Brendan Johnston and Holly Harris have claimed their first Otway Odyssey MTB Marathon - both in their first attempts. Both races were close. It was a scintillating ride from Johnston coming in ahead of brothers Russ and Tasman Nankervis. Johnston was lightning quick setting a winning pace of 4:22:09.  

“I haven’t done the event before so I didn’t know what to expect,” said Brendan. “It was hard at the start, and a bit easier in the flatter section in the middle, but in the last 26km I wanted to make a bid to win it. I haven't ridden it before but I spoke to my mate Roeland and he let me know where the big climbs were. The second to last climb on the fireroad I was getting attacks flat out from Reece and Tas. I just had to follow, and I knew there was a 500m ramp after that first descent of that last loop. Tas went at the bottom and I was pleased as I could follow. And when I felt comfortable I popped off his wheel."

"Today was pretty awesome, the first 30km was faster than we have ever done it," said Tasman Nankervis. "I always say that the race starts at the 65km mark here, and I felt really good at the start of the climb and kept smacking it. It helps knowing the course, and where to attack. I thought he was boxing on, but then he attacked me!"

"I got back to everyone on the first singletrack descent of the last loop," said Russ Nankervis, "but on that short steep climb, I was done and Reece was feeling the same I think. It's probably my favoiurite marathon though, and knowing the course helps.

"You've got a bit of everyhing in this race too, from the road at the start, the dirt climbs, the singletrack in the middle, and the long firetrail climbs near the end, " says Tas.

"But it's the final stretch of singletrack that decides the race and makes it, it really decides the podium," adds Russ. "It's got the most variation of any marathon."

Holly Harris and Samara Sheppard duke it out for much of the race — Samara was one of the pre-race favourites. Renata Bucher was third.

"It started off pretty easy, and I think we all knew it was going to be a big day, so no one went like a bull at the gate," said Harris. "Over a hill Samara and I managed to get away a bit, and I pretty much rode with Samara for the entire race, but just got away in the final singletrack. She's such a strong rider and just relentless. It was a tough day!"

Jess Douglas came in 4th, with Imogen Smith on her tail in 5th. Douglas even did her fastest Odyssey ever!

"You become more schooled in how to do it. I've learnt how to hurt, hurt some more, and keep hurting. Imogen probably forced me into a PB this year, she was like a shadow!" Douglas wasn't surprised by who would be at the front, despite one of the stronger women's fields of the past few editions. "Holly and Samara were always going to be fighting it out today, it was just going to be whether they went too hard too early or not."

Bendigo pioneer and former Australian Road Race Champion Peta Mullen’s suffered a mechanical 20km into the women’s race. It cost her dearly and she played catch up the rest of the race. She conceded in the end and retired from the track not far from the finish.

“My bike always runs ridiculously well but I ended up getting some help from another competitor to get me back going 15 minutes later, "said Mullens. "I was a little bit disappointed because it’s probably the strongest field we’ve had in a couple of years and I assume Samara and Holly would be having a really hard battle out there.”  

Nearly 1,000 riders from recreational to elite raced the famed single-track of Forrest. It was a hot and hard track with a new course record set by Adam Blazevic in the 50km race too. Adam was flanked by Piper Albrecht and under-18 rider Cooper Jessen.

Riders have travelled for 13 years now from across Australia for the Odyssey. Taking on the region’s iconic single track is a badge of honour for many mountain bike enthusiasts. And it’s a tradition that continues to run strongly with 1,000+ riders competing in today’s races.

“The event has had a huge following right from the get go and we’re rapt that its popularity continues today. 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. We are stoked to continue organising the Odyssey and for riders to enjoy the amazing riding on offer here in the Otway Ranges,” Maffett said.

“Thank you to everyone for making today such a successful day, and to the locals of Forrest who dedicate their time to helping maintain the awesome trails here.”

Full results are online.