Only 6 days after round 1 of the Real Insurance XCM series all the usual suspects were lining up again, this time in Canberra for Capital Punishment. It was another early start with the gun going off at 7am out at Kowen Forest. The pace was fairly subdued early on as we rolled through sections of Kowen familiar from the Mont 24hr, some of which we rode in the opposite direction which was nice for a change. With a relatively flat course ahead of use, no one seemed confident enough to drive the fire road so the front group kept reforming after splits were formed in the single track. After a loop in Sparrow Hill and then over to Central Kowen there were still probably about 15 in the leading bunch, quite a lot for a marathon. When we hit the CORC club course at Sutton road and the racing finally started with Lewi and myself using some local knowledge to slip of the front and try to put everyone under pressure. Upon leaving the single track the group was definitely smaller, but the main players were still intact: Cooper, AJ, English, Fleming, Hatto, Lewi. Hatto was next to test his legs when he attacked going through the defence land. He held a small gap for quite while until Cooper hit the front in Majura and the pace was on again. Following Dylan around Majura is heaps of fun and Hatto was soon caught. We whizzed through the feedzone at Majura Winery but no one took a bottle; we were more concerned about the sprint to the KOM and start of the untimed section which in a race like this is just as important as the sprint to the finish line. About 2km before the KOM I made a mistake in a corner and managed to pretzel my front wheel. Luckily Cooper and Lewi didn't notice that I was momentarily missing or they would have made me pay dearly for it. Instead I was able to bridge back to the group despite my front wheel rubbing on the fork. Unfortunately the effort to close to gap took a bit out of me momentarily and I was only 5th at the top of the climb behind Lewi, AJ, Hatto and Cooper. In the transition the Rockstar boys went to Dylan's and AJ and I went to mine, perfect timing for an unscheduled wheel change!
As we approached the end of the roll across town to Black Mountain, the Rockstar crew converged onto our path from a side street and we all arrived at timing together. We left transition in roughly the same order that we finished at Majura and I held back a little bit to try and nullify any losses incurred on the KOM but was nervous not to wait too long as the guys could attack me. We regrouped and the pace across black mountain and past the Arboretum was really easy. With a climb to the top of Stromlo at the end, no one wanted to waste any energy on the flat fire roads. When Matt Fleming (who had left transition before us) waited for his Rockstar team mates and came back to our group, he went to the front and started working for Lewi and Cooper which lifted the pace considerably as we approached Mt Stromlo. Knowing that the final 10km to the top of Stromlo and back down was virtually all singletrack and passing would be limited, we all sprinted to get into the trail first. I managed to get in front and tried to hold a solid pace up the climb and whenever the trail got slightly wider and an overtake was at all possible, I gassed it to stay in front. I was gambling on being able to drop the others on the descent, which seemed more possible due to the thick traffic we were encountering from the 50km riders that we were passing. I took some risks on the downhill and gave it everything as I knew, not being a strong sprinter, that I only had one roll of the dice. I was able to unhitch everyone except for Lewi and Cooper, and as we entered the crit track on the front for the final 300m I knew the numbers were against me. With little choice I reluctantly opened up the sprint quite early, and right on queue both the Rockstar boys came around me with Lewi taking his 2nd win in two weeks.
I am pretty happy to have got on the podium after the disappointment of a week prior, and I am proud that I rode a smart race and had the confidence to take control in the last 10km.....it just didn’t quite work out on the day. This weekend is round #3 with the Convict 100 at St Albans. Due to the hillier course I think we will see the race split up a lot more than the first two rounds and I will be surprised if we don’t see a new winner (sorry Lewi).
Thanks to all my sponsors for the support!