The Mt Gambier 100 mile is such an epic race it made me wonder why I hadn't raced it before. At about the 125km mark, I began to realise why. This is a cracking hard race. It's a handicap, so you are sitting at your limit trying to catch the group in front of you, and trying to stay away from the group behind. For the 155km race, we averaged over 38kph on a windy course. I am smashed.
This race didn't suit my strengths at all. It was flat and windy, and I suffered like a small dog with a Masters degree in suffering. Despite that, it has gone to the top of my must-do races for next year. Here is why:
- An awesome atmosphere: The whole town came to the party. The police shut down the main street; there were people dressed in costumes cheering along the side of the road; and the local paper gave the race so much attention you felt you were really part of something. At the end of the race, a bloke I'd never met before came up and told me that he'd won the race 70 years ago. How awesome is that?!
- A weekend of racing: Like Tour of Bright, this is an event where people travel from all over to have a hard, fun weekend. You can race both days and the organisers put on a dinner on Saturday night. (And unlike Tour of Bright, you don't need to enter 6 months in advance!)
- Excellent organisation: Everyone was friendly. The race starter had made an effort to know the riders and gave the crowds a running commentary at the start. No one yelled at me for pinning my race number 3cm to the left of centre (Victorian commissaires take note). The presentations took place quickly and with good cheer.
- Local hospitality: If it hadn't been for Robert's pre-course briefing, feeds at each of the feed zones, and post-race assistance, Chloe and I would have been dead women walking. We were really well looked after - particularly by Rob, but by everyone we talked to. It was really touching.
- Prize money: I don't like to give this as a reason to race, but the Mt Gambier Triathlon & Cycling Club had put an enormous effort into raising enough sponsorship to make the prize purse fricking HUGE. And they deliberately allocated significant prize money to women to encourage more chicks to enter.
- A thrilling finish: Scratch caught the front runners with 1km to go on a downhill finish, with SASI's Glen O'Shea taking out the win. Well done, handicapper!
Melissa McKinlay took out the women's race with a fantastic ride. My teammate Chloe McConville was fastest woman (look out Honda Tour!).
Chloe and I were sorry we had to head back to Melbourne on Saturday and miss the Kermesse racing on Sunday. Next year we want to make a weekend of it. I'd love to see more women racing next year. The race organisers have put a lot of effort into making sure that the women have a generous prize purse and get equal attention in race build-up and presentations. This is a huge demonstration of good faith - now it's up to us chicks to show that we're worth it.