There’s something very special about 24 hour mountain bike racing whether you’re competing as a team or as a solo. Riding a lap in the tiny hours of the morning is so much something that seems so crazy, crazy, crazy. It’s hard to argue that it’s not.
I started my third lap at 20 past midnight and was woken for my fourth at 5 a.m… and crawling out of a nice snuggly warm tent in the middle of a Canberra April night is really, really, REALLY hard. Under what other circumstances would you ever consider going for a ride at those times of day?! Madness.
It’s amazing what team-work, along with the pressure to please your mates, can motivate.
The Edward Teach Guild – MTB Racing Team (this link may provide some explanation) is an entity of which I’m grateful to be a member… we all love to be members of a group. The Guild is the team which has never lost this race… til now. And yes, I was proud to be a part of that as well.
Consistency and reliability are the keys to this kind of endurance racing. Consistent lap times, reliable machinery equiped with good shit that works really really well, and an element of luck…that’s what wins.
‘The Rabbit‘ (Brett Kellett) took our first lap – as is his want and skill – and smashed out the prologue and onto the course well-and-truly in the top 20 positions in a race of 320 teams. Nice.
Then snap goes the chain… and down the drain goes 15 minutes. Well… um… that wasn’t the start we were after. Beej (Brian John) and I head out on our laps to start the chase then, ptssssss…. goes Cam’s tyre at the top of the drop when he tries to bunny-hop a hubbard (i.e. any rider slower than yourself). Down the drain goes another 10 minutes. That’s racing.
Thereafter, we chased and chased and chased. It’s testament to The Captain’s (Bruce Dickey) leadership that no-one is given quarter to accept defeat… nor to ride at anything but their best.
The excitement of the dusk lap (entering the dark of the night), the loneliness – if it wasn’t for hubbards – of a dark, dark, dark lap; and the tranquility of the dawn lap were mine to wonder at. And as hard as it is to bring yourself to do certain things, the reward of the achievement is amazing and extremely memorable.
Our mishaps had put us in 200th position overall and 17th in category at the completion of lap one. By the end of the race, we had clawed back to 9th overall (320 teams) and 2nd in category (22 teams). And yes… there were times where we said, “If only….” – but we can’t be saying that.
That’s racing. 😉
Just a dash of political incorectness
It’s always great to review, debrief, analyse and thank those responsible for a great event… and it was a great event. But the gushy praise for trail-builders at the end of the race was a little over the top in my view. I’m sure the 100 kilometres of trails built in the area and the work put in by the crew is awesome… but we rode 16.5km of trail and have seen virtually the same 16.5 for at least the past few years (with a few new little tid-bits here and there). These were by no means the best trails I have ridden and are in dire need of significant maintenance and durability work. Some of the descents could do with some serious berm-work and solidifying – rather than end up with the dusty results we saw. The team, the event, the atmosphere, the trip… these are the reasons I go; if I want to ride trails as good as this, I can do that in the middle of Melbourne on Yarra Trails; and I can travel very little distance to ride trails way WAY better than the Kowan State Forrest. So great work guys… but don’t get too cocky and comfortable; it’s a competitive environment and there are good races everywhere with much much MUCH better trails. I think the boys of Kowan would do themselves a massive favour by consulting with the trail builders of the Alpine Cycling Club… Just saying. (PS: Don’t get pissed off with such feed back… go with it and give us some interesting stuff next year.)
And Hubbards… my God! Are we really trying to build a mountain bike culture where we don’t race anymore?! Are these events turning into a ‘ride‘ rather than a race where it’s okay to put your arse in the way of your fellow riders who… yes… may well actually be racing for sheep-stations – or similar? And then when you get passed by a faster rider, you threaten to ‘report their number‘ due to aggressiveness – which is just racing. My God!… time for me to shut-up.
I guess that’s all part of racing too.