Bulk Air Time: Vapour Trail, Stromlo’s New Jump Track

We headed to Canberra to meet up with some of the country’s best riders – Thomas Crimmins, Timmy Eaton and Ryan Walsch – for a day of bulk air time.


Watch the full video of Canberra pinners Thomas Crimmins, Tim Eaton and Ryan Walsch ripping it up on Vapour Trail below.


Stromlo Vapour Trail-05048
Ryan ‘Raymond’ Walsch flows into the lower sections of Vapour Trail.

The inspiration for this beast stems directly from the international reputation of some of the best-known trails on the planet, trails like Whistler’s A-Line and Dirt Merchant.

Vapour Trail is a big jump ahead for Stromlo, quite literally, with some pretty serious air time on offer if you’re hitting the big lines. The inspiration for this beast stems directly from the international reputation of some of the best-known trails on the planet, trails like Whistler’s A-Line and Dirt Merchant. After all, why should the Canadians get all the fun?

Stromlo Vapour Trail-9828
Jump trains with mates. Nothing better.

It’s a bit of an all-you-can-eat banquet of jumps

Darren Stewart of Makin Trax (who carry out all the maintenance and construction at Stromlo) has been a long-time believer in the importance of a trail like this to ensure Stromlo stays ahead of the curve and helps progress mountain biking in Canberra. “I’ve been personally agitating for this trail for many years. We made a start on the Vapour trail a couple of years ago with the help of Jared Rando, and recently the ACT Government funded the development of the newest sections you see here.”

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Crimmins over the shark fin.

“It’s a bit of an all-you-can-eat banquet of jumps, this one,” says Darren. There are around 40 jumps on the trail, and while it’s classified as a black diamond trail, all of the jumps can be rolled, and there are loads of options for A and B-Lines too. It all makes Vapour Trail pretty ideal as a training ground to progress your riding, letting you gradually build into the bigger jumps, rather than committing you to launching straight away.

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The lower jumps get some good size to them if you’re hitting the big lips – Eaton casual as you like over an 8 metre gap.

Getting the timing and speed right on a trail like this is a real art form – you want it to naturally flow, so each jump builds into the next, without a need to pedal too hard or hit the anchors. The construction team, led by Mike Long, also included Ben Cory. Additional feedback from riders like Timmy Eaton, Thomas Crimmins and Damian Breach all added to the huge pool of experience required to nail this trail perfectly.

Stromlo Vapour Trail-9933
Thomas Crimmins lofts its into a perfectly built series of booters.

From our perspective, we find it incredibly exciting that government is getting behind trail project like this. It definitely represents a new era for the sport in Australia when the highest levels are recognising that full-blown jump trails like this (or notably too, the new Hero Trail in Bright) can become real drawcards to bring travelling mountain bikers into a region. According to Darren Stewart, more trail like this are in the wings: “plans are already in place for some blue level jump trails too, that will complement what we’ve now got with Vapour Trail.” Looks like we’ll be making many trips to Canberra in the coming years then!

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Up with the sun for a pretty unique shuttle to the top of Stromlo.
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The ultimate uplift? After all, it’s all about getting bulk air time, right?
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Vapour Trail follows the first 100m or so of the downhill track, before peeling off to the right.
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Unmistakably Canberra.
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Hooking in on the upper turns.
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Raymond rhythms through the step-on-step-off.
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Getting this step-on-step-off right requires commitment, but the spacing is perfect if you’ve got the skills to carry good speed into this section.
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Crimmins sends his Trance into orbit.
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Incoming.
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Big wheels, big jumps, big tweak.
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Rallying into classic Canberra fast, dry turns.

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Stromlo Vapour Trail-9944

Bulk Air Time: Vapour Trail, Stromlo's New Jump Track

Think you know what Stromlo Forest Park is all about? Think again. This legendary destination, best known for its magnificent cross country trails, just had a change of pace with the opening of the new Vapour Trail, an incredible two-kilometre long jump track built to celebrate the venue’s tenth anniversary.

We headed to Canberra to meet up with some of the country’s best riders – Thomas Crimmins, Timmy Eaton and Ryan Walsch – for a day of bulk air time.


Watch the full video of Canberra pinners Thomas Crimmins, Tim Eaton and Ryan Walsch ripping it up on Vapour Trail below.


Stromlo Vapour Trail-05048
Ryan ‘Raymond’ Walsch flows into the lower sections of Vapour Trail.

The inspiration for this beast stems directly from the international reputation of some of the best-known trails on the planet, trails like Whistler’s A-Line and Dirt Merchant.

Vapour Trail is a big jump ahead for Stromlo, quite literally, with some pretty serious air time on offer if you’re hitting the big lines. The inspiration for this beast stems directly from the international reputation of some of the best-known trails on the planet, trails like Whistler’s A-Line and Dirt Merchant. After all, why should the Canadians get all the fun?

Stromlo Vapour Trail-9828
Jump trains with mates. Nothing better.

It’s a bit of an all-you-can-eat banquet of jumps

Darren Stewart of Makin Trax (who carry out all the maintenance and construction at Stromlo) has been a long-time believer in the importance of a trail like this to ensure Stromlo stays ahead of the curve and helps progress mountain biking in Canberra. “I’ve been personally agitating for this trail for many years. We made a start on the Vapour trail a couple of years ago with the help of Jared Rando, and recently the ACT Government funded the development of the newest sections you see here.”

Stromlo Vapour Trail-9866
Crimmins over the shark fin.

“It’s a bit of an all-you-can-eat banquet of jumps, this one,” says Darren. There are around 40 jumps on the trail, and while it’s classified as a black diamond trail, all of the jumps can be rolled, and there are loads of options for A and B-Lines too. It all makes Vapour Trail pretty ideal as a training ground to progress your riding, letting you gradually build into the bigger jumps, rather than committing you to launching straight away.

Stromlo Vapour Trail-05059
The lower jumps get some good size to them if you’re hitting the big lips – Eaton casual as you like over an 8 metre gap.

Getting the timing and speed right on a trail like this is a real art form – you want it to naturally flow, so each jump builds into the next, without a need to pedal too hard or hit the anchors. The construction team, led by Mike Long, also included Ben Cory. Additional feedback from riders like Timmy Eaton, Thomas Crimmins and Damian Breach all added to the huge pool of experience required to nail this trail perfectly.

Stromlo Vapour Trail-9933
Thomas Crimmins lofts its into a perfectly built series of booters.

From our perspective, we find it incredibly exciting that government is getting behind trail project like this. It definitely represents a new era for the sport in Australia when the highest levels are recognising that full-blown jump trails like this (or notably too, the new Hero Trail in Bright) can become real drawcards to bring travelling mountain bikers into a region. According to Darren Stewart, more trail like this are in the wings: “plans are already in place for some blue level jump trails too, that will complement what we’ve now got with Vapour Trail.” Looks like we’ll be making many trips to Canberra in the coming years then!

Stromlo Vapour Trail-04853
Up with the sun for a pretty unique shuttle to the top of Stromlo.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-04860
The ultimate uplift? After all, it’s all about getting bulk air time, right?
Stromlo Vapour Trail-04885
Vapour Trail follows the first 100m or so of the downhill track, before peeling off to the right.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-04957
Unmistakably Canberra.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-04919
Hooking in on the upper turns.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-05009
Raymond rhythms through the step-on-step-off.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-05030
Getting this step-on-step-off right requires commitment, but the spacing is perfect if you’ve got the skills to carry good speed into this section.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-05095
Crimmins sends his Trance into orbit.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-05036
Incoming.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-05109
Big wheels, big jumps, big tweak.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-9813
Rallying into classic Canberra fast, dry turns.

Stromlo Vapour Trail-9878
Stromlo Vapour Trail-9944

Must-Ride: Majura Pines, ACT

This rabbit warren of singletrack in iconic Canberran pine forest has been a part of Australian mountain biking for decades; its twisty, rooty trails have given rise to champions of the sport, and seen countless legions of mountain bikers thread through the pines. There is a whole generation of Australian mountain bikers who grew up racing at Majura, or reading about the exploits of our champion riders at ‘Maj’ in the pages of magazines.

Flow Mountain Bike - Majura Pines 1

It was taken for granted that Majura would always be there for a blast before work, a club race, or as a destination for a weekend road trip. These trails were famous Australia over, and while they didn’t have any ‘official’ status, their future seemed safe.

And then, a couple of years ago, came the bombshell: Majura Pines was going to be shut down, a four-lane road thrust through the middle of it all.

Mountain bikers found their voice, and while the road still went in, the trails were saved. And not only saved, they’ve been given an overhaul that takes Majura Pines to a whole new level.

Flow Mountain Bike - Majura Pines 76Flow Mountain Bike - Majura Pines 46

Flow Mountain Bike - Majura Pines 86

The Majura Pines Trails Alliance, together with professional trail builders Jindabyne Landscaping, the ACT government and Anthony Burton and Associates, have worked together to ensure Majura Pines has a healthy future as a mountain bike park.

There’s now 15km of world class singletrack, a mix of new trails and older ones that have been brought up to speed with modern trail building techniques: beginner trails, to black diamond descents, rooty, tight lines, to massive machine-built berms, a pump track, a huge dirt jump park and all of it signposted and mapped.

Flow Mountain Bike - Majura Pines 40

It would have been a disaster to lose this seminal mountain bike destination, so to have such a brilliant outcome is a real dream come true. Majura Pines is back, it’s better than ever, and now it’s here to stay.

For more information about Majura Pines, or to view a trail map of the entire network, visit the Majura Pines Trail Alliance.

This is What a Bright Future Looks Like

16 year old Jackson Frew is most definitely going to become one of Australia’s brightest stars! How’s his smooth skills on Stromlo, Tuggeranong Pines and the Kambah BMX Track?

Starting BMX racing at six, he’s raced World Champs in Canada, China and South Africa. After spending many years racing in many two wheeled disciplines including four cross, BMX and downhill he’s made the call to focus solely on downhill, and now heads into his first year as a junior.

Supported by Onyabike Canberra, Leatt Protectives, Giant Bikes Aus and Thredbo. We’ll certainly be seeing more of this talented, fluid riding and dedicated kid.

 

Video: Canberra Downhill Pinner, Tim Eaton

Jake Lucas came up for the weekend and we filmed a few of my favourite old and new local tracks that I grew up riding.
They are all push runs so it was a big weekend of pushing up and down. First up was Majura, on some old tracks that have been around since I began riding all those years ago. There was a log drop with a gully after it, I’ve always wanted to jump into the gully (its a big gap with little room for error!) but there was no way you could clear the whole thing.  So half way through the shoot we decided to build up the size of the jump with a few logs on top and got it ready.
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I hit it a few times trying to make it but in the end i came very close to clearing it but my body was done for the day so decided to pack it up. Sunday we went out to Isaacs where I grew up, the tracks up there are the best around, steep rocky and fast with a couple big road gaps. 
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I’m in the middle of the NSW state series at the moment, and I am looking forward to the rest of that, and planning on doing the VIC series and National Series. I am planning a sneaky trip over to Rotorura beginning of November for a week on the trail bike. 
I’m currently riding the 2014 Giant Glory 0, but hanging out for the 27.5 Glory to come in soon!
Cheers, Tim.
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Must-Ride: The Canberra Centenary Trail

“Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” – Joshua J. Marine

Long distance riding isn’t something that I can say I enjoy. In fact, it wasn’t so long ago I would have rather rubbed my eyes with extra coarse sandpaper followed by a chilli infused eye bath than go on some epic long ride. But maybe as I have aged I have softened some and every now and then something grabs my eye as a must-do ride – no matter how long it is.

This time it was the Canberra Centenary Trail. From the very first time I heard about the plans for this trail I wanted to do it.  The idea of being able to ride around (literally) the town I live in and explore areas I have never been to grabbed me.

What is the Canberra Centenary Tail? It’s a ACT Government funded 140km (or so) muli-use trail that is a mix of singletrack, doubletrack, fireroad, road, and cycle path which all connects to provide a trail to easily ride or walk around the whole of Canberra. It is designed to be done in sections over multiple days. It was officially opened only a few weeks ago and is one of the hallmark features in Canberra’s year-long celebration of the Canberra centenary.

I had never ridden more than 100km before so it was a little daunting. Riding long distance is actually physically hard for me as I have spent most of my cycling life focused on very short distances and my body type revolts against too much time in the saddle. Usually I cramp, vomit, and then cry at the four-hour mark and I knew I had 10 hours or so ahead of me. But I had a plan; take it easy, go slow, rest heaps, eat heaps, drink a beer or two and enjoy it.

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The essentials. Gummie bears, salted cashews, multi-tool, watch, zips ties, two tubes (I am tubeless but these are good for tyre slashes and snakebite bandages), tyre levers, rim strips, c02 canisters (one wrapped in tape to use for tyre slashes), replacement hanger, rain jacket, spare gloves, pump, torx key (my multi-tool doesn’t have one), co2 head, and tripod for camera.

So, 7.15am yesterday I headed out alone on the trail, right from my doorstep, on a bike I had literally never ridden before. But I didn’t care, I just wanted to ride the trail and enjoy my own company for a whole day.

The ride was amazing and I recommend it to all.  It’s not an epic singletrack journey for the whole 140km but you have to remember that the trail is built for everyone.  The only negative was a lack of signage in the urban town centre areas (the signage in the off-road parts is perfect). The ACT government has yet to complete the urban signage and it did make my trip much longer than it needed to be (I got lost a few times). I was helped along the way by people who know the trail intimately and they acted as my call centre for directions. Make sure you do your research and know where the off-road trailheads are as you’ll be able to navigate with your phone to those points. Detailed maps are here. I can also answer any questions you may have so feel free to contact me.

(If you’re a hard core mountain biker and just want singletrack then the Murrumbidgee River section and the Northern Border region are a must).

In just under 11 hours I finished. Yeah I was stuffed by the end, that goes without saying, but not as bad as I thought. No chaffing, a little bit sore, only lost 1 kg, and had no cramping at all. I stopped heaps, drank beer, sat next to rivers, relaxed, chased kangaroos, got lost, had two meat pies, enjoyed an ice cream, chatted to folk along the way, and took my time. That was my plan. I had finally achieved something I had always dreamed about and that was what it was all about.

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The reward. It wasn’t as hard as I thought and the key was plenty of food, water and taking my time. Not every achievement has to be a race and I am more than happy to have my ride recorded in my head.

At the end of my trip I looked over Flow’s Facebook account and could see all the “Strava” comments. I didn’t even have a GPS or odometer with me and I was enjoyably blind to how far and how fast I had ridden.  It was refreshing, and I will say this as my parting words: Why is everything a race? Why can’t we leave behind our egos and just ride for the sake of it? That way you will actually get to enjoy the amazing environment you are riding through.

I will get off my soapbox now and let you enjoy my day through the photos.

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The morning started early and the weather was perfect as I headed towards the Murrumbidgee River. This section of trail is a highlight for us mountain bikers as it follows a pretty cool river.
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The river was running full and fast due to recent rains and the sound of the rushing water was a nice soundtrack to accompany the singletrack.
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Red Rocks Gorge is a famous part of the Murrumbidgee River and sometimes you will see people rock climbing.
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While some parts of the Centenary Trail are groomed by machines, some are more rural as you cross pastoral lands.
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These signs are your friends. When you’re away from the urban sections there’s little need to worry about what direction to head but unfortunately the urban areas are a little different. It pays to know the major trailhead locations as you cross between urban and off-road.
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Canberra does have beaches. Nice sunny beaches with no people to annoy you and there is actually a nudist beach just down the river from here.
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One reason the Centenary Trail was built was to highlight the history of the region. Several places along the route you are invited to check out historic landmarks and information.
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The trail takes you through some very different things and luckily Canberra has some old linkages that were used to avoid some roads.
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The views are amazing. As you actually circle the whole of Canberra you get many different views of the city, from many different angles.
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Isaacs Ridge is piece of Canberra MTB history. As the trail is designed for multi-use it doesn’t take in any of the pine forest singletrack but if you know your way you could divert for some fun on the way.
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One trail head is hidden right behind the War Memorial.
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My route took me past this place. I should have done a big skid down that hill and then they could have screamed, “stop the bikes”.
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Eating on a long ride is important and the great thing about the trail intersecting urban areas is the ease at getting the extra calories needed. It was actually good as it enabled me to carry less as I knew I would be able find food along the ride with ease.
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What is a bike ride without a bakery stop? Meat pie #1.
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Recent rain meant greener scenery but more water than expected in other sections. Nothing too hard to navigate through and actually better than the dust it could have been.
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Yep, there is a lot of fireroad riding, I am not going to lie. But realistically there would have been no other way to make the trail. I would have been too expensive and probably 350km in length if it was all singletrack.
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As you approach the gates of Mulligans Flat on the north of Canberra it feels like an entrance to a secret military base. I was actually ready for the strip search. Cameras, electric fences, and high security are all there to protect some very fragile and endangered flora and fauna.
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Again, the views take away any pain you may have. Despite what you may think about Canberra, it is set in a beautiful setting and when you ride around the city you get to see how the mountains wrap their arms around the whole town.
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Apart from kangaroos and a million birds (and one magpie attack) these were the only creatures I saw on the ride. It was cold, and that sucked, but it also kept the snakes at bay.
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This was a ride for fun and not a race. I frequently stopped for rests and to explore what the trail was showing me. I recommend that you take your time and do the same.
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NSW on the left and ACT on the right. This is how far north the trail goes.
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The trails along the Northern Border region are an absolute highlight of the ride. The crew at MakinTrax have done an absolutely amazing job in building what could be one of the best sections of trail in Australia.
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This was the hardest part of my ride. It was exposed, windy and pretty hard going as the fireroads and doubletracks were left behind for amazing singletrack that went on forever. If I was to recommend one section of the trail this would be it.
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Canberra really was miniature from way back on Oaks Hill. From there I could see where I had to finish, and it was a long, long way away.
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Refuel and bike check. The trails were a little wet as it had rained for a couple of days prior but surprisingly they weren’t too bad. I was riding a Giant Anthem Advanced 27.5 which was straight of out the box. I had only ridden up and down my driveway and this was its maiden voyage. It didn’t miss a beat, not a single problem, and even with a new saddle I was comfortable the whole ride.
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The Centenary Trail goes right past this landmark. I think I had about 40 kms left before I had completed my loop so I needed some extra carbs to help me finish. At this point I had never ridden further in my life. Any trail that goes past a pub is a good trail.
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You will find yourself on a cycle path or two as you navigate through urban spaces between off-road sections. These are a highlight of living in Canberra. The ease of getting around the city without having to use the roads.
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Hall is a small town north of Canberra and is right on the trail. It’s also a great place to re-supply with food and water – either before or after the long Northern Border section. The trail is multi-directional so you choose which way you go. I went counter-clockwise.
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By now I was too tired to take many more photos but at the base of those hills is where I started. Not long to go now.
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The scenery changes so much as you ride the 140km trail. Never was I bored of what I could see and this cork plantation was one highlight.
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You can’t have a ride in Canberra without seeing these. I wonder if they think we’re dumb to be riding our bikes rather than just lazing around and eating grass.

Women And Girls Urged To ‘Have A Go’ At Mountain Biking

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher launched the 2014 Dirt de Femme on Wednesday, 16th October – a series of mountain biking events for women and girls at Stromlo Forest Park, to encourage women and girls to ‘have a go’ at mountain biking in a fun, competitive environment.

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Dirt de Femme distances are between 20 and 25 kilometres and are open to all female cyclists aged 10 years and above, with three mountain biking events taking place on 16 February, 30 March and 4 May.

“Canberra has the highest rates of female mountain bike participation in Australia and with some fantastic mountain biking trails, this event is a great opportunity to get involved in the sport,” the Chief Minister said.

“While many female cyclists enjoy being challenged in a competitive atmosphere, an official race can be intimidating for some people, and the Dirt de Femme provides a fun and supportive environment in which to participate.

“Over 250 women and girls took part in the 2013 Dirt de Femme – more than double the participants in 2012. This shows the growing enthusiasm for mountain biking amongst women in Canberra.
“The support and presence of past winners and other cycling role models is a vital ingredient for nurturing a passion for the sport in young girls and there’s no greater motivator than aspiring to be a champion and being able to follow the path of your hero.

“Cycling is great for health and fitness and with thousands of Canberrans today donning their helmets for ‘Ride 2 Work’ day, it is great to see targeted events like the Dirt de Femme see even more Canberrans – young and old – develop a passion for physical activities like this,” the Chief Minister concluded.

The 2014 Dirt de Femme is organised by Canberra-based company Cycle Education. For more information or to register for the Dirt de Femme, visit www.cycleducation.com.au

Women And Girls Urged To 'Have A Go' At Mountain Biking

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher launched the 2014 Dirt de Femme on Wednesday, 16th October – a series of mountain biking events for women and girls at Stromlo Forest Park, to encourage women and girls to ‘have a go’ at mountain biking in a fun, competitive environment.

Screen Shot 2013-10-19 at 7.25.43 AM

Dirt de Femme distances are between 20 and 25 kilometres and are open to all female cyclists aged 10 years and above, with three mountain biking events taking place on 16 February, 30 March and 4 May.

“Canberra has the highest rates of female mountain bike participation in Australia and with some fantastic mountain biking trails, this event is a great opportunity to get involved in the sport,” the Chief Minister said.

“While many female cyclists enjoy being challenged in a competitive atmosphere, an official race can be intimidating for some people, and the Dirt de Femme provides a fun and supportive environment in which to participate.

“Over 250 women and girls took part in the 2013 Dirt de Femme – more than double the participants in 2012. This shows the growing enthusiasm for mountain biking amongst women in Canberra.
“The support and presence of past winners and other cycling role models is a vital ingredient for nurturing a passion for the sport in young girls and there’s no greater motivator than aspiring to be a champion and being able to follow the path of your hero.

“Cycling is great for health and fitness and with thousands of Canberrans today donning their helmets for ‘Ride 2 Work’ day, it is great to see targeted events like the Dirt de Femme see even more Canberrans – young and old – develop a passion for physical activities like this,” the Chief Minister concluded.

The 2014 Dirt de Femme is organised by Canberra-based company Cycle Education. For more information or to register for the Dirt de Femme, visit www.cycleducation.com.au

Racing: I Love Bacon

I like love bacon.

When I see it or smell it, I salivate and I know right away that I want some. And from the first bite, I enter a state of bliss and I know I want more. For me, single track works in exactly the same way, in fact I could be convinced that single track is actually bacon.

When I see it or ‘smell’ that it is nearby, I salivate and I know right away that I want some. And from the first taste, I enter that happy place and yes, I know I want more. I have always known I could eat more bacon than was ever served on my plate at breakfast and on occasion I have gone back for a more, but I have never tested how much I could consume. I have never gone back and piled on every strip in the bain marie and sat down to explore just how much bacon is enough.

I do not know my bacon limit. I’m no Ron Swanson, but I have thought about it a lot. I don’t know my single track limit either. I mean, is there even such a thing as too much single track? Did you ever want to find out? If you had a huge pile of bacon (or single track) in front of you, how would you approach its consumption? Would you eat ravenously or take your time and savour each bite? Would you do both? Maybe you can eat ravenously and savour each bite simultaneously.

One day I might try to find my bacon limit, but I know right now that there’s a huge pile of single track awaiting you at the Kowalski Classic on September 22. Here you can see just how much you can consume before you start to feel full. Take your time though, as there’s quite a lot to chew through and we think you may find it all quite tasty.

Bacon. It’s Kowalski for single track.

Entries close 9pm September 6th.

The Kowalski Classic – Entries Now Open

The Kowalski Classic features two race distances over the very best trails in East Kowen and Sparrow Hill. Both distances contain a mind-bendingly high proportion of singletrack (so, your face may get sore on account of all the smiling).

Of course, we know you want a bit of mongrel in your racing, so we’ve put in a stem-kissing climb here and there to send your HRM to bleepsville. This year’s course takes in brand new trails, built especially for the race and launched officially on race day – including what is quite possibly the highest single track in the ACT region.

If you like riding lots (and lots) of singletrack, then you will LOVE the Kowalski Classic.

THE FULL KOWALSKI (Circa 90-100km)
THE HALF KOWALSKI (Circa 50km)

ENTER HERE

Not sure what to expect? READ a few testimonials from last year.

The Best Mont Yet

It’s almost two weeks since the Trail Gods smiled on yet another Mont 24, the legendary pioneering 24hr race, held amongst the pines of Kowen Forest. Our afterglow has lingered ever since.

With a mixed team of six (there are only teams of six and four at the Mont – part of the reason the traffic flows so well), we didn’t have our ambitions set too high, touting out that old chestnut: “we’ll see how we’re travelling once the night falls, and make the call then if we’re racing or beering.” Turns out you can kinda do both when there’s half a dozen of you to share the load.

Team Flow and campsite coordinators: Dave ’12hr Nap’ Southwood, Craig ‘BBQ Master’ Baylis, Pat ‘The Porpoise’ Campbell, Kath ‘FrothFroth’ Bicknell, Jason ‘Lay Down Sally’ Blackmore, Lara ‘The Legend’ Winten, Chris ‘The Beak’ Southwood, Mick ‘Crop Circles’ Ross an Damian “Postie” Breach (missing due to being soft)

Our number one tip for the Mont is to arrive on the Friday, get your campsite sorted early and then sit back and watch the people roll in. And roll in, and roll in, and roll in…. This is a mountain bike event on a scale rarely seen, and with over 3000 riders plus their retinue in attendance, the tent city is a sight to behold.

Tent city is crowed yet personal. Bring your own “something” to make it feel a little more like home.

Friday night’s a good chance to get everything prepared too; it’s amazing how time simply evaporates once racing commences, and next thing you know you’re battling to fit your lights or adjusting your headset when you should be in transition. Oh, and there’s Roller Racing on the Friday as well, just in case you’re worried you won’t do enough pedalling during the race!

You think we’d have this stuff figured out by now?

The rain earlier in the week had politely buggered off, leaving the dirt with the moisture content ‘just-so’, and beneath a clear sky pricked by thousands of stars, we settled down with an ale, a BBQ and a happy heart knowing that tomorrow we’d be racing on some of Australia’s finest trails.

As the familiar babble of MCs Ben and Stu poured out into the morning air, we rose to a classic Canberra dew, and the nervous movement of thousands of riders, registering, lubing chains, affixing number plates and making excuses. Despite the mass of riders, things always feel fun at the Mont. It’s hard to put your finger on the vibe, but the efforts to retain the Woodstock-esque sense of freedom and frivolity hit a chord with us.

The usual running start and its associated madness had been abandoned this year (have you ever tried running in carbon-soled shoes?) with riders instead lead out, Presidential motorcade style, by a pair of motor bikes before peeling off into the 20.3km lap.

The motorbike start had the field well spread before the first singletrack.

The smiles when riders began returning from lap one told the story: over 20km of simply superb trail, singletrack in almost its entirety, free-flowing and in perfect condition. If the local trail building crew, the Kowalski Brothers, were to start a political party, we’d vote for them.

The dedication that the Kowalskis have dug, with shovel and pick, into the hard, flinty earth of Kowen is staggering. It’s a thankless task: most riders wouldn’t have known they were rubbing shoulders with the trail builders themselves, as they clustered in transition. Paul Cole, one of Canberra’s most revered trail-fairies, kept up his regular stream (no, torrent) of warm banter, clearly happy with the feedback he was receiving from riders about his handiwork.

The Mont has it all.  Flowing trails in native forests…
…short open fireroads past dry grass fields…
…open plains across farm land, and…
…sweet singletrack in green pine forest.

With the trails heading out to the ‘Far East’ , there was a figure-of-eight in the course map, meaning riders heading out would be intersecting with riders returning. The solution came in the form of some large-scale engineering, with a gigantic scaffold overpass/underpass erected. It added its own kind of industrial charm…

Day becomes night, and we were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves sitting in fourth place in the Mixed Sixes category. With a podium in striking distance, it looked like we’d be racing through the dark! A quick debate about whether or not we’d ride double laps at night was settled with the decision that single laps were the way forward – with average lap times for the team likely to be around an hour at night, singles would still afford a few hours kip in between laps. A quick bit of mental arithmetic drew swear words from Chris, who realised he’d be starting his deepest night lap at about 3:30am.

As night come, so do the strange things.

Strange things happen at night in the forest at the Mont. Strange things like stumbling across two duelling banjo players, plucking up a storm, surrounded by smoke machines and disco lights. Or wildly flailing drummers, jamming away between the gum trees, pumping your sapped legs up with their energy. It’s these kind of gems that make the Mont even more memorable. I don’t think we’ll ever forget the deadpan look on those banjo players’ faces! Another highlight was coming across young Charlie Todd, 11 years old, out on course at about 4:00am. What were you doing at 11 years of age?

Swirling fog masked the pointy tops of the towering pines as dawn broke. The smell of bacon sizzling, coffee brewing and chamois stewing filled the morning air. Overnight we’d crept into third place, there’d be no cruisy morning laps for our last two riders, Kath and Craig!  With just 15 minutes of racing left till midday, we sent Craig on his way, his drivetrain skipping in neglected protest. A seasoned campaigner, he didn’t buckle under the pressure and we hung on for third – the glory lasts forever!

One for the photographers. Golden hour and blue hour.
Yes, Flow was there but that’s not why we posted this photo.

But in all seriousness, there’s not too much seriousness about racing at the Mont. We left this event on a massive high: over the 24 hours of racing we didn’t encounter one grunt of aggro on course, hear one whinge about the track, feel a single speck of rain or even stop grinning.That might sound a little too flowers and moon-beams, but it’s the truth.

Best Mont yet? We think so.

Next year’s event will undoubtedly sell out with the same kind of frenzied enthusiasm as in years past, so keep your eyes peeled and watch the Flow Calendar for an entries opening date.

The Flow team photographers weapon of choice.  Honda had the famous downhill bike, now they have a limited edition 24 hour race machine.

Full results are available here, and if you want to get a better idea of the kind of on-course musical talent, check out the vid above. See you next year!

The end.

 

 

 

Canberra: The Biography

This feature appears in the current issue of Flow Mountain Bike magazine.  Pick up your copy to read the rest of the story and find out how mountain biking in Canberra has grown through both good and bad times.

 

Want more? Then for just 10 cents a day you can join Flow and you’ll get the next four print issues delivered right to your door – plus access to exclusive Flow online content. That’s froth worthy.


 

The early days

Mountain biking in Canberra was born in the mid-80s. Local rider Ian Downing, who has been a part of the fabric of mountain biking in Canberra since it began, has fond memories of the bikes of that era.

‘The very first time I saw a mountain bike was out the front of a local shop in 1983 or ’84,’ he said. ‘I rushed outside to see it properly. It was a Ritchey, a really fancy high-end bike, and I could see immediately that it was purpose- built for riding off-road.’

The bikes arriving in town was just one half of the equation, however, and Canberra, with its ‘Bush Capital’ tag, was the perfect environment for bikes and trails to mix. Mal Bennett, like Ian, has been part of mountain biking in Canberra from the beginning. Mal was one of the first to introduce the new bikes to Canberra’s local fire trails.

‘Back then, mountain biking in Canberra was very raw,’ says Mal. ‘There was a core group of us that rode off-road, mainly around Bruce Ridge and Black Mountain – and a little bit of Mt Majura. We started off using fire trails and walking tracks.

‘We started building some singletrack,’ Mal continues, ‘But generally it was where the rain or kangaroos had made them. It was whatever we could get our hands on.’

But the fire trails and roo paths soon wore thin. Mal and his crew wanted more, something to push their skills.

‘Mt Majura was where mountain biking really took off,’ Mal says. ‘People started to get into track building. The trail-building work was pretty ragged back then. It was at different stages of growth, depending on who was doing what. People experimented.

‘That was the beauty of it really. It was home- grown, it was a bit rough – the tracks were
all over the place. But that was what we liked about them. They were technical, tight, bumpy, loose and a bit eclectic,’ laughs Mal.

Mountain biking had taken a hold of Canberra riders and the sport was growing very quickly. It was not long before Canberra was hosting national-level racing. People travelled to Canberra for the racing, and from there Canberra quickly became a very large dot on the Australian mountain biking map. Graeme Allbon has been part of mountain biking in Canberra since year dot. He picks up the story:

‘Canberra had its first nationals in 1988. It hosted the nationals for three years: 1988 and 1989 was Pierce’s Creek, and 1990 was Stromlo, where Stromlo Forest Park is now. The racing at Stromlo started and finished at Blue Gums, which is still used on the trails today.’

The rebellious teen and the ‘illegal’ singletrack

The famous Canberra singletrack is everywhere. These days you don’t have to look too hard to find a patch of flowing trail that is nicely groomed, well maintained and, most importantly, supported by the landowners.

But most of the trails in Canberra didn’t start off as legal entities. Soon after Canberra’s riders got their first taste of the thrills of riding tree- lined goat tracks, people started building their own trails. Disparate groups banded together to build the singletrack network around Canberra, and tracks started popping up in places like Mt Majura, Stromlo, Mt Ainslie.

This sudden growth spurt gave local riders greater freedom to forge their own way forward, thereby advancing the boundaries of the sport as a whole. Canberra started producing worldclass athletes.

continues………

 

 

Breaking Dawn – There’s Something Special About the Scott

The Scott 24 Hour is a big event on the mountain bike calendar. It’s not only big in terms of participation, duration and challenges, but also in the number of unique experiences had from noon one day ‘til lunchtime the next.

With large-scale events like this one, I get as pumped by the chance to catch up with so many people in one place as I do about the riding. But there’s one part of the event I’ve never liked: the dawn lap. I’ve always struggled too much with trying to stay awake to look around and take it all in.

It’s the magic light of either the morning or evening that can spark those positive emotions and feelings. It’s only in a 24 hour race where you will get to experience both.

[private]But this year something clicked. I woke before my alarm, got dressed in my riding gear, jumped on the bike and was on singletrack sixty seconds later.  A strong yellow light streamed through breaks in the clouds sending everything around me into the background. It bounced off the shiny, mud-covered trails and gave the tyre tracks that wove through them a textured, golden shimmer. I turned a corner, looked up to the mountains in the distance and handfuls of yellow lit them up as well. Everything else was still.

‘I get it now,” I thought. ‘I suddenly get why people wax lyrical about the dawn lap.’

In a tough 24 hour, like the chilly weathered, mud splattered, never-overly-wet edition of the 2012 Scott, the sun streaming through the clouds was a sign that the hardest part of the race was over.

The rain was gone by the morning but some of the puddles remained.

That wasn’t an issue for team Swell Sketchy – a carpenter, two farmers, a math teacher come school counsellor, a photographer and a writer. I’d convinced everyone that we were better off asleep in bed between the hours of 10pm and 6am.

For us the Scott 24 meant a few fun laps and a great catch up around a mushroom heater but walks around the sprawling event centre revealed that an event like this is a myriad of things, for the many different riders involved.

Rosie Barnes from team Swell Shifty rides into the evening light.

Andrew Hall, riding solo for the Radical Lights Factory Racing Team, was still locked in a tight battle for the solo men’s podium when dawn arrived.

‘It is an honour to ride with both the top Australian and international riders,’ he said, after crossing the line in an impressive third place to reigning 24 hour World Champ, Jason English, and European 24 Hour Champ, Matt Page.

‘Having such a great field meant it really was a race from start to finish. Even at 6am the race was still pretty close – which is something we have not seen in a 24 hour solo in a long time.’

Alongside Matt Page and Canberra’s Ed McDonald, Hall is one of a select few who have come close to beating English at his game in recent years. And to do it again, in the mud and the cold had fans of the sport both shaking their heads in disbelief and nodding with respect. When Hall announced on Facebook that he did the whole race in the big ring, fuelled by 48 gels and electrolyte drink, my eyes nearly fell out of my head.

European 24 Hour Champion Matt Page was neatly sandwiched between winner Jason English and 3rd place Andrew Hall.

Getting through the Scott with a team is rewarding and motivating in a different way. For Karen Foat, racing with fellow Canberran, Claire Graydon, in the women’s pairs, it was good teamwork that made the weekend so special.

‘I really enjoyed the camaraderie of working with a buddy to battle through the night. It was reassuring that without any pressure, I knew she’d do her best and she knew I’d do my best and that’s all that mattered.’

Together, the girls’ experience, consistency and legs of steel paid off landing them on the top step of the podium come Sunday.

‘Once we’d made it through the night, I knew we could make it to the end!’

While the victory itself was exciting for the determined duo, Karen was quick to point out that the best part of the event was the riding.

‘The Scott 24 Hour is about heaps of people congregating to challenge themselves at all different levels and finish with that sense of achievement,’ she said after a well-earned shower and a sleep.

‘This year there seemed to be a return to the mountain biking atmosphere of old,” she elaborated. “Not too much agro or people racing for sheep stations, just people out there all riding our own bests and having a short chat while passing each other.’

Numbers may have been down but attitudes were certainly up.

Of course Flow Mountain Bike was at the race helping with the fun times.

One of the biggest winners in the attitude stakes, and perhaps the slightly quirky stakes, was Mike “Gumby” Brennan. Gumby slept through dawn. He rode in the event as a self-supported solo and carried his gear to and from the event on a BOB trailer. This added an extra 30km to a nine-lap total for the science teacher who is currently without a car.

‘About half way up the hill on my last lap I came across a rider who was struggling his way to the top. Given that the track had turned to custard over night I figured he could use the motivation to finish his lap more than I could use another 50 minutes pushing through the mud.’ Gumby slowed down to pedal with a rider who was suffering instead of pedalling past him to fit an extra lap in.

‘The grin on his face when we crossed the finish line, and the camaraderie in the “slow train” we collected as we finished the climb and came back down the hill made the whole weekend worthwhile. I know I’m not a fast rider so the opportunity to help another punter enjoy themselves and finish the race on a high is a real bonus.’

For Brennan, Hall and Foat, entering the Scott was as much about the chance to enjoy a world class course as having the time to enjoy the range of experiences the event makes possible – a common tie between most riders at this yearly event, whatever their goals or however many laps they hope to achieve.

Next year’s event will be a little different due to the WEMBO (World Endurance Mountain Bike Organisation) World Solo 24 Hour Mountain Bike Championships and the separate teams event being held a week apart. [Flow just learnt that the teams event will be a 25 hour race.  Watch Flow for more info.]

If this year’s edition is anything to go by, the racing on both weekends will not only be tight, it will also be a whole lot of fun. And with my newfound dawn lap enthusiasm, a little bit magical as well.

Also magical was a rainbow. Right place, right time.

The Scott 24 Hour is run by the Canberra Off-Road Cycling club and monies raised by the event are used to fund the club’s activities throughout the rest of the year. A very special thank you to the large crew of volunteers who ensure the event runs so smoothly and for making the event such a pleasure to be involved in.

For detailed results head here.

We will leave you with just a few more shots from a magic weekend.

[/private]

Breaking Dawn – There's Something Special About the Scott

The Scott 24 Hour is a big event on the mountain bike calendar. It’s not only big in terms of participation, duration and challenges, but also in the number of unique experiences had from noon one day ‘til lunchtime the next.

With large-scale events like this one, I get as pumped by the chance to catch up with so many people in one place as I do about the riding. But there’s one part of the event I’ve never liked: the dawn lap. I’ve always struggled too much with trying to stay awake to look around and take it all in.

It’s the magic light of either the morning or evening that can spark those positive emotions and feelings. It’s only in a 24 hour race where you will get to experience both.

[private]But this year something clicked. I woke before my alarm, got dressed in my riding gear, jumped on the bike and was on singletrack sixty seconds later.  A strong yellow light streamed through breaks in the clouds sending everything around me into the background. It bounced off the shiny, mud-covered trails and gave the tyre tracks that wove through them a textured, golden shimmer. I turned a corner, looked up to the mountains in the distance and handfuls of yellow lit them up as well. Everything else was still.

‘I get it now,” I thought. ‘I suddenly get why people wax lyrical about the dawn lap.’

In a tough 24 hour, like the chilly weathered, mud splattered, never-overly-wet edition of the 2012 Scott, the sun streaming through the clouds was a sign that the hardest part of the race was over.

The rain was gone by the morning but some of the puddles remained.

That wasn’t an issue for team Swell Sketchy – a carpenter, two farmers, a math teacher come school counsellor, a photographer and a writer. I’d convinced everyone that we were better off asleep in bed between the hours of 10pm and 6am.

For us the Scott 24 meant a few fun laps and a great catch up around a mushroom heater but walks around the sprawling event centre revealed that an event like this is a myriad of things, for the many different riders involved.

Rosie Barnes from team Swell Shifty rides into the evening light.

Andrew Hall, riding solo for the Radical Lights Factory Racing Team, was still locked in a tight battle for the solo men’s podium when dawn arrived.

‘It is an honour to ride with both the top Australian and international riders,’ he said, after crossing the line in an impressive third place to reigning 24 hour World Champ, Jason English, and European 24 Hour Champ, Matt Page.

‘Having such a great field meant it really was a race from start to finish. Even at 6am the race was still pretty close – which is something we have not seen in a 24 hour solo in a long time.’

Alongside Matt Page and Canberra’s Ed McDonald, Hall is one of a select few who have come close to beating English at his game in recent years. And to do it again, in the mud and the cold had fans of the sport both shaking their heads in disbelief and nodding with respect. When Hall announced on Facebook that he did the whole race in the big ring, fuelled by 48 gels and electrolyte drink, my eyes nearly fell out of my head.

European 24 Hour Champion Matt Page was neatly sandwiched between winner Jason English and 3rd place Andrew Hall.

Getting through the Scott with a team is rewarding and motivating in a different way. For Karen Foat, racing with fellow Canberran, Claire Graydon, in the women’s pairs, it was good teamwork that made the weekend so special.

‘I really enjoyed the camaraderie of working with a buddy to battle through the night. It was reassuring that without any pressure, I knew she’d do her best and she knew I’d do my best and that’s all that mattered.’

Together, the girls’ experience, consistency and legs of steel paid off landing them on the top step of the podium come Sunday.

‘Once we’d made it through the night, I knew we could make it to the end!’

While the victory itself was exciting for the determined duo, Karen was quick to point out that the best part of the event was the riding.

‘The Scott 24 Hour is about heaps of people congregating to challenge themselves at all different levels and finish with that sense of achievement,’ she said after a well-earned shower and a sleep.

‘This year there seemed to be a return to the mountain biking atmosphere of old,” she elaborated. “Not too much agro or people racing for sheep stations, just people out there all riding our own bests and having a short chat while passing each other.’

Numbers may have been down but attitudes were certainly up.

Of course Flow Mountain Bike was at the race helping with the fun times.

One of the biggest winners in the attitude stakes, and perhaps the slightly quirky stakes, was Mike “Gumby” Brennan. Gumby slept through dawn. He rode in the event as a self-supported solo and carried his gear to and from the event on a BOB trailer. This added an extra 30km to a nine-lap total for the science teacher who is currently without a car.

‘About half way up the hill on my last lap I came across a rider who was struggling his way to the top. Given that the track had turned to custard over night I figured he could use the motivation to finish his lap more than I could use another 50 minutes pushing through the mud.’ Gumby slowed down to pedal with a rider who was suffering instead of pedalling past him to fit an extra lap in.

‘The grin on his face when we crossed the finish line, and the camaraderie in the “slow train” we collected as we finished the climb and came back down the hill made the whole weekend worthwhile. I know I’m not a fast rider so the opportunity to help another punter enjoy themselves and finish the race on a high is a real bonus.’

For Brennan, Hall and Foat, entering the Scott was as much about the chance to enjoy a world class course as having the time to enjoy the range of experiences the event makes possible – a common tie between most riders at this yearly event, whatever their goals or however many laps they hope to achieve.

Next year’s event will be a little different due to the WEMBO (World Endurance Mountain Bike Organisation) World Solo 24 Hour Mountain Bike Championships and the separate teams event being held a week apart. [Flow just learnt that the teams event will be a 25 hour race.  Watch Flow for more info.]

If this year’s edition is anything to go by, the racing on both weekends will not only be tight, it will also be a whole lot of fun. And with my newfound dawn lap enthusiasm, a little bit magical as well.

Also magical was a rainbow. Right place, right time.

The Scott 24 Hour is run by the Canberra Off-Road Cycling club and monies raised by the event are used to fund the club’s activities throughout the rest of the year. A very special thank you to the large crew of volunteers who ensure the event runs so smoothly and for making the event such a pleasure to be involved in.

For detailed results head here.

We will leave you with just a few more shots from a magic weekend.

[/private]

English Defends His Crown

The Scott 24Hr Australian Mountain Bike Championships took place in brutal conditions at Mt Stromlo ACT over the weekend.

In one of the toughest 24hr races in recent history, Jason English proved definitively that he is still the man to beat when it comes to solo suffering. English rode 402km over 31 laps to finish 22 minutes ahead of British National Champion, Matt Page. Liz Smith, reigning Aussie National 24hr Solo Champion, took out the women’s solo title with 23 laps under her belt, an hour ahead of Philippa Rostan.

A full listing of results can be found on www.onlineresults.com.au and we’ll have an in-depth Scott 24hr feature posted here on Flow Mountain Bike shortly.