I was looking forward to the Wombat 100 as a chance to test my form after having 7 weeks with no racing, and as round 1 of the Real Insurance XCM Series it was also a gauge of how the competition is going. Yesterday in Woodend, both of those questions were answered and were strong and very strong respectively. It was also a chance to debut my new kit which arrived late last week from 2XU. It looks really good and I love wearing it, thank you so much to everyone that help make it happen.
The race started off quite predictably with a big group riding together for the first 10km of fire road at which point we went in to the first section of the single track. I was holding good position in 2nd wheel behind AJ, but barely a few corners in, disaster struck.....puncture. I must have run over a sharp rock or some glass because I had a huge slash in my tyre. As I set about sleaving the tyre and installing a tube, it occurred to me that I was a bit rusty at having to fix flats in a race situation. I think 2009 was the last time this happened which certainly says something about how reliable Maxxis tyres are, so it’s not a bad thing to be out of practice I suppose. A few minutes later I started my chase to get back into the race. It was tempting to think about it as a 90km time trial and pace myself accordingly, but in order to stand any chance whatsoever of finishing high up I would have to rejoin the front group early enough to recover and be ready for the attacks that would inevitably come in the last third of the race. So I chased hard and gradually made my way through the field which was tricky because I flatted so early that virtually all of the race was between me and the leaders. I eventually caught my mate Peter Malcolm and knowing what had happened to me he did a huge turn on a 2km section of fire road. Thanks to Pete’s effort (which he subsequently paid for!) my heart rate, which had been red lining for over an hour, dropped by 15bpm for a few minutes giving me a bit of respite and allowing me to take a drink and compose myself a bit. However all good things must end and he soon swung off and I resumed the solo chase. I was getting time gaps from Theo (of cyclenation) at various points and the gap was slowly dropping but not as fast as I had hope. As I started passing more and more accomplished riders it became clear that the reason for this was that if pace at the front was fast enough to un-hitch these guys then it would be hard for me to catch up. I caught Ben Mather in some single track at about 40km and asked him what had happened up the front, he said that the lead group was down to AJ, Lewi and Cooper with AJ having caused most of the damage. Without any expectations I told Mather to hang on to me which he was able to do, and I stayed on the front through the feedzone at the halfway mark. We hit the next fireroad section then Mather came around me and said “I don’t know what I’ve got, but I’ll do what I can”. It turns out that despite having been dropped, he was starting to re-discover his legs and before long he had me under pressure! We work together and continued to swap the pace making duties until the 60km mark when we rejoined the front of the race. Pheww! Three leading trio all looked back to see who had caught up, they seem neither surprised or disappointed to see Ben and I. Lewi and AJ raised not so much as an eyebrow in acknowledgment, which is expected at this stage of a poker game. Dylan was the only one to say anything with simply: “nice one Blairy”. I sat in for the next 10km, trying desperately to recover as much as possible (and pretend to be fresh). The single track sections were fine, but on the climbs I was finding it harder and harder as the 50km chase was now taking its toll. Mather got dropped at about the 65km mark, then at 70km we hit a solid climb; one minute I was sitting fine & ticking over a high cadence, then all of a sudden, the lights went out. It isn’t pretty when this happens; it’s a pretty dark place, believe me. When I finally made it to the finish in 6th, I was greeted by the news that my good mate Lewi at got the win - a well deserved and much anticipated return to form, well done mate. AJ was 2nd and Cooper 3rd.
I’m not too disappointed with my race overall. In general I am very consistent, so one flat every 3 years is a tolerable rate in my opinion. The biggest positive is that I was able to rejoin the front of the race which is an indication that I am moving well and it gives me confidence leading into the subsequent rounds that I have the form to be up there at the pointy. Having missed out on a result will also relieve me of any pressure as the focus will be on Lewi, AJ and Dylan for next weekend’s race in Canberra. Who knows what would have happened if I didn’t flat? Who cares!....Capital Punishment (round #2) is a new race and I’ll be very motivated to make amends. Besides, if I had have won the Wombat I would have to wear the Real Insurance XCM series leaders jersey instead of my brand new kit. ;-)