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The Final Fling

Lach's picture

By Lach - Posted on 13 November 2017

NB: Originally posted elsewhere on the Global Riders Network and appears via syndication.
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A fun but sad weekend in Bundanoon for the 13th and final edition of the Highland Fling. Did the full camp out in the paddock thing. Registered and got my string to tie on the number and a couple of free CO2 cartridges (small). Ate food to support the local primary school. Woke early, so I was already in the dunny queue when the piper hit the paddock. Queued for coffee with my own cup in compliance with the Fling's waste minimisation approach. Breakfasted, prepped the bike, watched the Full Flingers take off and then kitted up and headed out for a short warm up before the Half Fling.

Wasn't too sure what to expect this year with all the talk of track tweaks. (The Full Flingers did the Wingello section in reverse, which would have been interesting. I saw Andy Blair interviewed after he finished 2nd and he didn't seem all that impressed). Started off towards the back of the first wave in the Half and felt pretty good, so I pressed on reasonably hard and was even overtaking a few on hills. However those hills kept on coming and it felt a bit like the course ran over most of the hills in the largely cleared pine forests in the first section, rather than skirting around some of them as in previous years. There was the obligatory Free Bike Wash early on, followed by the original (deeper) Early Bath, before Boags Draft and up into Wingello. I actually managed to do some drafting in Boags Draft, catching up to a few riders and sitting on while a few more joined from behind. It all broke up on the little climb up towards the road.

Zoomed through transition. I had toyed with just going with bottles, but the Niner only holds one and I thought I'd need a bit more fluid in the second stage, even though the temps were only high teens. So went with about a litre and a half in the Camelbak and a bottle of Hammer Fizz. No need to stop and I still had about half a litre of water at the finish.

After transition, instead of the usual few kms of dirt road big ring grinding, the course dipped straight back into the bush and a mix of farm tracks, mown sniggle and the odd bit of dirt road. A lot different to "usual", with some more new creek crossings thrown in as well. I only recognised a few bits before we hit Boundary Rider and Roller Coaster, with the usual (for me) unrideable pinches in the latter. Made it up Brokeback Mountain without using my lowest gear, a significant improvement from walking it the first time it was included.

Went up Your Call the long way, maxing my heart rate out for the last 150 metres thinking I knew how to manage the rest of the course. However, for one last tweak, we turned off the road ahead of the usual spot and had some more ups and downs (including topping out on a grassy hill that seemed to have 360 degree views) before the run down to the underpass of the road bridge and the run up to the finish.

Despite getting a cramp twinge trying to put my knicks on in my little camping tent that morning, the legs held up well and the back was fine as well. Still felt pretty spent at the end, and later analysis of HRM data showed I'd averaged 150bpm on a max of 165bpm and racked up an Epic suffer score on Strava. I'd done my fastest time ever, and while the course was pretty standard distance at 56kms, who knows whether it was easier or harder than previous editions? Felt harder to me, so I'm going with that so I'm happy with the time.

When I initially saw the start list, I said I'd be aiming for a top 10 in the Grand Masters field of 33, so very happy with 6th and only 12 mins off the podium. Finished in the top 3rd of the overall field, which is also pretty good for me.

Also managed 2nd in the fund raising stakes for Save the Children Australia, so a good result all round. I see Wild Horizons have said the event looks to have generated about $60K all up for that great cause.

Not sure what I'm going to do for racing from here as my favourite XCM format seems to be a threatened species. The Convict looks like the only one of substance within coo-ee of Sydney in 2018. Might have to travel to Vic or Qld, or try a few more stage races or some mtb tourism.....

all74's picture

Nice blog and nice ride Lach, it felt easier than last year to me but that might be because I was 15 min slower (about 1/2 hour slower than you!) and left too much out on the track. I rode a lot of things I never had before, like your call short, and that long drag up to the water tanks which I had always walked the last 4 times. Maybe I was more motivated knowing it was my last chance.

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