Record-breaking, defending champion and three-time winner of the Otway Odyssey presented by Focus Peta Mullens is returning to Forrest this month with her sights set on another title, and a new challenge.
If racing the 100km cross-country marathon wasn’t enough of a suffer fest, this master of all riding styles will be lining up for the inaugural Great Otway Gravel Grind (GOGG) the following day. And if it all goes to plan, Mullens’ double will deliver the brand new Queen of The Otways title to add to her growing list of achievements in the sport.
Last year Mullens smashed the women’s course record by seven minutes to finish in a time of just 5hrs, 6minutes. That’s three wins – 2011, 2012 and 2016.
We caught up with Mullens off the back of a respectable 6th at the Tour Down Under, and a very busy 2016 season to see how she was feeling heading into her seventh Odyssey.
So what did you think of your first Odyssey?
I’ve raced six editions. My worst result was my first year in 2010 where I finish third, finishing about 10 minutes behind road racing legend Judith Arndt. It was the toughest event I had ever done but somehow I got better as the race went on. The original route from Apollo Bay was what attracted me to the race; it was the first MTB event that felt like an adventure to me. In the years following we had some really hot weather and really wet years. I remember in 2011 running my bike to the finish because it was so clogged with mud and Jo Wall was just 30 seconds behind! On two occasions I’ve WON by less than 1 minute and on two occasions I’ve LOST by less than 1 minute which is ridiculously close after five hours of racing.
By the stats you had a pretty stacked 2016 with 70 race days, 16 wins and an additional 16 podiums - you must have been pretty stoked about your year?
Yeah it was a pretty standard year for me in terms of race days, but I did race bigger races than in previous years so I was really happy with the race wins. It was a soul searching year for me after missing selection for the Olympics but I feel like I turned it around and really found some positives. I had my best result at a World XCO Championships finishing in 21st and I discovered a love for racing in the US which led to me signing for the American based Hagens Berman Supermint team for the 2017 season.
Did you take a break over Summer before getting right back into racing? No doubt a break for Peta Mullens involves some riding in there somewhere?
Not a well-planned break. I actually finished the US season in a hole and when I came home I tried to push through half a CX season and some XCM races. Ultimately I ended up resting five days a week and racing on the weekends which wasn’t ideal and eventually my health was so bad that I just had to rest completely. But I’m all good now and I’ve had a good build through the New Year and am ready for a long season.
You’re going to be part of a select group of riders tackling the 100k Otway Odyssey AND the 97k Gravel Grind the following day - were you excited at the news of the new gravel grind race joining the line-up?
Was I excited? Hmm.. lol Well yes I was excited, but not so much about backing up the next day, but I suppose that’s where the challenge lies! Last year I finally broke the monkey on my back and took a record third win In the marathon and broke the course record, so I wonder if this is their way of saying.. clap clap, now we raise you a Gravel Grind the following day haha I’m really looking forward to it, it’ll be the first time I’ve ridden my CX bike for more than 1hour so that’s a challenge in itself!
You’ve just completed a four days of racing at the Tour Down Under coming out with 6th overall, that is a fantastic result. You also competed at the CEGORR. Were these races tough? And were they what you expected?
Yeah they were exactly what I expected, perhaps I was climbing a little better than I thought actually which was a surprise. I enjoy the hectic life of the European peloton so to bring that to Australian racing in the early summer primes me for the season both mentally and physically. It was nice to use these early season races and a short training block to hone team skills e.g. lead outs and some pace line, with my Supermint teammates before we start racing in the US together. It really is a team of amazing women.
Do you have many other races coming up between now and the Odyssey? And what sort of preparation will you be doing in the lead-up to the Odyssey and GOGG?
Usually this time of year is peak race season, but with a 5 month stint in the US I’ve changed the program up a bit and have decided to have some down time. I’ll just focus on base training and some heavy gym sessions for the three weeks leading in and hope that my racing instinct will do the rest on race day.. oops dayS, multiple lol
Who are your greatest rivals/threats at the Odyssey? And should they be worried? It looks like there’s a fair bit of friendly camaraderie in women’s cycling, am I right?
I think my competitors should always be worried! I’ll be coming in with a lot of base in the legs but not much intensity; it’s the opposite of how I’ve come into the race in the past but I don’t think that will worry me too much on race day. The competitor list this year is very different to past years with a lot of the top riders from past years falling into semi-retirements. But Lisa Jacobs and Megan Williams are probably on my hit list. I haven’t really raced the XCM scene against them but I know they’re classy riders. It’s easy to be friendly in MTB’ing and CX because they're honest sports, the best rider always wins.
Peta's 5 all-time reasons to race this February in the Otways
- the route through the Otways
- the red carpet descent
- the finishers beer
- the lucrative prize pool
- and of course the challenge of the ‘double’ with the introduction of the GOGG
All courses of the Otway Odyssey take advantage of the extensive network of single track and 2WD roads of Forrest and the Otways. Combined with the beauty on offer in the Great Otway National Park, the electrifying race atmosphere and sense of satisfaction you get when you finish in the middle of the massive event festival, it’s an event not to be missed.
Entries to the 2017 Otway Odyssey are now open online at OtwayOdyssey.com.au
Date: Saturday 25th February and Sunday 26th February, 2017
Location: Forrest, Otway National Park, Victoria
• NEW: GOGG Big Ring 97km
• NEW: GOGG Little Ring 49km
• Odyssey 100km
• Shorty 50km
• Rookie 30km
• Pioneer 10km
• Grommets Ride
Event Expo: A massive bike, food and entertainment expo at Forrest Football Ground
Entries: Now open at otwayodyssey.com.au