Racing the Bayview Blast this year was a bit of a last minute decision. I’d been targeting the Tathra Enduro for a few months until it was postponed one week out. After discussing my options with super coach JD we settled upon racing the Bayview Blast in Brisbane, Round 4 of the National XCM Series. It was exactly the same length as Tathra and was only 2 weeks later so I’d be able to hold the form that I’d worked so hard to build. Racing interstate can be expensive, you have to pay for airfares, accommodation, food and transport. Fortunately, my Grandmother (Gran as I call her) lives in Brisbane and was more than happy to be my chauffeur and soigneur for the weekend.
After boxing my bike up on Thursday evening, I was all set for my 6:50am flight on Friday. I checked in and my box was whisked away to over-size baggage. Unfortunately, my bike box also doubled up as my suitcase so I could avoid paying the excess baggage fee, which meant that instead of using foam to protect my bike, I was using clothes and Castelli kit…
After the short flight I landed and my bike was there waiting for me. We just managed to fit it in the car and we were on our way to Gran’s house. After building my bike up I got out for a short spin around the Brisbane River. The roads here might not be as good for cycling but the bike paths are amazing!
Saturday was dedicated to cutting a practice lap with James and a young Brisbane shredder Luke. Luke had already raced that morning (and won) but was still flying around the trails and teaching us a few things. The first few kms of the course were similar to the singletrack at Black Mountain, rough, handmade and lots of tight, off-camber corners. The next 10km’s were much more flowy, the trails weren’t overly difficult but required a lot of mental concentration to avoid narrow trees and the countless grass tress that were constantly brushing up against you. The final track ‘Sorceress’ was definitely the highlight for me. It’s similar to Stromlo’s ‘Luge’ but all the locals had gotten out and were lining the whole track cheering and ringing cowbells. It made for an awesome event atmosphere and got the motivation up to head out for another lap.
Sunday arrived and I woke up feeling ready to race. The race was an 8AM start, quite early so it meant we had to be on the road at 6:45. Keeping with tradition, I had my trusty porridge for breakfast. We got a great park at the event centre and I went out for a quick warm up spin. My legs were feeling good and I was ready to go.
Similar to some other marathon events, all of the 100km riders started before the 50km riders. This meant I knew that there would be a fair bit of overtaking to do in the first few km’s. After the 100km riders had started, the Juniors were the first wave for the 50km event. All of the QLD boys were complaining about how cold it was at 15 degrees and I was enjoying the chance to bask in the sunlight and remind them how warm it was.
The gun went off and I managed to get a good start, I slotted into second place behind local hitter Cam Wright. We went along a tarmac road for a few hundred metres, before doing a u turn and coming back along the grass next to it. We turned right through a gate and started climbing up a fire road, the surface was horrible, large loose rocks about the size of a fist. Traction was at the minimum and my rear wheel was constantly slipping out from underneath me. As we made it to the top of the fire road, I had dropped slightly off Cam’s wheel but I had come to expect this. Cam is an U17 racer who won the 2016 National XCO series…in the U19 category. We came through the start/finish line to head out on our first lap.
The pace was certainly on, I pushed hard up the first single-track climb, overtaking as many people as I could trying to keep Cam in sight without letting my heart rate get too high. We then headed into a short descent, before starting the 10km section that just all blurred together. All I remember here is that I had a gel (amazing I know) drank some water (even more amazing) and was constantly using the lockout for my fork, the undulating trails were perfect for it.
This 10km section ended when we came out of the single-track and did a tight u turn onto a fire road. We then pushed the pace along there before getting back into the single-track. By this point Cam was out of sight and had been for a while. There were two other juniors on my wheel and I knew that we could work together to make sure that we kept our lead over the other 12 riders in our category.
We got stuck behind a few more riders until another fire road gave us a chance to overtake them. On this fire road two of us developed a bit of a gap to the other junior who was with us. Unfortunately the turn off of this fire road was tight and I missed it. The guy I was with managed to sneak in front of me and put in a bit of an attack. I managed to recover quickly but the pace had certainly lifted. The two of us held this pace for the remainder of the lap it was hard but actually a lot of fun to be flowing through the tight windy trails.
We came through the ‘Sorceress’ trail, it was a massive boost to the system. It’s amazing how much a big group of cheering people can do for motivation. We then rolled into the start/finish area. I pulled over to pickup a fresh bottle and 2 more gels whilst both of the other juniors who had been near me kept riding.
I was now in 4th place. Through the next 10 km’s my heart rate dropped a little bit. I’m not exactly sure what it was, but I just lost that tiny little bit of drive that was able to push that high pace. I continued to roll through the course and at the 10k point of the lap, I saw the kit of the junior rider in 3rd place. This was able to light a bit of a spark in me and I got going again and the heart rate started to rise.
As I got closer and closer to the rider, I became super pleased with myself for being able to pace myself back into the race. I finally caught up and my heart sunk, it wasn’t the rider I was chasing, it was a lady who was wearing the same kit as him. *Sigh* I had no idea how far ahead the other guys were now. But. I’d flown to Brisbane, I’d spend a few good hours driving for course practice, to get to the race and I wasn’t going to stop powering on. I put my head down and kept pushing.
I overtook a few more riders but none of them were the guys in my race. As I was coming in to the final climb, about 4km’s from the finish I spotted the guy who was in 3rd place. He was about a kilometre up the trail. I was only able to spot him because the tree’s thinned and I was able to get a greater view of the track ahead. I pushed on, realising that it would require a big effort to close that gap with only a few kilometres of racing to go. None the less I pushed on. Making it to the top of the climb and then having the time of my life down the Sorceress track. Just as I was coming out of the forest and into the start finish area I could see 3rd place crossing the line. After coming through the feed zone I crossed the line in 4th place, 20 second behind 3rd.
Whilst I was really close to a 3rd place and a podium I was absolutely stoked with my performance at the Bayview Blast. I’ve had a lot of help from a lot of different people to get me to this race and this fitness level.
For the next few weeks I’ll be having a much needed recovery week and then starting all over again to build a solid endurance base for National’s which start in January.