Kiwis Control MTBA Cross-Country on The Gold Coast

The current Oceania Champions dominated the fields on both days with commanding victories.

On Saturday Sheppard, devastated the women’s line-up winning in a time of 1:27:21, more than four minutes ahead of Australian champion Rebecca McConnell (ACT) and Holly Harris (NSW).

Samara Sheppard.

While Sunday the minor placing’s were filled by former Kiwi champion Kate Fluker (NZL) and Eliza Smyth (ACT).

The two wins put Sheppard on top of the national series ladder after her victories in Orange late last year.

“I’m really happy the way my season is going so far. Feeling really strong and good on the bike.”

“Tried to ride all the technical stuff really smooth and then the climbs worked to my strength,” the Wellington native said.

It was the first race back for McConnell who admitted she hasn’t been on a bike since the world championships in September.

Bec McConnell.

“That was a huge shock to the system.”

“You can’t bring your B game and expect to beat Samara and the only way I knew I would be a chance is to be at the top of the descent which I managed to do on the first lap but then we hit the start straight on lap 2 and she was gone,” said the Canberra rider.

In the elite men, Cooper showed his early season form is nothing but solid as he left the field in his wake on both days with Daniel McConnell (ACT) and Tasman Nankervis (ACT) on the podium on Saturday while Cameron Ivory (NSW) bounced back from a flat tyre in Round 3 to take second with Reece Tucknott (WA) in third.

Cameron Ivory.

“It was a lot cooler than Saturday’s race, which was brutal. ”
“I felt really good out there today and it is a great start to the season,” Cooper said.

For McConnell it was his first hit out of the year and was under no illusions about how tough it would be.

“I made so many mistakes on the single track but it was good to get that one under the belt and look forward to improving from here,” the multiple Australian champion commented.

Daniel McConnell.

The weekend racing also allowed the Kiwis and Australia’s two elite champions a look at the Commonwealth Games Course to be used in April.

“It’s a course that is really made for Aussies and I hope it gives us a great advantage,” the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games elite women’s bronze medallist commented after Saturday’s race.

Eliza Smyth.

Cameron Wright (QLD) once again was a cut above the rest of the field in the Junior men taking the double wins ahead of Matt Dinham (NSW) and Sam Fox (TAS).

Cameron Wright.

The next two rounds of the 2018 MTBA Cross-Country National Series will be held on the Australia Day long weekend in Pemberton, Western Australia.

Zoe Cuthbert

Photos – Element Photo & Video

2018 Giant Anthem – First Ride

Say hello to Giant’s new cross-country weapon.

While Giant’s 2017 Anthems steered away from the bike’s race focused history (their 2017 model bordered on trail bike territory with a 120mm front end paired with an 110mm rear – read our review here), the 2018 Anthem 29” takes this ever-popular model back to its racing roots. We know a lot of racers who are going to be very excited to see this bike back in its pure, Watt-bombing form.

The Anthem is back rolling on big wheels.

Apart from the move to 29” wheels, the new Anthem also sports a 100mm front end paired with 90mm of rear suspension. Yep, 90mm out back. Didn’t we tell you this was a dedicated XC weapon?


Why all the dramatic changes- weren’t Giant 100% committed to 27.5” wheels?

Where the previous year’s Anthem models focused on versatility and appealing to a wider audience than merely dedicated racers, the 2018 Anthem is an unashamed race bike through and through.The goal for the 2018 Anthem, was speed. Filthy, nasty speed.

The frame is beefy where it needs to be, and slender everywhere else. Our complete bike was 9.8kg.

The bike’s intentions were perhaps best summed up by Kevin Dana, Giant’s Global Off-Road Category Manager.

“We’re completely unapologetic, we know this isn’t a bike for everyone, this is a purebred cross-country race bike”

Southern California’s smooth single track was the perfect testing grounds for the new Anthem.

So, the bigger wheels are faster now?

Yep. Giant were staunch 27.5″ advocates – indeed, they might have been the industry’s strongest proponents for 27.5 – proclaiming that the handling attributes of a 27.5” wheel outweighed the benefits of a 29” wheel. Maybe this was the case in 2014, but we don’t need to spell it out that 29ers have come a long way in the past three years, across all segments of the mountain bike market. New technologies and approaches to geometry have seen 29ers get their mojo back, and Giant has incorporated these into the new bike.

The new Anthem’s geometry is radically different to its 2013 predecessor, and Giant feel they can now create a bike that takes advantage of the benefits of the big wheels without the handling compromises of previous years.

Boost spacing played a big role in the new Anthem.

We’ll spare you the standard longer, lower and slacker diatribe, but the triple threat treatment means the bike feels far less twitchy than a cross-country bike of yesteryear- no more sweaty palms descending aboard a 29” cross-country bike with a 72-degree head angle! Full geometry is below.

The new Anthem 29 handles the descents far better than its predecessor.

One area of geometry that drastically effects the Anthem’s handling is the shorter rear end. During the prototyping phase, long-time Giant athletes Carl Decker and Adam Craig wanted the bike to be easier to flick around on the trail and pop onto one wheel for getting over obstacles.

Carl Decker was instrumental in this bike’s development.

The number they settled on, which they were able to achieve through the new standards of 1x drivetrains (the aluminium model features a brazed-on front derailleur mount for nostalgic purposes), Boost spacing and metric shocks, was 438mm. That a full 24mm shorter than the previous Anthem 29er! That number felt pretty spot on to us, providing the right mix of making the bike’s handling livelier than its boat-esque predecessor while keeping the bike’s wheelbase in check for its intended use (1133mm for a size medium). 438mm is a sensible length – we’ve often noted that going too short on a XC bike can make it harder to keep the front end from lifting and can detract from the overall stability.

The new Anthem features a trunnion mounted rear shock.
The new Anthem is a 1x only affair, with the exception of the aluminium model.

What about the suspension- why 90mm of rear travel?

90mm of travel definitely feels like a pretty hardcore approach – we can’t think of many bikes in recent years emerging with less than 100mm out back. Giant’s rationale for the abbreviated travel isn’t just about positioning this bike as a race weapon, it’s also because they feel that 90mm of premium quality travel is better than 100mm with compromises.

The aim with the Anthem was to provide 90mm of fully usable travel.

Less can be more. Explain, please! 

When Giant first set about reincarnating the Anthem 29”, they tested several 29” dual-suspension cross-country bikes already on the market, all of which had 100mm of rear travel. What they found was that due to the short shock strokes, low air volumes and high leverage ratios generally used on these bikes, the shock’s air pressure had to be run quite high, which lead to suspension performance compromises.

With high suspension leverage ratios and the associated high shock pressures often found on XC race bikes, it was often difficult to obtain full travel. And often, to get full travel, they ended up having to run too much sag and lose mid-stroke support. Finally, high shock pressures can result in less usable rebound tuning range – it’s something we’ve seen often, too much pressure leads to you having just a couple of clicks of truly relevant rebound adjustment, with the rest being largely superfluous.

The Anthem features a more usable rebound range than other XC bikes on the market.

So, how does the Anthem’s 90mm shock solve these problems?

What Giant found after trialling a couple of 100mm prototypes was that moving to 90mm travel with a lower leverage ratio, and using a shock with a higher air volume and a longer stroke length, allowed for lower air pressures to be used.

Carl Decker explains the rationale behind the Anthem’s rear suspension.

Pushing through all the tech talk, lower air pressures let Giant obtain better shock sensitivity, more mid-stroke support, more rebound control, and the usability of the full travel range without blowing through and bottoming out.

We would describe the Anthem’s rear suspension as supportive and efficient.

The mid stroke support gives you a better riding position, as regardless of whether you’re in or out of the saddle there’s minimal bobbing and good traction. Cutting to the chase- we were very impressed by the Anthem’s rear travel. It’s not the brutal, and super firm feel we anticipated when we first heard it had 90mm of travel, but rather it’s quality, and it’s effective.

The Anthem’s 90mm of travel isn’t a lot on paper, but it works superbly.

How did the rest of the bike go out on the trail?

Fast. We were aboard the top of the line Anthem 29 Advanced Pro 0 for the bike’s launch, a bike featuring nothing but the best components available, and the bike didn’t disappoint.

Suffering on the climbs behind Carl Decker.

Our testing took place in Southern California at Giant USA’s headquarters, on perfect testing grounds for the bike of predominantly smooth and fast singletrack, although the treacherous loose over hardpack surface kept us on our toes! Due to the trails’ slippery surface, many of the climbs were best tackled in the saddle, where the bike’s seated traction was impressive. It felt precise and easy to manage on the switchback climbs too, whipping through nicely with the shorter rear end.

The rolling terrain was best ridden with intent.

Opening up the speed a bit more on wide open fire trails, punchy ascents and undulating singletrack, the Anthem came into its own. The impressively light overall weight (9.98kg without pedals for a medium) was backed up by predictable traction, and the bike’s geometry encourages you to go for it.

A big chainring for a fast bike.

With the suspension’s excellent sensitivity, out of the saddle efforts over choppy surfaces resulted in far less skipping of the rear wheel than we’ve experienced in the past, meaning more of our power was delivered to the ground, even on the seriously loose trail surface.

We enjoyed powering out of the saddle on the Anthem.

The shock uses a remote lockout – it’s a two-stage system, with the compression either open or locked. Racers will love it, though we’d like to have seen a middle setting here – something similar to Scott’s Twinloc system would be very useful. With the bike locked out, the super firm compression setting tended to see the rear wheel skipping. And with the bike fully open, the compression sometimes felt a little more wallowy than we would’ve liked if we were racing and every second was on the line.. Something in the middle would have been ideal.

The longer paddle is used to open the suspension.
The shorter paddle is used to lock the suspension.

This is a minor complaint, and perhaps setting the bike up with a touch less sag (Giant recommend between 20-25%, and we were using the latter measurement for our testing) would allow you to run the bike fully open all the time whilst retaining as much efficiency as possible, saving the lockout for only full blown sprints.

Sag setup on the Anthem is critical. 20-25% is the recommendation. We’d urge you to go closer to 20%.

What about the descents?

As mentioned above, the new Anthem features the standard longer, lower, slacker treatment that barely rates a mention when a new bike is released these days.

Who said you can’t have fun on an XC bike?

Key measurements like a 69-degree head angle, 73.5-degree seat tube angle and a 610mm top tube in a size medium mean the Anthem’s handling on the descents is far less twitchy than in years past. Combined with the more pliable rear end, the Anthem is a surefooted descender for a cross-country race bike, however, we think a dropper post would’ve been a welcome addition.


No dropper post?

Nope. And with a 27.2mm seat post, there aren’t too many options to fit one. This is another nod to the Anthem 29’s intentions as a dedicated XC race bike, however, there are provisions for an internally mounted dropper. As a side note, Giant’s Senior Global Marketing Manager had a dropper on his Anthem, and he was flying down the descents!

Giant’s Andrew Juskaitis tips his dropper equipped Anthem into another slippery Socal turn.

Giant also justify the decision as the 27.2mm seatpost provides additional compliance when smashing along in the saddle, and by running a rigid post there are the obvious weight savings over a dropper. Still, as comfortable as the bike is when powering in the saddle, we’d be looking to install some kind of dropper – even if it were just a short-travel XC-specific offering.

A rigid seatpost was never going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

Any other neat touches?

We’re big fans of the Kabolt axles front and rear on the Anthem, that both shave weight and give the bikes a clean look. The skeletal, one-piece carbon Maestro link is also svelte looking piece of kit, as is the hidden seat post binder – schmicko.

The carbon Maestro link has been refined for maximum weight savings.

Something that’s often overlooked on cross-country bikes is that an 180mm front rotor provides quality stopping power- we’re glad Giant chose to sacrifice a bit of weight over speccing a 160mm offering.

An 180mm front rotor gets a thumbs up from us.

Lastly, the cabling of the bike rates a mention. Giant have always done a superb job, but the way they’ve kept it all smooth and rub-free is nicely done. The dual lockout lever is clean and ergonomic, and the rear lockout comes out neatly just underneath the bottle cage, very unobtrusive.


Right, how many Anthem models will we see in Australia, and for how many dollars?

There are four Anthem models, with three carbon models and one aluminium bike in the range. The bike we were testing is the only full-carbon model with both a carbon front triangle and a carbon rear end, while the other two carbon models feature an aluminium rear end. According to Giant, the carbon rear end saves around 120 grams.

We tested the top of the line Anthem Advanced Pro 29 0.
The Anthem Advanced 29 1 features an aluminium rear end.
The Anthem 29 1 is the only aluminium model that will be available.

The 2018 Anthem models that will be coming into Australia, as well as their prices, have not been confirmed, but watch this space!

Success For Schurter, Stirnemann, Suss And Stenerhag at Absa Cape Epic

Nino Schurter and ... took the win in the mens category.
Nino Schurter and Matthias Stirnemann took the win in the mens category.

Watch highlights video below.


Swiss duo Schurter and Stirnemann (SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing) were first time winners of the men’s race, while Süss and Stenerhag (Meerendal CBC) claimed the Hansgrohe Women’s category.

It was Stenerhag’s first win in her fourth attempt, while for Süss it was a third title after winning the Mixed in 2011 and the Women’s category in 2012.

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Stirnemann wins the Absa Cape Epic in his first attempt, while for Schurter, a bronze, silver and gold Olympic medal winner in cross-country racing, the win comes in his fourth Cape Epic – his previous best had been a fifth place in 2014.

The current Olympic and world champion, cool and calm as ever at the end, admitted that the strategy was always to come and win the Absa Cape Epic, but only in 2018.

“The plan was to come here in 2018 and win, but we are a year early!” said Schurter. “This is very special. To win the Olympics and then come to South Africa and win the Absa Cape Epic, that is great. After Rio it was always my intention to come and win the race, but this has taken us by surprise. I thought next year would be our year. We are ahead of schedule.”

Stirnemann called the moment ‘unreal’ and said only tonight or tomorrow will he be able to let it all sink in. “This is amazing, just amazing. I really can’t believe it.”

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In the Hansgrohe Women’s category, there were emotional scenes at the finish. A year after having heart surgery Swede Jennie Stenerhag wept on Sunday as she and Esther Süss won the Absa Cape Epic in their first effort as a team.

“Since that day my biggest goal was to try and come back to win this race,” said Stenerhag. “To pull it off is something completely unreal. I cannot believe that I am standing here as the winner. I think we won by keeping everything smooth and consistent. We just kept calm and never thought we could win until now when we crossed the line.”

Experience and consistency were key to that win when Süss from Switzerland and Stenerhag crossed the line as third women’s team at the final stage to Val de Vie Estate near Paarl, but having done enough to claim a convincing victory overall in the Hansgrohe Women’s category.

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Süss was ecstatic about the win.

“I am only happy, happy, happy!” said the 2010 Marathon World Champion. “It was quite tough and fast and you had to really be focused because something can happen so fast. I am only happy.”

In the race for the Absa African special jersey, presented to the best all-African team at the Cape Epic, there was only going to be one winner after a strong week of riding from PYGA Euro Steel. Matthys Beukes and Philip Buys were in command of the jersey all week, and finished strongly yet again to claim seventh overall at the 2017 Absa Cape Epic.

“It was a great Absa Cape Epic!” said Buys. “It’s a pity we missed out on a stage win, but we really put everything out there today and we are really happy with the red jersey. We learned a lot this Epic, so I’m sure we will come back smarter.”

In the Virgin Active Mixed race the Scott-Sram Nextlevel duo of 22-year-old Rio Olympic Champion and 1996 world champion Jenny Rissveds of Sweden and 47-year-old Thomas Frischknecht of Switzerland were in a class of their own.

On Sunday they finished off a clean sweep of eight victories in eight days as they cruised to a massive 65-minute win overall over South Africans Grant Usher and Amy Beth McDougall (joBerg2c-Valencia), with Johan Labuschagne and Briton Catherine Williamson (RBI Tech – Mitas) a further 45 minutes a back in third.

In the Dimension Data Masters category, Australian Cadel Evans and American George Hincapie (BMC Absa Racing Team), riding in their first Cape Epic, got stronger with each day of the event. Starting the final day almost three minutes behind the category leaders Tomi Misser and Ibon Zugasti (Orbea Factory) of Spain, Evans and Hincapie cycled like demons to overtake Orbea Factory.

Cadel Evans made a return to racing, taking our the masters category with fellow road racer George Hincappie.
Cadel Evans made a return to racing, taking our the masters category with fellow road racer George Hincapie.

They eventually won the category comfortably, ending the day five minutes ahead of the team that had lead the category for most of the Absa Cape Epic. Evans and Hincapie finished 20th overall.

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“I didn’t know it was this hard, but fortunately I got in shape as the race went on,” said Hincapie. “I stay relatively fit at home but not by any means for this kind of effort. I’d love to be back next year and race again.”

There was no such drama in the Grand Masters category, with Swiss/Austrian duo Barti Bucher and Heinz Zoerweg (Meerendal CBC 3) leading from start to finish. They finishing 34th overall and won their category by an extravagantly comfortable two-and-a-half hours.

Diepsloot MTB Academy riders William Mokgopo and Philimon Sebona crossed the finish line in high spirits yet again, and after an impressive week of riding, claimed the Exxaro special jersey and finished the event in 42nd place overall. As they crossed the line, a delighted crowd clapped and cheered as the pair exchanged high fives and hugs with their team managers.

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William Mokgopo and Philimon Sebona claimed the Exxaro special jersey.

“It was difficult stuff today,” said Mokgopo. “I’m not a flat terrain type of person, I prefer it up and down and that’s the type of rider I am. I just try relax more when it comes to flats and really push it in the undulations. But today we didn’t need to do any work, we just enjoyed ourselves.”

Tested: Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup

if going fast is the objective, there aren't many better options than the all-new Scott Spark.
If going fast is the objective, there aren’t many better options than the all-new Scott Spark.

Much like the Fed wouldn’t settle for a rubbish racquet, Nino Schurter wouldn’t rock up to the start line aboard anything but the best, so when Scott released an all new Spark frame last year, we sat up and paid attention.

The top of the line Spark RC 900 SL is the lightest dual suspension bike in the world.
The top of the line Spark RC 900 SL is the lightest dual suspension bike in the world.

We covered the revisions to the frame, as well as the spec on the model we’re testing in our launch recap and First Bite for this bike, so we’ll jump straight into how the bike went out on the trail.

Onto the important part!
Onto the important part!

What’s the Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup all about?

The Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup is about going fast everywhere, all the time. Every watt of power that you put into the pedals goes straight into moving you forward, at pace, through the incredibly stiff frame, efficient suspension and light overall weight.

The chunky bottom-bracket area of the Spark delivers every watt of power straight into moving you forward.
The chunky bottom-bracket area of the Spark delivers every watt of power straight into the trail.

The seated position is a real winner, comfortably stretched, and perfectly suited to spending extended periods of time on the bike, either racing or chewing up long training rides. In the saddle, the Spark’s riding position felt long enough in the front end to give stability and confidence, and short enough in the rear to feel like you could whip the bike through a corner or take the tighter line.

The Spark allows you to get in more of this, every ride.
The Spark allows you to get in more of this, every ride.
Scott have done a good job on the geometry of the new Spark, it’s a far more confident bike than before.

In terms of pumping and weaving the Spark through the trails, we’re seriously impressed with how the new Spark has improved upon its predecessor not only with lighter weight but with increased frame stiffness, which means the Spark goes where you want it, without feeling squirmy or deflecting off track.

The new Spark is seriously stiff, which is a real confidence booster when the trail gets fast.

The Spark climbs like a scalded cat. Seated pedalling puts you in a good position to grind away powerfully, but for short bursts of power, utilising the Twin Loc remote, locking the rear shock out and pounding out of the saddle delivers devastating efficiency.

If the climb is loose or technical, we found leaving the shock open useful to increase traction to the rear wheel. With the TwinLoc system in its open position, the suspension is very smooth at the top of the stroke, so the rear wheel tracks over loose terrain nicely. Around switchback corners, the Spark goes exactly where you point it, which was a refreshing reminder that not all bikes have 65-degree head angles and kilometre long wheelbases!

Leaving the shock open on technical climbs delivered excellent rear wheel traction.
Leaving the shock open on technical climbs delivered excellent rear wheel traction.

Whilst it’s a bit of a given that a ten-kilogram XC bike is going to climb well, the descending performance of the Spark was sound too. The combination of the longer front centre, slacker head angle and shorter chainstays than the previous Spark was noticeable, meant the bike felt confident in some pretty technical terrain.

The biggest limiter for the Spark on the descents was cornering traction with the race focused Rocket Ron tyres, which we had to run quite hard due to the combination of the flexy sidewalls, narrow rims and minimal puncture protection.

The Rocket Ron tyres are great for the racetrack, but a bit sketchy for general riding.
The Rocket Ron tyres are great for the racetrack, but a bit sketchy for general riding.

The other limiter on descents was the lack of dropper post- we stopped to put our seat down for a couple of descents and it demonstrated just how capable the Spark has the potential to be. Even if you’re a racer who wants the lightest possible weight, unless your descending technique is flawless, we seriously think a dropper post could be the faster option, not to mention a ton more fun riding with your mates on the weekend.

As much as we loved the Ritchey WCS components, we think a dropper post would be a great upgrade to the Spark for all but the most proficient descenders.
As much as we loved the Ritchey WCS components, we think a dropper post would be a great upgrade to the Spark for all but the most proficient descenders.

Through twisty and undulating singletrack, the Spark delivers an efficient and addictive ride. We always found ourselves wanting to push harder aboard the Spark, it just rushes forward, even when you should be exhausted – this thing would be an XC Marathon destroyer.

The only criticism we would have about the Spark out on the trail is the commitment it requires from the rider to get the most out of the bike.

Where on a trail bike with a more relaxed geometry a rider can safely potter through singletrack in the saddle if they’re not feeling it, and ride technical sections with a dropped saddle and slacker geometry, the upright and forward position of the Spark rewards hitting the trails at pace, as the steering is twitchy at slow speeds, and the bike feels tippy coming into technical terrain slowly.

The Spark rewards committed and aggressive riding.

Put faith in the Spark’s stiff frame and excellent geometry however, and you’ll find yourself negotiating tricky sections and singletrack with more confidence than you would think aboard an XC race bike. It just takes a more confident approach!

As we discussed before, with the addition of a dropper post and in the hands of a skilled pilot, you would have yourself a super light and super capable bike not just for the race track, but a bit of lighter trail riding also.


Who is this bike for?

There’s no doubt that the Spark is aimed at the gel-munching, leg shaving XC racer. Its race credentials in the hands of Nino Schurter prove far beyond our amateur opinions that this bike is ready to be ridden up, down and all around at serious pace.

It's fifth gear or bust aboard the Spark.
It’s fifth gear or bust aboard the Spark.

Despite this, we think that if you place a high value on having a bike that is light and fast, and your trails are relatively smooth and non-technical, then a skilled rider could have a lot of fun aboard the Spark. Fit it out with a dropper post and you’ll surprise yourself with how capable this machine is, not to mention the fact that on a bike this light you’ll be able to ride much further before getting tired.

If you're a technically proficient rider looking for a fast bike to take to the trails, and the races, the Spark could be the ticket.
If you’re a technically proficient rider looking for a fast bike to take to the trails, and the races, the Spark could be the ticket.

What upgrades could you make?

As we discussed in our First Bite, it would be difficult to blame your bike if this was your race weapon and you had a bit of an off day.

The Spark won't let you down come race day.
The Spark won’t let you down come race day.

Despite this, if you really wanted the ultimate race machine, you could go for the Spark 900 RC SL model, which is the lightest full-suspension bike in existence, weighing in as a complete build at under 10kg, and coming stock with Fox’s Factory level suspension, a full Eagle XX1 groupset and carbon Syncros wheels.

We got a test ride on the SL model at the launch in Lenzerheide, and we weren't disappointed.
We got a test ride on the SL model at the Spark launch in Lenzerheide, and we weren’t disappointed.

Another option is to get yourself a set of race wheels for the World Cup model tested here. The stock Syncros XR RC wheels aren’t a bad wheelset whatsoever, and they did the job perfectly throughout the review. Impressively, the lightweight and relatively nondescript aluminium wheelset stayed true throughout testing. However, a set of slightly wider, lightweight hoops for race day would give the Spark even more zing.

The Syncros wheelset was reliable, but a little on the narrow side.
The Syncros XR RC wheelset was reliable, but a little on the narrow side.

Is it good value for money?

Cynics will probably point to the Fox Performance level suspension, Eagle X01 drivetrain and alloy Syncros wheels and see them as below par for a bike of this cost. However we think the Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup is hard to go past for the discerning XC racer.

The Performance of Fox's Performance level suspension really surprised us.
The name says it all when it comes to the suspension- performance.
The Spark's stiffness in key areas is what gives it so much panache on the trail.
The Spark’s stiffness in key areas is what gives it so much panache on the trail.

With an overall weight of ten kilograms on the dot, and perhaps the best dual suspension XC frame currently on the market, not only in terms of weight but in the areas of stiffness and geometry, we would sacrifice the top of the line components in a couple of areas.


How did the components perform?

The Eagle X01 drivetrain was flawless throughout testing, as were the wheels as we discussed earlier. If you bought a set of race wheels, the XR RC’s would make an excellent training wheelset. Another potential upgrade you could make to the bike with a second wheelset is saving the lightweight Rocket Ron tyres for race day, and using something a bit sturdier that can be safely run at lower pressures for everyday riding.

The Rocket Ron's are a race tyre through and through.
The Rocket Ron tyres aren’t the most confidence-inspiring.

The Fox Performance series suspension was a real eye opener. Far from feeling like Fox’s second tier offering, the fork and shock felt supple, stiff and well tuned to the purpose of the bike. The way Fox have managed to lower the weight of their 32mm fork offerings through their ‘Step-Cast’ technology has not led to any loss in stiffness or increased flex, which is astounding.

We were seriously impressed with Fox's Performance Series suspension, and the Twin Loc lockouts are an excellent feature for XC racing.
We were seriously impressed with Fox’s Performance Series suspension, and the Twin Loc lockouts are an excellent feature for XC racing.
The Ritchey WCS cockpit was comfortable and stylish.
The Ritchey WCS cockpit was comfortable and stylish.

As we noted in the First Bite, the Ritchey World Cup Series components are real standouts on this bike. Not only do they look gorgeous, but the stem and handlebar combination worked well, and the seatpost stayed put with just 4nm of torque and a smear of carbon paste.

Scott’s Twin-Loc remote system worked excellently on the Spark, as its pace-demanding attitude meant that having the option to stiffen or lock out the suspension completely was highly useful during short sprints, climbs and smoother sections of trail. The ergonomic positioning of the remote with its integration with the grip clamp meant it was easy to reach the levers for on-the-fly suspension adjustments.

The Twin Loc remote aboard the Spark integrates with the Syncros grip for an ergonomic position.
The Twin Loc remote integrates with the Syncros grip for an ergonomic position.

Any gripes?

We think the rims should be slightly wider internally, as their narrowness meant we were forced to run the Rocket Ron tyres at very high pressures or they felt very squirmy, which meant there wasn’t a heap of traction available on loose trail surfaces.

The narrow Syncros XR RC rims forced us to run higher pressures than we would've liked.
The narrow Syncros XR RC rims forced us to run higher pressures than we would’ve liked.

Secondly, whilst the integration of the Twin-Loc remote onto the Syncros grips gives the handlebar a clean look, it means you can only run grips with the same lock ring fitting as the stock Syncros offering. As grips are often a personal preference on a bike, we see the lack of options for changing them out as a potential dilemma for some riders- for example, lots of XC riders use push on foam grips, which is not an option aboard the Spark.

The integration of the Twin Loc remote limits the options for changing grips.
The integration of the Twin Loc remote provides excellent ergonomics but limits the options for changing grips.

So, who would the Spark light up the trails for?

The all-new Scott Spark is a cross-country race bike through and through, but it’s reminded us how much fun blasting through the singletrack at full pace and having a bike that responds with ferociously sharp steering can be. Whilst the majority of people that own this bike will probably enjoy racing, it doesn’t have to be your number one focus to have a good time aboard the Spark. 

Flow’s First Bite: Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup

The brand new Scott Spark is drastically different to the previous design.
The brand new Scott Spark is drastically different to the previous design.

Okay, maybe nobody said that to us, and we certainly haven’t thrown the Spark sideways through the air like the Swiss wizard himself, but the all new 2017 Scott Spark has been filling our heads with thoughts that maybe we missed our calling in life as fit and powerful cross-country racers.

Motoring through the trails is what the Spark is all about.
Motoring through the trails is what the Spark is all about.

So, this is a brand-new Scott Spark for 2017?

Yep! We were lucky enough to attend the launch of the new Spark range earlier this year, and we won’t go into the incredible number of changes and new additions the 2017 frame features here, but check out our recap of the launch to see just why the new Spark is perhaps the most desirable cross-country bike on the planet right now!

An integrated derailleur hanger is one of the Spark's many weight saving revisions.
An integrated derailleur hanger is one of the Spark’s many weight saving revisions.

It looks like there’s some top of the line kit on the Spark- is there anything on this bike that you can upgrade? 

Our large sized Spark RC 900 World Cup weighs in at ten kilograms on the dot without pedals, and the only components that aren’t top of the line are FOX’s Performance Line suspension, a set of alloy Syncros wheels and SRAM’s XO1 Eagle groupset rather than the flagship XX1.

Fox's Performance Elite forks still get the Step-Cast treatment.
Fox’s Performance Elite forks still get the Step-Cast treatment.

Despite this, we’re pretty much of the opinion that if you’re on this bike you instantly relinquish any bike/weight/equipment related excuse that you may have used in the past.

The Ritchey World Cup Series finishing kit is simply sublime.
The Ritchey World Cup Series finishing kit is simply sublime.

The Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup sits one model below the top of the line SL model, which comes decked out with factory level Fox suspension, a full complement of Syncros carbon finishing kit and some super light carbon wheels made for Syncros by DT Swiss.

The Scott Spark RC 900 SL is the lightest dual suspension bike in the world.
The Scott Spark RC 900 SL is the lightest dual suspension bike in the world.

What sort of geometry numbers are we looking at?

The Spark is an out and out cross-country race bike, but that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t received some of the ‘modern’ geometry touches that have increased the capabilities of bikes in all travel categories. The new Spark has moved from a 70-degree head angle to 68.5 degrees; the reach has been lengthened in every size (for example, our large sized bike has gone from 438mm to 456.8mm) and the chainstays have been shortened across the range by 13mm to a very snappy 435mm.

The geometry changes Scott have made to the Spark make it a more lively ride.
The geometry revisions have made the Spark a more lively ride.

What’s the lever on the left hand side of the handlebar if there’s no front derailleur or dropper post?

Scott loves their bikes to be adjustable, and the new Spark is no exception. The bike features a Twin Loc remote that controls both front and rear suspension simultaneously. The system has three positions. Firstly, a fully open position that allows full travel, front and rear. One click of the black lever switches the rear shock to Traction mode, while the fork remains fully active and the shock is switched to a firmer setting. Click again and rear shock and fork both lockout fully. The silver lever returns the suspension to full travel.

The Twin-Loc remote system is an excellent feature for Cross-Country racing.
The Twin Loc remote system is an excellent feature for Cross-Country racing.

On trail bikes, we’re not huge fans of lockout levers cluttering the handlebar and creating a bird’s nest of cables adorning the front of the bike, but the Twin Loc system on the Spark makes a lot of sense for cross-country racing and is well integrated. In a recent interview, Nino Schurter commented that he often finishes races with a sore thumb from using the Twin-Loc system continuously throughout a race!

The Twin Loc cable for the rear shock pops out neatly at the bottom of the downtube.
The Twin Loc cable for the rear shock pops out neatly at the bottom of the downtube.

What about if I don’t want to race cross-country World Cups?

We’ll point this out now after only a few rides on this rig- it’s not a trail bike. Every single element of the Spark has been engineered to optimise performance on the cross-country race track. You don’t have to be Nino Schurter to reap the benefits of this machine, but unless you’re racing, or your riding consists of flowing, non-technical trails, then perhaps this bike isn’t the right choice.

The Spark wants to go fast all the time.
The Spark wants to go fast all the time.

Despite this bike being a dedicated race bike, look out for a full review soon, where we’ll go into more detail about how the Spark handles the variety of riding we plan to throw at it.

Dubbo’s fun, flowy and fast scenic loop to close out the year for Evocities MTB competitors

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2016 Evocities MTB Series Coordinator, Tracey Whillock, said with only two rounds remaining in the Evocities MTB Series and only one race left this year, Dubbo was preparing to make the most of being part of Australia’s richest MTB series.

“After an extremely wet winter which resulted in the postponement of both the Dubbo and Orange races, we’re thrilled the warmer weather is finally here and that the track has dried out enough to host the sixth round of the series on Sunday, 20 November,” Ms Whillock said.

Ms Whillock said the Dubbo leg of the 2016 Evocities MTB Series will take place at Bald Hill Reserve at Geurie and will be a combination of three single track loops for singles, pairs and teams combining the Oaks and Homestead trail networks through the “link” which runs alongside the Macquarie River and under the Arthurville Road Bridge.

“Following feedback from last year’s competitors and the Dubbo MTB Club we have shortened the track by 2.5km to a 13.5km loop which is fun, flowy and fast with plenty of room to overtake and lots of thigh-challenging climbs followed by fast sweeping downhills.”

“The trail is 90% single track and is sure to reward travellers as it winds its way up and down through Grassy Box Gum Woodland beside stunning spring wildflowers and alongside the Macquarie River under towering River Red Gums,” Ms Whillock said.

The Dubbo Junior Rugby Club will be catering on the day with a fundraising sausage sizzle, while a band performs live music to entertain spectators and waiting riders.

The Evocities MTB Series is the richest mountain biking series in Australia thanks to the generous support of sponsors including Fairfax Media; QantasLink; Forestry Corporation; NSW Mining; Charles Sturt University; Macquarie and Orange Anglican Grammar Schools; Spinifex Recruiting; Maas Group Properties; and Prime 7.

Online registrations for the ‘Dubbo 300 can be made at www.evocitiesmtb.com/enterdubbo. To stay up to date with the series, visit www.facebook.com/evocitiesmtb or www.evocitiesmtb.com.

About Evocities:

The Evocities MTB Series is supported by Evocities, a campaign that showcases the abundance of opportunities in seven of NSW’s leading regional cities due to the lower cost of living, stronger career and business prospects and enhanced lifestyle.

The seven Evocities are Albury, Armidale, Bathurst, Dubbo, Orange, Tamworth and Wagga Wagga. Living in an Evocity means less time commuting, working and stressing and more time for you and your family to enjoy NSW’s beautiful natural surrounds.

$6,000 in Cash and Prizes Up For Grabs as the Evocities MTB Series Moves to Wagga

The 2016 Evocities MTB Series has now reached the halfway point with racing set to continue in Wagga Wagga on Sunday, 4 September 2016 with $6,000 in cash and prizes up for grabs in the fourth race of the series.

The ‘Wagga Evocities 6 hour MTB Enduro’ is an event for solo riders, pairs and teams being held at Pomingalarna Park on the western outskirts of Wagga Wagga.

2016 Evocities MTB Series Coordinator Tracey Willock said the fourth race will be an endurance format race, so it’s all about solos, pairs and teams doing as many laps as possible.

“The full circuit is a 13km figure of eight loop through natural bushland which will cater for riders of all levels and abilities with plenty to test and satisfy the more seasoned riders,” Ms Whillock said.

“Unlike most endurance rides where laps completed after the six hour mark are counted, Wagga Wagga’s race has an interesting twist. For this event, riders must be back in transition before the six hours are up in order for their last lap to count.”

“In addition to the solo riders, pairs and teams who race the full circuit, there will also be a 30-minute event for the under twelves run on a 2km course adjacent to the transition area.”

“The Wagga Evocities 6 hour MTB Enduro’ will have something to cater for riders of all ages and skill levels, not to mention there’s $6,000 in cash and prizes up for grabs,” Ms Whillock said.

The generous prize money is on offer with the support of Evocities MTB Series sponsors including Fairfax Media; QantasLink; Forestry Corporation; NSW Mining; Charles Sturt University; Macquarie and Orange Anglican Grammar Schools; Spinifex Recruiting; Maas Group Properties; and Prime 7.

Online registrations for the ‘Wagga Evocities 6 hour MTB Enduro’ can be made at www.evocitiesmtb.com/enterwagga.

To stay up to date with the series, visit www.facebook.com/evocitiesmtb or www.evocitiesmtb.com

About Evocities:

The Evocities MTB Series is supported by Evocities, a campaign that showcases the abundance of opportunities in seven of NSW’s leading regional cities due to the lower cost of living, stronger career and business prospects and enhanced lifestyle.

The seven Evocities are Albury, Armidale, Bathurst, Dubbo, Orange, Tamworth and Wagga Wagga. Living in an Evocity means less time commuting, working and stressing and more time for you and your family to enjoy NSW’s beautiful natural surrounds.

 

Port to Port MTB 2015, Day 3: Bring on the Froth

66 kilometres is a big old ride, but when it finishes with a wicked singletrack descent, you tend to forget the pain. Overall race leader Mark Tupalski echoed what we heard time and time again: “The moto stuff was awesome, you could just keep pumping it like a big BMX track, and that fresh new singletrack at the end was unreal.”

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Awaba MTB Park brought the singletrack that everyone has been hankering for.
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Naomi Williams on the tail of Jenny Blair heading into the classic race track of Awaba.

The third stage of Port to Port MTB 2015 was an entirely new addition to the race.

“After last year’s race, we rode Awaba mountain bike park and we decided it had to be part of Port to Port,” said Jason Dover, one of the drivers behind the race.

Not only did the course setters squeeze in 12km of Awaba, but they also strung together a killer descent, mixing plenty of moto trails and fresh cut singletrack.

 

Today saw the field swell, with a number of riders joining the fray for the weekend, and so the neutral start as the pack rolled out from Cooranbong was a pretty incredible sight. But with the trails of Awaba not far out, things quickly got heated, with the leaders jostling to get the advantage and dictate the pace in the singletrack. Torq rider Tasman Nankervis got the holeshot, but Andy Blair inserted himself into the lead spot before long, keeping a lid on the youngsters.

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Tasman leaps into the singletrack first.

Unlike yesterday’s stage which dragged the climbing out, today’s stage got it over and done quickly, like ripping off a band-aid. Unsurprisingly, it was the same Torq duo of Tupalski and Nankervis who launched the first attack, and only Reece Tucknott had the legs to go with them. “Tas hit it pretty hard, I think he though I was Hatto!,” said Tucknott, who held on during some massive accelerations from, before the trio settled into a rhythm and began to work together like clockwork.

“Tas was climbing like a beast – I kept asking him to back it off a fraction,” said Tupalski. “Yeah, I got a bit too excited – I thought Reece was Hatto, and all I could think is ’12 seconds, 12 seconds’ so I kept trying to drop him,” laughed Nankervis. “At the top of the climb we knew we had a big time gap, but yesterday we thought we had a big gap too, when it was really only 20 seconds, so we just kept pushing.”

Trek Racing Australia’s Reece Tucknott won the stage, a real confidence boost for the young fella ahead of his World Cup campaign this year.

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This is what it’s all about at the end of the day.

With the lead group of three finishing together, the notable casualty in the overall standings was Pete Hatton, who slipped from his second place. “I think I’ve probably lost the podium, which is a disappointment,” said Hatton.

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Team Torq do a great job of fostering young talented riders, Josh Battey is one of them.
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Bryan Dunkin is a local hitter, and his bike skills are insane.

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One of the real standout aspects of this year’s Port to Port is just how many young riders are at the pointy end; “I think the average podium age has been about 15,” joked Tupalski, himself still only 24. But in all seriousness, the talent on show particularly in the Torq and Trek teams is pretty staggering. There’s been plenty of talk of a changing of the guard, but you’d be a fool to write off Blairy yet – “I had a rubbish day today,” said Blair, “but you don’t get slow all of a sudden, I’m just tired at the moment.” Blair added reflectively: “Perhaps today was an exercise in what I’ll go through over the next few years as I do slow down. But one positive is that when you’re off the pace it takes you back to what it was like when you weren’t racing to win, and you remember why most people do these races, meeting new people and not taking it all too seriously.”

Jenny Blair, who by her own admission isn’t the strongest in the technical stuff, was surprised by just how much she enjoyed the extra singletrack of today’s stage.

“That was awesome – the loose descent was so good! Just get yourself behind the saddle and have a go! You really appreciate the singletrack after a lot of fireroad over the last couple of days.”

Jenny’s lead is looking very safe now, short of total implosion on stage 4.

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Team 4Shaw riders Naomi Williams and Rebecca Locke hold second and third in the women’s field. “I don’t have any legs – that was a long stage for day 3,” said Locke. The fatigue came into play at the end of the stage too, on the steeper singletrack. “I looked back over my shoulder and Bec was off the bike and hanging out of a tree like a koala!” said Williams.

The consensus from the pack about the new Stage 3 course was overwhelmingly positive, and tomorrow’s stage has seen some serious tweaks too, with another supersized helping of singletrack in Glenrock. Come back tomorrow for the fourth and final instalment of our 2015 Port to Port MTB coverage.

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This guy. This guy is a working class hero.

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http://porttoportmtb.com/

Click here for the full results from Port to Port MTB here.

Port to Port MTB, Stage 2: Down the Rabbit Hole

“I normally find the second day a lot easier,” Pete Hatton told us yesterday after bagging second place in Stage 1 of Port to Port MTB.. Well, sorry Hatto… in the case of Port to Port, day two is a whole lot harder! 

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One of the neat things about this stage race is the diversity of the places and terrain, that you take in over just a few days. No more keenly are these contrasts shown, than in the difference between stages 1 and 2. Leaving the beaches behind, stage 2 takes riders to the middle of the famous Hunter Valley. Vineyards, horse yards, towering sandstone escarpments and densely wooded forests, it’s all a far cry from the sand dunes and ice cream parlours of stage 1.

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Today’s stage had seen some tweaks in response to feedback from year one, and while the final stinging climb had been tamed, it was still a tough, but rewarding, day in the office for most. Starting right outside the cellar door at Lindeman’s, riders had to dig deep straight out of the gate, with a 12km climb up onto the ridge lines overlooking Pokolbin. Unsurprisingly, the sharp end wasted no time in sounding each other out, with the Torq team using their numerical advantage to set the pace high and test the legs of the Pete Hatton and his Trek teammates and Andy Blair.

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Through the saddle, a brief respite between the pinches of climb one and two.
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Through the moto singletrack high up above Pokolbin.

Before long, the incredible form of Mark Tupalski came to the fore, when he and teammate Tasman Nankervis established an early break and worked together perfectly, playing the chase group like a fish on the line. “We learnt last year that we can’t wait, we have to make a break early – it’s that old stereotype, you know, offense is the best defence,” said Torq’s Dean Clarke.

Recent grading of the fireroad climb might have filled in some of the most savage ruts, but it had left the top inch of soil a perfect energy-sapping consistency. Grimly set jaws, bobbing heads, grinding gears and just a bit of swearing characterised the appearance of a large chunk of the field. The pay off for the climb came with the Down the Rabbit Hole descent, a plummeting drop, churned up, wild and loose thanks to the recent rains, that had riders cooking brakes and eating fat chunks of flying mud, before hitting the valley floor.

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Reece, the face of the chase.

Surprisingly, for such strong climbers, the Down the Rabbit Hole descent played a key part in team Torq’s strategy, with Nankervis and Tupalski using the downhill to back the intensity off. Dean Clarke explains: “They were just cruising down, knowing that Blairy would have to work hard and potentially make a mistake, while they could save energy and not take too many risks. The worst thing that can happen is to have the lead and throw it away.”

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Through Cedar Creek, at the bottom of Down the Rabbit Hole.

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“We were flat out like a lizard drinking on the descent,” said Tristen Ward, one of the chase group, “Blairy was just trying to kill us!” Reece Tucknott was one of the chasers too, and thought the chase could have succeeded with a bit more cohesion. “We had a chase group of about six, and it was all working well together. Then when we started to close the gap and got close, it seemed that everyone started to attack each other, like they thought they could get across, and the chase kind of broke down. And of course the Torq guys in the chase weren’t going to do any work with their teammates out in front.”

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Spot the bunch.

“Our overall goal at the start of the day was get Tasman into second place, and managed to do that, by about 18 seconds over Hatto,” said Tupalski. “Even if the time bonuses after the shootout come into play, we should still have a few seconds, which puts the pressure on Blair and Hatto to make it happen. But Blairy’s a wiley bugger, and he’ll get stronger and stronger as the race goes on.”

Port to Port 2015 Day Two 56
Tasman Nankervis and Mark Tupalski worked together like clockwork today.

“The difference between Blairy and these young guys, is that the youngsters can redline earlier and recover, whereas Blairy is a little older and it takes him longer to recover. But if he can get into a rhythm, then he’s very strong and that’s the risk,” said Dean Clarke.

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Mind the gap.

4Shaw rider rider Rebecca Locke, in second overall, stated yesterday that the ability to back up day after day could be the deciding factor in a race like this, and by her own admission Stage 1 took a toll. “I struggled a lot today, so it was good to have Naomi, she really got me through,” said Rebecca. “I tried to nurse Bec as much as I could,” said Naomi Williams, “she’s got a bit of a diesel engine, so I hoped she might come back, but she had tired legs.”

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Jenny Blair, head down, on the final pinch.

For Jenny Blair, today was much more suited to her style. “It was my kind of course, that type of riding is my gravy,” said Jenny. “Because I knew the course and knew that the start in particular suited my style, I pushed as hard as I could to maximise the time gap.” The strategy worked, and Jenny Blair now holds a commanding lead of around eight minutes.

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The day was capped off with the Crowne Plaza Shootout, an individual time trial around the golf course at Crowne Plaza, with big time bonuses up for grabs. Pete Hatton continued his out-of-nowhere form, taking the win, and scoring a minute time bonus that scooted him back into second place. Mark Tupalski further cemented his lead, with his third place giving him an additional 40 seconds. Meanwhile, Blair had the worst possible outcome, snapping his chain and having to scoot across the line with any hopes of scraping back a big chunk of time dashed.

Tomorrow’s stage is completely new, taking in the famed flow of the Awaba Mountain Bike park, and some unseen descents through the lower slopes of the Watagans. We’ve been promised by course-setter Rex Dubois that it’s a killer stage. Excellent stuff, come back tomorrow for all action.

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Briar Ridge Winery put on live music and a full-blown farmers’ market at the finish, it was a great vibe.

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The final event of the day was the Crowne Plaza Shootout, a 1.5km time trial around the golf course with time bonuses up for grabs.
Hatto. Can turn a pedal! Peter Hatton moves into second place, after a healthy time bonus at the Crowne Plaza Shootout.
Hatto. Can turn a pedal! Peter Hatton moves into second place, after a healthy time bonus at the Crowne Plaza Shootout.

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Port to Port MTB: Stage One

Sapphire waters and sky so blue it looked painted on greeted riders today for day one of the Port to Port MTB stage race, kicking off at Port Stephens on the NSW mid-north coast. Pelicans, dolphins, retirees and over 200 nervous, pumped up riders – it was one hell of a scene, with the race beginning right on the beach at Nelson Bay marina.

Port to Port 4

“If you’ve spent much time in the area, you’ll be aware that most of NSW’s sand has been relocated to Port Stephens,” quipped course director Rohin Adams at the rider briefing. He was only exaggerating a little – despite being the race’s shortest stage at 38km, the sand made it a gritty affair, both in the metaphorical and literal sense.

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Andy Blair, stage one Elite Men’s winner.

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Jenny Fay, streaking ahead of the rest of Elite women’s field.

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The race start may have been a theoretically neutral affair, rolling through the streets of Port Stephens, but the pace was intense, with a healthy contingent of riders in Torq colours driving the pace. It didn’t take long to ascertain the flavour of what this course had in store, with loose, sandy pinches up over Tomaree headland quickly sorting out who had brushed up on their sand-skills.

At the pointy end, race favourite Andy Blair and Torq’s Chris Hamilton broke away, but when they hit the cripplingly steep ‘Vertical Beach’ section – a wall of sand that was un-rideably steep and loose – Blair made his move. “I just like running in sand dunes,” laughed Blair. “I’ve always done well when there’s been a hike a bike, for instance the beach at Cape to Cape. I’m a little bigger than Chris, so I thought I could get away, and when I got over the top with a decent gap, I was able to stay away.”

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Blair digs deep and opens up a gap on the slog of push up the Vertical Beach.

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The Struggle Brigade at Vertical Beach.

While a sandy course is always going to be contentious simply because it’s so hard to ride well, it made for awesome racing. The constant battle of trying to make passing moves when your wheels are choosing their own path, or trying to skip between the firmer patches of trail and avoid the ruts made what could have been a straightforward race into a real challenge. “This is not the kind of stuff you’d normally go out to ride, but that’s what mountain bike racing is about – putting yourself up against trails and situations that aren’t familiar,” said Brisbane’s Pat Campbell in his first stage race.

Elite women’s winner Jenny Fay summed up the excitement of today’s stage brilliantly: “It was all about making split second decisions today, trying to pick your line, trying to work out if you hold a wheel or jump out and grab a different line.”

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The conditions and a bit of luck all worked in Blair’s favour today: “On a stage like today, when it’s sandy, groups don’t really form – it’s not like a hardpack stage – so the ability of teams of riders to work together is neutralised a bit,” explained Blair. What could have been a nightmare mechanical also turned out to be a blessing. “I was running bigger tyres, 2.3” Renegades, at lower pressures than usual for the sand, and I actually burped a lot of air on one of the water bars at the start of the stage, said Blair. Rather than stopping to inflate it, Blair decided to push on. “It turned out to be a bit of an advantage, the lower pressure definitely squirmed around when I hit the road at the end, but it floated on the sand and really helped.” When he checked the pressure at the end of the stage, it was on just 13psi!

With a three-minute lead after stage one, Blair’s job on tomorrow’s monstrously hilly 57km stage is to mark Chris Hamilton closely. Can the big Torq contingent work together to neutralise Blair? We’ll find out in the hills of Pokolbin!

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To view today’s course, click here.

Cairns 2014: Friday’s bangers from Breach

Friday saw the qualifying for downhill and the finals of the XC eliminator. With heavy rain overnight, the conditions were going to be a tough day for both racers and photographers. Flow’s Damian Breach stood in ankle deep mud all day to bring you his view of the World Cup.

This is what we fell asleep to last night. More rain.
This is what we fell asleep to last night. More rain.
The rain had to be expected however, it is in a rainforest after all.
The rain had to be expected however, it is in a rainforest after all.
The day started wet once again and the view from the top was a little less than inviting.
The day started wet once again and the view from the top was a little less than inviting.
The mud was thick, however early on in the day it was still pretty wet and that's better than what happened later in the day - as it started to dry out. It slowly turned into a thick sludge that was a nightmare.
The mud was thick, however early on in the day it was still pretty wet and that’s better than what happened later in the day – as it started to dry out. It slowly turned into a thick sludge that was a nightmare.
Greg Minnaar on his tentative first run down the hill. The first rock garden had a few people puzzled and Greg was one who spent a bit of time looking at the best and safest way through it all. There was several lines, and of course, the fastest was also the scariest.
Greg Minnaar on his tentative first run down the hill. The first rock garden had a few people puzzled and Greg was one who spent a bit of time looking at the best and safest way through it all. There was several lines, and of course, the fastest was also the scariest.
Everyone's favourite: Chris Kovarik. We were thinking that his last internet edit with backing electronic music was a sign of Chris changing however see him on the track today alleviated that fear. He still Slay(er)s it.
Everyone’s favourite: Chris Kovarik. We were thinking that his last internet edit with backing electronic music was a sign of Chris changing, however to see him on the track today alleviated that fear. He still Slay(er)s it.
You would think that Gee Atherton would be at home in the wet and mud however Cairns is a little different. It's worse. Gee qualified in 6th spot so maybe it's not so bad for him.
You would think that Gee Atherton would be at home in the wet and mud however Cairns is a little different. It’s worse. Gee qualified in 6th spot so maybe it’s not so bad for him.
Nick Beer booooosts the huge triple on the high speed section.  Respect.
Nick Beer booooosts the huge triple on the high speed section. Respect.
Even know the rain held of for most of the day the forest was still a dark scary place for all. Just after this jump was the speed trap and the thicker mud of today seemed to drop the top speeds by about 10kph.
Even though the rain held off for most of the day the forest was still a dark scary place for all. Just after this jump was the speed trap and the thicker mud today seemed to drop the top speeds by about 10kph.

WEB_NEWS_CAIRNS_WC_FRI_DB-11

This isn't child abuse, this is a loving father doing all he can to stop his son from hitting the deck. The mud was so super slippery to walk on, let alone ride.
This isn’t child abuse, this is a loving father doing all he can to stop his son from hitting the deck. The mud was so super slippery to walk on, let alone ride.
WEB_NEWS_CAIRNS_WC_FRI_DB-7
The alien tree is big and alien like. It’s also right next to a very sloppy and slippery part of the trail which the aliens would probably like.
Aussie junior Aiden Varley does his best not to disappear into a huge rut. That's right, it's not a berm, it's a rut carved through the mud. Aiden finished 4th in qualifying however at 31 seconds off the pace it's clear to see how the conditions today came into play.
Aussie junior Aiden Varley does his best not to disappear into a huge rut. That’s right, it’s not a berm, it’s a rut carved through the mud. Aiden finished 4th in qualifying however at 31 seconds off the pace it’s clear to see how the conditions today came into play.
There was a decent crowd watching downhill qualifying the shoe choice or popularity was none at all.
There was a decent crowd watching downhill qualifying – the most popular shoe choice was none at all.

 

With everyone crashing it feels pretty bad picking out just one example. Apologies to Jill Kintner as she was by far not the only one to hit the Cairns mud today.
With everyone crashing it feels pretty bad picking out just one example. Apologies to Jill Kintner as she was not the only one to hit the Cairns mud today.
With conditions so poor people were probably expecting Sam Hill to do well in qualifying however Sam ended up in 50th. Sam is carrying a little hand injury that will surely be hurting his confidence.
With conditions so poor people were probably expecting Sam Hill to do well in qualifying however Sam ended up in 50th.


Ed Masters of New Zealand shocked everyone with his 4th place in qualifying. Let's hope he keeps it up for tomorrow as it may be the first time in UCI history that an actual Vicking is on the podium.
Ed Masters of New Zealand shocked everyone with his 4th place in qualifying. Let’s hope he keeps it up for tomorrow as it may be the first time in UCI history that an actual Viking is on the podium.
Conner Fearon slipped into the top 10 with this much extra weight added to his bike. The bikes at the end of the run were a mess.
Connor Fearon slipped into the top 10 with this much extra weight added to his bike. The bikes at the end of the run were a mess.
Just as the XC eliminator started, so did the rain.
Just as the XC Eliminator started, so did the rain.
Glenn Jacobs has built a pretty cool section of the cross country trail right next to the event village. Much like a 4X trail of old it has berms, jumps, and multiple lines - all within arms reach of the fans. The XC eliminator dropped right into it after a hard long sprint up a muddy hill.
Glenn Jacobs has built a pretty cool section of the cross country trail right next to the event village. Much like a 4X trail of old it has berms, jumps, and multiple lines – all within arm’s reach of the fans. The XC eliminator dropped right into it after a hard, long sprint up a muddy hill.
Even though the conditions were wet the fans still cam out in numbers to cheer everyone on.
Even though the conditions were wet the fans still came out in numbers to cheer everyone on.
The top of the opening sprint in the XC eliminator was probably a relief as it meant a nice soothing mud bath.
The top section of the opening sprint in the XC eliminator was probably a relief as it meant a nice, soothing mud bath.
Have we mentioned that it was a little muddy today already?
Have we mentioned that it was a little muddy today already?
There's nothing better than poaching someone else's flash to create some MTB art. Alexandra Engen raises her arms as she wins the Cairns XC eliminator.
There’s nothing better than poaching someone else’s flash to create some MTB art. Alexandra Engen raises her arms as she wins the Cairns XC eliminator.

 

Cairns 2014: Friday's bangers from Breach

Friday saw the qualifying for downhill and the finals of the XC eliminator. With heavy rain overnight, the conditions were going to be a tough day for both racers and photographers. Flow’s Damian Breach stood in ankle deep mud all day to bring you his view of the World Cup.

This is what we fell asleep to last night. More rain.
This is what we fell asleep to last night. More rain.
The rain had to be expected however, it is in a rainforest after all.
The rain had to be expected however, it is in a rainforest after all.
The day started wet once again and the view from the top was a little less than inviting.
The day started wet once again and the view from the top was a little less than inviting.
The mud was thick, however early on in the day it was still pretty wet and that's better than what happened later in the day - as it started to dry out. It slowly turned into a thick sludge that was a nightmare.
The mud was thick, however early on in the day it was still pretty wet and that’s better than what happened later in the day – as it started to dry out. It slowly turned into a thick sludge that was a nightmare.
Greg Minnaar on his tentative first run down the hill. The first rock garden had a few people puzzled and Greg was one who spent a bit of time looking at the best and safest way through it all. There was several lines, and of course, the fastest was also the scariest.
Greg Minnaar on his tentative first run down the hill. The first rock garden had a few people puzzled and Greg was one who spent a bit of time looking at the best and safest way through it all. There was several lines, and of course, the fastest was also the scariest.
Everyone's favourite: Chris Kovarik. We were thinking that his last internet edit with backing electronic music was a sign of Chris changing however see him on the track today alleviated that fear. He still Slay(er)s it.
Everyone’s favourite: Chris Kovarik. We were thinking that his last internet edit with backing electronic music was a sign of Chris changing, however to see him on the track today alleviated that fear. He still Slay(er)s it.
You would think that Gee Atherton would be at home in the wet and mud however Cairns is a little different. It's worse. Gee qualified in 6th spot so maybe it's not so bad for him.
You would think that Gee Atherton would be at home in the wet and mud however Cairns is a little different. It’s worse. Gee qualified in 6th spot so maybe it’s not so bad for him.
Nick Beer booooosts the huge triple on the high speed section.  Respect.
Nick Beer booooosts the huge triple on the high speed section. Respect.
Even know the rain held of for most of the day the forest was still a dark scary place for all. Just after this jump was the speed trap and the thicker mud of today seemed to drop the top speeds by about 10kph.
Even though the rain held off for most of the day the forest was still a dark scary place for all. Just after this jump was the speed trap and the thicker mud today seemed to drop the top speeds by about 10kph.

WEB_NEWS_CAIRNS_WC_FRI_DB-11

This isn't child abuse, this is a loving father doing all he can to stop his son from hitting the deck. The mud was so super slippery to walk on, let alone ride.
This isn’t child abuse, this is a loving father doing all he can to stop his son from hitting the deck. The mud was so super slippery to walk on, let alone ride.
WEB_NEWS_CAIRNS_WC_FRI_DB-7
The alien tree is big and alien like. It’s also right next to a very sloppy and slippery part of the trail which the aliens would probably like.
Aussie junior Aiden Varley does his best not to disappear into a huge rut. That's right, it's not a berm, it's a rut carved through the mud. Aiden finished 4th in qualifying however at 31 seconds off the pace it's clear to see how the conditions today came into play.
Aussie junior Aiden Varley does his best not to disappear into a huge rut. That’s right, it’s not a berm, it’s a rut carved through the mud. Aiden finished 4th in qualifying however at 31 seconds off the pace it’s clear to see how the conditions today came into play.
There was a decent crowd watching downhill qualifying the shoe choice or popularity was none at all.
There was a decent crowd watching downhill qualifying – the most popular shoe choice was none at all.

 

With everyone crashing it feels pretty bad picking out just one example. Apologies to Jill Kintner as she was by far not the only one to hit the Cairns mud today.
With everyone crashing it feels pretty bad picking out just one example. Apologies to Jill Kintner as she was not the only one to hit the Cairns mud today.
With conditions so poor people were probably expecting Sam Hill to do well in qualifying however Sam ended up in 50th. Sam is carrying a little hand injury that will surely be hurting his confidence.
With conditions so poor people were probably expecting Sam Hill to do well in qualifying however Sam ended up in 50th.


Ed Masters of New Zealand shocked everyone with his 4th place in qualifying. Let's hope he keeps it up for tomorrow as it may be the first time in UCI history that an actual Vicking is on the podium.
Ed Masters of New Zealand shocked everyone with his 4th place in qualifying. Let’s hope he keeps it up for tomorrow as it may be the first time in UCI history that an actual Viking is on the podium.
Conner Fearon slipped into the top 10 with this much extra weight added to his bike. The bikes at the end of the run were a mess.
Connor Fearon slipped into the top 10 with this much extra weight added to his bike. The bikes at the end of the run were a mess.
Just as the XC eliminator started, so did the rain.
Just as the XC Eliminator started, so did the rain.
Glenn Jacobs has built a pretty cool section of the cross country trail right next to the event village. Much like a 4X trail of old it has berms, jumps, and multiple lines - all within arms reach of the fans. The XC eliminator dropped right into it after a hard long sprint up a muddy hill.
Glenn Jacobs has built a pretty cool section of the cross country trail right next to the event village. Much like a 4X trail of old it has berms, jumps, and multiple lines – all within arm’s reach of the fans. The XC eliminator dropped right into it after a hard, long sprint up a muddy hill.
Even though the conditions were wet the fans still cam out in numbers to cheer everyone on.
Even though the conditions were wet the fans still came out in numbers to cheer everyone on.
The top of the opening sprint in the XC eliminator was probably a relief as it meant a nice soothing mud bath.
The top section of the opening sprint in the XC eliminator was probably a relief as it meant a nice, soothing mud bath.
Have we mentioned that it was a little muddy today already?
Have we mentioned that it was a little muddy today already?
There's nothing better than poaching someone else's flash to create some MTB art. Alexandra Engen raises her arms as she wins the Cairns XC eliminator.
There’s nothing better than poaching someone else’s flash to create some MTB art. Alexandra Engen raises her arms as she wins the Cairns XC eliminator.

 

Racing: 2014 MTBA National Series – All Rounds Now Opened for Entry

We are pleased to be able to advise that all rounds for the 2014 MTB National Series are now open for entry.

MTBA are very pleased to be able to say that the 2014 MTB National Series rounds will be conducted in partnership with a number of local organisers and clubs. The support, assistance and cooperation we have received from organisers and the mountain biking community has been invaluable. The passion displayed by all those I have meet has been extremely positive and highlights the vast opportunities and potential for the sport through mutual cooperation.

rounds

We are delighted to still be able to honour a commitment made to host a round of the 2014 MTB National Series at Echuca/Moama. The new Moama Mountain Bike Park, near Echuca is the site for a series of races in Round 3. Local organisers are very excited at the opportunity to showcase the wonderful sport of mountain bike and our community of National level riders. The track should prove fast and physically challenging. With a number of activities planned, including an XCC, Come’n’Try activities and the track’s official opening, I feel sure that this round will prove extremely exciting and I encourage as many riders as possible to attend.

The 2014 Australian National MTB Championships will be held as announced in Bright VIC on 6-10 March.

Please visit MTBA to register for all races.

Video: 2014 Cairns, Australia – World Cup Teaser

The World Trail crew has recently finished construction of the 2014 World Cup XCO & DH tracks, in Cairns Australia. These innovative styles of world class race tracks have evolved over years of professional builds, by World Trail. These tracks will cater for a whole new breed of Mountain Bike racers, both XCO and DH.

A full detailed video, profiling these unique courses, will drop in the coming months, until then, here is a short teaser of what to expect in the jungles of Far North Queensland.

2014 Cairns, Australia – World Cup Teaser from Tom Emrys-Evans on Vimeo.

Cape to Cape MTB Stage 2: Local Knowledge Comes Out on Top

1168 riders streamed out from the starting line at Hamelin Bay this morning for Stage 2 of the Cape to Cape MTB. With the sun shining and a light breeze, conditions were perfect for the second day of the four-day race.

West Australian Peter Hatton used his local knowledge to stamp his authority on this stage, finishing with a time of 2 hours and 32 minutes, a full 2 minutes and 15 seconds ahead of the pack.

Riders battled it out from the start, climbing up a 4km hill out of Hamelin Bay. Winding on and off Caves Road, this was the chance to take it a little easier on the road climb sections before the approaching forest.

The Boranup Forest ride is spectacular, with centuries old Karri forest encasing thrilling single tracks and linking trails.

From the start, there was a tight pack of ten riders setting the pace for the rest of the field and they stuck together right up until reaching Boranup Forrest. After this cracking start, Dwellingup 100 MTB Classic Champion Peter Hatton was in the lead with Stage 1’s 2nd placing Adrian Jackson and 3rd placing Brendan Johnston. The three powered through new course alignments which follow the pristine coastline of Contos Beach, where Hatton stole the opportunity to get in front.

“The three of us got to the beach and it was tough. The sand was really soft so we had to get on and off our bikes, even into the waves a little. But I was lucky enough to get rid of AJ (Adrian Jackson – Merida Flight Centre) on the beach, left only with Trekky (Brendan Johnstone),” said Hatton.

It was here Peter Hatton’s long legs and local knowledge came into play to ultimately power him into the lead.

“I knew this beach was long and the sand would be soft so I knew I had to put my head down here and ultimately managed to get away.”

Hatton charged through the following water crossings in Boranup Forest, full from recent rains within the region – some parts ride-able, some not.

From there, the course wound through some of the South-West’s premier wineries, with Leeuwin Estate and Voyager opening up their properties to the thousand competitors.

Shaun Lewis leads out Andy Blair and a massive chase group. Pete Hatton showed a clean pair of heels and stayed away for the stage win.
Shaun Lewis leads out Andy Blair and a massive chase group. Pete Hatton showed a clean pair of heels and stayed away for the stage win.

“I knew I was gaining a lead but I think it’s good to have a bit of paranoia. Never give up and take for granted that you’re going to win.”

“I was just lucky enough to stay away,” said today’s champ.

Yesterday’s winner, Andy Blair, finished in fourth position today, yet still holds overall first for the Cape to Cape MTB.

“This stage is typically suited to the opportunists that can breakaway, Hatto obviously is a classy rider but I think we gave him a bit of slack. But fair play to him, next thing we knew he was out of sight and we were all racing for second,” said Blair.

 

2012 Cape to Cape MTB Female winner, Jenny Fay, made way back into the top spot after  placing second in Stage 1, beaten by local tri-athlete Jo-Anne Bennett. By the mid-way point, Fay had clawed a 45 second advantage over Jo-Anne Bennet and current Australian cross country champion, Peta Mullens.

“I knew this was the make or break for me. This stage suits my strengths the best but I really had to keep fighting from the beginning. I focused on keeping my head above water and not pressing the panic button,” said Fay.

Jenny states her experience from the 2012 race as an advantage. “I knew when to stay dry and when to shoot through.”

Quadzilla Lewis, Pete You Can Leave Your Hatton, Brendan Mo Johnston and Andy No Bum Blair.
Quadzilla Lewis, Pete You Can Leave Your Hatton, Brendan Mo Johnston and Andy No Bum Blair.

Cape To Cape MTB Gets Underway! Blair And Bennett Grab Stage 1

Some of the world’s best mountain bike riders today kicked off the sixth annual Cape to Cape MTB with an incredible racing start.

They were joined by over 1,200 riders gathered at the footstep of Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse in Augusta, ready to tackle the 40km first day of the four-day test of endurance.

The iconic Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse and spectacular scenery took a back seat as riders were hit straight up with a 4km climb up Skippy Rock Road before dropping into Augusta’s stately forest. Riders then dropped down onto Deepdene Beach, popping out at Cosy Corner Road before traversing private farmland. A final stretch of tarmac led straight into the finish line at Hamelin Bay.

Dan McConnel and Paul Van Der Ploeg have a laugh about putting sunscreen on Blair's brake rotors.
Dan McConnel and Paul Van Der Ploeg have a laugh about putting sunscreen on Blair’s brake rotors.

It was a tight group that led the stage, with 2011 Cape to Cape champ Andy Blair, four time World MTB Orienteering Champion Adrian Jackson, and 2009 Australian MTB Representative Brendan Johnston riding alongside Shaun Lewis and Mark Tupowski for the first half of the stage. Early on team mate Lewis put in a lot of hard work to help Blair get away and will save his legs to help build upon his lead time again tomorrow.

“It was a really fast start for around the first 20km and the main climb…the three of us just got away,” said Blair. “Those guys were really strong, but when we were pressed at the top of the course, there was a slight reluctance from everyone in the group to do too much work…there was a little bit of looking at each other and I just tried to be patient.”

The trio rode together at the front of the field for the first half of the course, before breaking away. Ultimately though, this stage once again came down to the beach portion of the day’s ride.

Blairy heads up the trio, with AJ and Brendan Johnson on his wheel. Lucky for Andy, Brendan stopped to go fishing and AJ saw a dolphin, giving Blairy the break he needed to get stage one.
Blairy heads up the trio, with AJ and Brendan Johnson on his wheel. Lucky for Andy, Brendan stopped to go fishing and AJ saw a dolphin, giving Blairy the break he needed to get stage one.

“I tried to go as hard as possible without going too hard because I wanted to make the beach my opportunity to get away”, said Blair. “The beach is a bit of a lottery and this year it was carnage. I was lucky enough to get away from Adrian Jackson at the beach.”

It was a case of deja-vu for today’s stage with Blair (Swell Specialized) claiming the leg once again in a time of 1 hour and 37 seconds . Adrian Jackson (Flight Centre Merida) followed Blair across the line around shortly thereafter at 1 hour and 39 minutes. Five time world MTB orienteering champion, Jackson, is in good form and tipped as a possible winner of the 2013 Cape to Cape MTB as he is well known to shine in these big events. Blair charged across the line like it was a sprint finish, knowing every second counts. Blair now only has to mark Adrian Jackson for the next three days and the race could be in the bag.

London 2012 Olympian Dan McConnell worked hard to set up team-mate Brendan Johnston, who crossed the line in third position with a time of 1 hour and 40 minutes.

“I managed to hang onto Blairy and AJ, but on the beach the legs crept up on me…the run off the beach is a good hike and unfortunately I wasn’t able to hang onto Blairy, he’s got longer legs than me”.

“I’ve got some good team mates here and I’m sure they’ll do all they can to help me out to gain some time back on Blairy. Getting time is something that is really hard to do and I don’t know how I’m going to do it but we’ll definitely give it a good crack”.

Cape to Cape MTB defending champion, Irish National TT Champion  and 2011 Real Insurance XCM Series Champion Jenny Fay was beaten across the line by local rider and tri-athlete Jo-Anne Bennett, who crossed the line for the ladies with a time of 02.03.23. Riding in her first Cape to Cape MTB, Bennett competed in the event for the first time.

“Jenny Fay was in front of me until we reached the beach, I jumped off the bike and that’s where my running experience kicked in”, said the Alice Springs Anaconda Enduro Winner and Coffs Harbour Marathon Winner. “From there I caught up on some time and got Jenny in the paddock. I found my second wind, put the hammer down and charged.”

Tomorrow’s stage will see riders leave Hamelin Bay for Xanadu Winery in Margaret River, across 64kms of track.

The Hard Road to Cooktown, Part 1.

The infamous Croc Trophy kicks off in just two days, departing Cairns and trucking north through some of the hottest, toughest country in Australia to Cooktown.

With 900km of racing over nine stages in brutal conditions, the Croc is widely regarded as one of the most gruelling mountain bike events on the planet. Despite the inevitable suffering, the Croc attracts an all-star cast, always with a healthy contingent of masochistic European hammerheads.

This year, Flow’s going to be taking a more personal look at the Croc, viewing it through the dust-filled eyes of the Il Pastaio Rocky Trail Racing Team. Over the next week and a bit, we’ll be relaying their experiences to you right here. Every cramp, saddle sore and callous in its agonising-yet-strangely-rewarding glory.


Introducing team Il Pastaio Rocky Trail Racing

Croc Trophy team
Phil and Peter, wondering what they’ve let Martin talk them into.

Martin Wisata: Big Martin is at the Crocodile Trophy for the fourth time this year and will race in the Master 1 category. He says that it is a personal challenge to complete this grueling race every year, something that motivates him to train all year.

Croc Trophy Phil Welsch

Phil Welch: Young Phil will race in the Master 2 category and will report for us from inside the Croc peloton. The experience endurance racer was very surprised at the fast pace of even the training rides in Cairns that the European racers have been setting.

Peter Selkrig Croc Trophy

Peter Selkrig: Old Pete is an Australian ex-pro road racer and one of the strongest contenders in the Master 3 category. Very strong-minded he will be ready to withstand the attacks of his international counterparts.

Stage Plan 2013:
Stage 1    Smithfield (5 laps) / 35 km/900 m
Stage 2    Cairns – Lake Tinaroo / 89 km/2500 m
Stage 3    Atherton – Irvinebank / 80 km/2500 m
Stage 4    Irvinebank – Mt. Mulligan / 118 km/1600 m
Stage 5    Mt. Mulligan – Granite Creek Dam / 163 km/3000 m
Stage 6    Granite Creek Dam – Laura / 116 km/1800 m
Stage 7    Laura – Laura / 50 km/150 m – Time Trial
Stage 8    Laura – Hope Vale / 113 km/1100 m
Stage 9    Hope Vale – Cooktown / 50 km/500 m

Interview: Talking Nutrition, With Emily Miazga, The Real Power Girl

Emily Miazga is a real life Power Girl. A phenomenal athlete in her own right, Em is a multisport champion and a three-time winner of the gruelling Speights Coast-to-Coast in New Zealand.

Em is also a qualified nutritionist and the creator Em’s Power Cookies, an awesome ‘real food’ energy bar. Em left her adopted homeland of New Zealand recently, coming to Australia to support one of her athletes, Kim Hurst, in the WEMBO 24hr Solo World Champs. We nabbed her and sat her down in the Flow Lounge to chat; the most common nutrition mistakes, advice for nutrition newbies, high protein diet, cramping… we covered it all! Enjoy.

Racing: Port to Port Stage Race Announced

Member for Port Stephens, Craig Baumann yesterday launched the Port to Port MTB (Mountain Bike) Classic to be held for the first time from 1-4 May 2014.

The event will attract top Australian riders, as well as a selection of international riders and is open to all serious recreational riders from across Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.

Set in the Newcastle and the Hunter amongst some of the most iconic and beautiful scenery in Australia. Riders will enjoy the best roads, tracks and trails the region has to offer, as they wind their way from Port Stephens to the Newcastle finish line.

“The 2014 Port to Port MTB Classic, supported by the NSW Government, through its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW, and the City of Newcastle, will bring to NSW, and in particular Newcastle and the Hunter, an international stage mountain biking event like no other,” Mr Baumann said.

“Our local communities will benefit from the economic impact that the 2014 Port to Port MTB will bring, and, with the NSW Government continuing to promote Newcastle and the Hunter region, this will be a boon to both the local economy and lifestyle.”

Event Director, Chris Heverin, was excited to announce the Port to Port MTB at the official launch.

“We are very excited to be bringing Port to Port MTB to Newcastle and the Hunter”, he said. “Mountain biking is a growing sport and this four day stage event will provide a great challenge for riders of all standards. The Port to Port MTB course is amazing, with some of the best trails in Australia. As a sister event to the fabulous Cape to Cape MTB in Western Australia, we will be giving riders another outstanding MTB stage event.”

Minister for Major Events and Tourism, George Souris said: “The annual calendar of events that has been secured for Newcastle and the Hunter includes international surfing competitions, international rugby, World Cup Soccer qualifiers, many other top sporting events and the nation’s biggest international country music festival.

“Securing and developing events such as the Port to Port MTB is delivering strong results for the region. In the past 12 months, events and festivals are estimated to have been worth about $700 million to the local economies of Newcastle and the Hunter regions,” Mr Souris said.

“During 2012, the Hunter Valley attracted more than 2.2 million domestic and international overnight visitors who spent a combined $1.0 billion in the region during their stay, enjoying the best food and wine the Hunter Valley has to offer.”

Destination NSW CEO, Sandra Chipchase said: “The 2014 Port to Port MTB will not only be a world-class sporting event, it will also showcase to the world the idyllic scenery and world-class riding trails of the Newcastle-Hunter region and boost the local economy.”

Awwwwwwkward much?
Nothing suss going on here. Move along.

Racing: The CamelBak Highland Fling Is Just a Stone's Throw Away!

The 2013 CamelBak Highland Fling mountain bike event is just four weeks away. That’s still plenty of time to get your training on a roll and be ready to leave no stone unturned when you line up for the ninth edition of Australia’s largest mountain bike marathon.

Briars Highland Fling 2012

If you’ve noticed there seems to be a bit of a stone theme, you’re onto something. One of the many things that make the CamelBak Highland Fling unique is its annual theme; designed to ensure that serious racing is also serious fun!

2013 sees The CamelBak Highland Fling go stone-age with a Flingstones theme. And while there is an assurance that no actual stones will be flung (other than flung up by tyres), there could be a dinosaur or two taking to the trails (and we’re not talking about riders in the Grand Masters category).

Briars Highland Fling 2012

On Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th November, the picturesque New South Wales Southern Highlands town of Bundanoon will a celebrate all things mountain biking with the CamelBak Highland Fling welcoming a large field of both Australian and international elite riders, category racers and weekend warriors, together with their support crews, families and friends.

Last year's podium. Cooper, Jackson and Johnston grabbed the top three spots. Jackson took the novelty cheque, Coops got the beer, Brendan got the award for best attempt at a moustache.
Last year’s podium. Cooper, Jackson and Johnston grabbed the top three spots. Jackson took the novelty cheque, Coops got the beer, Brendan got the award for best attempt at a moustache.

2012 men’s champion Adrian Jackson will be back to defend his title saying: ‘The Fling is one of my big targets for the second half and I hope to hit it in top form. It’s rated in the top tier of marathon races by all elites. To win one is an honour but to win back-to-back, is legend making.’

Making sure it’s not an easy win will be a stacked men’s elite field including 2012 2nd and 3rd place-getters Dylan Cooper and Brendan Johnston, Swell Specialized team mates Andy Blair and Shaun Lewis, along with Dan McConnell, keen to show his form locally after a stellar world championship season in which he placed 2nd overall in the World Cup Series.

The unstoppable Jenny Fay will be back again to defend her title.
The unstoppable Jenny Fay will be back again to defend her title.

Defending women’s champion Jenny Fay has just picked up the Irish National Marathon Jersey after a win in Italy too, but she will be back in Australia, and in top form, to ensure she makes it three in a row at The Fling. The likes of Australian XC champion Peta Mullens from VIC and Jo Bennet from WA will be keen to stop the hat trick.

Former Singlespeed World Champion Garth Weinberg from NZ, will be over to shake up the Full Fling SS category and no doubt will finish up toward the pointy end overall too.

In the 100 Mile Fling local elites including title holder Ed Macdonald will be battling it out with international riders including the UK’s Matt Page. 2012 Half Fling winner Kyle Ward is stepping up to the Full Fling in 2013. Can his 18 year old younger brother Jayden, recent victor in the Kowalski 50km event, hold onto the family honour by keeping out last year’s 2nd place rider Andrew Arthur, 50km specialist Brad Morton and evergreen old foxes like Matt Fleming?

The main racing takes place on Sunday 10th with riders selecting the 110km Full Fling, 55km Half Fling or 100Mile Fling, with routes winding through mixed terrain. Private farmland tracks cross into the beautiful forest and gully trails of Wingello State Forest. Open paddocks become rough 4WD trails and flowing single track. Challenging climbs are rewarded with sweet descents.

Leading into the main event are also a host of sideshow events across the weekend, including the Casual Fling to cater for those who prefer a more social ride and the Bundanoon Dash for those who like their racing fast and furious.

Briars Highland Fling 2012

The Battle of the Businesses, for locals only, provides stunning costumes for spectator entertainment, while those who like to race without having to put any power to the pedal can line-up for the second Rolloff World Championships.

For young racers, Saturday’s Kids Skills Clinic tips can be tried out in the hotly contested Todds Real Estate Kids Fling on Sunday.

 

Racing: The CamelBak Highland Fling Is Just a Stone’s Throw Away!

The 2013 CamelBak Highland Fling mountain bike event is just four weeks away. That’s still plenty of time to get your training on a roll and be ready to leave no stone unturned when you line up for the ninth edition of Australia’s largest mountain bike marathon.

Briars Highland Fling 2012

If you’ve noticed there seems to be a bit of a stone theme, you’re onto something. One of the many things that make the CamelBak Highland Fling unique is its annual theme; designed to ensure that serious racing is also serious fun!

2013 sees The CamelBak Highland Fling go stone-age with a Flingstones theme. And while there is an assurance that no actual stones will be flung (other than flung up by tyres), there could be a dinosaur or two taking to the trails (and we’re not talking about riders in the Grand Masters category).

Briars Highland Fling 2012

On Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th November, the picturesque New South Wales Southern Highlands town of Bundanoon will a celebrate all things mountain biking with the CamelBak Highland Fling welcoming a large field of both Australian and international elite riders, category racers and weekend warriors, together with their support crews, families and friends.

Last year's podium. Cooper, Jackson and Johnston grabbed the top three spots. Jackson took the novelty cheque, Coops got the beer, Brendan got the award for best attempt at a moustache.
Last year’s podium. Cooper, Jackson and Johnston grabbed the top three spots. Jackson took the novelty cheque, Coops got the beer, Brendan got the award for best attempt at a moustache.

2012 men’s champion Adrian Jackson will be back to defend his title saying: ‘The Fling is one of my big targets for the second half and I hope to hit it in top form. It’s rated in the top tier of marathon races by all elites. To win one is an honour but to win back-to-back, is legend making.’

Making sure it’s not an easy win will be a stacked men’s elite field including 2012 2nd and 3rd place-getters Dylan Cooper and Brendan Johnston, Swell Specialized team mates Andy Blair and Shaun Lewis, along with Dan McConnell, keen to show his form locally after a stellar world championship season in which he placed 2nd overall in the World Cup Series.

The unstoppable Jenny Fay will be back again to defend her title.
The unstoppable Jenny Fay will be back again to defend her title.

Defending women’s champion Jenny Fay has just picked up the Irish National Marathon Jersey after a win in Italy too, but she will be back in Australia, and in top form, to ensure she makes it three in a row at The Fling. The likes of Australian XC champion Peta Mullens from VIC and Jo Bennet from WA will be keen to stop the hat trick.

Former Singlespeed World Champion Garth Weinberg from NZ, will be over to shake up the Full Fling SS category and no doubt will finish up toward the pointy end overall too.

In the 100 Mile Fling local elites including title holder Ed Macdonald will be battling it out with international riders including the UK’s Matt Page. 2012 Half Fling winner Kyle Ward is stepping up to the Full Fling in 2013. Can his 18 year old younger brother Jayden, recent victor in the Kowalski 50km event, hold onto the family honour by keeping out last year’s 2nd place rider Andrew Arthur, 50km specialist Brad Morton and evergreen old foxes like Matt Fleming?

The main racing takes place on Sunday 10th with riders selecting the 110km Full Fling, 55km Half Fling or 100Mile Fling, with routes winding through mixed terrain. Private farmland tracks cross into the beautiful forest and gully trails of Wingello State Forest. Open paddocks become rough 4WD trails and flowing single track. Challenging climbs are rewarded with sweet descents.

Leading into the main event are also a host of sideshow events across the weekend, including the Casual Fling to cater for those who prefer a more social ride and the Bundanoon Dash for those who like their racing fast and furious.

Briars Highland Fling 2012

The Battle of the Businesses, for locals only, provides stunning costumes for spectator entertainment, while those who like to race without having to put any power to the pedal can line-up for the second Rolloff World Championships.

For young racers, Saturday’s Kids Skills Clinic tips can be tried out in the hotly contested Todds Real Estate Kids Fling on Sunday.

 

Flow’s First Bite: Storck Rebel Seven

Markus Storck – a man with a very good brain but a very bad haircut – is well regarded as one of the greatest design minds of the cycling industry. Interestingly, he’s also one of the founding fathers of Eurobike.

Storck Rebel Seven -7

His namesake company makes superb carbon and high-end aluminium bikes out of their facility in Germany. While the brand’s reputation is strongest on the road, they’re developing a healthy following in mountain biking too.

We’ve recently taken hold of the new Rebel Seven, Storck’s premium 27.5″-wheel cross country hardtail. It came to us as a bare frame, and we thought it look so good we’d shoot it naked, rather than dress it up with its build kit.

Storck Rebel Seven -8

The frame weight is a little under 1100g with a beautiful finish. All the features you’d expect at this level are present: press-fit bottom bracket, tapered head tube, 12mm rear dropouts, well presented cable guides.

Storck Rebel Seven -3

We’ll be building it up and hitting the trails soon. It’ll be our first experience on our home trails riding a 27.5″-wheeled hardtail (we’re usually on 29er if we’re riding a hardtail) so we’re intrigued about the performance the mid-sized wheel will offer.

Storck Rebel Seven -11

Convict 100: Chains of Love

I must confess I always look forward to the Convict; I love its fast fire trail style, with lung busting climbs, technical high speed descents and the water crossing which is such a unique challenge that can put off the most competent of riders. To be fair, there is not as much single track on offer, but as long as you know that in advance you aren’t disappointed.

Up at the crack of dawn again for another endurance race, the first stage entails successfully making it from your warm bed to the start line before 7am and negotiating the ferry queue if you are coming from the south.

Pulling up to the attractive St Alban’s pub in the chilly dark, the silly ones like me are hurriedly stuffing down bananas, muesli bars and other stuff while we affix number plates, load up drink bottles and throw on race kit. The smart people who camped were in cruise mode, warming up their legs on the streets around the pub.

As the morning sun rises so do the campers – straight to the coffee.

I am never quite sure what to wear when these events start in the freezing cold, when you know that it is probably going to heat up. Do you tough it out in bib and nicks or add the arm warmers or even a vest? I went with my favourite merino wool arm warmers which can easily be ripped off and stuffed in a pocket.  Others who had mates / loved ones in support had jackets at the start line, ripped off before the gun while the rest of us toughed it out.

A beautiful sunrise greeted the 600+ competitors lining up for 100km. The elite category were well represented with over 30 guys and girls sent off in the first wave. Successive waves were released in 10min intervals down Settlers Rd for the 10km road section. I was off in the first lot, post the elite riders, and the pace at the start was pretty pedestrian and mighty chilly, thank you arm warmers. After some jockeying for positions on the road section, we all turned left onto the track and ready for the first ‘get stuffed’ climb. A quick chug of the water bottle and then it was game on up the hill.

Many faces with many different expressions all showing the different feelings at the start of the race.

Every year I remember that this hill is quite steep in sections and every year, surprising as it may seem, it is confirmed. It’s a real handle bar chewer, especially the little kicks as you go up. For those that can ride it, you were rewarded with a sizeable lead over the rest of the group, your breakfast at the bottom of your wind pipe, and legs full of lactic acid.

Spinning out over the top, natural groups had already formed and I found myself in a group of about 10 carrying good pace as we travelled along the ridge top towards the first feed station. It was at about this point that I picked up my first stick, luckily not one I had to stop for as I would have dropped the group but as annoying as if you had a footy card on your old BMX.  Brrrrr for the next 10km and then it stopped, phew. Turns out ‘phew’ was right as after the race I found that my lower jockey wheel was missing some teeth; wasn’t I lucky it didn’t shatter!

We turned past the first feed station into the singletrack section all in file. This was where I had my second race incident. I carry two bottles for events like this, one behind the seat and one in the front triangle and try to only stop once during the race. I had finished the first bottle at the 30km mark and deciding to swap it out with the other, I found the other had departed the vehicle. Mmm, no water for 20km, awesome! The third ‘awesome’ moment was that I was at the tail end of the group and the group had split in the middle. It was sometime before I realised this and the front dudes were nowhere to be seen. Head down then to start the reeling in the bolters.

Brief glances around the smoother sections of the track revealed fantastic vistas of the plunging wooded valleys that we were riding besides and surprisingly, the sun really didn’t kick in until about 11am so the arm warmers although pulled down to the wrists, they never came off.

The 50km feed station – relief, aqua plus bananas and treats if you were running out of power! Gulping and filling my bottle, I raced off to chase the guys who had escaped up that long grinding hill. It is one of the few sections of the course where you could see a long way ahead.

At the top, the fun was about to begin, many kays of technical predominately downhill sections where the 29er full suspension rig that I was on really came out to play. Other riders on hard tails were doing it tougher through this section, but I was loving it, point and shoot. There were also some reasonably technical ascents requiring a mono and some weight transfer. One section was probably rideable but I decided it was quicker to jump off and run.

The final descent to the gate, back just before you get back on the road, was great fun; the baby head rocks didn’t seem as bad as last time, although I still had some heart-in-the-mouth moments.

The correct way.

Back to the road and a short trip to the river crossing. I really like this crossing, but funnily enough it really gets some people spooked. A steady pace and riding looking a couple of metres ahead is the key. Don’t look at your tyres and you’ll be across in no time, into a sand pit on the far side.

The not so correct way.

Time for the second section of the course; the lonely road out and back, another decent climb and some scary brake burning / water bar air time descents. This part of the course can be tough, not just because it is towards the end but the many (seems like 20) pinch climbs along the ridge top really put your legs in the hurt locker.

The final river crossing was not rideable this year and my chain decided to get stuck between my frame and chain ring as I dismounted – fantastic.  We were also starting to mix it up with the 50km riders at this point, so until you could see their number plates, you couldn’t work out if you were chasing or being chased by someone also doing the 100km.

The final 5km along the road goes relatively quickly and then you are back to St Albans to cross the finish line welcomed by the cheers of spectators and a beer and water – all the suffering is worth it and everyone I saw had a big smile from ear to ear.

Some people have too much energy to be doing this at the finish line.

Deubel Announces New Members to the XC Racing Team

For 2013, we have hand selected 3 special men to compete for us in the Cross Country Rocky Trail Entertainment 7hr Grand Prix for the series.

We welcome Matthew Harrington, Richard Napper and Brent Dravitzki.

Matthew Harrington.

Matthew joins the Deubel Racing team to compete in Cross Country events such as the Rocky Trail 7hr Grand Prix for the 2013 series.  Matthew’s achievements started as a young boy in 1980 when he competed in the BMX Enduro & Cross Country event in Mid Wales, UK.  The 1990’s saw him competing in what was the beginning of full suspension downhill racing in the UK, achieving top 10 scores for Youth & Junior.  From 2005, Matthew took on Megavalanche finishing 48th, in 2008 he came 2nd in the Avalanche Enduro at Kielder Forest and for 3 years was #1 target man for UK North v South Mates DH series, which put him into the Dirt Magazine.  2009 to 2010 had him racing a 1 day 8,000m DH Enduro in France, an Alpine refuge DH Tour in Switzerland and a Fred Whitton Charity Sportive in the Lake District.  He then relocated to Australian in 2011 where he competed in All-Mountain races coming in at the Top 5 in both Masters & Elite categories.  We are proud to have Matthew on board and look forward to sharing his future achievements with the Deubel Racing team.

Richard Napper.

Also known as Richard “Danger” Napper, he joins the Deubel Racing team to compete in Cross Country events such as the Rocky Trail 7hr Grand Prix for the 2013 series.  Richard’s past has seen him dabbling into downhill, dirt jumping, cross country, road, BMX and all-mountain riding, basically a love of all things bike and dirt.  Growing up in Canberra, his riding hot sports were of course Mt Stromlo, Majura and Melba BMX track whilst working at the local bike shop to bankroll vital equipment for his bike. Richard’s major achievements include 1st Place in the 16kg bike category at the Turramurra Cycles Dirt Crit in 2005.  3rd Place in Sport Men category for the Downhill Australian Mountain bike championships in 2007.  2nd Place in Men’s single speed category for the Dirt works 100km Classic in 2007. 5th Place for the solo single speed at the Sydney Fat tire festival 8 hour in 2010, and 2nd Place in Expert category for the Rocky Trail Rollercoaster in 2012.  In Richard’s words “I’m stoked to be riding the 2UP for the Deubel Racing team. The bike suits an aggressive riding style and being Australian made, is a bonus”.  We too are stoked that Richard joins the team.

Brent Dravitzki.

Swaggering onto the Northern beaches scene with only 2 years of riding experience to back him up, Brent “BDog” Dravitzki is living proof that you can take up riding at any age. Don’t let his lack of experience fool you… a misspent youth ragging on motorbikes has left this native New Zealander with an eye for dirt, which when coupled with a stubborn dogged determination, makes him a force to be reckoned with on the trail.

Brent is thrilled to be representing the Deubel Racing team in the Rocky Trail 7hr Grand Prix. Battling a recent obsession to all things loam and strava related, he is looking forward to that next hit whilst charging on the 2UP and we are excited to have him on board. In his words “The quality Aussie engineering and brilliant adaptable design of the Deubel 2UP is pure stoke”.

They will compete in the 5 rounds of the series in the ‘Elite 2 Man Team’ category and we are very pleased to have them on board.  First race for the season is next Sat 23 February at Awaba.

For more information and details about the rest of team visit our Racing Team page on the website.

Jongewaard and Bucher Pinch 100KM Kona Odyssey Crowns

Chris Jongewaard pinched his fourth win at the renowned 100km Kona Odyssey mountain bike marathon in Forrest Victoria today, with Swiss Xterra off-road triathlete, Renata Bucher, conquering the women’s race, amongst the throng of 1,800 riders.

The seventh edition of the Kona Odyssey confirmed its’ status again as the most challenging, brutal and rewarding mountain bike marathon in Australia, courtesy of the thirst-building terrain on singletrack, pinching climbs, smooth flowing and tight treed sections which engrossed riders for the entire duration.

Three distinct riding sectors made up the 100km course which scooted along the world renowned tracks, providing a heroic, tough mountain bike race through a range of wild landscapes in the Forrest and Otway ranges.

Jongewaard claimed his fourth win at the prestigious event in a time of 4 hours 19 minutes and 19 seconds, just ahead of 2010 winner Adrian Jackson in 4 hours 19 minutes and 40 seconds; with Paul van der Ploeg taking 3rd place in 4 hours 22 minutes and 14 seconds.

The mens top 3: Jackson, Jongewaard, van der Ploeg (l-r)

“I’m absolutely exhausted!” Jongewaard said.

“It was just a tough day out there; with the new course, it’s a bit different to previous years where there was a monster climb to begin with. But by the 2nd climb today, you already had 60-70km in the legs so it really tightens the screws.

“I might have gone a bit too early being 3 minutes ahead at the first checkpoint, but my race plan was to kept it consistent and I was keen to take a bit more risk on the downhills going hard.

“I saw AJ (Jackson) coming towards the end and he looked fresh; I thought I was in trouble, but I just kept it consistent and I managed to hold on. It’s a super sport! What more could you want!” Jongewaard said.

Jackson and van der Ploeg battled it out for second and third for most of the day, before Jackson gave it a crack to pull in Jongewaard.

“Paul and I spent the day together, and for most of it I was just sitting in his dust! I was feeling fresh on the hills, so I gave it to Paul at the end to try and bridge the gap up to Chris,” Jackson said.

“AJ (Jackson) was just drilling it! I was doing it tough up the hills and we were both cramping in the legs, but he just drilled it at the top (King of Mountain) and I had nothing left towards the end,” van der Ploeg said.

In the women’s elite field, Bucher came here to Australia looking for the perfect race, and finished in 5 hours 13 minutes and 35 seconds to take line honours just ahead of back to back 2011 and 2012 Kona Odyssey 100km winner, Peta Mullens who crossed in 5 hours 14 minutes and 34 seconds. A hard finishing Rebecca Locke claimed third in 5 hours 32 minutes and 57 seconds.

Renata Bucher crossing the line to take the win.

“Today was such a good day! My plan was not to come here and smash something. I was nervous because I didn’t know the course as well as some of the others; but I’m lucky Jess (Douglas) took me out here the other day to give me a little bit of an idea of the tracks.” Bucher said.

“Peta and I spent a lot of time together on the tracks until about the 80km mark. We worked so well together, swapping and changing the lead a number of times.

“I had to keep working hard and I felt good; everything was going well so I had to go!” continued Bucher.

Mullens was nothing but praise for the new course and winner Bucher.

“I’m just so happy. Even though I won the last two years, I’m happier with this performance today.” Mullens said.

“Renata was so strong out there; but I wouldn’t get off her wheel. It was only at the start of the 70km mark that I started to suffer, probably due to a lack of endurance, so had to ease back to make it to finish line.

“The new course is just great. That last loop is going to hurt people with all the little pinches that really grab the legs. But congratulations to everyone that finished today,” continued Mullens.

Starting and finishing at the Forrest Football Oval in Forrest Victoria, the monster mountain bike marathon passed through the oval four times including the finish line, creating an exciting event atmosphere for riders and spectators.

In amongst the dirt and grime of the 100km participants, was the 50km marathon race which burst along different sections within the mountain bike mecca of the Forrest and Otway ranges, with Chris Hamilton from Bendigo who finished 2 minutes ahead of any rival in a time of 2 hours 17 minutes and 24 seconds.

“I did it last year and I just love these tracks. My tactic was to go for it from the start. I felt pretty good towards the end so I just went for it again!” exclaimed Hamilton.

Katie Chancellor of Fairfield took the women’s 50km race in a time of 2 hours 51 minutes and 45 seconds.

Highlights of the courses included the King and Queen of the mountain climb at the top of popular Haydens Track at the intersection with Thompsons Track (elevation 558m above sea level); and the timed descent which was held on the renowned ‘Red Carpet Track’ where it crosses Lake Elizabeth Road opposite the Barwon River in Forrest, flowing over 4.5km of track and dropping 250m from top to bottom.

With a record field of 830 in the 100km Kona Odyssey, and a  further  850 mountain bike riders who took to the 50km Kona Shorty,  these eager, dirty and hurting mountain bike rides prove the events’ status continues to grow in popularity each year.

The day rounded out with 150 Kona Pioneers in the 15km race for beginners and youngsters.

With plenty of sweat, dust, tears and occasionally some blood, it’s fair to say most riders will be kicking back in the Forrest Festival atmosphere talking war stories after a cold shower and refreshing beverage.

RESULTS

100km Kona Odyssey 2013

Male

  1. Chris Jongewaard 4:19:19
  2. Adrian Jackson 4:19:40
  3. Paul van der Ploeg 4:22:14

Female

  1. Renata Bucher 5:13:35
  2. Peta Mullens 5:14:34
  3. Rebecca Locke 5:32:57

50km Kona Odyssey 2013

Male

  1. Chris Hamilton 2:17:24
  2. Joey Esterhuyzen 2:19:19
  3. Jack Lamshed 2:21:21

Female

  1. Katie Chancellor 2:51:45
  2. Philippa Birch 2:53:38
  3. Nicole Jeffries 2:54:18

FULL RESULTS: http://www.multisportaustralia.com.au/Home/QuickResults?clientId=1&raceId=811&raceName=Kona%20Odyssey

 

Jason English Back From Injury With Rocky Trail 100

Australia’s double 24H Solo World Champion Jason English has confirmed that he will race at the Rocky Trail 100 endurance mountain biking event at Stromlo Forest Park this Sunday, 10 February. It will be the first appearance back on the competitive racing scene by English after a collar bone injury and he is expected to return with a vengeance.

Jason English at Rocky Trail’s JetBlack WSMTB 12 hour race in 2012 just before the injury.

Rumours in the mountain bike racing industry have been going around that over summer Jason English had picked up a more stringent and tough training regime that ever before after his collar bone fracture in October last year. English confirmed to race the 100 miler distance in a field of not more than a dozen competitors who are prepared to take on that challenge.

“The Rocky Trail crew will put together an awesome course at Stromlo and it will be brutal. But I’m ready to put my shoulder and my new bike to the test”, said Jason English. It will not be for the faint of heart – to race the 33 km circuit, which will feature mostly tight and gnarly singletrails, for a total of five times it will require not only outstanding stamina but also immense willpower of the riders.

One of his biggest contestants will be Andrew Hall from Canberra,  who came in second in the event last year, right behind fellow local rider Ed McDonald. The 100 miler champion from 2012 hasn’t confirmed his participation as yet.

The 100 miler racers will start at 5am, which will reward them with a scenic morning lap at Mount Stromlo on an expected hot race day. Further challenges will include the 100 and 66 km races, which will include three and 2 laps respectively of the 33 km monster circuit. An introductory one-lap challenge, including junior categories, will be offered also.

Specialized 2013 World Cup XC Team

After a highly successful 2012 season, Specialized Racing is well positioned to continue its successes on the Elite UCI World Cup Cross-Country race circuit.

Jaroslav Kulhavy (Olympic Champion) crosses the finish line at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The 2013 team roster includes current Olympic Champion Jaroslav Kulhavy, Kohei Yamamoto (2008-2012 Japanese national champion), Todd Wells (2010–2012 U.S. National Champion), Lea Davison (5-time U.S. National Champion), and newcomer Tereza Hurikova.

Kohei Yamamoto descending on his Epic 29er at the Houffalize World Cup.

Defending Cape Epic champion, and 2011 Marathon World Champion Christoph Sauser is transitioning to a full Marathon World Cup schedule for 2013. When asked about the switch, Christoph stated “It was time for a change! Cross Country racing only got shorter, and I got older… it’s not a good combo! In the past I always enjoyed racing Marathons and now I am ready for the complete switch. Not having the winning results in Cross Country lately also helped me to change my goals. Waiting for days in hotel rooms just for a 1.5k circuit race started to pull on my nerves. Now I am so excited to go for the big laps where I will find more adventure and new places. My focus will be on the ABSA Cape-Epic and World Championships, but also Transalp, 4Peaks and the classics towards the end of the season.”

Burry Stander and Christoph Sauser win the Cape Epic overall.

New to the team is former Junior World Champion and Czech native Tereza Hurikova. “Entering into this great team is a dream come true,” says Hurikova. “I look forward to focusing on the races and am excited to know I’ll have the best bikes and support available on the circuit. This is a step in the right direction, and I believe I can achieve great results with Specialized.”

Tereza Hurikova smiling big after visiting the Specialized Czech office.

David Hyam, Sports Marketing Director for Specialized, had these words to say about the new team “After another highly successful 2012 race season capped off by winning the coveted title of ‘World Cup MTB Team of The Year’, expectations are high for another stellar season!

With the recent tragic loss of one of the sports true Icons as well as a rider who played such an integral part of our Specialized Racing Team, the determination and enthusiasm within our riders burns brighter and stronger than ever before. Emotions are high and I know that each and every team rider will have Burry’s memory foremost in their minds as the season begins in earnest.”

Lea Davison picking her line at the Pietermaritzburg World Cup.

For the 2013 season, the men will be racing aboard S-Works Epic 29ers, and the women aboard S-Works Fate 29ers. The team will also be supported with Specialized Prevail helmets, S-Works MTB shoes, saddles, gloves, and apparel as well as Roval wheels.

Todd Wells leading the pack at US Nationals.

For more information please visit www.iamspecialized.com

Baw Baw 4HR Enduro MTB

Mt Baw Baw has in partnership with the Gippsland MTB Club confirmed a new four-hour enduro mountain bike event, set to wheel into motion on Sunday 27th January.

The Mt Baw Baw 4HR Twilight is the first cross country (XC) event to hit the slopes of Mt Baw Baw in many years and is yet another step in the mountain’s move towards encouraging more ‘green season’ adventure activities with a particular focus on mountain biking.

The Twilight Enduro will also serve as Round One of the Gippsland MTB Championship Series and will make use of all-new single track being bedded in on old-time trekking trails.

Riders  – solo or as a team – will tackle an approx. 8km loop course, the aim to ride as many laps in the allotted four hour time period as possible. The event will kick off in the late afternoon for a full twilight riding experience, meaning riders will not be subject to the heat of the summer’s day.  The course offers spectacular views from the top of the mountain and a unique alpine environment that differs from other endure events on the calendar.

The 7.5km course is 70% cross country ski trails which will provide ample passing opportunities; the remaining 30% of the course has riders flowing down dedicated single track that has been resurrected from original trails used by the village pioneers back in the day. These trails are extremely well bedded in and show what the mountain is capable of providing XC riders.

“The riding experience will be fresh, making use of what was overgrown paths, meaning the singletrack sections will be fast, flowing downhill, but also tight and through beautiful landscape features like the snowgum stands and rock gardens that Baw Baw is known for,” says  Grant Seamer, Events Manager at Mt Baw Baw Alpine Resort.

The highlight of the course is Muellers Track, a 600m long section of single track that winds its way back to the transition point; its features guaranteed to leave a smile on everyone’s face.

The event takes place on the January Australia Day Long weekend, and is the day after the inaugural Seasons of Pain Summer mountain bike and trail run multisport event, taking place on the Saturday twilight. That event has already attracted some of Australia’s top end multisport mountain bikers, many of whom have confirmed that they will back up and race the Twilight Enduro, ensuring that competition will be fierce as regional Gippsland riders match it to the top end out of towners.

The course is suitable for all ability levels and competitors can enter as a team to share riding duties.

The race is scheduled to start at 4pm with presentations at 9pm. Restaurant and bar will be open. For those staying on mountain overnight, the new Downhill Track (rated by those who have ridden it to date as being of international DH standard) will be open for riding.

Mt Baw Baw is encouraging riders to head up to the mountain early in the weekend to also compete in its Seasons Of Pain series, which will include two laps of the Enduro course – great pre-race recce riding!

Seasons of Pain incorporates running and riding legs that can be undertaken by individuals and teams alike. Riders who don’t want to run can find a mate who and team up to share duties.

See the Mt Baw Baw website for more details and registration for either events: http://www.mountbawbaw.com.au/

Swell-Specialized Mountain Bike Team

Specialized Bicycles sign Australia’s best to launch Swell-Specialized Mountain Bike Team.

Specialized is set to dominate in the upcoming National MTB Series with Swell- Specialized MTB Team. The team will make their debut at the Real Insurance All Mountain and Gravity Cup events from 15-19 of January at Mt Buller.
For 2013, the Swell-Specialized roster will comprise of:

  • –  Andy Blair (Elite Men XC)
  • –  Shaun Lewis (Elite Men XC)
  • –  Jenny Fay (Elite Women XC)
  • –  Rhys Atkinson (Elite Men DH)
  • –  David McMillan (Elite Men DH)
  • –  Jackson Davis (U/19 Men DH)

Reflecting Specialized’s commitment to excel in the Performance Mountain category, rider selection for the Swell-Specialized team was based on finding the best riders on the Australian MTB circuit. “To bring together the caliber of riders we have for 2013, makes the Swell-Specialized MTB Team a formidable force on both the Cross Country and Downhill mountain biking circuits for 2013” said Specialized Consumer Marketing Specialist, Matt O’Connor.

Blair, Lewis and Fay will represent the Swell-Specialized MTB Team at selected XCO and XCM events throughout 2013. Utilizing the Specialized S-Works Epic, S- Works Stumpjumper and S-Works Fate model bicycles, the cross country team members will wear Specialized Prevail Helmets and S-Works MTB Shoes in the quest for National honors.

Marathon Cross Country Champion, Andy Blair said, ”The team they (Specialized) have assembled is awesome and I’m sure we can achieve some great things this year”. Shaun Lewis echoed Andy’s sentiments, “Everyone knows Specialized make great bikes, but for me it is the little things, particularly the shoes. I’ve been a long time user of either the shoes or footbeds, and love them, so I’m looking forward to utilizing the technology in all the products”.

Spotted late December, Andy Blair on a Specialized.

Specialized’s focus on developing superior women’s products and lending support to female athletes, was bolstered with the signing of undefeated Women’s XCM Series Champion, Jenny Fay. “It’s so exciting for us to sign an athlete of Jenny’s caliber. She is the ultimate ambassador for the brand and we have no doubt she’ll be inspiring womens cycling throughout her successes this year”.

The Gravity riders of Swell-Specialized will compete on the 2013 S-Works Demo 8. Returning for 2013 is longtime Specialized Downhill racer, Rhys Atkinson, who is looking to back up his 2011 Overall Series win, along with David McMillan who is entering his first year as an Elite rider. Perth’s U/19 phenom, Jackson Davis, brings a level of skill that riders twice his age have yet to master.

 

Awaba On My Mind

The final round of Chocolate Foot’s Singletrack Mind (STM) Series 2012 was hosted by the Hunter MTB Association on everyone’s favourite trail – Awaba.

The Awaba MTB Park is well know for its smooth lines and flowing sections, attracting over 300 riders registered making up 177 teams. A quick crunch of numbers proved that this Awaba round was the biggest STM round this year.

The hot conditions were tough for most, but it was a real shock for Steven’s Bikes guest rider Frank Ziemann who’d just arrived in Australia from a snowy Germany.

It was again a battle between the Canberra locals, Ed McDonald and Andy Hall, in the Solo Male category, with Andy having the upper hand in the series points thus far. The Ed and Andy show began from the offset with Andrew Lloyd keeping them company. It was on their 7th lap, in the 4th hour where Ed and Andy began to ride away from Lloyd. Late in the 6th hour Ed continued to push, breaking away from Andy and cementing well over a five-minute lead for the remainder of the event.

With 4 wins out of 6 races Ed McDonald had plenty of reasons to smile this year. Locked in battle with 2011 series winner and training buddy Andrew Hall (also pictured), 2013 is set to be a real grudge match!

While the morning’s temperature did start out at fairly comfortable it didn’t take long before it became a hard slog in 35+ degree temperatures. Thankfully the coolness of the rainforest section offered brief relief before rider were cooked on the Camel Back Climb.

In the Masters Solo category Radical Lights’ Gary James lead from the word go, a little further back his team mate Jason McAvoy was plugging away with Phil Welch remaining consistent just few minutes further back. Jason started to have trouble in the 5th hour with the heat and began slipping time to Phil, who eventually moved into 2nd. This battle of attrition was evident across all the categories, especially the solos, with a bulk of riders calling it a day some where between three to seven laps.

Jet Cycles fielded a stack of teams for the final round a walked away with plenty of podiums and bragging rights. The biggest brag going to Kyle Ward who recorded the fastest lap time of the race (30.58) over team mate Garry Milburn.

There were plenty of temptations to call it a day in the heat, with local winemaker Jimmy Jack offering free tasting, and the local downhillers filling the air with the smell of their bacon and egg BBQ sangers! The local gravity crew also kept the friendly STM vibe going with their hoots and calls, encouraging passing riders.

It was the steady efforts that reaped the rewards in the Female Solo category. Libby Adamson started the day sitting in around 5th and midway through the day moved into the leading position, eventually taking a well deserved win in the testing conditions. Janet Martin and Jess Simpson made the most of the morning’s cooler temperatures setting the fastest female solo laps and rounding out the podium.

You’d think after winning the Real Insurance XCM series Jenny Fay would have had enough racing but the trails of Awaba were calling and she answered yes please! Another win to Fay, this time in a relaxed mixed 3’s.

Wendy Stevenson, already the clear Female Masters Solo category series leader, was conscious of her placing against the Female Solo category but chose a conservative approach through the latter part of the day. Wendy went on to complete the eight hours while her direct competitor Nicole Lancaster called it a day early.

Even the St Johns guys were even getting into the swing of the STM vibe out on the trail; their pannier-laden bikes mightn’t have been the best tool for shredding the trails, but they were seen to be giving it a go and hung out at the spectacle that is the bessa-block descent.

Part-time male model Luke Dale’s career in fashion looks to be in doubt after sporting a dodgy mustache which allegedly caused him to crash in the opening lap. The Bike Culture/Whyte team decided to call it a day as they already had the series win in the bag and come the end of November that mo’ is set to go!

With the final round of the STM Series over for 2012, the full results from the round are available online, you can look forward to more excitement from the Chocolate Foot crew in 2013. It all kicks off at the end of April with Round 1 of STM 2013.

While the Singletrack Mind series attracts a high calibre field, it’s not often you get to ride with an Olympian. Bronwen Watson represented Australia at the London games in rowing and won the Women’s pairs for the second race in a row with team mate Belinda Diprose.
Brad Prescott headed up a big contingent from Turramurra Cyclery.

 

2012 Real Insurance XCM Series Wrap-Up

The movie below is a wrap of the 2012 Real Insurance XCM Series in the lead up to next weekend’s Briar’s Highland Fling in the Southern Highlands of NSW. The Fling is the final event in the six race series and, combined with the winter long XCM Series, is the biggest pay day in Australian mountain biking.

The series has attracted over 5,000 riders over six events, starting in April. It is not only the elite riders that are hell bent on winning the series, many of the category riders have made it their racing priority for the year.

Watch the movie to see Australia’s leading mountain bikers, Andy Blair and Shaun Lewis, discuss the series and their chances as the Briar’s Highland Fling looms. Either could take the series on the day.