The Victorian High Country hasn’t exactly been doing it easy over the past few months, with this summer season’s unprecedented bushfires having put the region under serious threat. Thankfully all seven bike parks across the High Country emerged unscathed, and riders have been steadily returning to the region as part of the #RollOnBack campaign launched by the crew at Ride High Country.
To keep that momentum rolling, and in celebration of all that we love about high alpine mountain biking, Mt Buller hosted the 12th edition of the Bike Buller Festival over the weekend. As part of the festival, hundreds of mountain bikers returned to the High Country to show their support to the region, while taking part in a huge variety of events that covered everything from lung-busting XC races, through to Gravity Enduro, Downhill and the Highline Slopestyle event. From all reports, it was a mega weekend of riding good times – read on for the full press release from the Bike Buller Festival below!
Mountain Bikers Return Spark and Glory to Mt Buller after Difficult Summer
The Mt Buller weather gods delivered in spades for the 12th edition of the Bike Buller Festival. Clear blue skies and sunshine greeted riders when they drew their curtains on Saturday morning in the village. A long weekend of action included gravity enduro, downhill and XC mountain bike riding. Riders were spoilt with spectacular views of the high country from dawn till dusk.
Alpine Epic Trail
The 46km XC race on the Alpine EPIC trail kicked off proceedings early Saturday. Heavy rain late in the week mixed with some much needed sunshine on Friday made for a fast, sticky track with the odd muddy patch ready to swallow riders.
First across the line was Toby Stewart from Pambula in New South Wales in a time of 2:00:25 hours. “It was a really fun course out there today. It had a bit of everything. I was trying to keep ahead of Sam Fox and even waited for him on one section as I thought he had a mechanical or something. But he just kept disappearing so I decided to go for it and ended with a pretty solid time.” Toby has recently started working for XC star Brendan Johnston in Canberra.
First in the female category was Jess Egan from Ballarat in a time of 2:37:59 hours followed by Michelle Delaney and Lucie Blom both coming in well under four hours in a gruelling race. “I had so much fun out there today. I always love coming up to the high country from Ballarat to race. The long weekend makes it extra special. The organisation is so good as well. But man is it a tough race.”
The ABOM Downhill followed the Alpine EPIC on Saturday afternoon introducing an immediate change of pace. The fastest overall time from top to bottom was recorded by Tim Eaton from Canberra in 3:38.86 minutes. “It was pretty crazy out there today. There were some nice big bog holes but it was a lot of fun. I’ve got another big day on the pedals tomorrow so it’s going to hurt but it should be pretty good I think.”
Only a whisker separated Jordan Powell and Lachie Ball in a time of 3:41.00 hours creating a red hot benchmark to reach the podium. Rachel Hore was the fastest lady down the ABOM Descent in a time of 4:26:90 minutes. Maddison Smith and Tess Underhill claimed second and third only 10 seconds behind.
The 2019 highline slopestyle was huge with a three feature course. But the course was supersized for 2020 with Shannon Rademaker from All Terrain Cycles going to enormous lengths to gain full Bronze Level certification on the Freeride MTB World Tour. The course in 2020 was an expanded four feature course. Riders performed aerial manoeuvres that had to be seen to be believed. Riders bravely attempted everything from 720 spins to front flips and everything in between. A throng of spectators gathered on the hill to take in the festivities and regroup after a huge day of racing.
Cornhill Grand Prix
The short and sharp 17km Cornhill Grand Prix kicked off proceedings on Sunday morning. Riders traversed all the local favourites including Gang Gangs, the Misty Twist berm descent, the Medusa switchbacks on Silk Lane, the Corn Hill descent and the punishing Split Rock climb back up to the village. Every rider who finished commented on “that hill” at the finish line. Sam Fox recovered from an average day on Saturday (by his lofty standards) and claimed line honours in a fast time of 00:57:35 minutes. Toby Stewart played second fiddle this time but still finished the course in less than one hour. Tyler Phillips claimed third in 1:08:45 hours. The XC Whippet trophy went to Toby Stewart ahead of Sam Fox for the best aggregate time in the combined XC events.
GIANT Factory Off-Road rider Paul Van Der Ploeg put in a huge performance to claim the overall win in the men’s elite category of the gravity enduro. This was without doubt the marquee event for the weekend with more than 300 riders entering. Riders got to blitz the descents in multiple segments across the mountain before catching their breath at the end of each run. It is a hugely popular format for riders not so inclined with up-hill segments and endurance capacity. Van Der Ploeg recorded the fastest aggregate time across seven stages in 32:22:27 minutes.
Stages included Copperhead, Outlaw, Gang Gangs, Trigger Happy, Stone Fly, Clancy’s Run and a technical Urban Downhill descending into the finishing arch at Mt Buller. Alistair Farley and Jordan Powell were less than 20 seconds behind Van der Ploeg to claim second and third. Samantha Mcmahon claimed top honours in the female category in 46:21:70 minutes. Tessa de Vries and Eleanor Pierce finished second and third—only four minutes behind the rampaging McMahon. Van Der Ploeg claimed the much sought Gravity God prize with the fastest aggregate time for the ABOM Downhill and Gravity Enduro.
Riders were given the opportunity for one final blowout in the Super-D format—a race running from the top of Mt Buller to the base at Mirimbah. It’s a 9 kilometre circuit with 900 metres of vertical descent in a single stretch. Alistair Farley took line honours in a time of 29:49:21. Not far behind were a couple of fast junior riders Alistair Farley and Felix Moore both finishing inside 30 minutes.
Picnic in the Park
The weekend was topped by a Picnic in the Park festival and mountain cinema session. Rain was threatening to put dampener on the Village vibe but it never eventuated. Families and groups of friends enjoyed their final night on the mountain. “To welcome some of Australia’s best riders in combination with your amateur category riders is always such an awesome experience,” said event manager Sam Maffett from Rapid Ascent. “The quality of the riding, the banter and openness of riders makes it a real joy to be part of. Combine all this with the superb trails at Mt Buller and it really has been a sensational weekend. Thank you to everyone for making it one to remember, and to all of our fantastic sponsors, event crew and volunteers,” added Maffett.
For more information head to www.BikeBuller.com
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