Victoria’s Dan McConnell has become the first Australian male since Cadel Evans in 2000 to win a World Cup event, while Rebecca Henderson capped a sensational weekend for Australian mountain biking with victory in the under 23 women’s event at the UCI Cross Country (XC) World Cup #1 in Germany.The wins came hot off the heels of the major announcement by Cycling Australia and Mountain Bike Australia last Friday that Australia will host 2014 and 2016 World Cup events in Cairns, Queensland.
A powerful final lap surge by McConnell (Trek Factory Racing) was the difference as he claimed Sunday’s elite men’s race and the World Cup leader’s jersey in superb style.
“I did not expect this,” exclaimed McConnell, who finished 21st in the cross country event at the London 2012 Olympic Games. “I came into this looking for a solid top-15, so it’s unbelievable.”
McConnell, the reigning Oceania champion, had previously recorded only one top-20 World Cup result and it appeared this would be the case again when he commenced the seventh and final lap in sixth place, 29 seconds behind Mantecon. In a calculated final lap, McConnell steadily picked up places on the first long climb to move into second place, before taking the lead after the final descent and outsprinting Spain’s Sergio Mantecon Gutierrez on the home straight for the win.
“I could see Sergio in front of me, and at that stage I just gave it everything, and caught him through the grass section at the bottom of the descent,” McConnell explained. “I got into the last corner with a little bit of a gap and nothing was going to get past me at that point, I was running on adrenalin.”
In the under 23 women’s event, Canberra’s Rebecca Henderson claimed her maiden World Cup victory in a rain soaked event on Saturday. Henderson (Trek Factory Racing) was cautious early in the stages of the race and found herself in fourth place after the first of four laps. However the London Olympian powered to the front in the second lap and never relinquished the lead to finish 48 seconds clear of Jenny Rissveds (Sweden).
“I had a healthy lead, but I still felt pressure and rode as smart as I could,” said Henderson who like McConnell, now sits in the overall lead on the World Cup standings.
“This is an awesome result for Dan and Bec and on behalf of the MTBA Committee, congratulations to them,” said Russell Baker President, Mountain Bike Australia. “We thought it was going to be a good weekend for Australian Mountain Biking when we were able to announce two world cups for Cairns in 2014 and 2016, but how can you top these fantastic results.”
All the tired legs set off from the Chifley this morning at 9am for the final stage of the 2013 ICME. The course was a really fun 40km loop that contained heaps of great singletrack and would eventually spit us out at the Old Telegraph Station on the north side of town.
A good way to avoid the ‘lumps and bumps’ on course.
The first two thirds of the stage was all about the battle for third place on GC. Michael Crosbie had a slim one minute lead over Ben Hogarth. It was clear that Ben was not going to roll over and let Mick have it. Ben attacked early and the pace was on. Mick recruited Kyle Ward to help him out in defending third place and so Kyle went to work on neutralising Ben’s move while the rest of us tagged along and watched the action unfold. Ben was eventually caught and there were a few more little breaks the followed but Cros seemed more than up to the challenge of defending his position on GC.
The best bit of this final stage was a really rocky section of trail that twist up, over and around some huge boulders. Shaun led the group through there before we eventually got to the feed zone. Crosbie then set the pace from there along the “fence line track” (which we rode on day two in the opposite direction), but when I realised that the crossing of the Todd River was coming up, I went through to the front, knowing that it could be decisive.
Rowena Fry was ecstatic with her final stage victory and overall win
When we emerged on the other side of the sandy river bed I looked over my shoulder and saw that Shaun and I had a gap. From there it was only 10km to the finish so the only thing to do was to try and go on with it. The legs were tired, but knowing that a stage win would be the reward for another 20 minutes of suffering, we were motivated to keep going.
We maintained our gap and eventually arrived at the finish and crossed the line together; a fitting way to finish the week and seal up one-two on the general classification. Crosbie was third across the finish line to lock in his third overall, making it a clean sweep of the podium and a clean sweep of the stage wins for riders on Specialized Epic bikes.
Andy Blair and Shaun Lewis finish the week perfectly with a 1-2 finish for the Swell Specialized Team
Rowena won the stage in the women’s event to wrap up the overall, Terri Rhodes was second and Kelly Bartlet was third. There was an anxious wait for Jenny to come in and we got word that she had suffered a mechanical in the final kilometres. She eventually came in and had done enough to retain her second spot on GC ahead of Terri.
Once again, the ICME has been a great week of racing and a fun tour of the amazing trails that Alice Springs has to offer. Now it is time to relax and enjoy the presentation dinner tonight!
A big crowd of riders and AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’ pumping out into the desert, what a great way to start a race.
Well that pretty much has to be the best fun you can have on a bike! I’ve just finished the night stage of the Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro and I have a smile from ear to ear. The course was the same as the individual time trial from this morning’s stage, but having a mass start stage in the dark really added another dimension to the second stage of the day. The bunch of 200 riders charged out from the golf club straight though a massive puddle and I got covered by a wave of water coming off my team mate Shaun Lewis’ wheel. I thought that was a pretty rough way to start the stage, but it was nothing compared to one unlucky rider, who managed to take a swim.
From there Ben Hogarth lit it up along the first fire road, followed by a solid turn from Hally, then Mather. I led into the first singletrack and despite being pretty keen to attack, I tried to keep a lid on things and just enjoy getting into the flow of riding at night because I wasn’t sure if Shaun was close. On the next fire road section Shaun came through and did a strong turn, which sent me a message that not only was he there, but he was up for it. From there we managed to control the race by keeping the pace as high as possible. When I was on the front I was never sure exactly what was going on behind, other than that my team mate was with me so I pushed as hard as I could. It was so much fun, just pinning singletrack with a bunch of mates and trying to earn a pat on the back from Shauno at the end of the day.
On the last singletrack descent we still had a decent group so I tried to get off the brakes and reduce the numbers. That was the most fun bit of the stage, and by the time we hit the golf course it was just me, Shaun and Kyle Ward. Kyle rolled through for a turn, which gave me a chance to assess the situation and see that we had a gap of maybe 5-10 seconds back to the next guys. Not wanting to slow our progress and knowing that my teammate is a great sprinter who was hungry for a stage win, I just sat on the front and tried to keep our group of three clear of the chasers.
I led Shaun through the big puddle and into the finishing straight where, right on queue, Shaun came around me to claim a well-deserved stage win. It was super satisfying to have played a part in a stage win for Shaun after he has done a great job of looking after me all week. It was also just nice to be part of a stage that had so many people buzzing after the race, and it was fun chatting to everyone sharing stories afterwards. To give you an idea of how much people loved the stage, here are two actual quotes that came up in the post-race banter:
“I have found the love for cycling again this evening” – Paul Darvodelsky
“I’m not going to be able to get to sleep now, that was awesome” – James Downing
One of the great things about the Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro is the variety of the stages. With limited opportunities for mountain bikers in Australia to race against the clock, it is pretty cool that the ICME has two individual time trials as it provides a different type of challenge as well as the guarantee of putting time gaps in between the general classification contenders.
Setting off from the golf course at 30 second intervals in reverse GC order, riders were disappearing up the fairway like lemmings marching off for 22km of single track. As the current leader I was last to leave and had my teammate Shaun and Crosbie ahead of me to chase. I tried not to go out too fast because I know how easy it is to blow up, but with Shaun in sight it was hard not to try and close the gap. I managed to catch him before the single track, and with clear track ahead of me once again I turned my focus to reeling in Crosbie.
It took a while to do that because I was starting to suffer from the effort it took to get Shaun. But it wasn’t too long before we (Shaun was still on my wheel) caught Crosbie. Soon after that Crosbie dabbed on a corner and dropped off the back. At this point I was content with having caught the two guys behind me on GC, but I had to continue working hard knowing that there was still a stage win up for grabs.
As the final bit of single track spat us back out onto the golf course it was starting to feel like a handicap event because we caught a bunch of riders that included Tim Bennett, Ben Marshall and Jenny Fay. The last fire road section felt really hard; this year’s course was heaps more pedally and it was starting to take its toll on me. The pain went away as I rolled through to finish and heard that I had posted the fastest time and won the stage. An extra bonus was that Shaun was second, which has helped consolidate our first and second positions on GC.
Jenny made it a double stage win for Swell-Specialized with a cracking ride that took nearly a minute out of Rowena’s overall lead and sets up an exciting finish to the ICME with two stages to go.
As I predicted in an earlier blog, the vintage class is providing a great battle as well as the week comes to a finale. The current leader in that category Peter Selkrig suffered a broken seatpost today and lost three minutes to our house captain Paul Darvodelsky. The gap is now down to about four minutes but Paul has a good chance to take more time tonight in the dark with a home track advantage as we all head out for our second time trial of the day.
I’m looking forward to tonight’s stage, which will be run over the same course as this morning’s time trial….but in the dark! Rapid Ascent has a tradition of pumping ACDC’s Thunderstruck on the start line. Throw in 200 eager riders with lights strapped to their helmets and 22km of mad single track and you have a recipe for fun!
Andrew Hall pushed the pace at the front and kept the average stage speed above 30kph.
The 88km queen stage from Santa Teresa to Alice Springs promised to be a fast and exciting outing. The pan-flat course and the recent rain were expected to combine to make the overall stage time quite fast. With ‘Highway to Hell’ pumping out of the PA system at 7:30 in the morning I have to admit that I was pretty amped as we set out from the small community and headed toward Alice Springs.
The pace was steady from the start with Andrew Hall looking like he had to make up for missing stage 1 by sitting on the front for most of the morning which resulted in an average speed of over 30kph for the first hour. At this speed, the group was strung out and riding in firm sandy wheel ruts provided a few exciting moments.
Michael Crosbie suffered one such incident and being only 30 seconds behind my Swell-Specialized team mate Lewi, Shaun was quick to lift the pace and make him work to get back on; a test Crosbie passed with flying colours (and a little help from Kyle Ward). Our plan going into this stage was to ride fairly defensively to allow me to recover from the huge effort I had to put in yesterday. Shaun had been doing a great job of keeping me protected, but an opportunity to distance himself from third place was one we had to exploit.
The field stretched out along the flat sandy track, dodging wheel ruts kept the riders on their toes and focussed.
With the front group back together again through the first feedzone at 41km, the pace felt like it was dropping slightly. When we eventually hit the main Santa Teresa road, which is a super wide graded red dirt highway, the bunch consisted of Shaun Lewis, Andrew Hall, Michael Crosbie, Tim “Bomber” Bennett, James Downing, myself and Canberra youngster Ben Marshall!
I was pretty stoked to see Ben make the front group, he has been riding solid all week and went into today’s stage in seventh place on GC, but making the selective front group was a big step. A short while later Tim Bennett rode up beside me to inform us that his closest rivals on GC had been dropped. This meant that there was an opportunity for Tim and Ben to move up on the overall so we organised ourselves and started rolling through. It is fun when this happens in a stage race; Tim is a good friend and he has been a bit of a mentor to me through some stage races in recent years so it was great to be able to pull some turns for him. Recognising at this point, that Ben might be tempted to get excited and could easily put himself in trouble, I took a moment to mention to him that he should only roll through if he felt strong enough. I need not have bothered; he had the bit between his teeth and proceeded to smash out some of the most solid turns (an awesome effort mate!).
Got to grab any opportunity for a break when it presents itself, the gate crossing opened the chance to split the bunch.
With about 10km to go, we came to a fence that required a dismount. Shaun was through first, then me, Hally and Tim. I was about to look around to see if everyone was there, I heard Tim say “go go go”. There was a gap back to Crosbie and the others so we were off again. For the next 5 minutes we were pinning full-bore down a bumpy, sandy fire road in a 4-man versus 3-man team pursuit. This was possibly the last chance to split the group before a sprint finish so Tim, Shaun, Hally and I chopped off against Crosbie, Downing and Ben.
Fair play to the lads chasing, they eventually managed to shut us down. We knew we were getting close to the finish so Shaun and I started whacking the group in a hope of getting one of us away, but each time it was shut down by Hally (not sure where he got the energy from after riding on the front for most of the day!).
From this point on, it should have been a fast and furious run in to the finish with a deserving winner crossing the line after the longest stage of the event. Unfortunately due to a reported incident of the course marking being tampered with, we all went the wrong way. It was a very disappointing way to finish the stage with a tour around the streets of southern Alice Springs and a call to the race director to get directions to the finish line.
It is a tricky situation, but Rapid Ascent have done a good job of trying to make-right the results but effectively the time gains we had worked hard for on the day has been nullified. I’m sure there will be some motivated riders going to sleep tonight thinking of getting their frustrations out on the time trial course of stage 5!
After a statistically rare day of rain in Alice Springs yesterday I expected to wake to a sunny morning, because, after all, what are the chances of having two days of rain in a row?! As it turned out, the rain was still hanging around and we got quite wet on the ride to The Chifley for the start of stage 1.
It was a pretty chilly and wet roll out behind the police escort for the neutral section through town and I think everyone was happy to see the patrol car pull off the front so that we could lift the pace and start to get warm.
The rain in Alice was a big change from previous years racing, kept the dust down and made for fast trail conditions for Stage 1.
As is normal for the first stage of a tour, there were a few nerves and a bit of hustle as we made our way up the first sandy fire road toward the KOM at the top of the cutting. This was probably magnified by the $200 up for grabs donated by the Alice Spring Cinema owner (and my host for the week) Paul Darvodelsky. Ben Hogarth set the pace for a bit and then Ben Mather led the front group into the bottom of the pinch up the cutting. I made a surge for the summit and was able to crest the top uncontested to keep the prize in the Darvodelsky household.
Soon after that we were into the singletrack and a front group of Lewis, Mather, Hogarth and I established itself with Kyle Ward and Mick Crosbie not far behind. Shaun and I were pretty keen to keep the pace high enough to make sure Kyle and Crosbie didn’t get an easy ride back into the race, but we weren’t really committed to putting it all out there, knowing that it is a long week.
I was on the front through a tricky section with about 10km to go and I sensed that there was a little gap behind so I gassed it up the next climb. I kept my head down for a couple of minutes and when I got a chance to look around I realised that I had a gap…sweet! From there I tried to keep the pace up and avoid getting caught. As I got closer to the finish I managed a couple of sneaky looks over my shoulder and couldn’t see anyone.
I eventually made my way into the Alice Springs velodrome to finish first in one of my favourite stages of the ICME. After a short wait to see who would follow it was my teammate Shaun who came in just ahead of Ben Mather and Ben Hogarth. Kyle Ward was 5th, Crosbie 6th and Tim “Bomber” Bennett was 7th only 2m45s down, making it a pretty condensed group on the GC for the elite men.
Rowena Fry took out the women’s event just 4 seconds ahead of my Swell-Specialized teammate Jenny Fay, setting up a bit of a showdown for the yellow jersey this afternoon in the hill climb TT thanks to the time bonuses on offer. Jenny King was 3rd, Terri “Stink” Rhodes 4th and Nienka Oostra 5th in what is probably the deepest women’s field the ICME has seen in recent years. It will be exciting to see how that unfolds.
Another rider doing the Darvodelsky household proud was Paul “Darvo” himself! He took out the Vintage category and with less than 5 minutes separating the top 5, it looks like another class that will provide some great racing though out the week.
I’m looking forward to the Hill Climb TT this afternoon. 300m of pain through a corridor of cow bells and shouting….should be fun.
It was a great day for my Swell-Specialized teammate’s, Shaun took 2nd place and Jenny Fay a tight 2nd spot just 4 seconds behind Rowena Fry. There will be a tussle tonight b/n Fay and Fry
2012 marked the very first year for the Dirty Gran Fondo, held in May last year up in Wandong, Victoria. Put on by the ‘Big Hill Events’ crew as the first of its kind in the state, the DGF was an instant success that brought together riders from road racing backgrounds, mountain biking and everyone in between. In much the same way that cyclocross has done in this country, the DGF presents a new format of racing that will appeal to everyone. Enduro Magazines resident speedster, Trent Lowe, was on hand for the debut of the DGF last year, and gave us his thoughts on the new event. The article was published in Enduro #22, though we have it available for you to download for free here.
“The second year of the Dirty Gran Fondo will be held on Sunday 19th May starting and finishing at the Wandong Recreation Reserve. This event will attract roughly 200 riders and their friends and family to the Wandong area throughout the weekend. This isn’t your average cycle event – categories are based on distance (90K – Dirty Gran Fondo, 65K – Fondo and 35K – Medio Fondo) and what type of bike you ride (26”, 29” wheels, Cyclo Cross or Mongrel). Due to the varied distances and categories the ride attracts riders of all skill and experience levels. This year we are pleased to announce Geigerrig as our naming sponsor. Geigerrig make pressurized hydration systems and will be showing off their latest products and handing out prizes on event day. We also have the exciting news that the Fitzroy Revolution are going to be holding a special feed zone, complete with coffee and music; it’s going to be such a distraction from the race there may be a few competitors who end up taking a short cut on the way back! Take a scenic, mountainous road course and add cyclists ranging from pros to eighty-year-old cycle tourists – this is a Gran Fondo, a phenomenon that has taken Italy by storm. Gran Fondo means long distance or great endurance, races are usually 160-225 km long. Big Hill Events spin on the Gran Fondo idea has made it dirty; there is no bitumen, this is an off road course (mostly fire roads) which will take cyclists through the beautiful surroundings of the Mt Disappointment forest.” – Big Hill Events
This new concept has bridged the gap between roadies and mountain bikers, with a large number of roadies on Cyclo Cross bikes. The rising popularity of Cyclo Cross cycling in Victoria has been phenomenal and the Dirty Gran Fondo distances of 90k, 65k or 35k offers riders an alternative to the standard Cyclo cross course, which are mostly 2.5-3.5k and consist of riders repeating laps for a period of time.
Current entrants to this years Gran Fondo include:
Adrian Jackson – Wombat 100 winner and Merida rider (on 29er)
Warrack Leach – Current VES 3hr winner and Trailmix rider (on 29er)
Roeland Suys – Belgian Marathon MTB rider (on 29er)
Allan Iacuone – 1994 Aus Road Champ (on Cyclo Cross)
Melissa Anset – 2012 Cyclo Cross Champ and iRide Rocky Mountain rider (on Cyclo Cross)
John Groves – Current VES team winner and Apollo Rider (on Cyclo Cross)
For the return of the Dirty Gran Fondo, many of the top riders are re-thinking last years decision to run a cyclocross bike, purely because of the steepness of some of the climbs and the brutal nature of some of the fire roads. Adrian Jackson, who came a close second last year, had this to say: “My shoulders and arms were screwed after riding the CX last year! Plus the multiple flats wasn’t fun!” If you check out the below photo however, it looks like a lightweight CX bike would be a far easier load to lug up those really steep pinches. Hmm, what bike to bring…
Where: Wandong Recreation Reserve, Wandong, VIC
When: Sunday 19th May, 2013
What: 90km, 65km, 35km
How Much: $55 – $65
More Info: www.BigHillEvents.com.au
Still not sure? Then check out this post-race interview taken last year after the DGF with Trent Lowe, who provides some insight into what to expect from the course, what type of bike he would recommend and how to train for the course conditions. While there are still a few questions up in the air for us, the one answer we do have is that this event will be an absolute hoot for everyone who’s getting on board!
Falling smack-bang in the middle of Autumn, the Wombat 100 has become an institutional event on the Victorian Enduro racing calendar since it’s humble beginnings back in 2009 as the ‘BMC 100km Classic’. 5 years on and attracting 800+ riders to the quaint Victorian country town of Woodend, the Wombat is a key event on many riders radars from the pointy end in their sponsors kit, to the weekend warriors whose sole aim is to cross that finish line without need for hospitalisation.
We’ll have a full run-down of the entire day along with a comprehensive spread of beautiful riding shots and photos from the event in our next issue of Enduro, but in the meantime, here’s a rundown of the 50km race and my experience partaking in my very first Wombat event.
Firstly, I’m not sure who started the trend, but hot dang mountain bike races start bloody early in the morning! Yeah, yeah, race logistics, presentation times, driving home at a reasonable hour and all that, but having to wake up before 5am is not the sort of thing I tend to associate with a recreational outdoors activity. In Maximum Adventure’s defence, there was provided accommodation on site at Cammeray Waters where quite a few people took advantage of the campsite option and chose to arrive at a normal hour on Saturday afternoon. For those not familiar, Cammeray Waters is a rural resort with luxury accommodation & function rooms available for Melbournites looking to escape the city for the weekend. It’s in a tranquil native bush setting surrounded by a glassy lake, lush green paddocks and a golf course, and is probably not the sort of place that smelly and dirty mountain bikers would be seen in on any of the other 364 days of the year. Having never ventured into a Wombat 100 event before, the setting was new to me, but as the fog lifted through the eucalyptus trees on a dewy Autumn morning, it was hard not to be impressed with how beautiful the location is. Ah, how’s the serenity?
Anyway, I was saying how early it was. My riding companion, Dave, and I were discussing in the car on the way out to Woodend what a great idea it would have been to take advantage of the camping option. That was an option that unfortunately wasn’t really available to us however, as we were somewhat involved in a mutual friends bucks party the day before where we had spent the afternoon zooming around the city on blue Melbourne Share Bikes, travelling from pub to bar and enacting various tasks that I shall not divulge into here. I can safely say though, that we were in no state to be operating any kind of heavy machinery on Saturday evening, and so the camping option was out. Instead, we elected to wake up pre-5am in order to make the hour drive out to Cammeray Waters (’bout 15 minutes from Woodend) to get Dave to the start line for the 100km race.
In case you hadn’t heard of it before, the Wombat 100 is (of course) a 100km race, which sends riders around the native bush and pine plantations through the Wombat Forrest in the Great Dividing Range. There is also a 50km option for those not so keen on the idea of arse-chafing, and an 18km race for the Juniors. In the lead up to the April race-date, I to’d and fro’d on the idea of doing the full 100km but ended up chickening out to do ‘just’ 50km. Backing up my decision, Mikkeli (Enduro Editor) decided to take the reigns for the 100km event, giving me a convenient excuse. Given how my head was feeling during the pitch-black and drizzly drive along the Calder Hwy, I was very glad I wasn’t riding triple digits.
After being guided in by moving flashlights like a taxing 747, we parked the car in the dark paddock, daring ourselves to open the door and venture out into the brisk morning air. It was a cold start to the day (or was it still night?) and I have to admit that enthusiasm levels were pretty low. Dave was giving himself a modest guestimate of about 8 hours to finish the 100km event, and I had dashed away any chance of finishing within half an hour of the winner for the 50km race, given we were both dried out like 2 surly prunes. But, we soldiered on and made our way to the registration building, where we were greeted by a number of helpful volunteers handing out race packs that I personally felt were far too enthusiastic for that time of the morning. The walk back to the car to affix race plates revealed a severely growing number of nervous-looking riders outside the portable toilets, all voiding their bladders and bowels in preparation for the next few hours of being glued to a bike saddle. I must confess I had a bit of a chuckle to myself as we dawdled past – no matter how maxed out the portaloos are before a race, you know full-well that it’s the toilets back at riders homes that are going to get the real workout post-race, once all of those gels and carbohydrate drinks make their way through the digestive tract…
Back at the car, the dirt road leading into Cammeray Waters served as a warmup circuit for the lycra-wrapped cyclists looking to get some blood into their digits before edging up to the start line. Dave got his kicks and helmet on, and I sinked back into the passenger seat of the car, gently ‘resting my eyes’ and quietly hoping I might accidentally fall asleep through the race start. I didn’t, and the inevitable buzz of race-day began to take over. As 7am neared, a mass of riders began to filter down towards the yellow inflatable start line and we made our way down lakeside to join them. Race briefing was welcomingly succinct, though the golden tonsils of Tim Sheedy provided some much-needed humour to wake up riders amassing in the start gates.
All of a sudden, it was 7am and the the 40 or so Elite 100km riders were off through the start gates, making their way around the lakes perimeter and off onto the fireroad. The rest of the 100km field were then sent out in self-seeded waves over the next quarter of an hour, with riders jostling for position in an attempt to clear the path before being drawn into the tight singletrack. And with that the quiet fell over race village again as the last spec of coloured movement disappeared into the distance. With another 45 minutes before the 50km race start, I made my way back to the warmth of the passenger seat in Dave’s car, though admittedly not before dropping by the portaloos for a nervous wee.
To avoid traffic chaos, the 50km course was simply the 2nd half of the 100km race. With over 500 riders choosing the shorter option (double the number that elected for the full 100km), a series of waves were sent off from the start line to keep the congestion levels down upon entry into the singletrack. The first couple of km’s were fireroad and doubletrack to help warm up the legs and in order to stretch the field out quickly. There was a touch of moisture in the air, though everything was looking pretty dry given that there were a handful of days between race day and when Woodend last got rain. Unfortunately for me, my legs took a little longer to warmup than I may have otherwise hoped, and so was dealt with the task of negotiating nervous riders with skinny handlebars and shaved legs upon the first stretch of trail. That’s ‘part of racing’ though (a phrase I heard more than several times later that day), and so being able to pick a point on a narrow singletrack that is both suitable and polite becomes quite the art. The Wombat trails were there to help however, with some beautifully crafted jumps and log-rolloves serving as techy ‘A-lines’ that many of the tentative roadies would avoid by taking the slower outside line. Gradually as the heart rate went up along with the adrenaline levels, I was able to creep forward a few riders at a time, with traffic thinning out towards the end of the first 20kms. Despite it being a race, I couldn’t help but let out a few stupid ‘whoops’ and ‘yee-ha’s whilst swinging from side-to-side down one of the gullies. The trails were absolutely primo – well designed, a great use of the natural terrain and mostly covered in hero dirt. Whilst I had ridden the Wombat loop before on many an occasion, it was all the new singletrack we were churning along that impressed me the most. The enjoyment level was helped significantly given that the majority of the trails in the first portion of the course were mostly downhill, where we dropped around 200 vertical metres from the highest point near the start.
The latter 30kms of the course saw the singletrack more interspersed with fireroad stretches, whereby any advantage I had gained in the singletrack was quickly eroded away by fitter riders swallowing up the gap and then overtaking me on the long dirt-road climbs. A certain amount of frustration kicked in, but then I realised I was definitely taking myself too seriously, and especially so given that walking in a straight line 12 hours earlier had been quite a challenge. The fact that I could even ride a bike was to be perfectly honest, a feat in itself.
So onwards we climbed on the dirt fire roads. And climbed. And climbed.
Whilst I’m no physicist, a growing sense of dread grew as I realised we were beginning to chew back all of the elevation that I had so readily taken for granted on the singletrack descents. In the space of about 5kms, we clawed back those 200 vertical meters at a pretty awful gradient. My heart went out to the singlespeeder that I’d been trading places with for the first part of the race, but pity quickly turned to annoyance when I realised he simply got out of the saddle and roasted me on the climbs. After a particularly long section of dirt road, an impressively well-stocked feed station thankfully signalled the half-way point.
Sarah Riley: Winner of the Womens 50km Category in a time of 2:31. Despite not having much race experience at the 100km distance, Sarah impressively earned a podium finish at the National Marathon Championships over the weekend in Atherton, QLD, with 3rd place in behind teammate Therese Rhodes and the winner, Jenni King.
It’s probably worth noting that I had chosen to ride the 5″ travel MSC Blast on race day, which we’ll be reviewing in our upcoming issue. All you need to know is that it’s a lightweight carbon dually with a pretty efficient suspension platform, sporty geometry and 26″ wheels. Yup, 26″ wheels. I reckon I can almost pinpoint the exact moment on the course whilst I was being overtaken by various carbon 29er hardtails, where I realised just how much they have taken over the XC racing scene. Don’t get me wrong, the MSC was a hoot in the singletrack and the suspension was comfy for the few hours I was on top of it, but if ever there was a more suitable advertisement for 29er mountain bikes being the choice for marathons and enduros, that moment would have been it.
The rest of the race was mostly by the numbers, though with around 15kms to go I managed to tack onto the end of a 5-rider train that I felt like I might be able to springboard off of. Most of the alcohol must have leaked out of my sweat pores by this point, as I was starting to feel pretty good. Weaving our way around some pretty fast downhill sections, there was a bit of nervous riding going on though. I imagine all of us were thinking the same thing and looking for riders in front of you to make a mistake for you to skip around them. And then: BAM!! I was on the ground in an instant. Pain in my knee, adrenaline shooting through my body and a fuzzy head trying to work out what exactly just happened. “YOU RIGHT?” came from the riders streaming away from me. “YE-YEAH, I THINK SO!” I yelled back. And then I noticed the huge stick lodged in my front wheel, one that had been kicked up by a tyre in front of me and had jammed in the forks bringing the bike to a stand still and sending me over the hangers. I did my best Peter Griffin impression, breathing in air tightly between my lips and exhaling loudly; “ahhhhhhh”, over and over again, hoping that it would fix the stabbing pain in my knee. As I’d fallen, the end of the handlebar must have swung round and decided to introduce itself to my kneecap. The following 500 metres of riding was presumably, to anyone watching, hilarious, as I attempted to pedal with only my right leg. After I got the left leg moving again, the pain reduced marginally and enough for me to cruise on. As I rounded a corner, an ominous “10km To Go” sign ridiculed me.
The last 10kms of the race was brutal, and it involved me telling myself repeatedly that “it’s ok, you’re all good, they’ll have coffee and probably sausages” as I attempted to coax my knee back to life. A final piece of singletrack with around 6kms to go was one of the sweetest bits of trail in the whole course, which helped stoke a bit of fire to keep the weary limbs going. That opened up to the last few lengths of dirt road, which cruelly took you past the transition area, giving you a false sense of relief that the race was over. It wasn’t, and I was left cursing at myself out loud trying to keep the bike moving faster than walking pace, knowing the quicker I went, the quicker it would be over.
I ended up crossing the line somewhere in the top 50, happy that I had come within 25 minutes of the winner but annoyed that some random bad luck had caused me to take a dive. At least if you wash out the front wheel or hit the brakes too hard on a descent you can learn from your mistake for next time. Ah well. As I was reminded over and over again in the race pits via tales of other bad luck; ‘that’s racing!’
Probably the best thing about the whole day was crossing that finish line and being handed a raffle ticket by one of the race volunteers, who explained the token was for a free beer. I very quickly forgot the pain in my knee and enjoyed a rad cup of amber ale from the 4 Pines Brewery crew, before scoping out the food vendors and getting myself a mean burger. The photo up above of the bay marie with all the snags and hamburgers in it was met with disgust by the lady behind the counter, who turned out to be the head chef at Cammeray Waters and was appalled we were photographing such terrible food. Apparently they had catered the event last year, and to a standard that they would normally do for functions and events such as the corporate days and weddings they host year-round. She explained that it was a total failure, with all of the beautiful salads, quiches, gourmet meats and so on being snubbed by the exhausted riders who had finished the race and simply wanted a sausage, bread and sauce. I suppose when you’ve been chowing down electrolyte drinks and powerbars all day, your body is probably not prepared for anything that’s too much of a culinary challenge. As such, food was of a much more ‘basic’ variety for the 2013 Wombat.
Winner of the Mens 50km Category in a time of 2:08 was Jason Lowndes. At just 18 years of age, Jason is showing some great signs of things to come, and just last weekend also took out the ‘Race The Train’ event in Castlemaine. Standing at nearly 2 meters tall and tipping the scales at under 80kg, it appears that the genes are well and truly on his side!
Chatting to other riders and race organisers post-race, there seemed to be a collective sense of enjoyment and relief towards the end of the day, with most folks happy with the course and how they had travelled. The weather held out on us, despite some grey skies threatening rain, which reminded Tim Sheedy of the apocalypse that was the Wombat 100 a couple of years ago (the one with the hailstorm and where riders who were still out on course ended up having to hug trees to reduce the ferocity of being bombarded with hailstones). Comparatively, we did pretty well.
The pointy end of the 50km race was taken out by Jason Lowndes for the lads, and Sarah Riley for the ladies. Adrian Jackson and Peta Mullens were crowned the King and Queen of this years Wombat 100, though for those playing at home, you can check out the full results here.
Oh and as for Dave? Well he actually finished under his earlier projected time of 8 hours, though I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone so relieved as when Dave was passed a beer shortly after this photo was taken. He also mentioned that 100km races “are f*%ked”. For many riders, the 100km is all about the accomplishment, regardless of how long it takes. The last rider to cross the line came in some 9 hours after the race began, and I’ve gotta give a hats off to anyone who can stick out a race of that distance.
With Wombat number ’6′ coming up next year, we expect the same slick-running event as always, and this years race has set some pretty high expectations for me. A beautiful setting, hilariously fun singletrack and all within an hours drive of Melbourne. Next time I reckon I’ll camp the night before though. But if any event organiser is reading this, let’s talk about afternoon events!
We gotta admit that we’re a little late with this one, but gee-whiz has the 4th month of 2013 crept up on us quickly! Chances are if you’re reading this you’ve probably got your entry in already and you and the gang are currently working out a plan for the car to mysteriously “break down” so that you end up stuck in Tathra for a few more days than scheduled. But for those who haven’t already entered, let us attempt to sell you on why you should pencil in next weekend (the 27th and 28th of April) for the 2013 Tathra Enduro.
Situated on the Southern Coastline of NSW and not all that far from the Victorian border, Tathra is a sleepy coastal town that has been quietly developing an enviable reputation for its clean beaches, undulating landscape and quality singletrack network. An enthusiastic club is regularly spruiking the trails to outsiders, most of whom come from Canberra and Bairnsdale, as both are within a 3 hour drive. Sydneysiders and Melbournites will be in the car for 6-7 hours, making Tathra a destination that’s worth spending a few days in.
The Tathra Enduro is a mountain bike event staged over 2 days and consisting of a 10km prologue on the Saturday, followed by the option of a 20/50/100km race on Sunday. There are also free kids races on the Saturday, with race organisers encouraging families to come and participate in the weekends festivities. And why not? With accommodation or a camping spot smack bang between the hillside forrest and the seaside, what better place to come spend some holiday time.
Last year, Enduro Magazine made the trip over for the 2nd edition of the increasingly popular Tathra Enduro event. Dean O’Neill covered the race, and his article was published in Issue #22, which came out late last year. However, we now have the same article available for you to read right now, on your computer and absolutely free of charge. To read the article, simply click the link: Tathra_Enduro_Article.
From the Tathra MTB Club:
“Now in its third year the Tathra MTB Enduro has gained a cult following for its super, flowing seaside single track, and its enthusiastic community spirit. The event encourages participation of all levels of mountain bike rider, with races styled to meet those needs. The Enduro is blessed to have its event hub, and over 40km of racing trails located within a stone’s throw of the Tathra township (and main beach). In “family speak” that means you can ride from your accommodation to the start-line, race, and be back for an afternoon surf with the kids. Another drawcard for MTB fans is the entry fee. In a bid to keep racing affordable, entry fees have not risen since the inaugural event, and as memento you receive a Tathra Enduro water bottle. In 2013 we’ve also increased the number of spot prizes available to all entrants – AND you won’t have to wait until the presentation to see if you’ve won! Sounds like there’s never been a better reason to RIDE TATHRA!”
It’s worth noting that the Tathra Enduro is staged by volunteers. It is a not for profit event run by the Tathra MTB Club and CEFE, and all funds raised are used for renewable energy projects and the development and maintenance of MTB trails in the town. 2013 is their third event – and in the past two years they’ve had over 500 starters aged from 3 years-75 race in one the five events over the weekend. The club has also raised over $40,000 for renewable energy projects in the shire and the continued development of the Tathra MTB trail network. Visiting one of the prettiest spots in NSW, riding awesome trails and contributing to the social and economic development of the local community – if that doesn’t warm the cockles of your heart, we don’t know what will!
More than 250 mountain bikers kicked off the Shimano Mountain Bike Grand Prix racing series at Awaba MTB Park near Newcastle on Easter Monday. Michal Kafka from Croydon Park was the fastest athlete in the 7-hour elite category, claiming his first solo win with 11 completed laps on the 10km course and Sarah Neumann from Newcastle was the strongest female racer. In the 4-hour competition, Kyle Ward from Wollongong secured a win in a strong elite male field and the female category was claimed by Susanna Fasold from Kirrawee.
Young Pinners – Chris Jefferys (right) with his Pedal4Pierce charity juniors team, Patrick Butler and Tyson Wise from Brunkerville. / Outer Image Collective
The SHIMANO MTB Grand Prix is one of the largest endurance racing series in NSW and ACT and offers mountain bikers challenges to race for four or seven hours, either as individual solo racers or in relay teams. Organisers Rocky Trail Entertainment hosted the first round of the five-race series at Awaba MTB Park together with the local club, the Hunter MTB Alliance.
Kyle Ward – Elite Male 4 hour winner Kyle Ward at Awaba. / Outer Image Collective
Fast four-hour race for state champion
More than two-thirds of the field competed in the four-hour race, including more than 100 solo riders. While the kids swarmed out on an Easter Egg Hunt before their race on the kids track, the reigning NSW cross-country state champion Kyle Ward from Wollongong raced to victory on the popular Awaba trails. “This was an awesome day out”, beamed the winner across the finish line. It had been a tight start and riders had paced themselves early on, adding, “No-one really wanted to spend any pennies too early, so with two [hours] to go I thought I give it a go and increased my pace.” The tactical move paid off and Ward was able to shake off a chasing group of three riders – Daniel McDonald and Anthony Shippard who crossed the line as second and third, respectively, only minutes behind Ward after the four-hour mark, as well as Stu Adams from Whitebridge who took out the master category on equal 7 laps.
First time solo race winner Michal Kafka at the 7-hour SHIMANO MTB GP race. / Outer Image Collective
First solo race, first win
In the 7-hour race, the top five finishers all completed 11 laps within half an hour of each other with Michal Kafka racing to his first solo victory in 6 hours and 54 minutes. The experienced endurance athlete with Quantum Racing and Crocodile Trophy stage race finisher won the 2012 SHIMANO MTB GP series title in the two-man team category and said that he saw the race at Awaba as a training ride, “I didn’t really know what to expect racing solo, but just enjoyed the day out on the bike. I did push myself, because I wanted to clock at least 100 km, so I’m really happy about this win!” Second was Grant Webster from Tea Gardens (NSW) and third place went to Roger Harrison from Hackett (ACT).
Sarah Neumann from Kahibah (NSW) was one of only three women in the seven-hour solo race and her 9 completed laps meant a top 10 overall position in the entire solo racing field. Like so many mountain bikers from the Central Coast and Newcastle regions she used the opportunity to race on a home track.
Sarah Neumann – Strong performance by Sarah Neumann in the 7-hour race. / Outer Image Collective
The line-honours and outright race title went to Matt Flemming, Jason Morgan and Harrison Wiles from the SHIMANO/All-track Cycles Racing team.
James Estate Winery next in the series
Round 2 of the SHIMANO MTB Grand Prix will be held on the brand-new mountain bike trails in the Upper Hunter Valley at James Estate at Baerami near Muswellrook on 20 April. Further series locations are Ourimbah MTB Park near Wyong (15 June), The Australian Botanic Garden at Mount Annan (13 July) and Stromlo Forest Park in Canberra (7 September).
Major solo results:
GP 7 Hour Solo Elite Male
1. Michal Kafka / Quantum Racing / Croydon Park, NSW / 11 laps/6:54:11
2. Grant Webster / Tea Gardens, NSW / 11 laps/7:22:57
3. Roger Harrison / The Cyclery / Hackett, ACT / 11 laps/7:30:29
GP7 Hour Solo Master Males (40+)
1. Andrew Wells / Randwick, NSW / 9 laps/7:02:42
2. Wayne Gibson / Terrigal, NSW / 9 laps/7:34:56
3. Jason Smith / Umina Beach, NSW / 8 laps/6:39:54
GP7 Hour Solo SuperMaster Males (50+)
1. Tony Brown / Rathmines, NSW / 9 laps/6:53:33
2. Wayne Wiggs / Gwandalan, NSW / 9 laps/6:53:36
3. Andrew Radcliffe / Macmasters Beach, NSW / 9 laps/7:09:09
GP 7 Hour Solo Females
Elite – Sarah Neumann / Cheeky Velosport / Kahibah, NSW / 10 laps/7:17:36
Master – Catherine Wood / Binnaway, NSW / 6 laps/5:07:52
SuperMaster – Su Pretto / Valentine, NSW / 6 laps/5:07:52
GP 4 Hour Solo Elite Male
1. Kyle Ward / Rockstar Racing / Tarrawanna, NSW / 7 laps/4:02:44
2. Daniel McDonald / Target/Trek Racing / Woodbine, NSW / 7 laps/4:07:16
3. Anthony Shippard / Sydney, NSW / 7 laps/4:17:13
GP 4 Hour Solo Elite Female
1. Susanna Fasold / Bike Culture/Whyte / Bonnet Bay, NSW / 5 laps/4:01:05
2. Emily Cunningham / Sneaky Bacon / Kirrawee, NSW / 5 laps/4:06:46
3. Laura Renshaw / Merewether, NSW / 5 laps/4:13:13