A comedy of errors but a bloody brilliant Gravity 12 hour

(The Gravity 12 hour mountain bike race is an enduro event which runs around a set lap of 14 kilometres for a period of 12 hours.  It can be raced solo or in teams of between 2 and 6 people.  The most competitive category is the mens teams of 3, of which Team Cyclepath was one.  The winner rides the most laps in the quickest overall time.)

This photo, taken on the way to Bright on Friday night, proved to be quite ironic considering the comedy of errors that was to greet me the following day.

Lucy and I were super-excited to be heading off on our adventure to Porepunkah together.  It’s not often I spend time with any one child on my own so this was to be a precious weekend.

We arrived about 9pm and headed quickly to bed in order to be ready for a hot day of racing Saturday.  My excitement around this race had arrived late due to my slow recovery from the Alpine Classic last week.  I hadn’t turned a pedal since then but by Friday night I was pingin’ and ready to roll.

Mick and I arrived at the Bright Holiday Park transition at about 7.15 where we met my two Team Cyclepath team-mates, Brendon Dean and Mark McDougal.  Mick – questioning his own sanity – had decided to ride the 12 hours solo.  Gutsy.

Brendon, the owner of Cyclepath in Bright, had set up a brilliant transition for us.  A gorgeous spot down by Morses Creek contained our headquarters for the day;  marquee, esky, chairs, workstands, tools, food and drink.  Even a warm-up bike ready to go on the trainer.  Oh… and a spare bike – pffff… won’t need that!  It’s not bad riding in the team with the local bike shop owner.

So off we all went to get ourselves sorted.  I pulled my bike out of the car having collected it fresh from service, sat on it  – and…

Oh no!

The rear shocker sank to the bottom of its travel and stayed there.  I checked the air, increased the pressure, tried it in lock-out, tested the air again, rode it in lock-out… nothing.  It remained sitting at the bottom of the travel no matter the pressure or lock-out position.  Totally defunct.

Support crew members waiting for their running riders.

Luckily Doogs had agreed to start the race; even luckier when I realised it was a Le Mans start (*see below)!  I have absolutely no desire to do one of those and have avoided it thus far… and now again.  I was stuffing around and stressing over my bike so much that I nearly missed the start.  I was so distracted by my own problems that I didn’t even offer to hold Mick’s bike for him in order to get him off for a good start before his 12 hours of torture.

Once the lap was underway I set about trying to decide what I was going to do.  Did I mention the spare bike?

'Niner' 29er - great bike but too low and too short for me

This is a beautiful steed and one of Brendon’s favourite rides on his Bright trail cruises.  But here are the differences from what I’m used to:

  • hard-tail (my enduro bike is a dually)
  • 29er (I ride a 26″ MTB)
  • too low (no matter how hard we tried we couldn’t move the seat-post so I was sitting about 10cm lower than normal)
  • too short (not by much but hey…)
  • Shimano gears (I ride SRAM)
  • 1 x 9 gearing (I ride 2 x 10 – but as it turned out the gearing was perfect for this trail)

Off I went anyway… appreciative of the fact that Brendon let me ride it knowing my bike destruction capabilities.  I smashed out a lap as quick as I could but really struggled with the understeer of the big wheels and the cramped position.  I stepped off at the end of my lap in agony but was confident I could manage the day on it if necessary (45 minutes for the lap – way too slow).

I was annoyed with this very first world problem but still… I was able to ride.

About 10 minutes later, Brendon mentioned he’d rung Joe back at the shop and asked him to get a bike ready for me.  Did I mention it’s good to be in the team with the local bike shop owner?  I whipped down the shop and had to double-take when I saw this…

Brand new Giant XTC carbon 29er hard-tail - SRAM X0

… infact I had to ring Brendon back at the course to make sure he meant for me to ride it!  Shit… he did – so with a big smile on my face (and a little bit of worry in my gut) I headed back to the course on this rocket ship.  A quick tweak of the gears, flip of the head-stem and a twist of the bars and I was off on my second lap.

It still took a bit of getting used to but wow – what a bike!  42.57 for the lap… that’s better.  As I rolled in to the tent having pushed Doogs on his way, I couldn’t help but say to Brendon, “Mate – that was crap.  Have you got another one?”   ; )

By this point in the race we were settling into a pretty good rhythm.  I was amazed at our consistency over the whole day as a team.  We were riding extremely similar times on every lap; running very easily in the top 8 overall (4th in category) and working our way up during the day.

On my third lap I was just about back at transition when I hit a rock at speed, flicked it up into the gears and smashed the rear derailer to bits.  That worry in my gut was justified.  I limped the 500 metres back into transition and gave Brendon the bad news.  If there was a wombat hole nearby I would have crawled into it.  We butchered my bike, which happened to have the necessary bits, and I had the XTC back up and running in time for the next lap.   Luckily the next two laps were without incident; I enjoyed every minute of them despite my growing weariness and managed to push out some pretty good lap times.

A tired but determined Mick

Mick appeared a couple of times throughout the day and I was reminded how nice it is to ride these races in a team.  He was smashed.  The middle of the day was a nice hot 34 degrees and there was plenty of sun out on that trail.  Riding solo in these things is a different ball game altogether and I take my helmet off to them.  Well done mate!

For me, the day went very quickly.  It’s great to rest, eat and drink between laps – fresh and ready to go as hard as you like.  We also had plenty of visitors througout the day and it was great to be encouraged by all the locals who dropped by to push us along with kind words.

We were pretty excited about our performance by the end; maintaining our position not too far behind the pros.  In the end, we finished up 5th overall and 4th in our category of teams of 3.  There was a brilliant tussle going on at the sharp end of the race with the Torq team of 4 finishing only 28 seconds behind the Felt team of 3.   Not a bad margin after 12 hours; both riders within sight of each other near the finish line.  Fantastic.

Full results can be seen here.

This race is a goer.  The transition area was the best I’ve ever raced in and the trails, as you may know, are my very favourites.  It was also a privilege to ride Roger’s Trail every lap and I’m sure I went just that little bit quicker through that couple of k each time.

I’m sure this race will be full next year and I’ll be back without a doubt… hopefully with my own bike.

Thanks again to Brendon a Doogs for making up such a great competitive team.  And a very special thanks to Brendon for the use of your treasures.  You’re a brave man!

(* Le Mans start – is a particular way of starting a bike race – or a car race – where the riders have to run some distance before they get to their bikes and commence to ride.  Designed to spread the field out in order that riders aren’t jammed going into single track.)

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One thought on “A comedy of errors but a bloody brilliant Gravity 12 hour

  1. Well done Richard and team Cyclepath! I wished I had ridden now – but there is always next year. Will have to handball the kids for the weekend and get a team together to enjoy the local delights on mass with the MTB visitors that now probably all wish they lived in Bright. Could not have asked for a more perfect weather day or location to have the race. Bring on 2013 (-;

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