the meadows and (I think) I got into the 2nd bunch of about 10 including Chitts (Ian) and Paris, I was dangling off the back a few times but generally managed to rejoin on the numerous uphills. Our group finally split at the 2nd water crossing and about 5-6 of us rode into transition pretty cagily as no-one really wanted to tow the others.

Stage 2 is always a grind and no less so than this year. Our little group rode into Wingello together until Chitts and I went off the front on an early climb before the singletrack. At this point it felt like a regular training ride, Chitts and I chasing Minter and Paris up ahead, we worked well together riding at our own pace, knowing each other’s strengths and enjoying the Wingello trails. I could sense Ian falling back on one or two of the climbs and I ended up getting a gap that stayed consistent pretty much to the end. I stopped to help Paris with a CO2 as he’d punctured but received some positive feedback that I was going well – despite my rudeness to him about his tyre choice (sorry Paris)!! Halfway Hill and The Kick are both physically and mentally draining and I was relieved to be through them both. My hope was to be in a group on the run in to Wingello but alas I was to ride it solo (again) so pushing against the head/cross wind, transition couldn’t come soon enough. Bottles refilled and some food taken on and into Stage 3.

I rolled out with Tristan and it was clear that he was on a bad day when I could see his rear wheel well out of shape. Another new route through a golf course (Penrose?) and some sandy switchbacks put some extra pressure on my rapidly weakening legs and painful lower back. 90kms came up pretty quickly and I was trying to eat and drink knowing that I would need all the strength I could muster to get through the singletrack and up brokeback. There were a few moments I was cursing my legs at this point, trying to vocalise the pain helped a bit but not much. It was at this point that I could see Chitts behind but had no idea where I was placed so nothing for it but just to push on. Dropping out of the rocky singletrack, which I rode like I’d never even seen a bike before, I was at your call and took the short/steep option. I passed a guy who asked for a gel so I shared some food as I didn’t need it so close to the finish. From there on it was simply a case of getting it done as quickly as my legs would allow, with some final encouragement from Minter shouting at the sidelines. Rolling over the line I was elated that it was over, no clue as to my position and at that point I didn’t really care. Ian came over the line shortly after and we were both equally spent.
Dave came through soon after so shouted some encouragement, a cold beer was shared and after about an hour of chatting and supporting friends decided to check the results. It was at this point that I realised that I was 2nd and Ian placed 3rd, a hugely satisfying feeling.

Congratulations to all those that took part, it was a touch day of racing. Well done to the Sxc Racing team, Gary, Dave, Justin and Graham and Matt that raced the half, as well as Minter – winning Masters AGAIN (amazing ride) – Ian and Paris (completing the 100 miler).
Now thoughts have turned to a fun few days racing at the Hellfire Cup in Tasmania and winding down with a few beers.

jp's picture

Fantastic result Michael, well done! Your hard work has paid off, you really earned it.


Tristania's picture

You really gained some distance on me by the end; well done on a podium finish1 It would have been all up about 20 minutes longer in terms of distance, probably plus another 5-10 with the additional fatigue generated, so that was a cracking improvement from last year. I know what you mean about the cramps and those hills - they become a killer after 100km of hill climbing so glad you pulled through better than I did...

Dicko's picture


Congrats on such a fantastic result. The training you have put in, no one deserves this result as much as you.

Well done mate. I am only sorry i couldnt be there to enjoy it with you.


philberesford's picture

Great ride Mike, sounds like a tough day out for everyone so a well earned result!

Laughing out loud

garyinoz's picture

All those hill repeats on Taronga and Pariwi have paid off not to mention the numerous beaches MTB rides. Well done mate, enjoy the hell fire cup.

Brian's picture

Well done Michael. You had so much commitment with your training the whole year it's such a well earned result.

Chitts's picture

....with the "just like our training rides" and I hanging on for dear life, although at least in training Minter and Paris have the courtesy to stop and wait for us occasionally Smiling

I need to do my write-up, but it really felt like a special day to have friends in 1st and third place in Masters and the two of us in 2nd and 3rd in Vets.

doc's picture

Sensational ride Michael, you have had a very good year and now added another top class effort to the record. Congratulations and good luck at the Hellfire

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