You are hereBlogs / Antsonline's blog / Otway300 - What an event! (apologies for the long write up, it was a long race!)

Otway300 - What an event! (apologies for the long write up, it was a long race!)

Antsonline's picture

By Antsonline - Posted on 04 April 2016

How do you begin to talk about a stage race without things just getting boring? In normal single day race, a typical marathon, there are hundreds of little moments that all contribute towards the final outcome.
The Otway300 has had me scratching my head since finishing, and wondering “How can I possibly share what went down out there, so that people understand how good it was, and what tight racing we had”.

The numbers are a good way of starting.
It’s a 2 day race, with a total of 300km (give or take). Day one was 175km, and 4500vm of climbing. Day two – 125km and a lazy 3000vm. There were 66 pairs (teams) in the race. It all started and finished, both days, in the wonderful sleepy town of Forrest. It cost me 10,000 calories, and riding with the power meter means I have all sorts of nerdy data for those that care.

The race had clearly captured the imagination of many, and especially the 24hr crew – Jason English was there with his partner Shane Roberts, Ed McDonald was there with Callum MacNamara, Tobias Lestrell pairs with Scott Nichols – between this list of people, there was pretty much every Australian 24hr podium of the last few years covered, not to mention World Champs podiums too…(Tobias was just 3rd behind Jason and Cory Wallace in New Zealand at the 2016 World Champs). At the other end of the spectrum, Paul Van Der Ploeg – 5th at National XC Champs two weeks ago, was there paired with a good friend of his who had no ‘form guide’, but was clearly immensely strong.
It was great to see so many hitters there, as well as so many people just looking for a massive challenge. Fat bikers, single-speeders, old-un’s, young-un’s, male and female – it was very diverse.

I spend a lot of time on my road bike (living in Sydney it’s the only way to train during the week really), and had managed to convince a group of my road riding mates to come along and just have a crack. Obviously – given the distances involved, a lot of the riding was to be on fireroads, logging trails, doubletrack and forest trail, so they were all game to give it a crack knowing that their technical skills would be lower than the MTB riders, but hopefully their pedalling skills would make up for it.
My partner was a mate of mine called Dave Evans – a strong climber on the road, and someone turning his hand to more MTB riding. I wasn’t worried about his ability to ride the distance or the hills, but holding on to the front group on the ridiculously fast descents – that was a concern….

Day One arrived – and at 7am we were assembled outside the Forrest Brewery, in a light misty drizzle, chatting nervously about how we would all cope with the distance. A few of us agreed on keeping things ‘pleasant’ for the first few hours. A truce, so to speak. We knew that there was a 30km climb of about 1000vm coming at the 100km mark, no-one was looking to hit that with already baked legs!

We rolled out and, frankly, it started hard. The hills were that steep and unrelenting that you had not option but to ride them strongly. I saw a few (including one roadie mate) crashes in the early kms – dusty trails, and stiff bodies at 50kph on descents early in the race made for some great ‘foot out / tripod’ cornering. No-one was hurt, as the bushes collected cartwheeling bikes and people pretty well. Within the first 30km, the race had split into only groups of teams working together, but then everyone rejoined each other, and then split again. It was fun. At the 40km mark the big bunch (lets call it 15 teams) was all together and we hit a huge descent – it lasted pretty much 10km, and swooped down straight to Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road. Pretty incredible – the terrain was gravelly, the sun was coming out and you were in a congo line of riding swooping in and out of bermed, brake bumped corners – every exit point was met with an acceleration out of the saddle to hold the wheel in front. Great great fun.

As we hit some bitumen on the road, everyone is in excellent spirits, racing, but also chatting about ‘losing the front wheel on that corner’ or ‘did you see Bob nearly bin it into the Wallaby that jumped out at 60kph?’

Together, apart, together, apart – the bunch concertina’d, shared the wind, and the laughs – until the moment we all knew was coming – the 100km point, and the 30km climb. Literally as soon as it pitched up, the speed went up. It was clear this was the moment people had been waiting for. Paul VDP and his partner hit the front so hard that within 20seconds the bunch had been decimated. I was glued to the wheels, but looking down at my power meter was seeing efforts of 800watts, and then it stabilising at around 420watts. It was way too hard for Paul and Alee to sustain for the 90mins of climbing (I thought). My partner Dave had started to struggle. I didn’t realise but the attacks had split the bunch and Dave was with Jason English about 20m behind us. I was happy to sit up a bit, let Paul and Alee go, along with one other team (Tobias and Scott) and wait for Dave. He got back to my wheel and given I was feeling pretty fresh just said to him that I would ride an even tempo, and he had to just sit there and shout if it was getting too much. For the data nerds, I just sat at 370 watts for the climb. It was amazing, I found that at 390, Dave would lose the wheel, but at 370, he could suffer it. And suffer he did. He turned himself inside out. I was so impressed with how deep into the box he went. We all have bad days, and even moments on a bike – and his had come on the bike climb. We kept pushing. His Garmin had failed and he was without distance metrics. He tells me it nearly cracked him when I said “Well done mate – only 10km of climbing to go”…
As we crested, we saw two dots in the distance, It was one of the two teams ahead of us. It told Dave to suffer on, and sure enough, he did –we caught up to the riders in front – Paul and Alee. Sure enough, they had baked themselves on the climb and were now really suffering – 130km in to a 175km stage.
We rolled with them for another 20km, Dave recovering, and all of us eating and drinking as much as possible – every wary that Jason English and his mate, and Ed McDonald and Callum would be hot on our heels.
I let out a shout of rage when I checked my shoulder and saw that Jason had bridged back. I was so furious – all that work to break him, and we let it slip.
And then there were 6. One team leading by 3mins (Tobias and Scott) and then 3 teams together.

One big climb to go at the 150km point, followed by some rollers and a headwind. Dave knew what I was planning and the poor bloke just suffered on. We hit that climb so hard. Jason and his mate were the first to crack. Then Paul and Alee.
The gap was there, but we then needed to push hard for at least 10km – to finish them off. Essentially that is what happened. We pushed really hard, hit the Forrest single track, swooped through the berms and crossed the line with 2nd on the day. Literally delighted. A MASSIVE day on the bike. The leaders had 3mins or so on us, and rolling over in 3rd place was Jason about 90 secs behind us, Paul was another 2mins or so back….
I really urge you to take a look at the Strava file for the day. A more beautiful, scenic route to ride, you will not find…..

Day 1:

As you would expect, we went to bed pretty early after the first day. All of us nervous as hell about Day 2. Bigger, steeper climbs, but just a little bit less distance. Still 125km on an MTB, but it ‘seemed’ shorter…
The race rolled out and pretty much immediately hit a climb that steep enough (26%) for most people to be walking. It was a savage start to the day. The day was made up of 3 climbs. The first was 20km long, the second was 10km long and went from sea level to just over 660m and really loose under the wheels, followed by the third – 10km long, not as steep overall, but was a set of pinches followed by flats. At the top you were at 75km – so just a lazy 50km to go from there!
The lead group was nervous and stayed together for a long time. The pace was kept high enough that no one could attack, but also that it was only the lead 8 teams or so. It was really gentlemanly racing – neutralized at feed zones (mostly – these rules were broken once, and the perpetrators were seriously dressed down for attacking at the feed zone), sharing of the work on the flats, and even sharing food amongst teams.
As we hit the final climb, Paul mentioned to me that he was not happy with 4th overall, and wanted to leapfrog Jason to take 3rd on the podium. This meant dropping Jason and partner, and giving them a 3minute hiding.
You know what comes next – hurt.

Paul and Alee hit the climb so hard that again the race blew apart. Myself and Dave were latched on (ever conscious that Paul could easily jump over us to 2nd place), as were the leading team. So – three teams scrambled up the big climb and kept checking our shoulder to see how much trouble Jason was in. After 30mins of climbing (frankly – I was on the limit. So much pain just to hold on) and we had crested the top – Jason was nowhere in sight.
What followed was probably the most ridiculously fun, sketchy descent I have ever ridden. Loose sand and water bars everywhere. Paul absolutely belting it – to try and build more of a gap still. It was absurd. My max speed recorded was 70kph – off road, on a loose forest trail.
I was so worried that my teamie Dave wouldn’t be able to keep pace. He battled really hard, and nearly lost it on a nose-heavy landing from a water bar, but he kept on.
The hard work was done – we hit the final 40km – which was flat lands, and gravel roads and the six of us rolled turns and pulled more time out. Credit to Paul and Alee – they really belted along.
The final 5km was single track, and this was where we lost the leaders – putting a roadie into the Forrest singletrack and asking him to keep up with one of the best XC riders in the country – PVDP – well, its not fair.
3km to go and we are back on a rail-trail, and we drop the hammer. Paul is way out of sight. We had about 5mins in had at the start of the day over him on the GC, and we really wanted to hold on to 2nd place.
Head down, tail up. I had my hands on top of my fork crown – getting as low as possible (don’t try this at home kids) and just drove it home.
3rd on the day. Paul had taken 2mins from us, and the overall leaders crossed only 20secs in front of us.
We had done it. 2nd overall at the Otway300. A really incredible feeling.

Its been a long ‘blog’ so I wont go on much more, other than to say that this was an incredible event. A life experience.
Small things make all the difference – for example, the feed zones – every 20-25km, so you only ever needed to carry one bidon. The feed stations were the best I have ever seen – fruit, lollies, even sponsored by Bakers Delight – it was amazing. Course markings were first class, and the trails were beyond amazing. Don’t get me wrong, we all love pure Single-track for sure, but this was raw, original MTB – it was back to nature, racing on whatever surface was available – some smooth, some sandy, some dusty. It was real. No rakes or perfectly groomed berms here…

Finally – two massive ‘shout outs’ – the first to my team mate Dave, who trusted me with pace judgement, and who suffered like a black dog locked in a hot car on that climb on day one. He went to hell and back. Outstanding riding.
The second is to Pure Edge nutrition. Recovery between stages was absolutely essential. Obviously. Their protein and carb products – along with the expert guidance they gave – it had me feeling right as rain for day 2, and even as I type this now – I am not too buckled. Thanks Pure Edge. Please take a look at their stuff...

All that remains now is to recover in time for National Marathon Champs in Derby on Sunday! Sensations are good Eye-wink

GarethP's picture

Sounds like a blast! Nice work on the 2nd place

staffe's picture

Very inspirational read - this makes me want to do something proper. How many kilometres per week do you do to build the endurance required? Any references to training programs to build up to en event like this?

Finishing ahead of Jason English - that's unreal. Congrats on such massively impressive result.


hawkeye's picture

I enjoy reading your race reports ... even when the result isn't what you wanted. Always interesting and insightful, they give an unvarnished view that is uncommon.

Stoked you finally got the reult you deserved!

Warthog's picture

Ants really enjoyed the write up. Seems like this is one to put into the calendar for next year. Congrats on a great result - not bad for two old blokes.

Antsonline's picture

Thanks guys - glad you enjoyed the read. I write these as much as a personal diary entry as anything else - so @hawkeye, its usually straight honesty. There is never much point hiding too much behind excuses or issues.

@warthog - yep, two old blokes just getting it done. You would love this race bud. Find the right partner though, its a long time to feel either frustrated, or (conversely) under the pump.

Fatboy's picture

Love hearing your stories from the pointy end of the field and what a great result too. Well done mate.

Pete B's picture

Congratulations on the result, massive achievement.

Sounds like an epic race. Good that you managed to get a similarly strong team mate to work with. Nice write up too, as others have said, it's good to read about what needs to be done to get to the podium.

Best of luck in your upcoming races.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Best Mountain Bike