Jetblack Marathon NSW Road Championships (12hr)

Relay style team events, typically endurance based, have been quite popular in the mountain bike scene for quite some time. But pure road racing events in this format isn’t what you’d call common. JetBlack, a brand known for its MTB roots, came together with the Southern Highlands Cycle Club to put on the 3rd installment of the Marathon NSW Road Championships.

The course was a 5.5km loop around the Regatta Centre at Penrith. It was a mix of road and bike track. Of course there’s a Strava segment!

From what we were told the race should typically pan out in the following fashion:

  • A large bunch will roll around the course at speeds of 35kph+
  • Transitioning between riders is key. If your team has a sloppy transition you’ll be so far off the back of the bunch it might be hard to get back on. This happens and kiss goodbye any chance of a decent result.
  • There is only 1 timing chip, so its best to get a ‘runner’ to unclip the chip from the rider coming in, sprint 50m down to the rider going out, clip it in, and push them onto the course, hopefully not too far from the back of the bunch.

It turned out to be sound advice. The race started with 2 laps of neutral, but it wasn’t long until the bunch was up to speed. Everything continued fairly uneventfully for a while. Sprinting off the front of the bunch half a kilometer before the transition seemed to work well for transitioning, but it also meant that the bunch thought you might be attacking off the front, often causing a bit of a reaction from those on the front!

Being Western Sydney, without much in the way of a coastal breeze, it was HOT. Even for late October, the mercury soared – 30 degrees and over. This made our campsite amongst the shady trees, not far from the waters edge invaluable.

As the race progressed there were a few attacks off the front of the main bunch, some of which our group chased down, but none of them really stuck. It wasn’t until later that afternoon, when two riders from the LAPD club tried their luck off the front that things really got interesting. Initially there was no reaction from the bunch – once they got about a half a kilometer gap though, it was time to make a move. An all out effort to chase them down payed off, and it wasn’t long until we had a rider in the breakaway with the 2 LAPD guys. That group was also joined by 2 of the Newcastle boys not wanting to let us get too far away.

After a strong stint on the front the LAPD guys had dropped but the Newcastle guys looked to be hanging in there for the long haul, there was still almost 3 hours of racing remaining until the 9pm finish. As expected the Newcastle riders were not keen to make this break away succeed; “We’ve got other team mates in your category back in the bunch… sorry but we aren’t going to help you here”. That was that, if this break was going to succeed it was time to dig deep and really give it a serious go. Knowing that you’ve only got 45 minutes or so to go, until you pass the baton over to your team mates, and are done for the day, really allows you to give it everything towards the end of the stint – and that’s exactly what we all did.

Eamonn leading out 2 Newcastle riders (red and blue kit) through the transition area. A flurry of instructions were being yelled by their trackside team mates

Light was fading quickly, and with lapped riders out on the course it probably made it harder for the bunch to tell how far in front we were. You couldn’t really make out jerseys from either side of the loop at night, just the front and rear lights of the bike. Aside from a few lights scattered down the course, you were essentially riding in the dark.

With a bit over an hour to go we had a gap on the bunch of about 2 minutes and 30 seconds. That gap was slowly being eaten into, but it wasn’t worrying, yet. With our final transition, now with only 40 minutes to go the gap was down to about 2 minutes and the main bunch was picking up speed and were starting to look serious. By this point we were standing trackside yelling out the time gaps to our anchor man, big Chris. With a handful of laps to go the gap was still being eaten into, now under 2 minutes. We knew there was a chance that on the final lap we’d go past the line just before the 12 hour mark, and the bunch, if we got lucky, would not make it past the line by the cut off. This meant we’d go out for another lap, and the bunch would be finished – once the 12 hour mark is hit (9pm) as soon as you cross over the line your race is finished.

As luck would have it, it worked out perfectly. The motivation of the win, and knowing there was only a couple of laps to go, the big fella increased the gap back out to over 2 minutes, and we go that extra lap in!

Hard work done! They used the Regatta podium, big enough to fit 8 for rowing podiums! (David, Luke, Eamonn & Chris)

The goal was always to be competitive, we we aiming for the podium in our category, but I dont think of any of us would have expected to win the overall, certainly not by riding away from the bunch and finishing a lap up! A short recap and offical results are available on the Cycling NSW site.

Getting an overall winners jersey was a very nice surprise, so was the beer! Cheers Jetblack and cheers SHCC!

Keep an eye out for some big posts on our return to the Victorian Alps. We’re all heading down for a few days around Bright in a week, pumped!

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