Trek Ambassador Race Report: Ben Marshall at the Kanangra Classic
The Kanangra classic is held in the Blue Mountains, around the many fire trails that exist within the national park. This year was the second year for the event, with Saturday consisting of an optional prologue mtb and a 50km ultra marathon run for those doing the duathalon over the weekend. On the Sunday was the main event, the 50km and 100km marathon mtb events.
Getting there Saturday afternoon, we set up our huge tent, one of the biggest in the event centre. Heading over to the main marque we grabbed some dinner and sat down under a heated mushroom (gas heaters), and prepared ourselves for the night time live band. We headed back to our tent at about 9 o’clock, with the band continuing on until 9.30 that night. This was one of the coolest pre-race entertainment set-ups that I have ever experienced, in the middle of a national park with an 80’s rock band playing in a marque!
6 o’clock next morning I woke and headed over to grab a coffee and some breakfast, ready for the 7.30 race start. The race started on the main fire road with both the 50km and the 100km field starting together. As the gun went off, the field was quickly strung out into single file, as I sat in about 3rd wheel. We began the long gradual climb up the fire road, still in single file, and continued this way for another couple of hundred metres. About a quarter of the way up, I moved up to the front and began putting some pressure on some of the riders behind, as I worked with a rider who was doing the 100km event. About 2km later we crested the climb and, with two other riders we had created a sizeable gap back to the chasing group. Both these riders were in the 100km event.
Following the climb we quickly turned off the main fire road onto the double track, where it flattened out before we began a descent down into the first creek crossing. With very little signage this proved to be a tricky descent, resulting in all three of us flying off the track into the bush at least once. Coming out of the creek was a steep pinch that surprised us all, as we were all in too big of a gear and had to hop off and run up the other side. One of the other riders (Paul) had a problem with his shifting and was left behind. I also had a problem, as I noticed that all too familiar hissing sound coming from my back tyre; yes another cut side wall. I continued on riding up the major climb of the day with the other 100km rider (Andrew), hoping that the tyre would seal up, but unfortunately it continued to go down ever so slowly. Nearing the top I had to stop and put a tube in as I watched Andrew ride away, the eventual winner of the 100km race, as well as the chasing group as they passed me on the side of the track.
With an inflated back tyre again, I began the chase back to the lead riders. Riding hard and nearing the 1 hour mark I shoved an energy gu down, hoping for some more energy. However my stomach didn’t agree with this and let me know accordingly, with some constant stomach cramps. However with the major climb of the day now over with, this meant a fast chase along some undulating double track. I managed to pass a number of riders along this section as we wound in and out of a number of creek crossings. Finishing this section of the race, we then continued along a well maintained fire road that was very flat. I had to work by myself along here chasing the lead riders before we hit another section of double track with some more creek crossings and some more climbing. As I came out of the first creek crossing I recognised some of the riders who had been part of the lead group. I caught them before the next crossing and knew that I must be getting close to the lead guys. Coming out of the double track back onto the fire road, it was all downhill to the finish, where there was a short grassy hill to climb. However unfortunately I was unable to catch the guys in front, as I crossed the finish line about 500m behind second place and roughly 7 mins behind the eventual winner of the 50km in a time of 2hrs 10mins.Finishing in 3rd place in that time wasn’t the best result, as I was hoping to do a sub 2hr time on this course. However I was feeling strong and fit until my disagreement with the energy gu, so the training is paying off. And a third place prize of a litre of German beer and jug, is definitely a plus.