Pre-race. Travel to Launceston, Tassie. Shuttle bus up to Cradle Mountain Chateau. Kick back while Thunder builds the bikes and enjoy a hot chockie and a glass of red. It's cold outside and the odd shower passes by.... we manage to sneak in an easy 10k roll before dark.
Day 1: Race stage 1. It's cold - like sub 5 degrees. It's windy - almost like it is today in Gladstone. It starts to rain. 410 riders leave the start of stage 1 which goes along some quad bike / 4WD track. There's a bit of a creek crossing - shoes get wet, without a choice and it continues to rain. The track then turns into this bumpy lumpy rocky cross country paddock and now it's really raining. My legs did not talk to me at any stage during the hour 15 it took me to complete the course - like my toes, they were frozen.
Crossing the finish line of stage 1 here is Thunder. Standing in the rain, shivering like nothing I've seen before. This was the first and last time Thunder waited for me to do a cruise section. "Cruise" section is somewhat deceptive - if rolling along in the wind and the rain across Cradle Mountain for 20k is "Cruising" then I'm a Dirt Kitten's Uncle.
Lunch stop. I make all attempts to thaw out, get dry and convince myself to continue on for Race stage 2.
Race stage 2. A sneaky little bit of single track at the start, a fast flat section across an old mine site, a river crossing that was mid thigh deep - I thought the marshall was joking, but he wasn't! and then onto the power lines. Just like our power line section in the State Forest, we had about 6k of up down, up down, up down, mud, up down, mud and finally finish.
After the last cruise stage, we head back on the bus to Cradle Mountain. I had all good intentions of blogging each night - but I was just too exhausted. The Doc who was in our bus said that these sorts of events make you appreciate the small comfortable things in life. He was so right - a hot shower that night was absolute bliss.
Day 2: Race stage 3. From looking at the pre-race guide, I knew this stage was going to be difficult for me, as it had the highest technical rating (TD3). The race guide didn't exaggerate. 7k up one side of a mountain and then a 7k descent down the other side. Both up and down were 95% single track - slippery, roots, rocky, single track. There was a reasonable amount of pushing on this stage for me which resulted in the appearance of my first not-so friendly blisters. Even Thunder didn't enjoy the technical downhill descent and got passed by one of the girls riding in his field! Not a happy Thunder!
The race stage finished at Tullah on this random outdoor velodrome. I kidd you not, we popped out of the rainforest onto this velodrome in the middle of this town that's out the back of nowhere.
Race stage 4. The start was one for the roadies - a 6k climb up a road. Yay! After about another 5k of wet forest trail we were given the choice of crossing the suspension bridge or taking the bypass track - a first for 2014. Having made a bad decision and taking the bypass, I eventually rejoined the main track which was now a giant 10 - 15k muddy slip and slide. Imagine a 4WD track with random giant mud holes on each side of the track. Now imagine you're playing a game of "pot luck" - pot luck in the sense that some mud holes are rideable and you'll make it through ok and some mud holes aren't rideable and are gonna swallow you and your bike whole! This was actually a pretty fun section of track, but our M1 jersey's for that day are completely wasted and are now a feral brown colour despite two soakings in Napisan!