While this was a totally different format to previous Epics, it was a course deserving the name Epic. This was both my first Epic, and my first race that wasn't doing multiple laps on the same course. I was entered in the 75k version, the longest of various races over the weekend, and after much deliberation I decided not to race single speed for the first time in about a year. The race started and finished at Spices Old Hidden Vale with some serious climbs, some flat bitumen sections and some fantastic single track. With $5000 up for grabs, the starters list saw a number of high profile racers lining up with 1100 or so riders across the weekend. The race was started in waves based on expected ride time. I figured I could get the 75k done in 5hrs which meant I was in the last group along with the elites.
I started mid pack and the elites at the front got away at a smashing pace. The rest of us were still riding pretty hard along the dirt road. I was feeling OK as the pace started to settle and we hit the grassy and bumpy double track climb, and we had already started to catch the wave that had left 15mins before us. So far the gears were working for me, but on the first of the bumpy descents my chain dropped off on the inside. I managed to recover it without stopping, but some time on the next descent, I thought I had dropped the chain again. I tried to recover it in the same manner, and when I couldn't I realise that I had lost my chain altogether. Most likely 1 of the speed links had come undone. I walked the up hills, "scootered" the flats and rolled the downhills wondering how I was going to get back to the car. Fortunately we exited the bush on to a road section where one of the SES volunteers was stationed to control traffic. At this point I thought my race was over and asked the SES volunteer how to get back. There was also another rider waiting with his rear derailleur snapped. He saw my predicament and started to fiddle with his chain. I asked if he had a quick link on his chain and he said he did, but he couldn't get it to release, but if I could get it off I could use his chain. I borrowed a leatherman with pliers from the SES and put the chain on my bike and I was off. Thanks Andrew(#221).
I'd barely travelled 20m and there was "Hubcap" repairing a flat. He needed a pump to put a bit more air in his tyre as the CO2 canister just didn't quite do it. I stopped to lend a hand. We had no end of problems with getting air in to the tyre, but eventually we were off. Hubcap got a head start(cursing all the way;) while I put the pump back on my bike, and he took some catching. We rode together for nearly 20km and worked the bitumen like the pros on TV :) Then the MASSIVE climbs started. This is where we really started to catch big bunches of riders. The descents were almost as demanding as the ups, and my brakes were squealing horrendously, which actually worked quite well to let people know I was coming through. At some point I managed to get a stick through my wheel, bringing me to a quick stop, but thankfully not doing any damage.
At some point I lost my bottle with my electrolyte mix. This left me with just 2l of water, and I was a little concerned how I was going to manage the rest of the race. At least it wasn't too hot, and I did have some gels to help with electrolytes.
I caught a bunch of about 20 or 30 riders in the single track at about the 40k mark and there was a lot of stop/start riding/walking with a lot of riders hopping off on anything that looked slightly technical. This section of track should have been fairly fast and not that much of a challenge. The second bit of outback single trail was much more fun as I hit that pretty much solo.
With about 25k to go I came across "Matt Dog" repairing his 5th flat and showing the signs of having been down hard. I lent him a tube and suggested that I ride the rest of the race with him, and I knew he'd do it for others. Back on the bike I let Matt set the pace since he was riding single speed rigid. He was moving OK but I heard the odd comment on the real bumpy stuff due to his wrist. Back to OHV proper we hit Rock Bottom and Escalator, trails I have ridden so many times in the last year. Then it was Snake and the resurrected Gully trails for an awesome way to finish an epic ride. With the finish in sight, Matt urged me to power on, which I did with a heap of energy left. Even with the various stops, I finished under 5hrs and wonder what might have been.
Thanks Tailwind for another great event and to all the volunteers for making these events possible. To top it off, the boys up front managed a dead heat for 1st.