Thanks to its close proximity to Melbourne city, the first round of the Victorian Enduro Series experienced a great turn out of riders and support at You Yangs Mountain Bike Park over the weekend for the ‘Crazy 6’ event. The 2013 edition of the VES is a well-stocked affair, with a total of 7 Rounds making their way across the Victorian countryside over the next 8 months, concluding at the Buxton Boot Camp in November. The 6 Hour race format has proven to be quite popular over the past couple of seasons, as compared to a 12 or 24hr event it represents a less demanding investment for participants, both in fitness and in time. You can still challenge yourself over the full 6 Hour race, though the VES offers up categories for Pairs & Triples as well as Solo riders, and new for 2013 is the addition of a 3 Hour event at each round.
The rounds are split apart by at least a month, so logistically it becomes a lot easier to book yourself in for each one. Points accumulate over the series, and with up to $10,000 up for grabs in prize money for the overall category winners, there’s plenty of extra motivation for you to get out and experience some of the best trails Victoria has to offer. Though if the numbers and the quality of riders at the You Yangs round over the weekend is anything to go by, the rest of the VES is shaping up to be the most competitive and successful series yet!
As part of our coverage of the 2013 VES, we made our way West to check out the ‘Crazy 6’ event, and along with full race results you can check out our wrap-up and photos below.
As is becoming somewhat customary on the morning of race day, I found myself being rudely awoken by an incessantly vibrating phone next to the bed that was to warn me of the impending arrival of Dave & Sassy. Dazed, severely under-slept and mildly hungover, the tooting of the Patrol’s horn out the front of the house signalled the confirmation of another classic example of what I like to call: “Getting prepared for an MTB event: 101”. Within an impressively short amount of time, clothes were donned, gear was amassed and with camera in hand, I stumbled down the stairs towards the open arms of a Long Black awaiting me next to the rumbling 4WD, and the previous irritation of the obnoxious car horn quickly faded. With a roar of the 6 cylinder engine and the loud hum from the obscenely knobbly tyres, we set off in our man-truck towards Geelong on the Princes Freeway.
Miraculously arriving at the Kurrajong Picnic Ground with time to spare, we lined up along with almost 300 other riders to get stuck int0 the first round of the VES. For those who aren’t familiar with the You Yangs MTB Park, it is separated into two areas called “Stockyards” and “Kurrajong” that are connected by dirt roads and singletrack. Most of the downhill and more technical trails are on the Stockyards side, with the Crazy 6 course winding around the eucalyptus plantations on the Kurrajong side that are commonly known to mountain bikers as the ‘flat tracks’. Due to the nature of a 6 Hour event, a loop was devised to provide riders with an approximately 30 minute lap that showed off the best of both the ‘Plantation’ and ‘Chainsaw’ tracks along the Kurrajong network. With the help of just the right amount of fireroad stretches, each lap was around 11.9km long with transition taking place along the stretch of carpark at the Picnic Ground.
To make the most of the ‘Crazy 6’ event name, race organisers Geelong Mountain Bike Club (GMBC) encouraged riders to dust off their loudest, most colourful socks to add a bit of fun to the day. During race briefing, I found my eyes being drawn to some of the most unusual attire I’ve ever seen at a mountain bike race, and I think the club succeeded in maximising the fun factor and minimising the seriousness.
For those playing at home, the Junior Team pair of Caleb Royes & Rhys Carr took home the prize for best socks on the day and pocketed $250 – not bad at all!
It seemed that the effect of the Crazy Sox was rubbing off on competitors in the leadup to the event, as there were some cracker team names floating around on riders number plates. Our favourites included classics such as the bizarre ‘Yogurt Truck’, the very confident ‘OUTRIGHT WINNERS 2013’, the factual: ‘Plural of Triple is CHUCK NORRIS, and ‘Smelly Pirate Hookers’ for obvious reasons.
Not only did Rhys and Caleb take out the best socks of the day, but they were also up there for best team name with ‘Prestige Worldwide’. Will we see the bar raised for team names at the next round??
The ‘Flat Tracks’ on the Kurrajong side of the You Yangs are regarded as the easiest trails to ride in the park due to the lack of any tricky rock gardens or steep descents like you would find on the Stockyards side. As such, in the lead up to race start riders were exclaiming that this would be an “easy Enduro” in comparison to some of the other rounds of the VES. Despite their confident tone, they would soon find out that this would be no walk in the park…
Riders doing the full 6 Hour event lined up behind transition around 10an and after a quick countdown from race marshals, shot out through the start/finish area to the amusing sounds of the children’s song “We’re going to the You Yangs” being blasted through the PA (golf claps Rich Grant). Within the first lap, riders already began stringing out along the windy course as while much of the singletrack was fairly narrow, there were plenty of opportunities for overtaking along fireroad stretches.
The sandy hardpack soil at the You Yangs is a tricky surface to negotiate at times, and especially so through off-camber corners. During the first few laps, nervous riders who were vying for pole position would occasionally drift the back tyre out coming through the apex of a tight turn, though most would quickly wrestle back control of the bike to remain upright, trying to remain calm and collected. There were also plenty of pants-filling occasions where I also lost the front tyre on a washed out corner, prompting me to very quickly wake up. The course was definitely fast, but easy it most certainly was not. That same sandy soil proved to be an energy-sapper that had me checking the wheels multiple times for brake rub, and despite the highly inaccurate ‘Flat Tracks’ name, there were a series of false flats along the course that combined with a headwind proved to be a spirit-destroyer towards the latter part of the race.
Earlier in the day during race briefing, GMBC President & head heckler Rich Grant warned all of us of the rolling doubles along the 4X skills section on the upper Chainsaw track. Apparently a rider had come a cropper on one of the doubles in the event last year, and the race organisers were not keen to see any broken bones again. This is really easier said than done, as the lure of the sharp lips at the beginning of each jump seemed to egg you to push a little faster and higher each lap, though despite a couple of wobbles in the air due to some vicious cross winds, luckily I kept it rubber-side down.
Out of the gate, the tag-team of John Groves & Nick Morgan (Apollo Bikes) showed a clear determination that they were here to do business, punching out solid 25-minute laps for the first 3 hours. Meanwhile in the Solo Womens category, April McDonough, Jacqui Lovett & Clare Vlahopoulos proceeded to duke it out lap-for-lap, with an impressive level of racing on display that saw them rack up 400kms of riding between them!
Special mention also has to go to Aleisha Bald who rounded out the Solo Womens podium, whilst managing to also help with registration and event management throughout the day – a wearer of many hats!
After midday, another swarm of riders and support crew flooded the event village to prepare for the beginning of the 3 Hour race. Despite being a touch hungover from a bucks party the evening before, Paul Van Der Ploeg made an appearance at the start line, along with his 9.5kg Giant XTC Carbon 29er hardtail, complete with semi-slick Schwalbe Furious Fred tyres. Not known for their grip, Paul was queried about his tyre selection, which he responded to: “I thought I’d make things interesting”. Such is the reality for an Elite level racer I suppose, and I don’t think anyone was questioning his logic when he crossed the line in 1st position for the 3 hour category…
Rolling around to 4pm, the Solo Mens category was taken out by Stuart Brown, with Will Geor & Shane Roberts rounding out the podium. The top 6 solo finishers each completed an impressive total of 13 laps of the race course, whilst the Team category was taken out by the Apollo boys with 14 laps under their collective belts. The team of Richard Irwin and Luke Fetch were not far behind though, coming within 3 minutes of 1st place and with Luke taking the honours of the fastest lap for the day with a scorching time of 24 minutes and 24 seconds, giving him an average speed of almost 30 km/h!
Finishing in 12th place in the 6 Hour Mixed Team category was the dynamic crew of the GMBC Club Committee who played out a rotating roster of racing whilst also managing the event. Hats off to Phil, Tania & Rich for getting involved in the race as well as coordinating it too.
Whilst attempting to find my lungs back at race village, we chatted to a number of different riders who were all in agreement as to how well run the event was. People seemed to love how fast the course was, and a chap I spoke to who was absolutely stoked with everything about the ‘Crazy 6’ summed up the speedy course nicely by claiming the race was “about as close as you can get to a road crit”. Despite the assumption that it would be an easy day out, most were cursing that awful false flat towards the back end of the lap that seemed to put everyone in the hurt box, and everyone was looking very satisfied in that exhausted kind of way come 4pm.
A huge shout out has to go to the excellent race marshals and volunteers as well as GMBC for running the event, and Entry Zone for taking care of the slick timing system. If round #1 has set the tone for the rest of the VES series, we can’t wait to get stuck into the next race!
And speaking of, that next event is scheduled to run at Mount Beauty on the weekend of the 27th of April. With a very different landscape and terrain to You Yangs, expect the Mt Beauty course to throw up a bunch of surprises and plenty of hair-raising fun on the Big Hill Mountain Bike Park. But if the promise of awesome trails isn’t enough to draw you in, consider the fact that the points you gain in Round #2 will be multiplied by 1.5, giving you a significant advantage over your competitors.
For more information about future rounds, head to: www.VicEnduroSeries.com.au