Mimi Guillot makes 26" wheels look like 29. Photo: Russ Baker

Spectators have a funny knack of drawing upon a stand out feature of the riders they’re motivating.  For Mimi Guillot, eventual winner of On The Go/Onya Bike Belco and Civic 24 Hour Solo National Champs, it was “Happy Birthday Mimi!” from one end of the track to the other (I hope she saved some room for cake)!  For her partner Jacky Boisset, people zeroed in on his long white socks. For me, it was comments on my smile.

With a track this good, there was a lot to be happy about. Photo: Dan Mackay

Admittedly, my smile was pretty big the whole race long, so I guess that wasn’t a hard thing to pick.  Perhaps my happiness also had something to do with racing the shorter 6 + 6 hour event and enjoying a good night’s sleep along the way. It’s a lot easier to look strong on the bike when most other riders are riding twice as far.

Night time magic. Photo: Russell Baker.

The usual suspects rode like champions in the 24, but it was great to see some more solid riders line up for the 6 + 6 instead. Kona Factory Team rider, Anne Symes, chased me from the gun which kept the focus tight and the adrenaline pumping. It was really exciting to put together a win, but more exciting still when there are people out there making you earn it. This race was also a chance to drill some bike skills, punch out some consistent laps, test a few new riding strategies and prepare for some upcoming events. 170 or so kilometres of singletrack sure offered some great opportunities for that.

Dan Mackay put down his camera on Sunday to frighten children as the Easter Bunny instead. Photo: Russ Baker.

I set up a table at this race with the intention of self-supporting, but it turned out not to be the case at all. Kevin Wells gave me some really helpful feedback on my race position in the closing stages of the race – being a solo rider himself, he seemed to know exactly the right things to say. Thanks to Pete Dowse as well for looking at my seized rear shock half way through the race and to Duncan Miller at DIY MTB who’s about to pull it apart – I must have under-estimated the amount of riding I’ve been doing lately.  I learned to mountain bike on a hardtail on these trails and, in fact, I really enjoyed tuning my eyes back into smoother lines than a nice duallie sometimes encourages.

Adidas Eyewear podium shades. L-R. Mimi, myself and White Sox. Photo: Jacky Boisset.

On either side of the race, I enjoyed getting to know fellow Adidas Eyewear riders and current Adventure Racing World Champs, Birthday Mimi and Jacky of white sox fame. These guys are infectiously happy and carefree about some things, but they have all the important things dialed. This speaks volumes about how well they ride (and paddle, and run…). Further to this, my other personal and Subuaru-MarathonMTB.com team sponsors made race logistics, repairs and equipment choices simple and easy. What support like that does to your race confidence is still a challenge to put into words.

Fellow Radical Lights rider, Garry James, is another rider who always looks happy to be on the bike. Photo: Russell Baker.

The women's 6 + 6 podium on the start line. L-R Anne Symes, myself, Merryl King. Photo: Dan Mackay

Thanks most of all to the volunteers at the Canberra Off-Road Cycling Club for organising another top-quality event and to everyone yelling out motivation from the sidelines. When people comment on your smile, it seems to grow continually bigger, and each lap becomes that much sweeter as a result. If more people catch on and this point of difference stands out less, I wonder what people will zero in on then? I’m already looking forward to the next lot of events to find out.