The paperwork and briefing said: This is not a race.
It had everything a race needs: winners, a King of the Mountain (KOM) competition, race numbers pinned to jerseys, a presentation with trophies and prize money at the end and road marshals with orange flags all along the 120 km (74.5 miles) way. Hell, for sure it was a race and people raced! I raced! It was fast. It was tough. I had swapped the Powertap Open Pros for the Corima wheels last night so I had no power data or speed. In fact all I had was the total riding time and the altitude profile. It was quite refreshing to race and not to have all this scary information right in your face all the time. The first time I asked another rider how far we still had to go was 70 km into the race and it was like “What? Really? Already?” I thought we were a mere 50 km into the total distance.
We got up at 3:15 AM and left home at ten to four for the two hour drive south to the popular Byron Bay, famous for great waves and a relaxed life style. Nowadays it’s becoming a more upmarket hideaway for artists and actors with Yoga retreats and very expensive real estate. Byron Bay is in Northern New South Wales and there is one hour time difference between our southern neighbouring state and Queensland. New South Wales has daylight saving, Queensland doesn’t. Apparently Queensland’s cows wouldn’t be able to cope with daylight savings. I’m not making this up! Because of stupid cows we had to get up really early to make up the extra hour.
There were about 300 entries and a mass start for all competitive and non-competitive participants. I haven’t done a race like this before and had no idea what to expect. It had rained all night and it started pouring down rain on our drive. Like a miracle it stopped raining when we arrived at the start area and the weather held up.
I started right in front and just tried to keep up with the fastest. When I lost contact to the leading group of twenty there were six of us and we swapped turns and chased to get back on. We were moving fast and I tried to take my share of turns or as many as I thought wise considering that I had never raced 120 km before and wanted to last the distance. My longest race before was the Cunningham Classic in 2007, which is 96 km in length.
Alberto looked after me really well. He drove behind us, stopped on the side of the road to pass water bottles or drove alongside me to call out instructions. I felt really PRO. I also have to thank Aaron for looking out for me. He lent a protective wheel more than once.
The only time I was fighting the urge of just climbing off my bike and jumping into the car was on the final climb that started at kilometre 96 and went for 5 km at an average gradient of about 7%. It hurt. A lot. What kept me going was the knowledge that there was only Jesse, one other female rider, ahead of me and lots behind. I really wanted to finish as second female rider and I did. It was a great race with some amazing scenery, which I only saw afterwards on my camera.
Total riding time: 3:49:30 hours
Total distance: 120 km
Meters ascended: 1200 m
I will post the official results as soon as they are published.