The 2021 Otway Odyssey Marathon MTB race is set to be the biggest and most competitive in over a decade, strengthened by news that Australia’s male and female MTB National Champions and two-time Olympic representatives will be racing – Bec and Dan McConnell.

The McConnell’s join a list of top riders to take on the 15th edition of the race including recently announced Team Roxsolt Liv SRAM - Australia’s only UCI Continental Women’s Team with the likes of 6-time Odyssey Winner Peta Mullens, and team-mates Courtney Sherwell, current U19 National Champion Izzy Flint, Neve Bradbury, Saffron Button and Justine Barrow.

Brendan Johnston, Sam Chancellor, Scott Chancellor, Steele Von Hoff, Zoe Cuthbert, Justin Morris and Sam Fox among others will also be taking on the 100km course, which is returning to its roots – starting in starting in Apollo Bay and crossing the Otway Ranges to finish at the mountain bike mecca of Forrest.

The Otway Odyssey MTB and Great Otway Gravel Grind will take place in Forrest Victoria on the 20-21 of February 2021. The gravel grind event is the perfect partner to the marathon race, letting riders make a weekend of riding on the dirt down in the Otway Ranges.

With a course known as the stuff of legends, and an increased prize pool of $9,600 for the 100km race, entries have surpassed organisers expectations already, as the event continues to stamp itself as Australia’s most respected mountain bike races.

Race organisers Rapid Ascent (RA) had a chat to Bec and Dan McConnell about their expectations and hopes for their race at the Odyssey:

RAWe’re excited to have you in the 2021 field – but what has allowed you both to race the Odyssey this year?

Bec: Usually around this time of year we are spending a few weeks in Spain with our team for the Team Presentation, camp and doing some early season UCI races however things are not usual and while they are different it's a great opportunity for us to take advantage of our Aussie summer and get to some races that haven't been possible before.

RABec - You’ve never raced the Otway Odyssey before, so what are your preconceptions of the event and the course?

Bec: Haha!  Yes. I do!!! In my mind it is super challenging, tough, amazing views and some pretty awesome single track!  I have known about the Otway Odyssey for as long as I've been racing so I have heard many tales from down there, and it NEVER sounds easy!  I hope I am tough enough for it!

RADo you think your lack of course experience will impact your competitiveness?

Bec: For sure I think my lack of course experience will make it a little difficult to know what is coming up, where to rest or where may be a good place to attack and maybe I'll make a few tactical errors for that reason, but in marathon races like these it usually comes down to the best rider taking honours and for sure I hope to be competitive with the strong Women's field that will be lining up.

RAWhat other events and plans have you got for 2021? (Olympics?!)

Bec: Hopefully all going well we will get to do all of the major events.  My big goals are the World Cup and of course the World Championships and Olympic Games.  If things do go to plan it's going to be a pretty long season and there will be some other races in there too.  Over summer in Australia we will have a few extra races including the Snowies MTB Festival, The Willo, Nationals and Oceanias on top of Otway Odyssey.  Hopefully they can all go ahead.

RAWhat will you eat on race day morning?

Bec: I haven't checked the start time yet ;-)  But I do struggle to eat a lot of food in the early hours of the morning (OK, really anytime before 9am...)  But a pretty standard race morning breakfast is Oats with Nutella.

RADan - You raced the Odyssey back in the ‘early years’ with some close racing with Chris Jongewaard. What are your memories of the race?

Dan: I have some really great memories around the Odyssey from the early years, the trails, beach and fun team vibes, unfortunately the memories surrounding the race are slightly different with the stand out being stuck on the last climb with cramps! 

RAYou have been racing bikes for a long time, do you think your experience will prove more valuable than the youthful exuberance of the younger riders who will also be lining up?

Dan: I have been racing for a long time and I’ll be trying to use my experience to get the best outcome but at the end of the day you just need to legs if you want to finish at the front so hopefully I’ll be having a good day on the bike.

RARacing XCO is quite different to racing an Odyssey MTB Marathon – how will you change your training to prepare?

Dan: Yeah, racing XCO vs XCM is a lot different in many ways, the biggest being the pacing. I won't be changing my training for the Odyssey however my volume of training at this time of year is at its highest so I’m hoping I can get through the distance.

RAWhat other events and plans have you got for 2021? (Olympics?!)

Dan: Hopefully in 2021 the racing with go ahead as planned, it’s a big year where I will focus on the World Cups, World Champs and hopefully the Olympic Games in July.

RA: What will you eat on race day morning?

Dan: I think I’ll be keeping it pretty boring with oats...I’m not really a morning person and I have seen the start time so the biggest challenge will be getting there on time.

Photos: Georgina Von Marburg


Entries to the 2021 Otway Odyssey and Great Otway Gravel Grind are open online at www.OtwayOdyssey.com.au and www.TheGOGG.com.au with both experience higher than normal entry fields so far.