The Terra Australis 2009
Well then before I get into the full Terra report I simply have to say what a fantastic week it was, from the start to the finish a magic experience was had by all the competitors.
The Terra started for me with a long drive down from Kangaroo Valley in NSW after what can only be described as a very hectic couple of weeks build up. What with work, my business, my wife Sally breaking her arm, buying a new house, hurting my back and trying to train a little the drive down actually signalled for me a week off!!!!!
I love stage races, I love the total emersion into the race and its ability to cut off from reality and leave the participant encapsulated in the experience. This is what I was after along with 7 hard days training for the upcoming 24 hour Nationals in Canberra. I was meeting Sam Bach at Wangaratta for the pick up and then we were to head off to the start at Falls Creek. The general chat on the way was dominated by Sam’s experiences fighting the terrible fires throughout VIC earlier in the month. This really put it all in perspective and gave us a grounding as to just how lucky and privileged we were to be heading off for a 7 day race on our trusty bikes.
We arrived at Falls and had the usual check in to our accommodation and sorting of gear, this lead to a quite night and the apprehension of the race to come.
Stage 1. Falls Creek – Mt Beauty 79km (actual 94km)
Morning came around very quickly and before we knew it we were lining up at the start with the rest of the Terra crew frothing to get started on what was due to be a 80km stage with 2500 meters of climbing. The gun went and we were off, lead at a ferocious pace by Troy Bailey and Joel Donney and followed by the Torq crew of D-Mac and Fetch and Sam and I. The pace quickly settled and the first of the weeks many climbs began.
After the initial 10km we were still together and setting ourselves up for the first descent, at this point the Torq team stoped by there team car and this left the BMC boys and Sam and I to haul off down the descent. Troy and I nearly hit the deck on a very loose section and came shoulder to shoulder jostling for line and position. By the bottom of the descent the Torq crew were nowhere to be scene and so I raised the tempo on the tarmac climb back up to Falls Creek. I held a constant 340 watts close to threshold and Sam and I began to pull away from the BMC team. By the top of the climb we had a couple of minutes lead and maintained the pressure to create a good gap. From that point on we saw no one else and kept a steady rhythm on all the climbs and flatter sections.
The descents were rugged and on virgin terrain and before long we were struck with the first of 4 punctures for Sam. By the 4th one we had run out of CO2 and so had to resort to the hand pump. Just as we was getting going we could hear a team flying down the rugged descent. This caused some concern so we put the hammer down and cranked off at a hectic pace. Five minutes later and we could hear no sounds from behind so we assumed we had again established a gap and settled back into our rhythm. We later learned that Torq had caught us only to puncture straight away.
After the second feed we knew there was only one climb left and then the descent into Mt Beauty, this however didn’t match with the distance on my Powertap and I was getting a little concerned as we were nearly on 80km at the base of the climb! This would throw out all my feeding strategies meaning I didn’t have enough High5 gels and energy drink. By the 7km mark on the climb the it all started to go pear shaped, the familiar and horrible hunger knock started and the power started to drop, after another 1km it was even worse and Sam was pulling gradually away and I was chewing on the bars. By 9km it was nearly all over rover and I could barely pedal the granny gear.
The head was spinning the guts were rolling. Sam was shouting encouragement and I could see the top of the climb so I soldiered on. As I got to Sam I started throwing up and projectile vomiting all over the bike. I am sure that Sam thought all I needed was a large can of harden up but the puke seemed to tell him the real story and he helped all he could. It was all down from there to the finish and we descended quickly through the MT Beauty single track, the flow was back and it felt great. We still had the lead and all was good in the world ;o) At close of play Team Total Rush had a 35 minute lead over the Torq Team and another 5 mins over the BMC Team. The 79km stage had actually been measured at 94km and it really was a super tough stage.
Stage 2 Falls Creek – Dinner Plain 92km (actual 103km)
Well after stage 1 Sam and I had a great lead and it was down to the other teams to attack us and for us to defend. It really set the tone for the week of racing and the constant pressure and speed of the stages. Very early on we found ourselves away with the Torq crew. They quickly attacked and we let them go, regaining contact after a lengthy road section on a rough and tech decent. On the next long granny ring climb the guys attacked again and we again let them go, inch by inch they pulled away and the knowledge that we had a 35 minute lead allowed for a little rope and not riding ourselves into the ground every day to stay in contact. At the end of the stage we had lost 6 minutes, but still had a big lead and were determined to continue to defend it.
Stages 3, 4, 5 Dinner Plain – Beechworth
The next 3 days were a blur, The torq guys attacked and we tried to go with them. On day 3 we managed to hold them to a 6 minute gap again. Stage 3 was fast at over 27km/h average speed, the final 20km’s were flattish and a mix of road and gravel and I was hitting 240 – 370 watts on the front driving at 40 – 45km/h on the MTB!!!!!
Day 4 was the queen stage and it started badly for us with a puncture on the first big downhill. We chased up Mt Buffalo road and passed the BMC duo near the top. By the first feed we had the Torq guys down to a minute as they left the first feed as we arrived. This was however the last we saw of the dynamic duo as they hammered a cracking pace coming in 20 minutes ahead and pulling margin down to 1.5 minutes.
Stage 5 was crunch time and we got up early and warmed up on the first section of the race. We were going to go out fighting that was for sure, I set a hard pace from the gun and held close to my functional threshold at around 350 watts. The torq guys matched us and halfway up the first big climb of the day Luke attacked and the gap opened. Sam and I responded but we slowly but surely dropped off the pace and they pulled away.
The 5th stage was a tough one. It had lots of ridgeline pinch climbs one after another sapped the legs and then on the fast downhill Sam had a major sidewall split. It happened when I was leading and by the time I realised I was at the bottom of the decent. I realised Sam wasn’t coming after a couple of minutes and began the slog back up the climb. After about a km I saw Sam running with the bike, we made good a repair and got going again. We had lost a lot of time however and we knew it was all over. We still smashed it all the way back to town coming in another 20 minutes down.
Stages 6 and 7 Beechworth – Wangaratta
The final stages of the race were a little more settled. Day 6 was more like a XC race and the group of the Torq and BMC crew stayed together with us for a final sprint finish. It was all fun and games with Sam leading out, but getting caught with a swift curb jump and inside line charge by Macca. The final day we had arranged for a neutral day and Champaign at the feed station. We all rode as a group into Wangaratta and had a ball chatting and talking about all our week on the Terra Australis.
Overall the Terra was a fantastic week of racing, it challenged, it thrilled amazed us all with the scenery and stunning vistas from the mountain tops. The organisation was first class and special mention should go out to the Finish Line Team of Iain and Clayton and there long suffering wives and team of helpers who were simple outstanding. I can definitely recommend the Terra Australis to those who want a real challenge, a life changing experience amongst likeminded people. It is a race for some it is a personal journey for others, it will whatever your motivation be in your soul forever.
See you all next year