Photographs on this page by: MARK WATSON
It’s day four. I’m suffering up the fire road near the 60km mark of the longest stage of the event. I finally see my mate Pete, marshalling at the gate. “Hey Pete! What’s your Hendo line?” I yell.
As I’d prepped my bike the night before Pete had given me a heads up that he’d be marshalling at this point and said he’d tell me the magic line that had helped Canberra rider Ben Henderson reach a second place finish at the Australian XC National Champs five weeks earlier. I’d marked Pete’s location on the little altitude map I’d stuck to my top tube and used it as motivation on some of the flatter, headwindy sections of the course so far. I was having trouble today. I’d gone too hard too early in the event and found that I was counting k’s instead of taking in the amazing views. He’d promised his line would be a good one and I’d wanted to be high enough in the pack to be deserving of it.
He hits me on the back of my knicks and says matter-of-factly, “You’ve done the training.” He’s right, they are magic words. I feel a surge of confidence that brings goosebumps to my previously tired body. “Yeh!” I think. “I HAVE done the training. I CAN do this.” This surge lasts at least 50 metres before my rational mind kicks in and tells me that actually, I haven’t done the training. I’ve never done anything like this before. Luckily the scenery, atmosphere, camaraderie and sheer curiosity make every other pedal stroke continue to build on the mountain biking buzz as I experience the shared journey of riding along a route that most local people wouldn’t see, let alone the tourists.
My little map reveals there are a few more sharp climbs to go before the next point I’ve been aiming for: a long, rocky descent that drops 700m over about 10km. I had high hopes of passing some of the riders who’d passed me on the climbs here. The adrenalin from trying certainly didn’t disappoint…
The inaugural BMC Mountains to Beach race was run in Australia from March 1-6 2009 and traced a route of tough climbs, scenic fire roads, a net downhill gradient and super sweet singletrack. It began 5 kilometres from the peak of Mt Kosciuszko (the highest point in Australia) and finished almost 400km later in the NSW coastal town of Narooma. The route was mostly off-road and sampled some great purpose built trails at a few of the properties we passed through on the way.