Otway Odyssey MTB Marathon wins to Olympic Reps
A record field of riders took to the pulverising trails that make up Australia’s most respected (and toughest!) mountain bike races at the Otway Odyssey MTB Marathon presented by FOCUS on Saturday 20 February, 2021.
Credit – Matt Hull of The Matt Image
Olympic representatives’ Dan McConnell and Bec McConnell were the first male and female to conquer the 100km, branding themselves in the history books as the course returned to its’ roots after a 10 year hiatus – starting in Apollo Bay and crossing the Otway Ranges to finish at Forrest.
(Dan) McConnell set the pace early on and was a force to be reckoned with, clocking a time of 4:32:30, ahead of a fast flying Sam Fox in second place 4:37:08 and Brendan Johnston third 4:40:33 in one of the hottest fields of elite male riders all chasing the giant prize purse of $9,600 (in total).
It’s been a few years since McConnell has raced a decent marathon so he was primed to give the Odyssey a crack this year.
“I put the pressure on for 50-60km but I couldn’t get away early. I knew as soon as I got into the final section, I could get away from Sam (Fox) so I put the power down – it’s a super tough track, but I’m super happy to take the wine,” said McConnell.
“I had about three little crashes in the single track which got me a bit flustered; so needed to keep calm and stay on the line. Seriously, anyone who gets through that course should be super happy!” added McConnell.
Fox came into this years’ course feeling fitter and more ready to have a crack at the super tough course.
“I’m a lot fitter this year so the course felt easier, but it wasn’t.” said Fox.
“The course was great and I was feeling really comfortable going with Dan, holding his wheel. It’s only my second time doing the Odyssey – I loved it, I’ll definitely be back,” added Fox.
The pointy end of the field showcased a number of big name riders who no doubt were frothing to race again after a year where events were heavily affected by COVID-19! Fighting to take home a piece of the pie through the first two-thirds of the course until the tough single track section were Johnston, former winner Adrian Jackson, and quick-paced Raphael Freienstein and Kyle Ward.
National Champion and two-time Olympic representative Bec McConnell was relieved to see the finish line after a big day up front with Samara Sheppard.
It was McConnell’s first time experiencing the Odyssey, posting a winning time of 5:26:25 ahead of Sheppard in second place (5:28:52) and Zoe Cuthbert hot on their tails in third (5:33:02).
“That was so tough; it certainly lived up to the reputation that I heard about it - massive congratulations to everyone participating because that really was tough!” announced McConnell.
“I think neither Samara or I wanted to show our cards too early, so the pace on was ok. I always knew that the single track would work for me as long as I was fresh enough to ride it. So as soon as we got in there, I tried to get a gap, so I’m happy with how it rolled out today,” said McConnell.
Sheppard couldn’t stop raving about the rewarding yet challenging course!
“It was amazing out there – very tough,” said Sheppard. “I haven’t raced in a really long time to I’m really happy to be back racing.
“The distance was great for me – good to try to hold Bec’s wheel; but when that tight single track hits you, it gets really hard.” Said Sheppard.
The 50km Otway Shorty event also saw a monster field of riders for the 15th edition, with Liam Johnston breaking the course record in 2:06:05; Dom Paolilli was only seconds behind in 2:06:51; and Noah Morton in third (2:18:09).
“That was amazing and the single track was gnarly as!” said Johnston.
“50km is a great course, I loved it; it’s got climbing, the red carpet descent - I can’t wait to come back next year,” said Paolilli.
Phoebe Thompson won the female 50km Otway Shorty in a jet setting speed of 2:39:32; Jacqui Stephens was second (2:44:59) and Gemma De Campo placed third (2:55:55).
More than 300 riders took on the 30km Odyssey Rookie designed specifically for novice mountain bikers and developing juniors. First across the line was Jude Jesson in a time of 1:23:17, and finally standing on the top step after placing second last year to his brother Connor Jesson.
Under 16 year olds Maddie Burton and Alana Fletcher were just seconds apart in the 30km Odyssey Angels event, posting times 1:26:21 and 1:26:28 respectively.
The action continues tomorrow, Sunday 21st February, with the Great Otway Gravel Grind—The GOGG. Competitors will be taken on a wistful journey through the Otway Ranges to the coast and back. Trails spread over smooth rolling dirt roads, for a Big Ring 97km course, and the Small Ring 49km course.
“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 fantastic 15 year celebration of the Odyssey, and to the locals of Forrest who dedicate their time to helping maintain the awesome trails here.”
Otway Odyssey 100km
Top 3 Male
1. Dan McConnell 4:32:30
2. Sam Fox 4:37:08
3. Brendan Johnston 4:40:33
Top 3 Female
1. Bec McConnell 5:26:25
2. Samara Sheppard 5:28:52
3. Zoe Cuthbert 5:33:02
Otway Shorty 50km
Top 3 Male
1. Liam Johnston 2:06:05
2. Dom Paolilli 2:06:51
3. Noah Morton 2:18:09
Top 3 Female
1. Phoebe Thompson 2:39:32
2. Jacqui Stephens 2:44:59
3. Gemma De Campo 2:55:55
Otway Rookie 30km
Top 3 Male
1. Jude Jessen 1:23:17
2. Felix Davis 1:26:13
3. Nick Milton 1:26:31
Top 3 Female – Odyssey Angels
1. Maddie Burton 1:26:21
2. Alana Fletcher 1:26:28
3. Mali Pimlott 1:41:44
FULL RESULTS: HERE