HARRISON Ernst had more than 500 reasons to smile on Sunday.
The Warrnambool teenager won his first Forrest Odyssey 50-kilometre race, beating home more than 500 competitors in the men’s section.
Ernst finished the gruelling race in two hours, 28 minutes and 58 seconds — almost four minutes clear of second-placed Mitch Greenway and third-placed Bradley Morton.
Ernst, 18, said it was a huge thrill to win the race known as the Shorty.
“I’ve done it a few times but this is the first time I’ve won it overall,” he said.
“Last year I finished 11th overall and third in my age group, under 18s.
“It means a lot. I love that race.
“I’ve been doing it for three or four years so I was stoked to take the win there.”
The Odyssey was a family challenge.
Ernst’s sister Sabrina was third in her age group in the 15-kilometre section, his dad Jason competed in the 50km section and his uncle Matt Hand, who got him into the sport, was 25th overall in the 100km race.
The Emmanuel College graduate said it was a testing course which was taxing, both physically and mentally.
“The last 30km of the race I attacked one of the other boys and I got a good gap there,” he said.
“It was very hilly, especially the first 25km. It’s all climbs.
“It is really tough. You have to keep pushing I guess and hang on to the front group and you can’t ever give up.”
Ernst’s aim is to build up to a 100km race.
That distance is the feature event at the Forrest Odyssey competition.
“Fifty kilometres is the longest distance I have done on a mountain bike so far,” he said.
“I have been training for the one-and-a-half, two-hour distances.
“I did the Australian nationals over summer. They had four races altogether.
“I finished 10th in the under 19s.”
Ernst trains up to 14 hours a week.
“It’s mostly on the road bike but sometimes I go up to Thunder Point to keep my skills up,” he said.
“I might do a bit of road racing in winter and hopefully at the end of the year do a 100km mountain bike race.”
Ernst envisages his long-term future on the mountain bike circuit rather than in road racing.
“I’d love to aim for the world championships in Australia in 2016,” he said.
“It’d be great to travel around the world and do world cup mountain bike races.”