The Otway Odyssey backstory
If you have just tuned in to the Otway Odyssey (where have you been?) or maybe you’re new to the event thanks to the introduction of the Great Otway Gravel Grind in 2017, then here is a bit of background so you can catch up to the rest of us… because the Otway Odyssey has been around for a while!
"I return because it is such a big time race in my world. It has all things amplified; the steepness of the climbs, the radness of the descents, the depth of the field and the awesome vibe that Forrest has over that weekend. It rocks." Jason Archer, 11x 100km finisher
"Another superb and flawless running of a timeless event by Rapid Ascent," Justin Morris, Marathon MTB, 2016
"This race is a must do if you are even remotely into the marathon racing scene. Even if you’re not you should get it on your list of events to hit up. To date, I have not ridden an event that offers so much varying terrain in one hit. Bitumen road, forest roads, firetrail, unknown overgrown dangerzone singletrack, groomed singletrack and so much more are what is on offer here. It truly tests all of your abilities in one unique condensed course over 100km," James Downing, 2016
“The Odyssey is a journey race, you ride through so much different terrain and it's all magic with some pretty sensational single track to numb the pain!” Jess Douglas 12-time Odyssey rider (pictured below)
" The Forrest singletrack is amongst the best in Australia and everyone should tick it off their bucket list!" Adrian Jackson, 2010 winner
“I love returning to the Odyssey each year for the stunning location, quality trails and the friendly vibe out on course but above all it's the challenge of completing one of the toughest marathon races on the calendar." Neville Bird, 11x 100km finisher
"I just totally love Forrest and the riding that's on offer down there, its always a great race format with plenty of quality single track. Nothing better than a weekend away and a big day on the bike with my riding besties!" Bevan Kerr
12 years of the Otway Odyssey MTB Marathon
The Otway Odyssey has been a solid fixture on the Australian MTB calendar for the last 12 years and in that time has grown to be one of to be the most respected and well attended bike events in Australia.
The inaugural Otway Odyssey was held in late February 2007 and was the first 100km MTB marathon in Victoria. Back then the Forrest MTB trails had only just been built and some of the trails included in the race were still very fresh having just been dug in for a couple months. Many riders were drawn to the early events just to ride this new MTB Mecca, so much so that we used to have 250 riders turn up to the free course familiarisation riders in the months leading up.
In fact the event has had a huge following right from the word go with the inaugural event selling out with 1,000 riders who were putting themselves up for a massive, unknown challenge. Anyone who was there will tell you that the first 100km Odyssey course back in 2007 was certainly the hardest of them all, it was a hot, it was hilly and we included every inch of single track we could find meaning there was little respite for man or machine from start to finish.
The course has seen a number of major and minor revolutions in that time, the 100km course started in Apollo Bay for the first 5 years with all riders surging along the Great Ocean road for a flat-out first 7km before starting the first of many major climbs over the Otway Ranges. It is these hills that have really defined the Odyssey from the outset, long climbs that ascend into the forest that take forever to conquer before a flying descent on the other side to the base of another hill.
For a long time the 100km Odyssey was known as the hardest MTB marathon in Australia, a crown that may or may not have been the case, but established the reputation the race retains today – as a tough but rewarding day riding some incredible trails through beautiful wilderness.
The Odyssey has also had it’s fair share of weather stories with early events alternating between stinking hot conditions to and wet and muddy trails from one year to the next. Anyone who rode the 2009 event will recall how thickly the mud stick your tyres on the old Noonday Track, so much so that riders were forced to push their bikes downhill as well as up! Recent years have been a more obliging with some ‘perfect’ conditions making for some superb racing.
A race of this reputation, and with some large prize money up for grabs, has brought together Australia’s best riders to chase the elusive Otway Odyssey title. Many will remember seeing the dreadlocked smiles of Tinker Juarez, MTB Hall of Fame member and USA Olympic rider take to the trails in 2008 – only to puncture and spit the dummy with 14km to go. Meanwhile the gentle smiles of 2 time Olympian and cycling world champion, Judith Arndt from Germany belied her talent on the bike as she took the win in 2010, giving all the Aussie ladies a big lesson on how to ride in the process.
Over the last 12 years there have been 9 female winners, all of them pushed to the absolute limit to secure one of their largest race victories in Australia - particular mention to Peta Mullen's winning her 5th crown in 2018 (plus the 2 Gravel Grind wins in 2017 & 18!). The men’s story is quite different though, with just 6 winners over the last 11 years thanks to the supreme power of Chris Jongewaard who has won the race an incredible 6 times, only being beaten to the line twice (by Lachy Norris in 2012 and Chris Hamilton in 2016).
Equal to these elite riders at the front of the field are the 8 riders who have started and finished every 100km Otway Odyssey ever held. This in our mind is an incredible accomplishment and we salute these men and women as true Odyssey warriors as listed below.
In 2017, we added the new Great Ocean Gravel Grind ('the GOGG') held on the Sunday. Over 300 riders raced inaugural event which led them along a scenic and at times challenging ride on the dirt roads winding through the Otway Ranges, across 97km and 49km courses.
And 2018 welcomed the Odyssey Angels program which uncluded a range of initiatives to support and encourage greater female participation... and what a success it was! We can't wait to see female riders return in 2018, stronger and louder!
So now we turn our attention to the 13th year of this incredible event, a year that see's the continuation of the GOGG and all junior/newcomber MTB courses, so all types of riders can enjoy the incredible cycling opportunities around Forrest and the Otway Ranges.
These men and women have started and finished all 12 previous 100km Otway Odyssey races – an incredible effort!: Jessica Douglas, Neville Bird, Lee Floyd, Brian John, Bevan Kerr, David Rusden, Dave Scarlett and Craig Sullivan.