While most of us here in the northern hemisphere are firmly settling into winter riding, over in Australia it’s a different story.
Melbourne – which earned the title of the most locked-down city in the world after a huge period of strict covid measures – has finally opened up again just in time for summer. And for cycling residents such as our good pal Rishi Fox (aka @radrishi on Instagram) that means attentions can once again return to one of her great passions: ultra-endurance bike packing.
Tomorrow Rishi embarks on the inaugural Mallee Blast 1000, a 1000km gravel bike packing race around her home state of Victoria.
We caught up with Rishi on the eve of the race to see how she’s fairing going into the race.
Ultra racer Rishi Fox
Hey Rishi! Glad to hear Melbourne is finally out of lockdown. How has training through that been?
“Pretty terrible actually. I was ok in 2020, and maintained motivation to do heaps of indoor training including some really long stuff but as it dragged on and into 2021 I just couldn’t do it anymore. I just started riding when I felt like it and stopped training. It means my fitness is at the lowest I think it’s ever been, but I don’t think it matters that much. After such a long time in lockdown I am just so bloody keen to get out there that I’m hoping enthusiasm will make up for under training. I’m also hoping my legs will just remember what to do.”
Seasoned racer Rishi admits lockdown training has been tough
Of course, this isn’t your first time at the ultra-distance rodeo, is it…
“This will be my first off-road bike packing race which is strange, since I got into riding through mountain bike racing. I switched to doing mostly road riding when I signed up for the Transcontinental in 2016. I raced TCR again in 2017, and then followed that up with the Transatlantic Way in Ireland in 2018. This will be my first race in 3 years which is super exciting!”
What sort of course is the Mallee Blast 1000?
“The route takes in a lot of fast, flat gravel roads but it’s very susceptible to strong winds and, if it rains, sticky mud and clay. Let’s hope for some good weather.
“It’s a bit of a different format in that riders can choose between 500 and 1000km and either starting in Torquay (the southerly point of the circular route) or Swan Hill (the northerly point). This was done so that people from NSW or SA could start in Swan Hill to increase numbers. It should make for some interesting dot watching as everyone doing the 1000km route will do the same route in the same direction, starting at the same time, but may start in different locations.”
This will be her first off road bike pacing race
How are you feeling going into it?
“Very excited, nervous, and a little scared. But mostly excited! I don’t have any expectations. I really just want to get out there, see the open skies, push my limits, and see what I can do. It will be the first time I go into a race without a ‘plan’. I’m challenging myself to let go of control and just ride without plans and figure it out along the way.
“Lockdown has deprived me of so much adventure, and that’s all I really want to get out of this. I want to explore and feel that fear of the unknown, having to make decisions on the fly, and learning more about my own capabilities.”
Her bike setup (plus her pup Jean Claude)
And finally, what’s your bike setup for the race?
I’ll be riding my Cannondale Topstone gravel bike. I’ve done a lot of long distance bike packing trips on it and it’s super comfortable. I try to pack fairly light weight but this time I will also be taking sleep gear as I plan to just ride until I need to sleep so no planning for hotel stops. My bike is pretty small so I can’t take much but I’m pretty good at packing by now.
Rishi's bivvy setup
And is there a link for anyone who wants to dot watch?
Yep, you can watch the race here https://malleeblast2021.maprogress.com
Awesome, best of luck Rishi!