Race Report by Club Member Geoff Lawyer
The Forrest Festival now in it’s 4th year of running is a 5 Stage Mountain Bike Race held over 2 days, it has quickly become the must do MTB stage race within Australia. Forrest is located in the beautiful Otway Forrest sandwiched between Colac and Apollo Bay in Victoria.
Our club traditionally has a good turn out at most Victorian based Mountain Bike Events, as a result sit back and have a read of this most recent event.
I had set a meet time of 1.45pm at my house with Lyle and Mal turning up on time. With help loading up the Jayco Swan Outback and a bit or organising we were on our way departing approx. 2.15pm.
We had a good run to Forrest with just a hint that traffic might not be kind to us around the Hoppers Crossing area, however we managed to avoid the rush hour on the west side of town. We made the usual pit stop at the Geelong Bypass Servo and caught up with Callum and introduced ourselves to “Fresh Beans in a cup with a heap of Salt” new healthy cafe, grabbed a coffee and we were on our way again.
We got to Forrest approx. 5pm and once checked in at the Wonky Donkey Pub to register our spot at the local caravan park we made a mad dash to the same Caravan spot as last year with 5 minutes to spare before three other Camper Trailers arrived, prime spot secured again for the second year running with an added bonus of “running water” now installed to the powered site.
The set up was super quick compared to last year as I am more experienced and all hands on deck made light work of it, Callum put up his new $50 Katmandu tent in minutes and proceeded to pull out a Double Mattress out of his transit van, nice way to camp! Marcus turned up approx. 20 minutes later and that was us all done.
In between all of this and saying hello to at least half of the camp site and making new friends. Mal had introduced himself to the next door neighbour who had 2 young boys under 4 and for the rest of the weekend I was known to one of them as Hudson2….nice and Mal had already started the Coles Advert theme just to get it in everyones head……taadaaa.
We got changed, onto our bikes and headed up to register at the event centre and collect our Forrest Tees and our number plates which had electronic chips for the first year, we brought them back to the camp and then headed off to do a reccy of the trail. We did a quick incorrect 4km loop of what we thought was the right trail, once back to the start, we did it again this time taking in Bald Hill and the likes all at an apparently “leisurely pace”. Lyle ducked off midway through the ride to prepare dinner. We finished off the loop and reviewed the A-Lines and redid them again, which certainly paid off for on Saturday morning. We ended up doing approx. 15kms and the legs knew they had had a decent spin, with Mal being the only one to have a stack at a rooty tree that I too stacked at in the Otway Ody.
Back at Camp Forrest, Lyle had cooked up a Pasta Chicken storm and there was plenty of food for all 5 of us (even seconds), with a beer in hand it made for a nice night chatting away till bed time, albeit a tad cold, I went to bed with a beany on and woke up at 1.30am with one of the boys trying to open the door to go to the toilet, (camping rules are rules) 1 in all in was the rule.
Saturday: Stage 1.
I woke up nice and early as you do when camping, breakfast & coffee was done by 7.30am, time to get the pre-race nerves out of the way and then head up to the “Forrest” 9am start time. It was a staged start with Marcus (34) heading off in the 30-40 category, then the rest of us in the 40+ category (at least for another 3 years till I turn 50).
I started with just a bidon rather than the Camelbak and decided to stay close to the front to start off with and hit the first bit hard, remembering last years conga lines. Lyle, Mal & Callum stayed back a little. With the stage underway Tavo was ahead and I caught him up the first climb only for him to take me over again around the start of the single track. I was planning on working on my technique the whole way around and trying to be as smooth as possible, it worked, although I would be curious to see my heart rate once into the first section of single track as it was tough as at race pace, the new bike was performing well and I was taking over people and had a good run. I smashed past 3 people on the first A-line and 2 on the second and another 3 on the next….awesome so glad we did that reccy, Forrest is so so different in the wet compared to the dry and that makes such a difference on taking the harder A-lines. The race took a twist when we came out of the Southern section having only done 10km which I thought was the end, so another 5kms was to be had and up we went towards Red Carpet, ouch I forgot about this section, still feeling good although the legs knew they had done some work yesterday, I pushed on and caught sight of Tavo with 2kms to go, which was at the bottom half of the Red Carpet decent and that was the last I saw of him. I did not see the boys until the end, we were all very close and finished within 3 minutes of each other, big shout out to Callum hitting it up big time on the AM Trigger bike of his.
At the finish line we were given our sticker and start times for the next two stages.
Back to camp for coffee, refueling and start the chat about the pain, the conga lines, the A-Lines and really how well we had all done, I had beaten my time from last year by 3 minutes.
Tav and Marcus had an equal best time amongst us.
The sun was getting quite hot and there was little to no wind at all now and we put the awning up which was a very good move, thanks Mal for the suggestion which saved some burnt skin.
Saturday: Stage 2 & 3
It was a 3 hour wait for Stage 2 ITT Hill Climb to commence, I gave everyone a run down of the profile from memory, oh how this proved to be so so wrong. I was first cab off the rank and the pain in my legs just along the flat start was tough and then “that” short pinch climb….ouch ouch ouch, I lost traction and walked the next 15 metres…Crap that was going to affect my time, once I got over that hump I felt good and worked hard in the right places to put in a good effort. The feeling at the top of knowing that pain is over was a good one, I managed to pass 2 people and was passed by 1, so all good there and then proceeded to stuff my face with water melon and then watch Lyle and Callum come through the timed gate before I headed off to Stage 3. I beat my time from last year and on a new bike by 7 seconds (hey it’s a PB).
The turnaround to the start of the Stage 3 ITT Downhill was approx. 15 minutes and I was ready for this having been to Forrest early November to specifically do Red Carpet, I said to the guy behind me to give me a big shout to let me know when he was going to pass me, as he flew past me uphill, I guessed it was the same as down hill. Off I went and I had a really good run, with the guy behind passing me with in a couple of minutes, I had also forgotten there was a fire road climb in the middle of it….ouch I didn’t remember that and then 400 metres from the end a dill tried to get past me in no obvious passing place at the base, I pulled over (stopped) to let the dill go through with some shouting happening between us, “hey you, are you a Podium finisher” I got to the bottom and felt like I had a good run which was good, I was really happy with the decent and beat my time by close to 2 minutes from last year, yes another PB.
Lyle, Tav and Geoff took the honours Uphill
Mal, Marcus and Callum downhill – The smile on Mals face was priceless….
Saturday: Stage 4
The wait to the start of Stage 4 Head 2 Head Race was a long one with me being the first to head off at 6.30pm, time for some home cooked scrambled eggs on toast, a lot more chatting and some Totem Tennis with Hudson & Cooper (kids from next door) along with chatting to anyone that would listen and share the joy/pain. I as others had a shower to freshen up and put on some clean kit.
We all left at the same time to head up to the Yaughter Trailhead and watched/chatted whilst waiting for our start time, everyone was foxing each other at the start line or at least the stories were back at camp.
We race our nearest competitor in a head to head race at the same time on the same track, they let us all off in pairs every 30 seconds, My race mate trying to fox me said “yeah legs are a bit sore, so not really going to have a crack” yeah right, bang as soon as we were sent off it was on, I held his wheel for half the way around and then managed to stack into a grass tree, I had to get off the bike to straighten my seat, no major damage other than losing a minute, finished up still beating my time from last year by 30 seconds, yup another PB.
We all cruised back with the exception of Marcus who was almost last to leave at 7.25pm.
All had good stories to tell at the end and at the end of the Day Tavo was in front by a couple of minutes and Lyle was 6 seconds behind me.
Back at Camp Forrest, a quick shower again and smashed down a Fat Yak, there after Mal was cooking up a twice cooked Spag Bowl, just enough for the 5 of us which went down a treat followed by a Mountain Goat Pale Ale, a nice warm evening sitting outside chatting and so so relaxed now. We headed off to the Forrest Brewery for the presentation evening which we made with 2 minutes to spare. Norm Douglas (Event Director) who does not drink had a pint by his side and got proceedings under way and said he had a special presentation to myself, what the…? No idea what it was for only to find out I was the first one to enter the Forrest Festival and the beer was a thank you and a request to all participants to purchase your ticket early to assist the organisers. I stayed up on stage to assist with the presentations and then had another pint with chips, Tavo and his mate Duncs turned up and a bit of banter went on about Sunday, after Tav was told he was 3rd at the end of the day in B Category (we were all in B). After the second pint, we all headed back to camp and off to bed with one of the boys again waking us up at 3am trying to open the camper door again, 1 in all in.
Sunday: Stage 5
I woke up around 7am and slowly started to get ready for the day ahead, there was no real urgency as the kick off for the 50km was not till 10am, there was lots of bike activity around, Tavs mate Duncs had said that Tav was a good boy last night (not much beer) and was nervous about us all getting into him as he felt under cooked.
A good decision was made last night to pack up the camper trailer in the morning, having learnt the hard way last year, exhausted and the heat getting to us all at the end of a hard day. The pack up was effortless in the end with many hands assisting in the right areas, job almost done.
The start was a mass start, I am not too sure if I am a fan of this as it is generally bedlam, I went for a quick lap and tried to warm the legs up prior to the race, they felt good and I went to find the others but could not see them in the start line so I went somewhere just behind the elite and A-grade riders with Marcus to the right of me.
Once the siren went and we were off, it was a dust cloud, I decided to hang back a tad and take it easy, within the first couple of Kms there was a person in barbed wire, a flat with no one around to assist, I continued on and had the best first hour to a race ever, I mean ever….shit I am on track for a sub 3hr here…I was motoring along, taking people over at will on the single track, at the same time there were plenty of people taking me over too, feeling really good at the 21km point I had a stack letting a lady go through whilst running out of track in the process of doing this, rather than crashing into her I went the other way and had a minor stack, bang my rhythm was knocked, I was back on the bike in no time, at the 25km mark there was a water stop but where the heck was the Water Melon from last year? I went straight past the water stop as I got behind a small female train that was motoring only to be unsettled again around the 27km mark when one of them stalled on the YoYo track trying to get over an uphill log and bang again I went down and the flow was knocked from my system. I am not too sure if my decision making was very good at this point as I crashed a further 2 more times upto and including the 29km point…I was craving a fire road to quit! I was done…seriously done, cooked in the inferno that is YoYo and J2 the heat was unbearable at times (my garmin showed that it was 34d), I stopped and pressed the reset button, rehydrated, ate food, had a gel and took time out and was pleased to see lots of people offer support and assistance in “jump on and follow my wheel” stuff, it was at this point that I said from here on in it is going to be a social ride for me just to get home……at this point Lyle went past me and looked fresh as…I could not care less I hated the world and competitions and was never doing this again, 3peaks can go and stuff itself, you know the mind games.
Freshened up after my rest stop, off I went again and the legs slowly started to come good again, although my spirits were dampened a couple of times knowing how slow I was going, once Yaughter Super Loop was done I was pleased to see a “fire road” did I just say that pleased to see a fire road, well the legs felt at home here and I pushed on and picked off a few people knowing the rail trail was not far away and with that home…..I finished off hurting and was pleasantly surprised to find out that my time was only 7 minutes down on last year. Marcus put a cold can of Coke into my hand as I lay on my back stuffed….hold on where is Lyle? Two minutes later Lyle comes to the camp only to tell us that he took a fire road a tad too far and had lost 12 mintues as a result. The race result will show that I took line honours but the heart knows that Lyle won the day, he smashed two cans of coke having run out of water with 10km to go. We swapped stories on YoYo, Mariners and where the other boys were etc, some time later Callum came in followed by Mal, I never saw Tavo but on the web it has him down as finishing, so that is a good result as I understand he was in a world of pain. Mal was a DNF, slightly undercooked as were many out there today and there were quite a few DNFs as a result of the brutal weather/conditions.
Marcus picked up line honours with a good time of 3.09 bastard, that should have been my time…well there is always next year.
There were plenty of stacking stories, stories of women crying on the course, bushmans mechanics, bonking and the likes, but overall if you are on form, it is an awesome challenging course, there is nothing like hurting and being in a world of pain, but to do it with your mates, well there is something in that.
After the cokes, there was food to be had, showers and then to pack up the last bits of the camper trailer, Mal went with Callum, I gave my bike to Marcus to take home and Lyle and I went back to Mt Martha which seemed such a long long way and stopping at the usual Geelong bypass coffee stop for me.
It was a great weekend and even unseasoned MTBers can do this event, you do not need to finish every stage but at least start every stage, we will have a bigger crew with us next year. If I could change anything it would be perhaps stay the Sunday night as well to chill out and relax with a few beers.
I will be back next year, thanks for the company one and all.
Total time Name 15km Hill Climb Decent Head2Head 50km
4.48hrs Marcus Clarke 1 52:58 2 16:52 3 13:29 4 15:07 5 3:09:36
5.05hrs Geoff Lawyer 1 53:39 2 16:42 3 14:51 4 16:30 5 3:26:21
5.10hrs Lyle Weir 1 54:26 2 16:14 3 14:33 4 16:36 5 3:28:56
5.15hrs Tavish Makin 1 52:58 2 16:30 3 13:59 4 14:57 5 3:37:26
5.20hrs Callum Robertson 1 55:28 2 17:38 3 13:57 4 15:43 5 3:38:01
7.14hrs Malcolm Duckett 1 55:55 2 17:58 3 13:24 4 15:41 DNF 5:36:12*
*DNF = plus 1 hour to the last finish time being 4.36+1hr