Otways Odyssey — photo credit photos4.sale

Otways Odyssey Weekend

Gina Ricardo
March 7, 2024
Credit: https://photos4.sale/

By Gina Ricardo

Feb 24-25: Approximately 1,800 enthusiasts made their way to the quaint town of Forrest, VIC, for Australia's premier off-road weekend event: the Otways Odyssey. The main attractions are the 100km Marathon MTB race on Saturday and the 97km Gravel Grind on Sunday, complemented by 30km and 50km course options on both days.


Forrest, a town with fewer than 200 residents, lies roughly 200km from Melbourne. For those keen on racing in both the Saturday MTB event and Sunday gravel race (which I’d highly recommend!), I’d suggest booking a van or people mover from Melbourne airport to the area. During our trip, we flew in with three people and five bikes! While it's possible to tackle the Sunday event on a MTB, in my opinion a gravel bike is way more fun, and the lighter weight makes it advantageous on the challenging climbs. Due to the town's limited size, securing accommodation early is essential, as options tend to fill up quickly. However, neighbouring towns within an hour's drive, such as the picturesque Apollo Bay, offer alternative options. Despite the earlier wake-up call, the stunning ocean views made our stay in Apollo Bay truly memorable.

Saturday: The 100km Odyssey

With several marathons under my belt, I can say that this one lives up to its reputation. It's a rare opportunity to line up alongside Olympians and World Cup MTB Pros - this event draws the best riders from across Australia. The course is undeniably challenging. While it may not feature as much single track as other marathons like the Hidden Vale Epic or Dwellingup 100, it boasts the highest elevation gain of any marathon on the calendar. The race consists of three loops, allowing for convenient refuelling at the central event village which you pass through three times. The first loop kicks off with a demanding 10km gravel climb, followed by a fire trail ascent, setting the tone for the day. The ensuing descent down a thrilling fire trail leads to the highlight of the day—a flowy network of trails featuring hard-packed dirt, berms, and jumps that will have you grinning ear to ear. Throughout the course, there's little respite; you're either ascending or descending, demanding continuous effort. Therefore, adequate training and nutrition is essential to surviving the day! The second lap is predominantly single track, presenting mental and physical challenges as fatigue sets in. After completing this section, approximately 25km remains before reaching the final stretch, which includes another strenuous climb followed by a fast fire trail descent to the finish line, where the satisfaction of achievement awaits, accompanied by well-deserved refreshments.

Credit: https://photos4.sale/

Sunday: The 97km Gravel Grind

For those recovering from Saturday's exertions, Sunday morning arrives with its own set of challenges. With legs and back aching, even the simple task of putting on socks requires effort. Nonetheless, anticipation builds as we prepare for another day of racing. The unique aspect of this gravel race lies in its three ‘time out’ sections around the feed stations where your race clock stops, including an 8km stretch along the Great Ocean Rd. You’re allowed to spend up to 1hr in each untimed section, providing racers with strategic flexibility or the option to savour the experience. Personally, I opted to push as hard as possible during the timed sections, followed by well-deserved breaks at the feed stations, replenishing with Skratch Labs hydration and indulging in treats like cheese & bacon quesadillas or coffee from the on-site van. However, despite the leisurely atmosphere, the 97km course sees over 2,000vm of climbing, ensuring a demanding ride similar to Saturday's challenges. The day commences with a gruelling 14km climb out of Forrest, offering scenic views amidst the gum trees despite the physical strain. Subsequent rollers lead to an exhilarating descent towards the Great Ocean Rd, where the timed section concludes, affording riders a breathtaking view of the ocean. 

Credit: https://photos4.sale/
Credit: https://photos4.sale/

While some took advantage of the untimed section for a quick swim, it's prudent to limit stops to avoid making the 10km exposed climb back to the final feed station more arduous. With the final feed station marking the 15km to go point, the remainder of the race is exciting, featuring a thrilling downhill gravel descent punctuated by rollers before a triumphant finish. Crossing the finish line, you can't help but grin, overwhelmed by the sense of accomplishment after conquering a demanding weekend of racing.

Credit: https://photos4.sale/
Credit: https://photos4.sale/

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