The long race was to the north of the previous 2 days, characterised by very steep sided valleys and spurs and a complete mix of track ride-ability from flat out to a shoulder carry. After my middle epic of over 90 minutes I was prepared for a long one out in the hot sun – with my camel back full and even a couple of bars tucked away just in case.
We started down hill, the full sus bike was a great platform for map reading at speed but even then I could only take snatching glances, the track was really sketchy. I cut through the trees to #1 and rode well to #2 but missed the tiny turn off and had to cut through the woods after turning round. At #3 I was lucky that a stray dog took off after another rider, rather than me and at #5 I missed a single track and ended up running down a slope, digging my heels in. It was so steep if I had simply dropped the bike it would have ended up at the bottom. The climb up to #6 was awful, the map says 60 meters straight up but it felt like soo much more with the sun on my neck!
The big route choice legs that are the hallmark of the long course then began as we worked our way around the valleys before dropping down at high speed for a couple of kilometres losing 8 index contours (200 metres). Trouble was I knew from looking ahead I’d be coming back up it later!
After a couple of controls in grassland, in the valley, the climb back up was brutal. I was careful to keep well over to the right in case someone was rattling down but ended up off the bike a walking a couple of times and Peter Simmonds who started 6 mins after me came storming past as we crested the hill. We turned for home and the decent back to the finish. I opened up the suspension lockouts and managed to just catch Pete on the finish line but he had beaten me by 6 mins and I was down in 5th.
Surprisingly it was not too long in the end ( more of a middle long) and I was only out for 99 mins but the winner took 25 minutes out of me!