Mountain biking’s come a long way since ’92! Gears have been added then divided, suspension and brakes now work and we’ve seen countless bottom bracket, headset and hub standards come and go. But two things remain, the Mitta to Mt Beauty MTB race and Rob Eva, who won it in 1993 and 1995. Local racer and all-round top bloke, Jarrod Quinn, shares his tales of the 2017 Mitta.
‘The Mitta’, as its affectionately known, is a 55km point to point mountain bike event from the sleepy township of Mitta Mitta, up and over Trappers Gap and finishing in Mt Beauty, a place well known amongst the cycling community.
For some it’s a race as they try to get their names etched onto the winner’s list alongside the likes of Paul, Neil and Daniel Van Der Ploeg, Steele Von Hoff and Murray Spink. For others its the adventure, the challenge of finishing or trying to better the previous year’s time that draws them to the event.
This year saw the 26th running of ‘The Mitta’ and the event did not disappoint. After a quick race briefing for Liam Panozzo the field of around 100 riders were set to roll out of Mitta. A neutral start out of the township following the lead vehicle, driven by Joel Panozzo, meant for an organised and calm start to the race. However as the lead vehicle accelerated away it was game time, riders started to string out as the pace stayed steady and people started following wheels to get out of the wind as much a possible.
‘The Mitta’ is unique as there are very few mountain bike events with a whopping 10km climb in the middle, followed by an equally huge descent. The challenge of such a different style of mountain bike event keeps riders coming back year after year.
As riders hit the first climb the groups started to split and it became a challenge of riding steady to the tops of the climbs and really letting it fly down the long descents, all the while ensuring that you left some energy reserves in the tank for the final tarmac section into Mt Beauty. It was also a challenge to avoid coming unstuck while distracted by the stunning surrounds with views up to Kosciuszko and the NSW Main Range, then Mt Bogong and the Alpine National Park.
The 2017 Mitta was taken out by Rohan Adams in a sprint finish while Kathryn McInerney claimed the women’s title.
Huge thanks must go to all of the Team Mount Beauty volunteers and local Mt Beauty Rotary group who give up their time to organise, marshal, set up and pack up such a logistically challenging event. Without their hard work, this event would not be as amazing as it is.
If you’re planning a trip to North East Victoria, perhaps include the last Sunday in October into your schedule and join the next running of the Mitta to Mt Beauty.
The international race season is over, the pressure’s off. With a week of downtime before the National Enduro Championships, defending champ Chris Panozzo and his protege Ben McIlroy head to their home turf for an arvo of roosting dusty Mt Beauty berms.
We’ll be following this pair, along with the rest of the Shimano Australia supported Enduro crew as they head to Adelaide for the Enduro National Champs too, so keep an eye out for all the coverage soon.
Mt Beauty is one of the original Aussie mountain bike towns, and it has probably produced more top quality riders per capita than anywhere else in the country. The trails play a big part in this – raw, loose, technical, and challenging to ride fast – if you can rip here, you can ride fast anywhere.
Looking for more from Mt Beauty? Check out our Ride High Country road trip videos below:
Why does this town grab us? Maybe it’s the nostalgia, maybe it’s the setting, maybe it’s the company? Or maybe it’s that Mt Beauty continues to fly in the face of the gentrification of mountain bike trails. Mt Beauty’s trail builders cling proudly to a gritty, raw and downright challenging style of construction, the polar opposite of the groomed predictability that typifies a lot of new trail development. These trails are scratched into the slopes with hand tools, you won’t find any 900mm-wide excavator shaped contours here!
Mt Beauty’s trail builders cling proudly to a gritty, raw and downright challenging style of construction
“It’s us versus technology,” cackled Bernie McArdle, the notoriously prolific Mt Beauty trail builder, when we asked him about his philosophies. The way Bernie sees it, as bikes get better, trails must get tougher, an equal and opposite reaction that ensures mountain biking never gets too easy. And if staving off boredom is Bernie’s aim, then he’s sure succeeding; getting in a rhythm here takes concentration and commitment. The benches are narrow, the trees often tight, the rocks always pointy.
It’s us versus technology.
On our Ride High Country road trip, we met up with one of Mt Beauty’s loudest ambassadors, the irrepressible Paul Van Der Ploeg, for a tour of some of Big Hill’s newest trails. Yes, they’re still building up there, and somehow new nooks and crannies of this landscape continue to be discovered and threaded with fresh singletrack. The trails he had lined up for us were Dragon’s Head and Dragon’s Trail, two recent McArdle creations. Riding these trails is a complex negotiation, a constant balancing act of traction and momentum, played out with plenty of body language. On a bad day, they’ll reduce you to buckled frustration, swearing off mountain biking forever. On a good day, you’re hooting and yelling, eyes like saucers, as you thread the needle, you’re Nino Schuster and Sam Hill rolled into one.
For visiting riders, Mt Beauty’s complex network is now a little less mystifying than it once was, thanks to the recent addition of signposted loops. Choose your colour, follow the arrows. Unless you’ve snagged a local guide, this is the best way to experience what Mt Beauty’s trails are about. Along the way you’ll see countless off-shoots snaking off into the trees – there’s so much trail here, even the locals get tangled up, so we’d suggest sticking to the recommended loops if you don’t have your compass handy.
After your ride, a casual roll down the hill into town will lead you to Mt Beauty’s famed bakery, or cruise on out to the recently opened Rocky Valley Bikes cafe, which is conveniently located directly across the road from the Sweetwater Brewing Company! From a regional perspective, Mt Beauty makes a great launching point for a high country road trip. It sits right at the crux of the eastern High Country’s mountain bike scene; it’s only 30 minutes up the hill to Falls Creek, or jump over Tawonga Gap to Bright.
Over the last 4 years, Falls Creek has been developing single track mountain bike trails. On Saturday, 19th November the trails are set to double with stage 4 official opening to riders. Blue Dirt will be hosting the inaugural ‘Ignition’ weekend of fun with demo bikes, drift bikes, guided tours, shuttles and a beer hall to entertain everyone. They will also be operating vehicle shuttle services, bike hire, skill clinics every weekend for the entire summer.
“During the peak holiday period, from 26th December, Blue Dirt, will be operating every day for the month” says Falls Creek Resort Management Marketing & Communications Manager, Jo Prothero. “Last summer saw a big increase in riders so we are looking forward to continuing that trend this summerwith the opening of several beginner trails and the epic Flowtown trail connecting the Summit all the way to Howman’s Gap.”
In addition to mountain bike riding, visitors can enjoy road cycling, trail running, kayaking and hiking, to name a few activities. The kids will be entertained throughout January with a daily kid’s club, including activities such as fishing, nature walks, cooking and games. Collingwood Football Club will return for the third time this November to put their players through a training camp utilising the resorts many natural attributes, which is a testament to what is on offer at home rather than travelling overseas. The Australian junior cross country team will also host a dry land camp in November.
Events play a big part on the calendar and commence in November. The resort comes to life with visitors’ taking advantage of the cooler temperatures and unique natural surroundings. We are biased but can’t think of a better way to avoid the crowds at the beach this summer.
We’ve spent plenty of time here before over the years filming and shooting videos for Flow themed around tourism, trails, road trips and beer. But this time a family holiday brought one half of Flow (the better half) to the iconic town of Beechworth for a few days of quality time, but not without a bike of course. Beechworth’s well-preserved township and rich Australian history give it the feeling of stepping back in time, around six hours from Sydney and three from Melbourne is more than enough to give the feeling of a proper getaway and also keeps the trails safe from the hordes of skidding tyres.
With a population of less than 3000 people it’s a surprise the town has amazing purpose-built mountain bike trails within a quick ride from the main drag, and plenty of adventure riding beyond that. The Beechworth MTB Park and Flame Trees have two trails in the Dirty Dozen, North East Victoria’s best trails handpicked by locals.
When we think of Beechworth we immediately think of sweet trails and er, beer! The local brewery Bridge Road Brewers is one of the finest craft brewers in the country, exporting all around the country its great quality brew. Aficionados know what we’re talking about, this place is beer tasting heaven and we feel even warmer and fuzzier with a hoppy pint in our hands knowing that the brewery is also heavily involved in the mountain bike scene, supporting development, events, and the local club the Beechworth Chain Gang.
You’d be mad not to try the tasting sample plank with 11 distinct beers brewed a few strides away from the bar. The pizza is seriously delicious too, take our word for it. And the pretzels. And the open fire…
Want To Ride Beechworth?
For more on what this place is all about head to our most recent Flow Nation trip to the region here: Flow Nation, Beechworth.
Mt Beauty was the fourth stop on our Dirty Dozen road trip, an exploration of twelve iconic trails across Victoria’s north-east. And while Mt Beauty officially only has one trail in the dozen, don’t think for a moment that it’s a light on singletrack – there is a huge amount of riding here, though it does help if you’re with a local to unearth all the real gems.
The You Beauty loop has been assembled to really give you an overview of what Mt Beauty is all about, provide you with the lay of the land so you can continue your exploration of the endless spiderweb of trails. All you’ve got to do is follow the blue arrows.
Like all the destinations in the Dirty Dozen, the trails are right on the edge of town – it’s only a two-minute pedal from the cafe to the trail head of the Big Hill Mountain Bike park. The riding is true old-school singletrack, all hand built, with a lot of character. Don’t expect the groomed flow of Buller or Falls Creek here at Beauty – these trails have more in common with Bright, with a raw, challenging edge that won’t forgive riding on autopilot.
Because Mt Beauty’s trail network has evolved over such a long period of time, with volunteers and club members each adding their own touches, the trails all have their own personality and the network has a more random, organic layout to it. As such, if you can nab a local to play guide for a morning or afternoon it’s a great help.
A day in Mt Beauty will give you a good feel for the trails, but allow for two to really get into the vibe of the town – head to the rock pools for a dip, visit the Sweet Water Brewery. If you’ve got time, we highly recommend taking in a particularly epic run from Falls Creek back to Mt Beauty down the legendary Fainter’s Track too, for an amazing back country experience.
Falls Creek is one of the Australian alpine resorts currently accepting that 97% of scientists are right and that our winters aren’t likely to ever again be as cold or long as they once were. Less of the white stuff and more of the green means that mountain biking is a big winner, and at Falls that’s especially true. This stunning resort, high above Mt Beauty on the Bogong Plains, is in the midst of a massive program of trail building.
In late 2014, we paid a visit to Falls Creek to see how their mountain bike park was developing, and we left in complete awe of not only the new trails, but the landscape and the amazing back country riding on offer. From shuttled runs of the village trails, to ranging explorations of the region’s historic huts, and huge all-day rides into the Keiwa Valley below, Falls has great diversity.
This season, Falls Creek has added another key trail into their network, with the opening of High Voltage on 21 November, 2015. Trail building gurus World Trail have worked their magic again, this time applying the love to Frying Pan Spur, which lies to the north of the existing mountain bike park.
High Voltage fires off from the end of the spur, offering an alternative intermediate descent to the black diamond Thunderbolt. Descending for nearly its entire length, before plugging back into the final portion of Wishing Well, it’s got all the flow you’d expect, plus some of the most inviting, loamy berms going.
We were lucky enough to get a cheeky preview of High Voltage with National Enduro Champ Chris Panozzo, a couple of weeks prior to its official opening date. It’s fair to say we now know how this trail can be ridden, and we doubt it’ll see a set of wheels this quick again for some time.
The trail building at Falls is far from complete too. There’s yet another stage of development slated for 2016, with a swathe of new climbing tracks and a huge blue-graded flowtrail descent ‘Flowtown’ (we approve of the name). There’s already more than enough trail on offer at Falls to keep you and a crew occupied for a couple of days, so lock a road trip in for summer now, before the snow ruins the fun for a few months again.
For more info on riding in Falls Creek, check out their super comprehensive website here: TAKE ME TO FALLS!
Show him a dusty berm or two and you’re guaranteed a display of brake-free, full-speed cornering commitment. Watch what happens when he’s unleashed on his home trails of Mt Beauty as the Shimano/Trek racer prepares for the National Enduro Champs.
2016 Giant Yarra Valley Cycles Team comprises of Liam Panozzo, Joel Panozzo, Aiden Varley, Aaron Gungl and Baxter Maiwald. The team traveled to Mt Beauty for some practice and filming before the first round of the Victorian Downhill Mountain Bike Series the following weekend.
Giant / Yarra Valley Cycles Team are proudly sponsored by:
Giant Bycycles Australia
Yarra Valley Cycles
Troy Lee Designs
Sony Action Cam
Evolution Sports and Fitness
Beauty breathes mountain biking; from the second you roll into town and spot the dozens of little jumps that locals have shaped into the roadside embankment, you know this a town that loves riding on dirt. The riding and the town are enmeshed, in a physical as much as a notional sense, with the singletrack fingers of the Big Hill Mountain Bike Park stretching out to stroke the main street.
Getting into the trails is as easy as crossing the road. But once you’re in the trees, you quickly see why the Mt Beauty locals are so fit and such great bike handlers. These are physical, technical trails with some grunty climbs to be had, and the kind of whizzing singletrack that doesn’t excuse sloppy riding. It’s this challenge, and the local culture of laconic competitiveness, that has seen local talent like the Panozzo clan and XCE World Champ Paul Van Der Ploeg rise to international prominence.
Unlike so many of the bike parks around the place now, Beauty has been built by hand, not a machine. Benched, scraped and chipped into the tough earth by locals who never seem to stop building. There are plenty of old favourites, but new trails seem to raise their heads almost as frequently as the black snakes that love this woodland too. Because it is such a complex web of trails, grabbing some advice (or a local) from the local bike shop is worthwhile – there’s so much there, it’s easy to miss the best bits.
Outside of the bike park, your options are as limitless as your legs will allow; there are fireroad routes that disappear over far flung peaks and valleys, or if you’re a fan of road riding too, some of Australia’s best climbs are within easy reach. When the days get too hot (and they do in summer, after mid morning), the rock pools can’t be missed, they’re just a ten minute ride from town.
What really appeals about Mt Beauty is that it’s not an isolated destination; drive half an hour across the Towanga Gap and you’ll find yourself in Bright, or climb up further into the Bogong High Plains and you’ll soon reach the rapidly growing trail network of Falls Creek. This entire region is alive with cycling, and Mt Beauty is at its heart.
Where to stay: Flow stayed at the Svarmisk Apartments. These stylish, funky standalone apartments have private bike storage, epic views, are totally setup for self-catering groups. They also have the advantage of being literally 30 seconds from the trails.
Where to eat: In the off season, Mt Beauty can be quiet in the evenings, so plan ahead. Lunches at the Mount Beauty Bakery are the ticket. And, of course, it’s vital you try a local ale or two. Sweetwater Brewery is Mt Beauty’s own craft brewer. The brewery bar is right in town, so drop by for a tasting. Check their site for opening times: http://www.sweetwaterbrewing.com.au
Bike shops: Rocky Valley is the local shop, right on the main road into town.
Local knowledge: Head to the rock pools, on Rockpool Rd, to cool down after a morning shred.