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Giant (Otway) Odyssey 2015 - late review, great race...

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By Antsonline - Posted on 30 March 2015

A week late, but a great race....

This is a proper marathon MTB race.
My race calendar each year takes shape around 4 key races. These are races that I consider to be the ‘Classics’. Monuments in Australia Marathon MTB.
The Giant Odyssey is the first of the year (for information, the others are the Convict, the Flight Center Epic (Qnld), and the Highland Fling). So heading down to Victoria is always something I look forward to.

This year was no different. Kyle (Ward Bro #1) is my frequent travelling buddy, and we know how each other works. We hopped on the plane and arrived at Avalon to pick up a hire car. 45mins later and we were at the accom.
As usual, it wasn’t somewhere that you might consider luxurious, but it was clean, and the shower was hot.

Friday morning we caught up James Downing for coffee and breakfast. I don’t know what sort of things they eat in Canberra – but honestly, his recommendation was woeful. Pancakes and the most ordinary coffee for a while. Still, we talked some sh1t, and planned the day.

Off to Forrest to ride a bit of the trail before lunch. We rode for around 2hrs, nice and easy. Just enough to get the legs working. Sensations were good and spirits high.

Race day comes around and Kyle and I roll to the race site. Every year I remind myself how dark the race is – it is literally pitch black until 15mins before the start. So it means warming up in the dark, pumping up tyres in the dark, dropping car keys in the grass in the dark, and even nearly crashing into other riders around the paddock.
With those dramas out of the way, we hit the start-line. The usual sledging, merriment and excitement.
Every year the Odyssey gets such a strong field. Its one of the reasons I like it. You know that it will be murder, and that you will be racing for every inch of the 100km of the race.

The gun bangs, and we ride off – pretty cold – and as a group it seemed like an unofficial ‘neutral’ section. The first 8km of the race are on the bitumen – heading out of town. It was cruisey and we were all talking and taking the piss. Chief of the chatters – Paul Vd Ploeg fresh off his 3rd place at the National XC Champs is the best wheel – he actually provides good cover and shelter for me. One of the only guys in the bunch! I thanked him for his shelter and he proceeded to have woeful day on the bike. Probably did much in the wind early!
It always amuses me that without fail, a rider from way way back (it is a seeded start) decides the pace is too slow in the first 5km, and belts off the front for a km or so – only to be consumed by the bunch again and to have tired legs for the long climb that awaits at the end of the road section. Patience is a virtue sometimes. You haven’t become the fastest rider in the race overnight, and of course it easy in the wheels 10 from the front. Still – its nice to see people having a go, no matter how much you know it will make them suffer later on. Much like the start of the Convict – the race isnt won in the first 5 or 6km of bitumen or gravel – yet people do a very good job of losing it there! Patience.

This race is one that rewards patience. Sometimes, you need to go out hard and recover at other points in the race. This one – with so much climbing (2400m) and so many hills in the last 30km mean that you can go out steady and reel people back in. Normally I am too impatient to wait, but this year I was more relaxed.
The long climb to start the race lasts about 45mins – it goes up and up, and then pinches up, and then up again. Finally you reach the crest, marked with a KOM sign, and you can descend. At this point I suppose I was in about 15th or 16th. Riding with a few others, I was comfy. I had really planned to take it easy in the first segment of the race, confident that it would pay dividends at the back end.
James was right behind us too – and I knew things would compress once we hit the techy descent.

To cut a long and relatively boring story short, after another 65km James and I were still together, although we had managed to shift everyone else that was with us. I was climbing and pushing really well on the fire-roads and the hills, and James was ripping the single-track, so as a pair we worked well. We hit the long climb that marks the start of the final loop. Its about 15mins of ‘up’ on smooth fire-road. We swapped turns and discussed how we were surprised we hadn’t caught anyone yet. Normally people would blow up…
Then, it started to happen. We rounded a corner (pretty much 70km into the race), and there was one, then another, then a few more. The patience had paid off.
At this stage of the race, everyone is hurting. So there is no greater feeling than realizing you are moving faster than others – and moving through the field. We crested the climb and both were pretty cheery at our progress. Some wild and loose descents ensued. Next, at the bottom of a timed descent, we picked up Kyle. He was happy to sit on – as he was going through a customary ‘low patch’. So the three of us rolled into the final water stop at 85km. When I say the 3, James and I did. Kyle attacked us as we stopped for bidons. Never to be seen again.
That boy has no manners.

In the end James and I rolled the whole way into the finish area, and in the sprint, James lit it up early, and there was no way I was getting around him. He took 10th, and I 11th.
Kyle had protected 30seconds for the final 15km. Cheeky sod.

To be honest, I probably was a teeny bit conservative on the climbs. I had good legs, and should have thrown caution to the wind a bit more – really pushing on, but this race is so hard – if you misjudge your effort at all, you are in a bad place. It’s the first 100km race of the year for me, so its better to feel like I could have gone a bit harder. I’m not a fan of ‘coulda / woulda / shoulda’ type excuses though. It was 100km long, and I knew that at the start. No point racing as if it were 110km…

The top 10 had all raced for the whole way. It’s the sort of course that really requires fitness, pacing, and also eating properly. Miss any of those, and the Odyssey will punish you. In terms of time, its longer than the Highland Fling with similar climbing – so if you havent raced it before, that’s a good comparison. The biggest difference is that the hills at the Odyssey are long and steady, the Fling is a bit punchier with nothing longer than 8-10mins or so.

Here is my Strava file of the race…

Just a word about my equipment on the day. My Spec Epic was again the perfect bike. I have taken to riding it a bit softer (with the ‘brain’ open a few notches, and also my tyres pretty low – 26/27psi). It has really paid off. Its so hard to get your mind away from the rigid efficiency of a road bike with rock hard tyres – but it does pay to experiment. I had traction and great braking in all the single-track, comfort on the long rutted downhills, and it didn’t bob one bit on the climbs. It is a fantastic bike for marathons.
Again, from a nutrition perspective (at least as important as bike I am riding), I had relied upon Pure Edge (formerly known as Essential Sports Performance Nutrition) products leading into the event to get me through the training load. The post-ride Protein powders and the ‘Re-Load’ carb drink have become as regular as pumping my tyres up before a ride. In the week preceding the race I had done a big block of riding (around 21hrs) so getting recovered and ready was a key part of the prep.

During the race I made a conscious effort to eat more than normal – so I went through 11 gels, and kept my fluids calorie free. It seems to work for me.

A word about the atmosphere – it’s a super laid back race. After finishing there are showers provided and a bike wash provided, so you can get everything clean, pack up, and then head the KM down the road to the Forrest brewery for some lovely food, and an excellent range of calorie replacement drinks Eye-wink

I know racing is expensive, and travelling is also a bind – but for the NSW readers – if you get the chance, make a trip to the Otway. It’s a true classic.

mike95's picture

great read bud. looks like a tough race, plenty of elevation in there.

dtm's picture


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