The event is immensely popular, as we discovered at registration when we tried to drop from the 60km event to the 45km (due to a combination of laziness and illness), only to be told the 45km distance was at full capacity. This worked out well in the end as the full distance proved to be a very enjoyable route.
The 7am start saw us arriving bleary-eyed at the venue with the bare minimum of time to get ready. I was devastated that we had not arrived earlier when I saw the incredible breakfast laid out in the breakfast zone, including fruit, nuts, mini quiches, muffins, and juice. There was just time to grab a juice and a muffin before we hustled off to the start chute. The start batches were self-seeded, which for the most part seemed to work well, except for those like us who were late getting to the start line.
The route took us through the Bottelary Hills trail network which features an array of tight switchback descents and weaving forest singletrack. Although the first climb was on jeeptrack, passing opportunities were not prolific. It took a while for us to get out of the crush, just in time for the first single track descent. The next 10 kilometres flew by as we hit the gas to try and maintain a clear run on the singletrack. The first water point went wonderfully smoothly- volunteers held out bars and bananas so it was easy to grab something and keep going. Shortly thereafter it started to rain.
The rain could have been very unpleasant, but somehow it wasn’t. The challenge of keeping the bike rubber side down on some very slippery switchbacks, and trying to see through a curtain of water made time and the kilometres fly by. This might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I had a great time. There was a healthy dose of singletrack, this kept the course varied and interesting (as did the build up of mud in our drivetrains). The floating bridge across the dam to the finish line was a great highlight. It is always nice to finish with something fun and different. Luckily the bridge was well built and I didn’t see anyone going for a swim.
Less fun was the congestion on large parts of the route as a result of the large number of entrants and the fact that the 45km and 60km distance frequently merged. Congestion goes with the territory for an event of this size, but it is always disappointing when you find yourself in a traffic jam on what would have been a fun, flowing trail.
Overall it was a fun, well-organised event, for a good cause, and well worth adding to the race calendar for next year.