No more numbers, no more elevation gains and losses, no more explanations of the route and how hard it was. You all get that. This was hard. I'm a stubborn SOB and at times I wanted to cry and curl up into a ball and rock. You all get that.
So what is it that made these two stages awesome and totally worth the pain? Single track. Beechworth's flowing, rocky, twisty goodness. It ended the stage on day 6 and started day 7. There is a fantastic mix of tight and twisty trail with real rock drops and roll overs and then the open, fast ribbons that weave through the trees and allow you to go so fast that it all becomes a blur and drops you into that special world where only the bike and you matter. This place should be visited by all mountain bikers once in their life.
I personally think that there is magical properties that exude from single track offering increased strength and concentration much like spinach does for Popeye or the elixir does for Asterix. Once your wheels hit it then all the encumberances of fatigue drop away to let the dogs off the chain to go chase that fun, no matter what. After feeling like death warmed up for the start of day 6 and continuing to feel that way most of the way around the course we were dropped into the first taste of Beechworth single track and it was like someone had just mainlined a double espresso into my veins and booted me in the arse with a size ten. Zip, gone, see ya later! We passed some of the riders who had been killing us on the long gravel roads like the were standing still. Stomp, stomp , stomp. All the way to the finish line.
Day 7, well it started with some new single track. I got a flat only about 20 minutes into the ride and watched as all the other teams went past me. I just calmly fixed it with the knowledge that te further ahead they got, the clearer the trails would be for me. I had been held up quite a bit on the early sections so was intent on enjoying this experience even if I had to wait an hour for the course to clear. Spencer had gone off the front when I got caught up but he called me and was happy to wait too. That clear single track was a real lure for us both.
Once I caught up to Spencer the trails didn't stay clear for long. We were bombing it! It really showed me how much time we could have made up if there was more technical single track on the other days. We ride it all the time and it showed as the pair of us carved a path through the other teams back to around the 2 thirds mark of the pack. Yep, we really could ride our bikes in this single track stuff. Real mountain biking. We talked and joked about it all the way to the finish line.
There is nothing much left to say about the race. The final two days were a fitting end to the race and the elation at crossing the line on Saturday is indescribable. There was a lot of congratulations and pats on the back, lots of cheering as teams crossed the line and a general feeling of comaraderie amongst the racers and support crew alike.
My final feeling as I crossed the line? Pride. Pride in Spencer for getting up after being knocked down and finishing every other stage. Pride in how we had carried ourselves as a team and as competitors. Pride in myself for taking that first step over a cup of coffee months ago, saying I would train and be ready for the start line, and most importantly pride in finishing.
Thanks again to Russ Baker for the kind use of the image. Onya Russ!