Things are starting to ramp up here in the Tropical North! Track walks get underway today, but many riders opted to get themselves acclimatised to the jungle’s cloying heat and took a look around the trails yesterday. With a sprinkling of rain last night, we’re predicting slippery things out a Smithfield today!
The Show Comes to Town
Just outside the arrivals hall of Cairns Airport, the scene was a mess of europeans unpacking bikes and cramming into hire cars!
It’s muddy alright. The pit area is a bit boggy, the crew are working overtime to bring in gravel to make the surface manageable. Bring good shoes.
Glen Jacobs is clearly frothing to see it all coming together in his home town on trails he help create 20+ years ago. In between overseeing final tweaks to the course, he’s chaperoning riders and teams about the place, making sure they sample the full Cairns experience – waterfalls, stinging trees and all.
Aaron Gwin was one of the serious contenders we spotted out on course today, dodging the marauding mosquitos and slippery clay. He was quick to admit there were some challenging sections in the track, particularly the whoops which he thought would be at home on a supercross course. If a man like Gwin is saying that, they’re gnarly!
Kona’s Tegan Molloy got to Cairns early for a bit of family time and to get her head in the right place after a great outing at Pietermaritzburg. “This course suits my riding a lot more than South Africa,” she said, “it’s faster.” Even as a smaller rider, she’s not worried about the potentially tiring sprint into the finish. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to make the whole triple coming out of the gully into the last straight, but even if I just double it up, carrying enough speed should be easy.”
Coach Rando and Assistant Coach Rennie. These guys have 14 lucky junior downhillers to look after this week, nothing they can’t handle. The best names in the business to be taking care of our up and comers. Rennie was recently crowned the Barron Valley Pub Trivia Champ too, while Rando was proud to point out he’d caught two fish today. Consummate professionals and valuable mentors
“It’s a bit slippery up there,” says Rhys Atkinson, one of the key guys behind the course construction. Rhys not only built the track, but he’ll be racing it too on Saturday. “I need a day off the tools to give buy hands a rest for racing!” While the downhill track is slippery for now, the cross country course is pretty much perfect – “the soils lower on the hill are more granitic, so it has drained really well.”
The big guns are probably out on the reef in compression socks, sipping mango mocktails.
This massive step down jump is on the cross country track! It’s there waiting for any rider game enough to hit it. There are multiple lines here; a steep, slow roller, a decent four-five foot drop or this huge huck. We’ll take our hats off to the first person to try the full length on an XC bike.
The downhill course pops out of the thick jungle right at the end. It’s seriously like a wall of green – amazingly dense, waiting to eat riders whole.