The 14th edition of the Otway Odyssey has been run and won, with nearly 1,500 mountain bikers descending on the rural town of Forrest in Victoria for one of the biggest events on the national racing calendar. As well as the Odyssey on the Saturday, the 4th edition of the Great Otway Gravel Grind was held on the Sunday, with many riders choosing to double-up for a huge weekend of riding through the stunning Otway rainforest just 2-hours drive south west of Melbourne.
With near-perfect weather and trail conditions, the course was running fast, and consequently we saw the fastest ever race time in the Elite Male category for the big 100km race. Read on for the full report on how it all went down, along with some big news about the 2021 event…
STRONG FIELD SEES COURSE RECORD AND A GAME OF TACTICS AT THE ODYSSEY
A new course record was set at the Otway Odyssey 100km MTB Marathon by professional road cyclist Robbie Hucker of Team UKYO, in what has been described as one of the strongest fields at a mountain bike race in years.
Hucker, who has recently returned to mountain biking broke the course record by almost three minutes in a time of 4:15:39, ahead of Cameron Ivory in second place (4:18:14) and Reece Tucknott third (4:20:05) in the hotly contested field of male elite riders.
“It was a good course; tough, hard work, but I just tried to keep my momentum and stay calm so I’m pretty happy with that,” said Hucker.
“I knew my fitness was there off the road bike, but my skills are a little bit less desirable, but when I saw that the time was quick, I really tried to empty the tank to get the record,” said Hucker.
Ivory, the 2018 XCO, XCM and XCE National Champion, was all praise for Hucker on what is renowned for being a tough course.
“I’m pretty empty after that one; that last climb at about the 70km mark, that’s real tough up there,” said Ivory.
“That was where Robbie left us for dead; he’s such a strong climber. He still has a lot of skill on the single track, so was hard to chase down, so after sitting about fourth place I managed to get a few spots back on that steep climb,” continued Ivory.
The pointy end of the field showcased some top notch riding throughout the day, and at one stage the likes of Sam Fox, Tucknott, Russ Nankervis, and Benny Allen were fighting for top five. Unfortunately two top seeded riders Brendan Johnston and Tasman Nankervis both suffered mechanicals, pulling the pin at the 64km mark.
“The pace was on a lot more than last year and it was a really great race up front. It is the strongest field that I have seen at a mountain bike race in a long long time, so it was great to see so many of us on the start line,” said Tucknott.
It was a game of tactics in the women’s race between former Australia Road Cyclist Champion Peta Mullens, and former XTERRA pro athlete Renata Bucher, with Mullens taking out her 6th Otway Odyssey 100km win.
“It was my 10th edition this year and my first sprint finish; I don’t think I want another one!” said Mullens. “Renata and I got a bit tactical towards the end; I like tactics. She attacked four or five times in the last few km’s so I knew a sprint finish was on our hands,” continued Mullens.
According to the 2013 Otway Odyssey winner Bucher, it was a big day!
“I tried everything that I could with Peta, because the last thing I wanted was a sprint finish,” said Bucher. “I knew Peta had the legs and experience. But I am happy, I gave everything I could. Mountain biking is such a good sport, I’ll definitely be back here,” continued Bucher.
The 50km Otway Shorty event also saw some fast racing up front, with Joshua Sek taking line honours in 2:28:32; Ian Kelly in second place (2:19:10) and Conor Flett in third (2:20:53).
Having been a 100km competitor back when the Odyssey race started in Apollo Bay, Sek said he was glad to be back.
“It’s a great course, I’m glad to be back and I’m really happy with the results,” said Sek.
Kim Willocks won the female 50km Otway Shorty, and is a previous winner three years ago when her third child was only 3 months old. Kim finished in a jet setting speed of 2:42:04. Cheryl Coombs was second (2:49:27) and Elise Buriss placed third (2:50:06).
300 riders took on the 30km Odyssey Rookie designed specifically for novice mountain bikers and developing juniors. First across the line was a tight battle between two talented under 16 twin brothers Cohen and Jude Jessen, with Cohen taking the win… just(!) in a time of 1:22:25 to Jude’s 1:22:26.
Tami Iseli was our first 30km Odyssey Angel in 1:27:34.
Nearly 1,500 riders raced the famed single-track of Forrest in its’ 14th edition, which is now seen as a badge of honour for many mountain bike enthusiasts.
These riders bared witness to Rapid Ascent’s big announcement today that the 2021 Otway Odyssey will be returning to its roots in Apollo Bay to celebrate 15 years since the beginning of the Odyssey. The ‘original’ 100km Otway Odyssey course is the stuff of legends and had a reputation as a “hardman/women’s” event where only the strongest survived.
Starting in Apollo Bay, the hills climbed to the clouds and smashed your legs while the descents pulverised your arms and left you quaking on the corners. And that was just the half way point at Forrest. Then you had 50km of epic single track to conquer before collapsing at the finish at Forrest. All other formats for 2021 will start and finish in Forrest as per the current format.
“The event has had a huge following right from the get go and we’re rapt that its popularity continues. The trails of Forrest are world class, combined with the wilderness, the terrain and the friendly atmosphere all help make it the successful event it is today,” General Manager of Rapid Ascent Sam Maffett said.
“Thank you to everyone for making today such a successful day, and to the locals of Forrest who dedicate their time to helping maintain the awesome trails here.”
Otway Odyssey 100km
Top 3 Male
- Robbie Hucker 4:15:39
- Cameron Ivory 4:18:14
- Reece Tucknott 4:20:05
Top 3 Female
- Peta Mullens 5:22:54
- Renata Bucher 5:22:26
- Courtney Sherwell 5:33:17
Otway Shorty 50km
Top 3 Male
- Joshua Sek 2:18:32
- Ian Kelly 2:19:10
- Conor Flett 2:20:53
Top 3 Female
- Kim Willocks 2:42:04
- Cheryl Coombs 2:49:27
- Elise Burriss 2:50:06
Otway Rookie 30km
Top 3 Male
- Cohen Jessen 1:22:25
- Jude Jessen 1:22:26
- Felix Davis 1:24:56
Top 3 Female – Odyssey Angels
- Tami Iseli 1:27:34
- Katrina Bennett 1:27:35
- Mali Pimlott 1:28:13
Great Otway Gravel Grind just as it should be!
The 4th edition of the Great Otway Gravel Grind took over 300 riders on a stunning journey through the Otway Ranges to the coast and back. Conducted over smooth rolling dirt roads, the event included a Big Ring 97km course, and a Small Ring 49km course both starting and finishing in Forrest, Victoria.
Perfect race conditions made for a hard and fast track and some lightning pace setters in all categories.
In the 97km Big Ring men’s field, word from the course saw Tasman Nankervis and Brendan Johnston (“Trekky”) attack early on in the race, taking the stacked field by surprise to try to gain as much time as possible before the first time-out zone at the 33km point. From there, it was always going to be hard to top Nankervis, who likes to go hard on the ascents.
“Trekky and I got away at the 10km mark as we were both feeling fresh after having to pull out of yesterday’s race. We thought we’ll use our heads and save our energy for today,” said Nankervis. “It is such a prestigious race and a big goal for us each year. The long fire-road climbs suit me in the Gravel Grind and it’s such a great place to ride,” continued Nankervis.
The remainder of the race saw the men’s field who all competed in the 100km Otway Odyssey yesterday continue to re-group at each time-out zone, before a final mass sprint to the finish line in Forrest. After official results take into account these ‘luxury’ time-out zones, it was Nankervis holding on for the win in a time of 2:52:16, with Johnston in second place (2:53:24) and Alex Lack third (2:53:26).
King of the Otways went to fourth place Cameron Ivery who had finished second in yesterday’s Otway Odyssey 100km mountain bike race. “It was a lot of fun to re-group at each time-out zone, so despite Tas and Trekky putting the foot down early, we were hanging on and still managed to have a fun race,” said Ivery.
Peta Mullens proved once again why she is Queen of the Otways, backing up her 100km Odyssey win in placing first overall in the 97km Big Ring Gravel Grind, despite being pushed on the climbs by second place up and coming junior rider Neve Bradbury.
“My legs have never been as sore as they were today; I felt like I was on my last pedal stroke for the last 97km, it was tough,” laughs Mullens. “The doubled day at the Odyssey is fantastic; I really like the time-out zones in the Gravel Grind so we are able to catch-up to each other. It’s such a social event, but at the same time we’re able to still have that competitive edge in certain parts of the race,” said Mullens.
Mullens finished the race in a time of 3:25:07, with Bradbury in 3:33:19 and Renata Bucher backing up with a third place overall in 3:38:59.
The day also saw some quality riding in the 49km Small Ring Gravel Grind with Ash Sek out-sprinting his buddy Damian Flatz in 1:41:39. For the women, it was Caitlin Wade in an impressive 2:00:27. Caitlin had the whole family racing at the Otway Odyssey weekend, with daughters Kate and Annabel participating in the 10km pioneer mountain bike event.
“It was a lovely weekend all-round for our family. I love being out in the bush and don’t mind the climbs with the stunning scenery. I had a good rest in the time-out zone; they’re such a great feature of the race,” said Wade.
As often mentioned by the riders, a unique and popular feature of the Great Otway Gravel Grind are these ‘time-out’ sections on course. Riders can stop for a coffee or wait for their friends without impacting their race time—in the style of true gravel grinding.
For more information head to www.TheGOGG.com.au
Great Otway Gravel Grind 97km
Top 3 Male
- Tasman Nankervis 2:52:16
- Brendan Johnston 2:53:24
- Alex Lack 2:53:59
Top 3 Female
- Peta Mullens 3:25:07
- Neve Bradbury 3:33:19
- Renata Bucher 3:38:59
Great Otway Gravel Grind 49km
Top 3 Male
- Ash Sek 1:41:39
- Damian Flatz 1:41:40
- Tyler Phillips 1:43:07
Top 3 Female
- Caitlin Wade 2:00:27
- Kathryn Visser 2:07:55
- Claudia Dohr 2:10:08
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