The Mt Isobel Challenge is a race that I have done for the last 4 years. It has such a great local atmosphere, not to mention some very nice thermal pools. This year I decided to focus only on the run section by doing it in a team with local junior mountain biker Ben Friel. With some fast competitors entered (Nick Hann, Flavio Vianna and Cameron Jones) I knew I would have my work cut out to achieve my top 5 goal.
With reports of snow on the top of the mountain there was compulsory gear to carry and a shortened run route to contend with. Come race morning the temperature was near freezing and tension was in the air.
The pace from the start was settled with a front pack of 6 forming up the gravel road including Nick, Flavio, Cameron and me. Running off the road and into the trail it seemed I was in a good position to achieve my goal. But as soon as we transitioned into the forest Nick and Flavio shot up the trail, with Cameron not far behind. Because I didn’t want to lose to a 15 year old I tucked in behind and spent some time getting acquainted with the pain cave. That was, until he bent over double beside the track and said “Stitch” as I ran past. From there I set my own pace up the hill with only the glimpse of someone else behind me every now and again. And then we hit the final climb, 200m of vertical over 500m, an average gradient of 40%!!! From the bottom I could see the top 4 places ahead of me all strung apart up the trail. So it was hands on knees all the way to the top, pushing as hard as I could to make sure I didn’t get caught. I managed to gain 1 place up the climb and went over the timing mat in 4th, ready to gas it down the rocky ridge line into the transition.
From the top it was straight down the hill on the other side. I absolutely flew down there trusting my 190’s to grip the slope. With Cameron only about 20 seconds back as we went over the top I knew I had to keep pushing until the finish. It was about halfway down that I caught a glimpse of Flavio up ahead and realised that catching him might be possible. With that goal in mind I stepped it up a gear and reeled him in. He was descending gingerly down one of the many rocky sections with another guy when I went past, once again trusting my 190’s to carry me through unscathed. I went into the transition just as Nick was leaving, but all I had to do was tag Ben. No transition required.
I had the fastest descent time, 30 seconds faster than Cameron, 1:10 faster than Nick and a whole 2 minutes faster than Flavio. Overall I was just over a minute down on Nick on the run which I am pretty happy with, considering the 5 year age gap.
Ben managed to hold the lead all the way to the final climb where Cameron snuck past him on his full carbon hardtail, (Ben was on his full-suspension bike) and managed to stay 4 seconds in front at the line. We still came first team and picked up an Inov-8 race elite running pack, a pair of debris gaiters, and a free entry for next years event each. Looking forward to racing Mt Isobel again , might even be chasing after Nick Boss Hann next time?