2018 National XC Marathon Series

This year five rounds will make up the event that starts in the Northern Territory and ends in Western Australia and will include the 2018 Marathon National Championships.

MTBA CEO Shane Coppin said the change in format would hopefully encourage many more riders to participate across all five races.

“We hope this condensed series and in particular these races attract not just our elite level riders but, also those who may be competing in this format for the first time.”

“Next year’s series there will be more categories offering increased opportunities for riders of all levels to participate,” Coppin remarked.

The series begins with the “Easter In The Alice” on the 31st March, which has become a must do for many riders.

“With over 200km of tracks around Alice Springs, you’re never more than a few minutes from the best tracks in the country,” CARR-Alice Springs Mountain Bike Club president Paul Darvodelsky said.

Riders will then head to Bendigo, Victoria for the “Golden Triangle Epic” on the 22nd of April. Another well-supported event on the MTB calendar.

“The new condensed series is shaping up to be a ripper with all events providing very different riding conditions and gruelling in their own way whilst providing iconic racing experiences. We’re glad to be part of the Marathon Series for 2018,” said Bendigo MTB president Rimmon Martin.

The Marathon Championships will be held a week later in Townsville with all points accumulated going towards riders overall rankings.

Marathon racing will stay in Queensland with Round 4, “Bayview Blast” to be held on the 10th of June at Mt Cotton in Brisbane.

“After a few successful years running a four lap event the Blast will be reduced to two laps but will still cover over 90kms with the addition of 20km of trails not used for previous races.”

“Timing of the 2018 round was planned to coincide with NSW/VIC long weekend to help ease the race/work balance for our southern competitors,” said race director Lonnie Toia.

Rounding out the series will be the iconic Dwellingup 100 two months later.

“For 2018 the southern loop won’t be quite the same as the original but will take in classic trails like “Big Bertha” and “Kenny’s Killer”. There will be more elevation, more spectator interaction, more fun, more view and maybe even a few more kilometres,” commented course director Tony Tucknott.

Marathon Series Dates:

Round 1

Easter In the Alice

Alice Springs, NT

Saturday 31st March 2018

Round 2

Golden Triangle Epic

Bendigo, VIC

Sunday 22nd April 2018

Round 3

Marathon Championships

Townsville, QLD

Sunday 29th April 2018

Round 4

Bayview Blast

Mt Cotton, Brisbane QLD

Sunday 10th June 2018

Round 5

Dwellingup 100

Dwellingup, WA

Saturday 18th August 2018

 

National XCM Series returns to Alice Springs

Lasseters Easter in the Alice will again host round 1 of the National XCM Series in 2018 as part of Australia’s most iconic annual 3-day Stage Race. Ride in the cool of the morning and spend the rest of the day relaxing around the pool or taking in the incredible sights of Central Australia.

“one of the best XCM courses I have done.” – Justin ‘Mad Dog’ Morris

With over 200 km of tracks around Alice Springs you’re never more than a few minutes from the best tracks in the country.

“…when you are putting together an XCM course you often have to bolt together ordinary bits to get to the good bits. This is where the Alice Springs XCM course differs. Every bit is there for a reason and they all come at exactly the right time during the race.” – James Downing

Details can be found at www.easterinthealice.com.

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.”

Johnston Prevails for Back to Back Titles

While Olympic selection is his focus, Brendan Johnston proved he still is a force in the marathon discipline taking out his second straight Elite Men’s Australian Marathon Championship at Derby, Tasmania on Sunday.

 

The Canberra rider had too much class at the end of the 90km race to claim back-to-back green and gold jerseys ahead of Tasman Nankervis (VIC) and Scott Bowden (TAS).

Brendan Johnston & Peta Mullens
Brendan Johnston & Peta Mullens

“I was super nervous coming into the race. I didn’t expect to win it once let alone twice so really happy with how I’m going with my form,” an elated Johnston said.

 

“Had great amount of power which I didn’t think I would have in the last lap and pretty thankful for that and really enjoyed it to the finish.”

 

After a early shower before the start, which would ensure a muddy day out for the riders, it would be a pack of four that would take up the challenge with local hope Bowden, Nankervis, Johnston and XCM National Series leader Andy Blair having broken away from the pack.

 

For Bowden, who had only recently returned from a bronze medal performance at the Oceania Championships in Queenstown, it was his maiden voyage over the long distance.

Scott Bowden
Scott Bowden

 

“That’s my first ever marathon on the mountain bike but it was super good fun out there and I think the muddy conditions made it much harder but it was great.”

 

As Blair dropped off the pack by lap three, the trio would wage a mini war heading into the final climb of the race, before three soon turned into two, Bowden succumbing.

 

“On the climb, we all kind of put in a few little surges but it was Tas put the hammer down on bit of a rough section on the climb and I didn’t quite have the legs and I didn’t feel to bad but thought of might have been able to bridge across but in the end they were just two strong,” the 21 year old said.

 

That left Bendigo’s Nankervis and the defending champ, who at one stage thought he’d be batting to make the podium.

 

Tasman Nankervis
Tasman Nankervis

“I was struggling and I didn’t know how to play it with these guys climbing so well,” said Johnston.

 

But, having conquered the course last year, and with a green and gold jersey on the line, the Trek rider found that extra push and made the break from the 20 year old Nankervis.

 

“After the river crossing Trekky was just too strong. It was a bloody hard race.”

 

Johnston conquered the distance in a time of 4:34:17 more than a minute ahead of Nankervis.

 

“They are really good riders and I was not expecting to ever beat them easy or at all.”

 

Blair would finish fourth with fellow Specialized team-mate Shaun Lewis in fifth.

 

Full results: http://my6.raceresult.com/51401/?lang+#1_2FCCD2

Mullens Marathon Joy in Derby

A late decision to compete at the Australian Marathon Championships has paid off for Peta Mullens, with the Victorian claiming the Elite Women’s title at Derby, Tasmania.

Jenny King
Jenny King

It is the second time the Bendigo rider has taken out the XCM National title, the last back in 2012.

“I was originally going to race and after Oceanias I had a rough run and thought I probably need to have a big break into Cairns. But was feeling good in training and couple of ergo sessions and really had the itch to race.”

 

Mullens would finish right on four hours.

Brendan Johnston & Peta Mullens
Brendan Johnston & Peta Mullens

 

“All I had to think about was getting to the top of the climb in the last lap and last hour was great fun.”

 

It was an intriguing battle for the minor placing’s with Jenni King (VIC) silver and Briony Mattocks (NSW) bronze.

 

An overcast sky and some light drizzle greeted riders ahead of their 70km journey around the famed Blue Derby trail in Tasmania’s North-East.

 

For Mullens, it would be a cautious start despite coming into the course blind.

 

“Wasn’t sure what my tactic was today and didn’t know whether I’d sit with the girls for a lap to see what Atlas was like cause I hadn’t ridden it.”

 

But the confidence grew and from there, and the former Australian road champion put the hammer down on what riders described as a technical and challenging course.

 

“I felt good on the first climb and thought I’ll try and dishearten them and go out and hurt myself.”

 

While it was only a battle with the clock for the Victorian Mullens, King had to overcome an ordinary first lap where she was sitting in fifth.

 

“I felt terrible at the start but really lucky on the technical descent and those other girls were climbing really well. And I had to put everything in to get second today.”

 

Briony Mattocks, who finished second at the recent National XCM Series in Alice Springs, would produce a gut busting performance.

Briony Mattocks
Briony Mattocks

The Sydney rider, dropped more than a minute on the third and final lap to over-take Eliza Kwan (ACT) and Anna Beck (QLD) to snatch bronze.

 

“I would’ve thought top 5 for me would’ve been exceptional so third I’m beyond happy.”

 

It wasn’t a happy hunting ground for National XCM Series leader Imogen Smith who suffered a technical on the final lap to finish back of the pack.

 

Results: http://my6.raceresult.com/51401/?lang+#12_FA6F0E

Kowalski Classic 2015: New Course (Of Course) Details

Now in its fourth year, the Kowalski Classic is a one-day showcase of the famous trails in East Kowen Forest and Sparrow Hill. The event celebrates the achievements of local trail builders Paul Cole, Alan Anderson and the mysterious Kowalski Brothers Trailworks, who together have hand built over 100km of flowing trail in East Kowen (the Kow) & Sparrow Hill (the Bird).


 WOAH! Let’s all just pause for a moment there: The Kowalski Brothers, Paul Cole and Alan Anderson have HAND BUILT over 100km of singletrack. That is simply incredible. That alone is reason enough to come ride the Kowalski Classic, just to get an appreciation of what an effort on that scale actually looks like.


WHAT’S NEW IN 2015?New Course (of course). The Kowalski Classic is all about singletrack (in mind bending amounts), so each year we design a bold new course — weaving together our all-time favourites, long lost (seldom ridden) friends and folding in trails we’ve just built for debut on race day. The course is quite different each year and 2015’s will be no exception. Expect a day full of flow, challenge and smiles on this grand tour of skinny dirt. A singletrack marathon like no other.

New Loop Order and Wave Starts. We have made a number of changes to reduce on-track congestion early in the race. The main changes are: 1. Riders in the Full Kowalski will head out on a different 50km loop to the Half Kowalski. 2. We will increase the time gap between wave starts. 3. We will include more passing opportunities (double single track and stabs of fireroad).

New Race Distance. At 25km, the QRTR Kowalski (Tyrion) is a distance that will suit riders coming into the sport as well as those getting back on the bike and unsure if they have the legs for the Half Kowalski. Loads of singletrack and never too far from HQ. Sweet.

Junior Category. The minimum age has been lowered to include riders 12 years and up. (You’ll a ‘yes’ from your parent or guardian though, kiddo!)

Registration at East Hotel. East Hotel are sponsor and Official Accommodation Partner for 2015. Race registration will be held at East Hotel on Friday afternoon and Saturday before race day, so book a room for the weekend, register for the race, collect your event merchandise and kick back in ridiculous comfort. (See the race website for packages)New Trails. Absolutely. The trail builders have been busy in Sparrow and East Kowen, so you can expect to ride lots of new trail (Scroll down for images of work currently under way)

Which distance is for you?
Each race distance features a great combination of our favourite trails so there’s no compromise should you choose something shorter (high on smiles, lower on distance). The Bird is the Word. The Kow is like Wow.

AND THE FORESTS WILL ECHO WITH LAUGHTER

The Kowalski Brothers Trail Crew are hard at work building two bold new trails:

1. Stairway to Heaven is the toughest and longest climb they’ve ever built. Steep, squirrely and downright technical in places, it snakes up the hill in a most devilish way. It features benched traverses, uphill berms and some radical rockwork. Keep something in your tank for this one.
2. The Trail That Cannot be Named (not its real name) is a new descending trail right beside Stairway to Heaven. The terrain is steep and rocky so you can look forward to plenty of features, jumps and a healthy amount of gnar. More technical by design, this trail will ask for your undivided attention, so pack some attitude (and maybe some Band-Aids).

National Mountain Bike Marathon Series Set To Explode In 2015

Mountain Bike Australia (MTBA) is excited to announce the 2015 National Cross Country Marathon (XCM) series.

The truly National series spans four states and both territories, offering riders almost 600 kilometres of Australia’s best mountain bike trails. Racing in the XCM format extends the traditional Olympic Cross Country discipline, with winning racers battling head-to-head for an incredible three to five hours.

Beginning in Alice Springs with the Easter in the Alice event, the series then heads to the landmark pair of the Wombat 100 in Victoria and the Convict 100 in New South Wales. With a break over the winter months, racing resumes at the picturesque Dwellingup 100 in Western Australia, moving to the nation’s capital for the iconic Kowalski Classic before wrapping up at the Bayview Blast event in Queensland.

Riders in the Elite Category will compete for a prize pool of over $16,000, with the male and female winners receiving $5000 each. In 2015 the series is being organised and overseen by the MTBA Events Team after challenges were experienced with a different model in 2014. Individual races will be delivered by a mix of highly respected promoters and clubs who all have significant experience in their regions.

Mr Shane Coppin, CEO of MTBA, has been instrumental in assembling what will be Australia’s largest and most expansive cycling series.

“It has been a worthwhile challenge to deliver our members and all Australian mountain bikers a package of events that is of a truly global standard” said Mr Coppin.

“Significant effort was invested to ensure that our riders could experience some of the best trails all across our great country and I’m looking forward to racing starting in Alice Springs on Easter Saturday”.

Riders should head to www.mtba.asn.au for more information, or follow links to the individual events below. A dedicated website for the series will be launched at the start of 2015.

The 2015 National Cross Country Marathon (XCM) Series presented by Mountain Bike Australia

  1. Easter in Alice – Bunny Buster Stage – 4 April 2015 – Alice Springs, NT

  2. Wombat 100 – 12 April 2015 – Woodend, VIC

  3. Convict 100 – 2 May 2015 – St Albans, NSW

  4. Dwellingup 100 – 5 Sept 2015 – Dwellingup, WA

  5. Kowalski Classic – 20 Sept 2015 – East Kowen Forest and Sparrow Hill, ACT

  6. Bayview Blast – 24 Oct – South Brisbane, QLD (Event-specific website coming soon).

Easter in the Alice – Bunny Buster Stage

“The BUNNY BUSTER 90km EPIC stage of the Lasseters Easter In The Alice Mountain Bike Muster 3 day stage race will become the first national series event to be held in the Northern Territory. The worlds only $100 stage race is run in the shadows of the mighty Macdonnell Ranges under a blanket of blue sky”

John Pyper, Race Director – Easter in the Alice

Wombat 100 & Convict 100

We are excited to have two events form part of the MTBA National XCM Series.  We believe the XCM discipline needs the leadership and structure of a national body to administer the sport, and private promoters willing to support that structure to the benefit of all riders.

Henry van Heerden, Race Director Wombat 100 & Convict 100 – Maximum Adventure

Dwellingup 100 MTB Classic

The Dwellingup 100 MTB Classic is very excited to be a part of the MTBA XC Marathon Series. Our involvement gives us the opportunity to showcase one of WA’s iconic mountain biking destinations. We’re looking forward to attracting riders from all over Australia to participate in our great event.

Dave Budge, Managing Director, Trievents

Kowalski Classic

Self Propelled Enterprises look forward to the Kowalski Classic being part of the National XCM Series for 2015. We support Shane Coppin’s (MTBA CEO) plans for the series and MTBA more broadly. The iconic single track adventure that is the Kowalski Classic is an ideal fit with these aims.

Alan Vogt, Director – Self Propelled Events

Redlands Bayview Blast

“Redlands Bayview Blast” race it or ride it for your own challenge. After only one year this event is already being spoken about amongst riders as the “must do” race for South East Qld.  Held in Redland Bay, 35 minutes from the Brisbane CBD and held in October the “Blast” is a feast of prime single track and friendly club atmosphere.

Tony Hancock, President – Brisbane South Mountain Bike Club

 

Convict 100 Gets Tweaked (and Reversed) for 2015

The Convict 100, is one of Australia’s most popular marathon races. Just a couple of hours from Sydney, the rough, raw and fast course runs largely over fireroads that were built by the convicts back in the 1830s. The riding is rugged and the setting is stunning – it’s definitely one of our favourite events.

Andy Blair. The Convict always attracts some big guns.
Andy Blair. The Convict always attracts some big guns.

Read on below for the official word.


“After celebrating our 10 year anniversary in 2014, it was time to introduce some new challenges to the regular Convict riders.  The 100km was relatively easy, for many years we’ve been contemplating running the course in reverse which is what we are doing next year.  This change will present a very different challenge to those familiar with the 100km course.  For example, riding up Jacks Track in the first 15km will be very different compared to flying down it in the last 15km and tackling the rock gardens and rock drop-offs in the opposite direction along the Old Great North Road will require some renewed focus.  It also means the two major climbs on the course will now come earlier in the piece.

The legendary Settlers Arms, the perfect place to finish a race!
The legendary Settlers Arms, the perfect place to finish a race!

“2015 will also feature and all new 68km course to replace the “Half Century” and a new 44km option for the “not so serious” novice mountain biker.

“In the early years of XCM events it was the 100km course that was getting the majority of entries.  In the last few years the “half course” or 50km has seen the biggest number of entries sometimes making up two thirds of the participants.  For this reason we are introducing an all new 68km course that will include the famous Convict kayak bridge and technical sections around Shepherds Gully and the Old Great North Rd.  Although riders will have to cover a bit more distance the new course is a marked improvement and will present a much more diverse and challenging course to those wanting to race the Convict half.

Convict 100 MTB enduro 2014, 50k, 75k, 100k

“The new 44km course has been earmarked as an entry level ride mostly made up of fire trail and dirt road sections. Most beginner riders take up cycling and if they are disciplined in their training, can quickly build the endurance to cover 40 – 50km on a mountain bike.  It’s is the ability to ride technical terrain that is often the stumbling block and takes more time to master.  That is why we are introducing an easier 44km course option to give those novice riders a feel for racing, get them out on the dirt without any serious technical challenges.  Having said that, the 44km is no cake walk with a 300m ascent in the first 15km and an opportunity to ride the kayak bridge.  The perfect introduction to MTB racing.”

Entries for the Convict 100 are open now.

Flow’s First Bite: GT Helion Carbon Pro

GT fans out there with a penchant for cross country trails now can have access to a short travel bike with the trick new suspension design that has been receiving praise all over our singletrack riddled planet.

**UPDATED – read our final review here.

We have reviewed the 150mm travel GT Force X and the ‘in the middle’ 130mm GT Sensor, now the stout 110mm travel GT Helion will be put through the Flow wringer.

GT Force X review: http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/tested-gt-force-x-expert-carbon/

GT Sensor Review: http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/tested-gt-sensor-carbon-team/

Using GT’s fairly new AOS suspension design (Angle Optimised Suspension) with its super high main pivot and independent bottom bracket linkage, the Helion aims to hold momentum as the rear wheel encounters impacts on the trail. Watch the video below for a clearer understanding of the theory.

GT Helion 1

 

 

When unwrapping the Helion from its packaging we were quite surprised how beefy the carbon tubing is, it’s a fatter than a goanna hanging around a public BBQ area. Especially out the back, the large chunks of carbon give us real confidence that although the Helion is a short travel dually, it’s not going to be afraid of going hard on the trails. Front to back, this thing is about as carbon as it gets.

The dead straight top tube and chain stay give the Helion a sharp and precise look, where some bike are curvy and twisted, this bike is sharp and square.

We also love the way the shock sits so low and centred in the frame. In fact, if you take a look at the designs of rear suspension bikes over the last 10 years, you’ll see a real trend of rear shocks getting lower and lower in the bike’s architecture. The benefits of keeping any weighty sections of the frame like suspension linkages and shocks down low does wonders for your centre of gravity when riding, the GT’s must be one of the lowest and centred out there.

At 11.6kg the Helion is pretty spot on, and the dollar figure is also quite fair for what you get in the way of parts. A set of the powerful and reliable Shimano XT brakes plus an XT shifter and derailleur combo means you’ll be shifting gears for a very long time.

GT Helion 21

In true GT fashion, there are some interesting parts from the lesser-known brands on this Helion. RaceFace take care of the cockpit with a flat and wide bar, and a sleek CNCd stem and seat post. The RaceFace cranks aren’t something we see too often, but most interestingly it’s fitted with their ‘narrow wide’ chainring that aims to achieve what SRAM’s X-Sync rings do – ultimate chain retention with just one ring. An e*thirteeen chain guide is fitted for absolute security, but we’re sure that it can run without for that super trendy, clean and quite look.

Single ring drivetrains and Shimano don’t normally mix as a Shimano cassette with an 11-36t range doesn’t give you much when the trails turn steep. So GT have hacked it for you, with a big 42 tooth e*thirteen sprocket fitted to the cassette out back, to give you one more gear in the lower range. It’s cool to see a major brand like GT speccing bikes this way, with real foresight into how many people upgrade their rides over time, just like they’ve done here as per original catalogue spec.

A 32 tooth ring up front keeps the gear range low-ish and we like that. Gearing low is always there smarter option, as you will remember the climbs where you run out of gears more that that rare moment when you’re spinning out down a fire trail or on the road.

GT Helion 33
The black e*thirteen sprocket gives a Shimano 10 speed cassette a super low gear. The 17 tooth sprocket in the middle of the stack is removed, and the e*thirteen one takes up the space at the low end.
GT Helion 13
Hacked for you. How many clever Shimano riders out there have an aftermarket single chain ring fitted like this one?

No dropper posts on this GT, but for a 110mm bike, that’s not such an unusual sight. Its low weight, and minimal travel suggests it’s aimed for the marathon races, or buff singletracks out there. Both the fork and shock have remote lockout controls, with one lever locking both ends out with one thumb actuation. Love them or hate them, remote lockouts when used to their potential can seriously add some pace to your ride. With the ability to quickly stiffen your suspension for sprint efforts, climbs or tarmac sections with one swift motion of your left thumb. Perhaps the fact that it’s a long way down to the rear shock, a shock-mounted lockout lever would be a bit of a stretch to reach on the fly.

Numbers wise, a 69.5 degree head angle means business at the shaper end of the scale, an our medium size frame has a 606mm top tube and a 438mm chain stay, so we’re expecting this long trucker to set singletrack climbs on fire and munch down the miles on long rides.

No front derialleur neatens thing, but does the remote lockout undo that?
No front derailleur neatens things, but does the remote lockout undo that?
GT Helion 17
It’s a great looking bike, but won’t be clean for very long.

It’s off to the trails for us with the ‘marathon meets macho’ Helion. Lets see how it fares with its unique mixture of marathon race inspired geometry and its slightly aggressive component choices. It’s bigger brothers, the GT Sensor and GT Force X were firm and efficient rides that were never afraid of taking a hard hit, so let’s see how this 110mm fella handles the trails.

Read full review here: http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/trail-testing-a-rocket-the-gt-helion-carbon-pro/

Port To Port MTB Returning in 2015, Bigger and Better

Registrations have now opened for the 2015 Port to Port MTB, returning to the Newcastle region across the newly announced dates of Thursday 28 – Sunday 31 May, 2015.

Following on from the success of the inaugural event held earlier this year, which saw 300 recreational and professional riders participate, Port to Port MTB is quickly reaching the heights of sister event, Cape to Cape MTB in Western Australia, the largest event of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

Port to Port MTB 42

 

The new dates were announced this morning at the event’s official launch, attended by the Lord Mayor of Cessnock, and representatives of Newcastle City Council, Shimano Australia and other event partners. The launch was hosted by popular decorating duo Maxine and Karstan from Channel 9’s THE BLOCK: GLASSHOUSE who donned special riding gear for the day to celebrate.

Event Director Chris Heverin said he was thrilled to launch the 2015 Port to Port MTB. “We were delighted by the positive response from those who participated earlier this year in our inaugural event. With exciting new course alignments that will include a special stage at Awaba National Forest and a Sundown Shootout for the elite riders in the Hunter Valley on the Friday, an update to the timing system and an even better rider experience, we look forward to welcoming everyone back to Newcastle and the Hunter with your game face on, support team by your side and sporting your best game face,” he said. NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Tourism and Major Events Andrew Stoner said he looks forward to welcoming participants from around the country and the world to Newcastle and The Hunter in NSW for the second Port to Port MTB. “This year’s Port to Port MTB was very well received, delivering a significant economic benefit to the local community.

 

The NSW Government is proud to have secured the event from 2014 to 2016 through our tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW”. “The event showcases this magnificent region of NSW to an international audience, with competitors traversing idyllic beaches, picturesque wine country, and forest trails over four action-packed days of competition,” Mr Stoner said.

The Port to Port MTB begins at the tranquil Nelson Bay Marina, where riders are greeted by four days of exciting single track, fire trails, testing hill climbs and steep descents through Cessnock, the Hunter Valley, Lake Macquarie and Newcastle Region. One of the features of the 2015 event will be the Crowne Plaza Sundown Shootout in the picturesque Hunter Valley Property. This exclusive event will be a fast-paced mountain bike spectacular, consisting of a 2km time trial for the top one hundred riders that starts in the newly built Lovedale Brewery and winds around the iconic golf course.

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For riders not competing in the Crowne Plaza Sundown Shootout, this will be the best chance to enjoy the hospitality and witness Australia’s best Mountain Bike riders up-close in action. Registrations for the 2015 Port to Port MTB are now open.

Visit our website at www.porttoportmtb.com for more information on the event.

Visit the Port to Port MTB YouTube channel to view the 2014 Port to Port MTB documentary.

Alice Springs joins the XCM National Series

Mountain biking in the Northern Territory is set to make its debut on the National Series race circuit.

John Pyper from the Central Australian Rough Riders (CARR) mountain bike club and Mountain Biking Australia executive officer Shane Coppin announced today that the Lasseters Easter in the Alice Mountain Bike Muster will be a part Australia’s National Cross Country Marathon Mountain Bike Series.

The Lasseters Easter in the Alice (LEITA) is a three-day, four-stage mountain biking event that utilises the mountain bike tracks around Alice Springs, NT. It is run by the local mountain bike club, the Central Australian Rough Riders (CARR).

From next year, the first stage of the LEITA will also be the first round of the National Marathon Mountain Bike Series. This is the first time in mountain bike history that the NT will host a round of a mountain biking national series.

Mr Pyper said: ‘This news is huge! It’s massive!’

‘The only other sport to hold a national series event in the NT that I know of is the Tatts Finke Desert Race.’ The Tatts Finke Desert Race, a two-day motorsports event, is part of the Australian Off Road Racing Series.

My Pyper said: ‘Adding Lasseters Easter in the Alice to the National Marathon Series will make our club-run event one the pre-eminent mountain bike events in the country.’

Mr Coppin from Mountain Biking Australia (MTBA) visited Alice Springs in the wake of this year’s LEITA event to discuss the recent mountain biking developments in the Red Centre and to discuss ways MTBA could support and further enhance that development. He was full of praise for the riding scene in Alice Springs and the Lasseters Easter in the Alice event, with its trademark emphasis on participation and Territory-style hospitality.

‘It’s a very active scene,’ Mr Coppin said. ‘There’s a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of support from council and local tourism bodies.

‘JP (Pyper) is a very passionate character, and he and the club are putting on a great event.’

Mr Coppin hopes the NT round of the National Marathon Mountain Bike Series will attract riders of all skill levels and abilities.

‘As executive office of MTBA, one of my goals is to host a national event in every state, to ensure that as a national body, we’re putting on a truly national series, taking mountain bikers to as many points across the country as possible.

‘MTBA recognises the challenges of hosting events like this in a place like Alice Springs. Linking a national series like this to a national holiday gives people a chance to travel to these places and to ride in these events.

‘I encourage riders to travel to Alice Springs to ride in the National Marathon Series and associated events.

‘The quality of the event and the hospitality you will receive in Alice Springs is impressive. I enjoyed my time in Alice Springs,’ Mr Coppin said.

 

About Easter in the Alice Mountain Bike Muster

The Lasseters Easter in the Alice MTB Muster is a three-day, four-stage mountain biking event, plus a kids ride. It is run by the Central Australian Rough Riders (CARR), and it is held in Alice Springs from the Saturday to the Monday of the Easter long weekend.

easterinthealice.wordpress.com

 

To learn more about this, please contact

John Pyper

Race director – Lassters Easter in the Alice Mountain Bike Muster

President – Central Australian Rough Riders (CARR) mountain bike club

[email protected]

The New Venue JetBlack 12 Hour a Massive Success

Port Macquarie’s 24 Hour Solo MTB World Champion remains the JetBlack 12 Hour elite champion after claiming the title for the fifth time in a row at the event held at the James Estate Winery on the weekend.

Andrew Lloyd from Newcastle was second ahead of Michal Kafka from Sydney. The fastest woman overall was master winner Meredith Quinlan ahead of elite female winner Wendy Stevenson. It was the first time the long-standing endurance event had been held at the unique venue in the Upper Hunter Valley.

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Jason English claims another JetBlack 12 Hour elite solo title in 2014.
The goodness of the mountain bike trail at the James Estate Winery had been the talk of the endurance racing industry since the first Rocky Trail event there last year. But now, at the latest, it is clear that they have established themselves firmly on the map of Australian cycling destinations. For the first time the 11 km track with its combination of fun singletracks and fire trails with magnificent views of the winery and the Upper Hunter Valley was the venue for one of Rocky Trail’s major events, the JetBlack 12 Hour race.
Almost 400 competitors and more than 200 spectators were part of the event, which predictably saw Jason English race towards his fifth consecutive JetBlack 12 Hour elite solo title. Challenged by some of the best endurance mountain bikers in NSW and ACT, it had been the first race for the 24 Hour Solo MTB World Champion at James Estate. “All I can say is that I’m surprised”, said English during the prize ceremony after completing 22 laps in just over 12 hours. “I hadn’t expected a race track of such a high standard. It’s just perfect for lap racing with a good mix of technical singletrack and when you ride through the vineyards and even past the wine storage tanks, it’s very unique”, he added.
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The JetBlack 12 Hour by night – view from the Ridge Walk summit high above James Estate.
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Meredith Quinlan enjoying the event centre atmosphere as she comes through on her way to the Elite Master and overall women’s win.
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Michal Kafka, third elite solo finisher in the singletrack maze at James Estate.
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Andrew Lloyd, strongest competitor finishes with one lap down in second.
Andrew Lloyd from Newcastle, runner up in the elite 24 H Solo MTB World Championships last year, came in second behind Jason English with one lap down and a good half hour ahead of Quantum Racing team mate Michal Kafka from Sydney.
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Wendy Stevenson, elite female winner in the technical singletrack section.
Notably, Singlespeed legend Brett Bellchambers from Canberra also claimed his fifth consecutive solo win in that division.
Magellan duo takes out line honours
Sydney-siders Paris Basson and James Lamb from Magellan Racing dominated the overall field all day and were the only team to complete 23 laps in the elite pairs division, taking the line honours. “I’ve been racing almost every Rocky Trail event this year and they just keep getting better”, said Paris Basson. “The atmosphere is just phenomenal! We heard the music on most parts of the track and the event centre was so well arranged, great food, great company – an awesome weekend out!” Team mate and solo endurance racer James Lamb agreed, “This was one of the best races I’ve ever been to. And this team racing thing is quite a challenge, man, you push each other to race as hard as you can, it’s actually tougher that I thought it would be.”
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Magellan’s Paris Basson in his element at James Estate.
Another solo legend who found a taste for team racing at the start was Craig Gordon from Wollongong, who competed successfully for JetBlack’s BH Racing Team and took out the Team 4 Male Elite win. “I enjoy the group dynamic of team racing, we’re a good bunch of mates and I think you go even harder for that common goal – I’m happy about our win today”, the former 24 Hour Solo World Champion said.
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James Lamb from Magellan Racing on the finishing straight towards the event centre at James Estate.
Tough battle for overall female title
The elite and master female fields saw veteran women at the start line as well as 12-hour solo first-timers. As the day progressed, a battle between 49-year old elite racer Wendy Stevenson and the 42-year old Meredith Quinlan who competed in her age group (masters) erupted, which had spectators on the edge of their seats until the last lap. Stevenson had six minutes on Quinlan with an hour to go and was overtaken on the second-last lap. Quinlan dug deep and completed 17 laps, which was one more lap than Stevenson, who still claimed the elite women’s title of the day. Novocastrian Sue Pretto was the elite women’s second ahead of Alyssa Glyde from Canberra.
JetBlack 12 Hour to return to James Estate in July 2015
Mayor Martin Rush welcomed the event to be held in the Upper Hunter Valley, as he greeted the riders ahead of the race start, “It’s fantastic to see so many visitors to our region and hope that this event has found its new home at James Estate!”
Wine maker and trail builder Graeme Scott from James Estate and Race Director Martin Wisata from Rocky Trail agreed, “This is an ideal venue for the JetBlack 12 Hour race, we’re looking forward to seeing it grow and prosper in the coming years and to bringing more and more mountain bikers and their families into the region.”
The trails at James Estate are open for social riding all year and the trail head is located right next to the Cellar Door at Baerami.
For more trail information, visit www.jamesestatewines.com.au
For more event details and results, visit www.rockytrailentertainment.com

Flow visited the James Estate Winery trails to preview the race course a few months prior, here is our sweet little video.

Top race results
JetBlack 12 Hour // James Estate Winery // 2014
Solo Male Elite
1. Jason English, #1 / JetBlack Merida BBD / Port Macquarie, NSW / 22 laps in 12:00:05
2. Andrew Lloyd, #2 / Quantum Racing / Newcastle, NSW / 21 laps in 12:00:53
3. Michal Kafka, #25 / Quantum Racing / Sydney, NSW / 21 laps in 12:31:07
4. Jason Pearce, #27 / Quantum Racing / Sydney, NSW / 20 laps in 12:17:55
5. Grant Webster, #4 / Apollo Bicycles – stevehoggbikefitting.com / Tea Gardens, NSW / 19 laps in 11:58:30
Solo Female Elite
1. Wendy Stevenson, #38 / Waverton, NSW / 16 laps in 11:54:14
2. Su Pretto, #128 / Drift Bikes Solo / Valentine, NSW / 15 laps in 11:44:18
3. Alyssa Glyde, #39 / Forrest, ACT / 14 laps in 11:26:47
4. Sophie Clement, #42 / O’Connor, ACT / 14 laps in 11:59:09
5. Leah Childs, #40 / Wingello, NSW / 13 laps in 11:16:06
Further solo category winners:
Solo Male Master (40+) // JB Racing CROCMAN (Phil Welch) / 19 laps in 12:28:26
Solo Female Master (40+) // Easy Riders (Meredith Quinlan) / 17 laps in 12:28:23
Solo Male SuperMaster (50+) // TouchStar (Marko Sibila)/ 16 laps in 12:02:14
Solo Male SiSp // Jeebus Racing (Brett Bellchambers) / 20 laps in 12:22:04
Overall winners and line honours: 
Team 2 Male Elite // Magellan Racing // Paris Basson, James Lamb / 23 laps in 12:05:18
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Kulhavy and Langvad crowned XCM World Champions

Jarsolav Khulhavy has added another title to a list that must now be almost as long as his seat post, claiming the win at the Marathon World Champs in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. In the women’s, it was Dane Annika Langvad who claimed the XCM World Champ jersey once again.

Australia’s Andy Blair rode to 42nd, while in the women’s ‘Aussie’ Jenny Fay was just outside the top 10 in 12th and Melissa Anset grabbed an impressive 16th.

Full race reports below courtesy of mtbworldchamps.co.za and results here: Men / Women

Kulhavy and Langvad.
Kulhavy and Langvad.

 

Men’s:

2012 Olympic gold medallist and Czech mountain biking star Jaroslav Kulhavy added the UCI MTB Marathon World Championships title to his list of international titles when he powered to an emphatic win at a sun soaked Cascades MTB Park on Sunday.

“I am very happy because it was the last title that I didn’t have and really wanted to get.”


Kulhavy was satisfied with the way his race had gone and being able to tick off the marathon world title was something that he was relieved to be able to do and he explained his satisfaction following a disappointing season thus far.

“I am very happy because it was the last title that I didn’t have and really wanted to get. Today was a big day for me and I was really satisfied because this season hasn’t been that good for me. I was injured and had a lot of technical problems at cross country races so it was really satisfying to win today.

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The race was characterised by the constant changing of positions as the riders jostled for position in an attempt to get close to Kulhavy but the Specialized Racing rider showed good form to stave off the attacks and claim his maiden marathon world championships title. 

The chopping and changing resulted in an enthralling race but following a break from the Czech star after the fifth check point and he put the hammer down as the rest of the field were unable to match his power over the second half of the course.

“It all went to plan today even though the race was really hard,” Kulhavy said following his win. “I decided to attack after the fifth feed zone on the downhill and got a minute gap. I pushed hard to the finish after that and didn’t look back.”

Following a slow start second place finisher Alban Lakata patiently manoeuvred his way through the field and established himself at the front of the field towards the end of the race. The Austrian star appreciated the performance from Kulhavy and admitted that the winner was in a class of his own.

“He (Kulhavy) was unbeatable today,” Lakata admitted. “Getting second behind the Olympic champion and ahead of a three-time World Champion, Christoph Sauser, is a great thing for me and I have now got three silver medals and one gold but I am happy about my race today. 
“I didn’t have any serious mechanicals besides a twisted chain which only cost me a few seconds so it didn’t make any difference in the end.”

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A tough day for former Champ Sauser.


The race had its fair share of drama as defending World Champion Christoph Sauser suffered a substantial mechanical which cost him a chunk of time and effectively ended his bid to defend his title but he proceeded to work his way back up the field to finish in third.

“First of all congratulations to Jaroslav, it was an awesome ride from him and he showed his form at Euro’s two weeks ago.

“It was all good today until the portage section of the course and I was on and off the bike the whole time and when I was carrying my bike and hit a rock with my chain ring and it took me forever to get it back working,” Sauser explained.

“The best way to describe would be a cross country race of 90 minutes with three hours bolted onto the end, that’s how hard these guys go out at the start”


The South African charge was led by two-time South African marathon champion James Reid who ended 17th overall when he crossed the line ahead of fellow South African star Rourke Croeser. Reid was quick to describe the challenge of racing against the best riders in the world.

“It was brutal out there; it was a straight out sufferfest from the gun. I didn’t have a great grid position but I managed to get into the top 10 in the first three kilometres which was about the highlight. “The guys in the top 10 are in a different league and if you try and go with them you are going to be a firework, which I just avoided,” a relieved Reid mentioned.

Taking part in a world class event on home soil was something that Reid knew was going to work in his favour and having raced the national championships at the same venue a few weeks prior to Sunday he had a good idea of what to expect. 

“It wasn’t the most ideal build up but considering we raced this track two weeks ago it was solid.

“The best way to describe would be a cross country race of 90 minutes with three hours bolted onto the end, that’s how hard these guys go out at the start,” the Trek SA rider added.

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Spitz (2nd), Langvad (1st) and Hurikova (3rd).

Women’s:

Denmark’s Annika Langvad wrapped up a hat-trick of women’s world titles at the UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday entrenching her status as one of the best female endurance mountain bikers in the world.

The result was especially pleasing for the Dane who came to South Africa putting a lot of pressure on herself to win.

“This win is just awesome!” Langvad said afterwards. “My previous two wins I wasn’t really expecting at all but this time I knew I could win and so I put a bit more pressure on myself around so to have come here and got the win despite that little bit of added pressure, is really pleasing!”

“I didn’t expect to win so comfortably in the end though!” she added excitedly.

Familiar with the local conditions having raced in South Africa previously, Langvad looked to stamp her authority on proceedings early on, especially after the non-participation due to illness by Great Britain’s Sally Bigham and early withdrawal by fellow title hopeful Milena Landtwing. It took Langvad until just after the first tech zone to make her decisive move and her lead was soon a significant one.

” I managed to get into a rhythm and just keep pushing and all of a sudden the 74km actually counted down quite quickly!”

“I think riding a full suspension made things a lot easier for me with this terrain and allowed me to recover a lot more,” she explained.

“I also did the Cape Epic, an extremely hard stage race, leading up to World Champs and I came here today in a very similar mood to my Cape Epic mood so I managed to get into a rhythm and just keep pushing and all of a sudden the 74km actually counted down quite quickly!”

“As I got closer to the finish line and I got told I had a good gap, I just said to myself ‘Okay, no mistakes now. Just get down safely and you’ve got the World Championships title again!’ and it was just amazing! I loved every minute of it!”

Germany’s vastly experienced Sabine Spitz showed her pedigree once more as she overcame the rest of the world class field to clinch second place while recently crowned European Champion Tereza Hurikova finished third.

“Early on I tried to go to front so I could keep the speed high because I’ve been involved in two crashes before when the speed was too slow but then Annika made her move between tech zone 1 and 2 and once she opened up a gap it just continued to grow and grow and grow!” said Spitz with a wry grin.

“Annika was just stronger than me, you have to accept just it when someone is stronger than you and she is a deserved World Champion!” she added gracefully. The renowned competitor also had some high praise for Nick Floros’ widely anticipated course.

“I really liked the course! My first impression of the course when I got here on Monday was very good and it didn’t change at any stage.

“It was different to the marathon courses we get in Europe where you ride mainly on gravel and can be quite boring. Here the landscape was so different and the course was just great!” said Spitz.

With the podium in a class of their own, 40-year-old legend of the sport Esther Süss and fellow Swiss star Arian Kleinhans – who now calls Stellenbosch home after marrying South African Erik Kleinhans – were left to battle it out for the remaining top five positions.

South African national marathon champ Robyn de Groot had the ride of her life as she compiled her solid sixth place yielding effort while birthday girl Jeannie Dreyer finished eighth and was the second local lass across the line.

Video: Port to Port MTB with Drift Bikes, Day 2

Port to Port MTB 2014 – Day 2 – Hunter Valley Lindemans Winery.

The most grueling of this four day stage race. Starting from the picturesque Lindemans Winery in the Hunter Valley NSW, wet conditions over night had left the course holding a huge amount of water. Andrew Blair and Jenny Fay of Swell Specialized battle it out against Australias best marathon racers.

Drift Bikes provided comprehensive mechanical support to all riders bikes participating over the four days of racing.

www.driftbikes.com.au
Supporting cyclists in the Newcastle, Maitland, Port Stephens, Cessnock, Warners Bay, Lake Macquaire and Hunter Valley Areas.

Video: Port to Port MTB with Drift Bikes, Day 1

Day 1 of the Port to Port MTB 2014 – Four day stage race. Starting from the beautiful back drop of Nelson Bay, Port Stephens. Andrew Blair and Jenny Fay of Swell Specialized battle it out against Australias best marathon racers.

Drift Bikes provided comprehensive mechanical support to all riders bikes participating over the four days of racing.

www.driftbikes.com.au
Supporting cyclists in the Newcastle, Maitland, Port Stephens, Cessnock, Warners Bay, Lake Macquaire and Hunter Valley Areas.

Alice in Winter and racing the Red Centre

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The mighty MacDonnell Ranges are always there, looming over you in Alice! The way the scene changes colour as the sun drops is incredible.

Alice in winter

By May, when other parts of Oz are taking a right old beating, in the Red Centre smatterings of summer rain have damped down the dust, and clear blue skies are the general rule until next summer. By May the daytime temperatures in Alice are in the high 20s, and the locals are starting to complain about ‘the cold’. Winter conditions like that put the muddy grey days of winter riding in Melbourne and Sydney to shame. Suddenly flights to Alice for you and your bike start to feel as justifiable as post-ride beers and chips.

Alice Springs locals love their winter riding, and the event calendar reflects that. Alice’s mountain bike club, the Central Australian Rough Riders, runs a marathon, a 6-hour, a 12-hour night race, a three-day Easter stage race and a point-to-point series – and they’re all awesome. But for many interstate riders, Rapid Ascent’s Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro is the drawcard.

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A cloud in the sky during an Alice winter is enough to make the locals stop and stare. You’re almost guaranteed perfect riding conditions, with clear days topping out in the high 20s.

 

The Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro

With seven stages over five days, the Ingkerreke (pronounced ‘in-gear-uh-kah’) is long enough to feel like a break, but not so long that you need more than week off work. Rapid Ascent has been running the Ingkerreke for years, so the event runs as smoothly as your bike does on that first post-drivetrain overhaul ride.

This year’s Ingkerreke attracted some fast elites, with Jo Bennett securing an overall win in the women’s division, ahead of Imogen Smith (second) and all-but-local Jess Douglas (third). In the men’s division, Taswegian past-winner Ben Mather took the honours after fighting off recently returned local Ryan Standish (second) and Veteran class winner James Downing (third – more results here). But one of the things we’ve always enjoyed about the Ingkerreke is that it’s not just a race for the sharp end. The Ingkerreke throws together elite riders, mid-fielders and keen mere mortals for a solid week of awesome riding in a beautiful place.

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Jo Bennet, on her way to another Ingkerreke victory, leading Imogen Smith through the ever-shifting, super-fast singletrack.

In contrast to 2013, which started with rain, this year’s first three days were dry – even us locals had to concede that the surface was a bit loose. As we slogged down the sand on Smith St at the start of stage one, we could practically hear the thoughts of the interstaters, who were trying hard not to dwell on all the suffering they were in for in the week ahead. But the groans transformed into grins at the 10km mark when we hit that Alice Springs singletrack.

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Cloud cover kept the first day cool; on days two and three the sun came out, cranking up the heat and restoring the local advantage. On day four a very un-Centralian rain toned down the heat, prompting the locals to resume their complaints about ‘the cold’. But rain is always good news for mountain bikers in Alice – it packed down that otherwise loose, tyre-swallowing sand and rejuvenated the singletrack in time for the final stage, which rode fast.

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The Ingkerreke’s infamous Anzac Hill sprint climb! A brutal 300 metres, but the view is worth it.

 

It’s all Central-ised

When it comes to logistics, racing in Alice Springs is so easy. Alice is small enough that all seven stages of the Ingkerreke can start within a 10-minute ride of wherever you’re staying, and you’ll be finishing your stages in time to lunch at a café. But if the town is small, its trail network is massive, and growing – it can easily accommodate a week of riding without repeating sections. There’s plenty on the track menu, too, from fast and flowing zip-lines and loose, off-camber turns, to tight, rocky and technical switchbacks and step-ups. You can taste every dish within just a few corners and then find yourself back at the top of the menu again. The riding has a raw backcountry feel that Victoria-based Scotsman Gareth Syme described as ‘like real mountain biking’.

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Singletrack and fire trail

Rapid Ascent used fire roads for early course sections to prevent singletrack congo lines. For the sharp-end, those fire roads were an opportunity to hustle; for the rest of us they were a chance to have a break and a yarn. Indeed, one-time-local Adam Nicholson said he was riding singlespeed because ‘there are more people to talk to in the mid-field’. (Adam spent his fire road time exchanging banter about gear ratios with his friend and fellow singlespeeder / bitter rival John.)

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Imogen Smith, Jo Bennet and Jess Douglas. Alice always attracts a classy, talented field.

Alice Springs’s steadily growing tangle of trails can be confusing to the uninitiated, though some tracks are now officially mapped and sign-posted. With so many new tracks added in the last few years, Ingkerreke vet Ben Mather described this year’s event as ‘a totally different race’ to the year of his previous win, in 2009. But combining a mountain biking visit with an event like the Ingkerreke means you can follow the pink tape through some of Alice’s finest sections of track without worrying about geographic dis/orientation.

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James Downing, Ryan Standish and Ben Mather.

This year’s Ingkerreke covered some of the best trails, old and new, while retaining some iconic sections of fire trail from previous years. And on the nights we weren’t racing, there were things on at the Chifley Alice Springs Resort event base, showcasing some of Alice’s local music talent, including local rider Mick Cafe.

For the full results from the 2014 Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro, jump on in here.

Chris’s parting shot

So what is different about mountain biking in the Alice Springs? A lot has been written about that since Alice hit the radar a few years ago, but here’s my two cents: it’s cross-country riding at its purest. There are no big hills and no long technical descents, just endless undulations, pinches and flowing turns under a big sky. The riding surfaces vary, from hardpack to loose corners to short rockgardens to sand, and a bit of mud if you’re lucky. There’s nothing really nasty to spit you off, and the few serious obstacles have B-lines, but every corner promises something different, something to keep you on your toes.

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Port to Port MTB: Stage Four

The Pacific Ocean has a lot going for it. It’s very beautiful, full of fish and it keeps our east coast beaches nice and wet. It doesn’t, however, make great chain lube!

Still, it wouldn’t be right to race in this part of the world without a bit of beach riding. And just like in the Cape to Cape MTB in WA, we’re sure the run through the sand (and sometimes the water) of Blacksmiths Beach will become a legendary, infamous part of the Port to Port. Even now, just hours after crossing the finish line, the grimacing, cussing and gasping is all starting to blur into one bizarrely pleasurable memory. Funny how that happens…

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Today’s fourth and final stage of Port to Port wasn’t all about the sand and salt though. Less climbing and more tarmac was juxtaposed with the killer singletrack of Glenrock, and the pace was grimace-inducingly quick. Today was all about holding wheels, pulling turns and working with willing riders to chase down the next bunch and do it all again. Given that mountain biking is so often a solitary affair – just you versus the trail – the thrill, mania and speed of this kind of bunch riding is a rare joy.

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Chris Aitken leads the way up the first climb once again.
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After leaving Cams Wharf, the race hauled along the bike path.

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The leaders hit the beach running. It was the only way!

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The Elite men’s race had come back together as riders hit Glenrock.

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Jenny Fay rounds the headland at Glenrock.

With the weather defying all the forecasters’ predictions and delivering a dry, gorgeous morning, the final day got underway with right on the shores of beautiful Lake Macquarie at Cams Wharf. The first and last real climb of the day hit riders straight out of the gate, before the sound of up-shifting filled the air as the pace wound up for a massively fast run through the streets and paths of Swansea.

The beach loomed large in this stage. For most of the competitors it was a challenge to be survived, but for the Elite men’s race, it was an absolutely critical feature that could potentially see Chris Hamilton snatch the win from under Andy Blair’s nose.

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Legend. Mad Rooter. Malborough Man.

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Dean Clarke, the papa smurf of the Torq team, knew that the beach could blow the whole race apart, telling us: “After we recce’d the beach last night, I told the guys: ‘I don’t care if it means you have to become Olympic sprinters, you must leave the beach together with Chris (Hamilton)’.”

Swell/Specialized’s Shaun Lewis and Andy Blair had the same idea. “We knew the beach was going to be really decisive,” said Lewis. “We hit the beach together and had a really good ride along it, only having to stop once or twice, and at the run off the beach it was Chris and I together, with Andy about 30 metres back. I backed off and waited for Andy, then with the two of us together we were able to mow Chris down pretty easily.” For Lewis, who hasn’t had a race to remember, it was a satisfying feeling, being there for his teammate at the crux moment and ensuring the race didn’t become a one-on-one dogfight.

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HERO!

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Isolated and outnumbered, Hamilton showed real grit, hanging on through Blair and Lewis’s one-two attacks and surviving until the Torq team reeled the trio back in just for the Glenrock singletrack. “Hamo really lit it up in singletrack, it was really exciting,” said Lewis, but with the only a few kay remaining and no real climbs for Hamilton to use his feathery frame to his advantage, the race ultimately came down to a sprint finish. “Unfortunately the day just wasn’t hard enough or long enough for me to do any damage,” said a content Hamilton, “with so much bike track, I just couldn’t get a gap.”

Andy Blair is a veteran of this kind of racing, and his experience and diligence once again proved crucial, ultimately securing him both the stage win and the overall Port to Port MTB title. “With so many tricky elements on the run-in to the finish, the recce I did last night really helped,” explained Blair. “The plan was to lead Shaun out, but it was so hectic and that’s not the way it panned out. I really owe the win to him, he rode so hard on the beach to ensure he was there when we left the sand so we could isolate Chris and put the Torq guys on the back foot.”

In the Elite women’s race it really was the Jenny Fay show once again. It’s no secret that Fay is the queen of marathon mountain biking in Australia at the moment. She benchmarks her performance against the Elite men as much as she does against her fellow female competitors, and even though the early parts of her stage today didn’t go as smoothly as planned, she still powered to the stage win and overall victory.

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Torq’s Em Parkes displayed incredible consistency for a young rider, taking second position for the third time this event, and locking in the same position overall. After turning it on yesterday, MarathonMTB’s Imogen Smith couldn’t find the legs for silver, taking out third for the stage and the race.

For the riders counting the hours not the seconds, today’s stage was a great way to wrap up four amazing days; the blast through Glenrock’s buff trails was capped off by a run along the coast and right into the gateway to the port of Newcastle at Nobbys Beach. With the sun refusing to be masked by clouds that held off just long enough, riders stretched out on the grass while pelicans soared above. Countless times we saw riders shake their head and remark how long ago the race start felt; in just four days, a lot of ground was covered, a lot of limits were pushed, friendships (and rivalries) were formed, and all kinds of personal challenges were overcome.

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Without folk like this, races wouldn’t happen. R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Stage racing is a real adventure, it’s a completely different way to experience mountain biking, and that’s why we love it. As a first year event, Port to Port MTB was a huge success. Undoubtedly there’ll be some refinements next year, some new trails (maybe less beach), and certainly there’ll be more riders. Whatever happens, we’ll be on the start line again in 2015. See you at Port Stephens next year.

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Event sponsors Shimano added to the glitz with their super blue presentation roadshow. Coinciding with the international release of the Shimano XTR D12, electronic shifting, the riders could check out the new kit over an XTR branded beer. Cheers!

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Imogen Smith, J-Fay and Em Parkes.
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Chris Heverin, left, is the fella who made Port to Port possible. Without him, Chris Hamilton, Andy Blair and Benny Forbes wouldn’t have had a race to podium at!
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Michael Milton. An inspiration, in the truest sense of the word.
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Andy Blair has tasted more podium champagne than most bottle shop owners.

 

Port to Port MTB: Stage Two

No one remembers the easy days. The days when your legs feel fresh, the weather is beautiful and nothing hurts – those days are soon forgotten, merged into the blur of day-to-day rides.

But for the 200 or so riders who tackled stage two of Port to Port MTB, this was a day that will never, ever be forgotten.

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Chris Hamilton and Andy Blair. From an Elite standpoint, today was all about these two.

 

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The start of the 14km climb.
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The Torq team launch attack number one.
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Into the singletrack. It’s a pity the rain made the incredible singletrack across the escarpment such a mess, as it would’ve been the pay off that many riders craved after the climb.
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This rut got a lot deeper. A lot, lot deeper.
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Dylan Cooper keeps it on the straight and narrow.

This was the kind of day that hurt you, that clogged your eyes and nose with mud, that stopped your wheels from spinning through the frame, where you couldn’t clip in, or clip out, and your water bottle tasted like dirt.

You wanted more gears, you carried your bike, you tried to work out how to stretch without cramping and you swore. A lot.

Not one, but two, sapping, endless climbs, interspersed with singletrack so slick it was like a luge course. Two of the most amazing, high-speed fireroad descents, so long and teeth-rattlingly fast that you didn’t know whether to scream in joy or fear.

This was a day that you wanted to end, but when it did and you rolled underneath that finish arch at Lindemans winery, you felt like you’d conquered something.

Sure, for some riders today was a very big ask, but no matter if they finished the stage in three hours or six, today’s racing was the kind of affair that will leave them with a lot memories (and maybe a bill for a new set of brake pads). It was a day that may hurt right now, but that will be laughed about over a beer in a week or two, and definitely, definitely be remembered in years to come when all the dry, easy rides have been forgotten.

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Jenny Fay. Laughing? Or grimacing?

As predicted, the elite end of the field didn’t see any real shuffles. Torq’s Chris Hamilton outsprinted Andy Blair for the stage win, but with such a big lead from stage one, Blairy’s overall wasn’t in danger. And Jenny Fay, despite the mud wreaking havoc with her drivetrain, stayed away for another win (surely even she’s losing count by now).

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Jackie Schapel, always smiling. She must get very dirty teeth. An amazing descender and a real champ.

Tomorrow, the racing stays in the Hunter, departing Briar Ridge winery before finishing just east of Cessnock. With more rain on the horizon, the stage will be shortened by a few kays, avoiding the worst of the mud, which will make most riders smile. There’s only so many ‘memorable’ stages your bike and body can take in one week!

Racing: Wallace and Fay crowned Real Insurance XCM series champions

Canada’s Cory Wallace and Irish national marathon champion Jenny Fay have taken out the 2014 Real Insurance Cross Country Marathon Series following an exciting conclusion to the series at the weekend.

Both Fay and Wallace capped off standout series’, clinching victory in the final round’s Convict 100 in St Albans.

In the men’s series, former Canadian national champion Wallace had a consistent series which included taking out round three’s Wombat 100 and a runner up place in round four’s Tablelands Classic.

Wallace finished the series on 225 points, just 20 points ahead of round one winner Adrian Jackson (205.5 points) while Shaun Lewis (184.5 points) finished third overall, 40.5 points behind Wallace.

After winning round two in Mt Joyce and round four’s Tablelands Classic, Fay took out the series on 248 points, 17 points ahead of national marathon champion Melissa Anset (231 points). Sarah Riley (185 points) rounded out the podium, 63 points in arrears.

Runner up Anset also had a stellar season, finishing on the podium in all four events she competed in, including claiming top spot in both the High Country Classic and Wombat 100.

 

 

Racing: English and Fay Claim Tablelands Classic XCM Marathon

24-hour world champion Jason English (NSW) and Irish national champion Jenny Fay claimed the Tablelands Classic, the fourth round of the Real Insurance Cross Country Marathon (XCM) Series, on a wet and muddy day in the forested Atherton Tablelands.

English overcame Canadian National Marathon Champion Cory Wallace for the top spot on the elite male podium, while Jeff Rubach (QLD) finished third.

“The conditions out there were unbelievable. I have never run out of brake pads before in a race and halfway through this race I was slipping and sliding all over the place. It was a balance between trying to push the limit, push the boundary, push the tyres and see what you can do to keep this gap whilst trying to stay upright.”

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In the elite women’s race, Fay built on a dominant lead after Australian Marathon Champion Melissa Anset (VIC) suffered a flat tyre on the first lap. Sarah Riley (VIC) claimed second place with Anset recovering to round out the podium. The result leaves the Irish and Australian XCM champions with two wins each as the final round in the series approaches.

“I’m doing the European marathon champs in Ireland in June so this was a good test to see how I rolled over mud. I just need to change my tyres but other than that there is nothing much you can do. It’s just about being smooth and relaxed and capitalising on the drier sections when you can and keeping it conservative in the muddy sections.” 

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The Tablelands Classic is just the start of an action packed long weekend of mountain biking in Far North Queensland, with the downhill qualifying and cross country eliminator finals kicking off the racing at the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup at the Smithfield Regional Park near Cairns today.

The World Cup event thinned the elite male field at Atherton, with Australian XCM Champion Andrew Blair and teammate Shaun Lewis, who came second in the National XCM Championships, skipping the Tablelands Classic to focus on the World Cup Cross Country Olympic (XCO) event instead.

Not all riders have been as selective this weekend, with today’s podium finishers Riley and Wallace electing to back up today’s race and take on the World Cup Cross Country course in the Smithfield Rainforest this Sunday.

A minute of silence was observed before the Atherton race where over 140 riders took to the course, all wearing commemorative ribbons for ANZAC day.

Some took on the full marathon, racing three laps of the course (66 kilometres), while those completing the half marathon covered 44 kilometres (two laps).

The course delivered plenty of single-track, traverses, bushland, rainforest and grasslands and in better weather conditions picturesque climbs and flowing descents, with the challenging conditions forcing many riders to abandon before the finish.

The Real Insurance series concludes on May 3 with the Convict 100 in St Albans, NSW.

 

Fresh Product: Cell Awaba 2.0 29er

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Sydney-based manufacturer Cell Bikes have been undergoing something of a reformation of late. The brand made a name for itself with budget-priced urban bikes, but they’re now releasing some surprisingly refined mountain bikes too.  Captaining the ship as they sail into these dirtier oceans is Dave Musgrove, Cell’s new head of bike design.

We’ve just taken delivery of the brand new Awaba 2.0 29er hardtail to review and the initially unassuming appearance belies the bike’s attention to detail. It’s clear that every aspect has been considered, to a level not usually seen on a bike of this price point. We were sufficiently impressed to get Dave Musgrove on the blower to ask him a few questions about the bike.

You’ve named this bike the Awaba – does that name choice reflect anything significant in the bike’s design for intentions?

Awaba MTB Park is one of my favourite XC tracks to ride; the climbs aren’t huge, the trails are primarily single track and it’s tight and twisty with lots of fun descents. The smooth flowing nature of Awaba is always a pleasant change from my regular rough riding on Sydney’s rocky Northern Beaches. So, Awaba was the first trail that came to mind when I started playing with geometry and tube shapes for our new high-end 29er hardtails. Throughout the development process I was adamant that these bikes would be suited to technical XC trails like Awaba, so I wanted to provide all the benefits of 29er wheels without the cumbersome handling characteristics that are prevalent on many 29ers I’ve ridden. By using a longer offset fork (many brands use 46mm, we’ve used 51mm) combined with a slightly slacker head angle, we can have a relatively short “trail” measurement, which means the bike has great manoeuvrability at low speed in tight corners but maintains stability at high speed. Short chain stays are also key for swinging around corners, hopping over obstacles and manualling off drops. We opened a new mould to make a slight bend in the seat tube which allowed the chain stays to be shortened without creating mud clearance issues. We call this geometry Pro Geo.

Cell have not necessarily been known as a producer of ‘serious’ (for lack of a better word) mountain bikes in the past. Do you see this as a barrier for this bike’s success?

I hope not! Cell Bikes are well known as offering great value bikes, though admittedly a couple of older models perhaps should not have seen the light of day, let alone a mountain bike trail. The value is remaining the same, due to our factory direct sales model, however the performance of our bikes has been taken to a whole new level. We now go through a far more thorough design, testing and quality control process which is evident through performance of our entire new range of bikes. Our bikes now have the same level of quality as the big brands and we back up this claim by providing a lifetime frame warranty on all of our bikes. I hope that our current focus of offering well priced high quality bikes will have a greater influence on customers’ opinions than some of our cheap and cheerful attempts at mountain bikes from a few years ago. Perhaps customers will also appreciate that we’re a small Aussie bike company that is growing up and offering them a locally designed competitive option, rather than having to settle for a bike from a big international marketing machine with little connection to their local scene.

Who is the targeted rider for this bike, and what aspects of the design reflect this?

It’s targeted at a range of riders, from the first time mountain bike buyer who wants to shred with their buddies without splashing out on a dually, to serious XC racers who are looking for a reliable yet lightweight race bike. To cover this range of needs we focused on making the Awaba light weight with superior handling and longterm reliability. The spec is reasonably light, however it is the frame where we shaved all unnecessary weight. It has triple butted tubing throughout, including stays, seat tube and main tubes. Positioning the rear brake calliper on the chain stay allows the seat stays to be lighter weight and designed to absorb impacts more effectively. The press-fit bottom bracket and fully integrated tapered headset (without cups) save further weight and reduce potential creaking. The Pro Geo is key to the good handling in technical terrain however lateral stiffness is also important, but often lacking in many 29ers in the market. I wanted riders to be able to thrash the Awaba down rough descents and rail it around corners without the wheels, fork and frame flexing everywhere. We achieved high lateral stiffness by using a tapered steerer fork with 15mm Maxle matched with a 142x12mm Maxle to bolt the rear hub in place. Thru-axles add a huge amount of stiffness compared to traditional QR skewers, which is especially noticeable with the added leverage of 29″ wheels. Using strong eyeletted 32 spoke rims allows for high spoke tension which further improves handling and reliability.

Pick a design element of this bike that is the highlight for you (perhaps something people might not notice, but which makes a real difference).

Rack mounts! Haha. No, something that is not the biggest highlight but does make a real difference yet is often over looked – cable routing. We use full length housing for both derailleurs to keep as much dirt and water out as possible. The cables follow a smooth and direct route for a clean appearance and reliable function, and assuming the rear brake is run Australian style (left hand lever), there shouldn’t be any cable rub on the frame. Perfecting the small details is important for the long term function of a mountain bike.

 

Racing: The Tablelands Classic XCM, Atherton

With the second round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup taking place in Cairns, what better way to make a complete weekend of two-wheeled fun other than also racing your bike also.

WHAT

Cross Country Marathon – XCM – A cross country format event utilising a point-to-point or three lap course of between 60 and 100km in length. Variations to course length may be allowed at the discretion of the event commissaire… like if it rains or pours, or is insanely hot.

WHERE

Up on the tablelands behind Cairns is the thriving township of Atherton.

The Atherton Tablelands landscape range from extinct volcanoes and crater lakes; bird and wildlife rich forests and National Parks; peaceful dairy and cropping farms and charming towns and villages.

In amongst all this is Australia’s most exciting mountain bike development and over the next five years over 90km of singletrack will go into this area, all within a short spin of Atherton’s amazing coffee. It’s sort of jungle, it’s sort of high country and bushland, it’s sort of unbelievably good.

You would expect the locals to want to keep this place a secret but they are some of the friendliest, welcoming people on the planet.

EXPECT

To pack the family for a tropical holiday, bring the sun hat and the picnic blanket for a day at the races watching the big dogs of international mountain biking go round and race your bike on world class trails 90 minutes up the road. Sound like a plan?

COURSE

The Atherton Marathon course will give riders a taste of an up and coming mountain bike region, home to a wealth of mountain bike trails. A three lap course so you can high five your kids more, this is a World Trail masterpiece. We’ve minimised the climbing because it might be steamy.

The Atherton course embodies the true marathon mountain bike experience, while at the same time sharing the iconic rainforest with riders.

STAY FOR THE WORLD CUP

Twenty years ago in 1996, Cairns hosted the Mountain Bike World Championships, and this April – the world stage of mountain biking returns to the tropics with Round 2 of the 2014 UCI World Cup series to be held in Cairns April 25, 26 and 27.

TICKETS ON SALE NOW!

You can be there to witness the fastest riders in the world strut their stuff. Pre sale tickets are now on sale. Those who purchase a ticket before April 1, go into the draw to win four VIP passes and a jersey signed by all the #Cairns2014 winners. Tickets will also be available to purchase at the gate.

BOOK YOUR TRAVEL TODAY!

Flight Centre Active Travel is your resource to combine your love of travel, fitness and adventure into affordable event packages for interstate and international athletes alike! Flight Centre Active Travel is a full travel service provider which means that we can book all your needs.

Racing: UCI promotes Crocodile Trophy to category level S1

The Crocodile Trophy is the oldest mountain bike stage race in the world and in 2014 will celebrate its 20th anniversary. In honour of this jubilee and major milestone for the event, its organisers decided to join the UCI.

The most adventurous mountain bike stage race in the world will become a UCI event category S1.  As an official UCI race the Crocodile Trophy will still be open for professionals, amateur racers as well as recreational cyclists.

The infamous event is not only the oldest and most renowned mountain bike stage race in the world, but it also features the biggest solo competitor field of any stage race of that dimension.

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The organisers confirmed that for the 2014 anniversary race, there will be at least four completely new stages in the nine-day tour program. With a new and larger infrastructure the Crocodile Trophy will be able to host more participants than in previous years. The new stage plan through the remote Australian Outback and lush rainforests in Tropical Far North Queensland with the new stage finishes and spectacular tracks and trails will be publicized by the end of January.

The event dates are:  18th – 26th October 2014

Online registration has already been open since 1st December on www.crocodile-trophy.com!

For further information please check our website www.crocodile-trophy.com or contact:

Video: Seven and a half hours at the CamelBak Highland Fling

The 2013 CamelBak Highland Fling took place in conditions that would’ve made a Scotsman feel right at home. After eight gloriously sun-kissed Flings, this year’s edition took place under gloomy, drizzly skies.

While there were a few PA heckles served up to riders who pulled the pin (must be made of sugar) over 1700 pros and punters still fronted up to tackle the Half Fling (58km), Full Fling (116km) and the Hundred Mile Fling.

The racing was hard fought, as it always is for this prestigious marathon event, but we’ll admit to our own degree of softness; with the rain chucking down, the comfort of a warm van was too tempting for us and we pulled stumps before the Elite Women came across the line. Apologies to Peta Mullens, who rode by herself all day long to clinch the victory ahead of WA’s Jo Bennett.

Keeping toasty pre-race.
Keeping toasty pre-race.
Conditions were cold enough to turn your head and feet blue.
Conditions were cold enough to turn your head and feet blue.
Heavy hitters.
Heavy hitters; Dylan Cooper would pull the pin with cramps, while Blair and Johnson would grab second and first respectively.
Gary Millburn won the competitive Half Fling convincingly.
Gary Millburn won the competitive Half Fling convincingly.
Mark Tupalski was undisputedly the strongest rider on the day, but he worked too hard on his own and was caught with just a couple of kays to go.
Mark Tupalski was undisputedly the strongest rider on the day, but he worked too hard on his own and was caught with just a couple of kays to go.

 

Riders In The CamelBak Highland Fling Were Challenged, But Well Hydrated

For eight years the annual CamelBak Highland Fling mountain bike marathon has turned on blue skies, and sometimes-sweltering conditions for riders. But with the 2013 race being sponsored by the world’s leading hydration company, CamelBak, it was fitting that for the first time natural hydration was abundant.

Whilst the skies were damp, rider spirits were anything but, with an impressive line-up of riders bracing themselves against unseasonably cold and wet conditions to take part in this year’s race.

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Federal MP for Hume, Angus Taylor, himself taking part in event, officially kicked off the race with 100Milers and Full Flingers rolling out at 7:20am to the theme of The Flintstones – in keeping with the fun-side of serious racing and this year’s themed element of The Flingstones. The most hotly contested racing of the day was always going to be the Full Fling with a line-up of elites that included Australia’s best mountain bikers. Really, it was anyone’s race.

It was Mark Tupalski who set a blazing pace at the start, with only three other riders, Brendan Johnston, Andy Blair and Dylan Cooper able to go with him. The group worked together and changed it up a little throughout the race, losing Andy Blair at a train crossing but gaining Dan McConnell to help with the work.

It wasn’t long before Dan was no longer in the group, but Andy was back in the chase. Mark Tupalski picked up the pace once again and this time no one went with him. It was a bold move, but one that didn’t pay off in the end with the chase group working together to catch and pass him with only the last few kilometres to go.

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It ended up being just two riders that kept the pace hot and battled for the finish line. Brendan Johnston, who finished third in 2012, took the win with a time of 4:18:53. First to cross the line in the race however was Andy Blair, but after taking a 30 second time penalty for a rule transgression, finished in second. Cameron Ivory rounded out the podium in third.

‘Mark lit up the pace from the start and it was really hard to go with him, but I’m glad I did,’ said Brendan from Canberra. ‘It’s a long race though and the last 20km are brutal. I worked hard and managed to drop Cameron, but couldn’t shake Andy and that’s what the finish line showed. But it was in my favour, so I’m happy with that.’

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In the women’s elite race Peta Mullens, who finished second in 2012, took a convincing win with a time of 5:05:23 – almost twenty minutes ahead of Jo Bennett in second and Myra Moller in third.   Peta’s strong form showed with a finishing line comment about the race missing a climb she remembered from 2012.

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With the said climb confirmed as still in the race, she concluded ‘I must have been feeling OK then. I set a good tempo for most of the day, even though I was on my own a lot. It’s definitely a race that keeps giving though, in the most challenging of ways.’

In the long format 100Mile (or 165km to make it sound even longer) it came down to a sprint finish on the line. Andrew Hall took first place with a time of 6:59:15, with Ed McDonald, the 2012 winner, finishing a close second and UK rider Matt Page crossing in third.

Race Results in the 2013 CamelBak Highland Fling:

Half Fling
Men Gary Millburn (2:13:45) Brad Morton (2:17:26.2) Michael Potter (2:17:26.6)

Half Fling Women
Karen Evans (2:53:56) Kath Bicknell (2:54:55) Belinda Diprose (3:01:12)

Full Fling Elite Men
Brendan Johnston (4:18:53) Andy Blair (4:18:54)  Cameron Ivory (4:19:00)

Full Fling Elite
Women Peta Mullens (5:05:23) Jo Bennett (5:24:50) Myra Moller (5:38:15)

100Mile Men
Andrew Hall (6:59:15) Ed McDonald (7:00:49) Matt Page (7:19:13)

100Mile Women
Charlie McCabe (9:30:24)

For full race results, including category results, visit: http://www.wildhorizons.com.au/highland-fling

Tested: Storck Rebel Seven

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Babies are delivered by storks. It’s a well known fact. Storcks, on the other hand, are delivered by couriers, in a box, or in this case two boxes.

The Storck Rebel Seven came to Flow HQ as a bare frame and build kit. This is a rarity; most bikes leave a factory in Taiwan 90% assembled with only some tweaking, tightening and lubing left to be done by the shop mechanic. While building the Storck from scratch took a while, it also gave us a chance to really appreciate the fine workmanship of the German-made frame. It also gave the whole assembly process a sense of ceremony, or anticipation, kinda like a gestation period.

Yep, it uses dem size wheels. We didn't expect to see so many brands producing 650B hardtails this year, but when they're winning World Cups it's tough to argue.
Yep, it uses dem size wheels. We didn’t expect to see so many brands producing 650B hardtails this year, but when they’re winning World Cups it’s tough to argue.

The Rebel 7 is a single-minded machine; a 27.5”-wheeled carbon cross country race hardtail. We’ll be honest, it’s the first of its ilk we’ve tested here at Flow, so it’s a challenge not to draw comparisons with a 29er hardtail, given that 29ers have been so dominant in the hardtail ranks over the past few years.

The Build:

Marcus Storck looks like a genius, and he is widely viewed as such by many in the bike industry. Behind that mighty forehead lurks a powerful design brain and the Rebel Seven is a very fine piece of work.

The rear end is super neat. We love the brake mount and the simplicity of the axle system (though it does require an Allen key to remove the axle).
The rear end is super neat. We love the brake mount and the simplicity of the axle system (though it does require an Allen key to remove the axle).

At 1.1kg, there are lighter frames, but it has a great finish – both aesthetic and construction-wise – with a reassuringly solid feel, especially through the chain stays and dropout area. It’s clearly a frame built with great power transfer in mind. Tube profiles are broad, especially the top tube, and the ‘super size chainstays’ are deep to resist flex.

The rear is built for stiffness and power transfer, rather than compliance. There's good clearance too for muddy conditions.
The rear is built for stiffness and power transfer, rather than compliance. There’s good clearance too for muddy conditions.

A host of practical features won us over. Smart cable guides with full-length gear housings make for simple setup and minimal maintenance. Sure, internal cables are nice… until they rattle or need replacing. A direct mount front derailleur makes for powerful, crisp shifts, and the use of a pressfit bottom bracket gives plenty of meat to this critical area.

A direct mount front derailleur with full length housing makes for easy setup and maintenance.
A direct mount front derailleur with full length housing makes for easy setup and maintenance.

The chain stay mounted rear brake looks good, especially with the adjustable banjo on the XT brakes allowing a very clean brake line routing to the caliper. Brake calipers with less angle adjustability for the brake line mightn’t look so neat. Given the bike’s purpose, it’s surprising that the 142x12mm rear axle requires tools for removal – in a race situation, most riders would prefer not to carry an 8mm Allen key. That said, the system is low profile and will never give you any dramas.

The bottom bracket area is seriously robust, as is the seat tube / top tube junction.
The bottom bracket area is seriously robust, as is the seat tube / top tube junction.

The geometry features what we’d call traditionally European cross country angles. It’s not common to see a 70-degree head angle on many newer bikes – such quick steering angles are the domain of serious cross-country racers. The wheelbase is compact too, with 425mm stays and 100mm stem on our medium sized bike to provide a decent reach.

Would you like to Super Size that for only an extra 50c?
Would you like to Super Size that for only an extra 50c?

The Parts:

If you’re stacking the Storck up alongside offerings from some of the bigger market players, the value for money won’t blow you away. But keeping in mind the boutique, German, handmade pedigree here, we feel that the build kit is pretty decent…. Except for the grips, which we found too fat and which aren’t lock-ons. An easy swap.

These can go. Thankfully a new set of grips is the only change we'd recommend out of the box.
These can go. Thankfully a new set of grips is the only change we’d recommend out of the box.

We’d have expected to see a Rockshox SID on the Rebel Seven, but while the Rockshox Revelation has a small weight penalty, its performance is very hard to fault. It’s a stiff steering option, and in conjunction with the Crank Bros cockpit it makes for a front end that goes exactly where you point it.

A 100mm-travel Revelation handles things up front. It's a real set and forget fork - there is a compression adjustment / lock out, but we never felt compelled to use it
A 100mm-travel Revelation handles things up front. It’s a real set and forget fork – there is a compression adjustment / lock out, but we never felt compelled to use it

Shimano provide the deceleration with immensely powerful XT brakes. We’d ideally drop down a rotor size up front to a 160mm (rather than the 180mm fitted) as the bigger rotor sometimes had too much bite for the bike, overpowering the tyres. Still, that’s a much better problem to have than the opposite!

StorckRebelSeven 14

DT M1700 wheels set off the frame finish nicely and while they’re not the lightest wheelset, they’re stiff and reliable. They’re ordinarily a tubeless ready wheel, as are the tyres, though unfortunately ours didn’t come with the tubeless rims strip in the box. As we’ve stressed below, adding some more compliance to the ride is something we’d look to do, and going tubeless is the best solution.

Schwalbe's Racing Ralphs are a safe bet for just about all conditions.
Schwalbe’s Racing Ralphs are a safe bet for just about all conditions.

A matching Prologo saddle is a classy touch, and the Shimano 2×10 drivetrain is a wise choice, giving riders enough gears to get this light machine up just about anything.

We don't see that many Prologo saddles, but we think they're great.
We don’t see that many Prologo saddles, but we think they’re great.

Ride:

It had been a while since we last rode a bike as single-mindedly cross-country focused as the Rebel Seven, let alone one with little wheels (ok, mid-sized wheels technically… but 26” is so 2012). While we’re still dubious about all the claims that a 650B wheel offers ‘the best of both worlds’, there’s no denying how quickly these wheels get moving. This bike gets up and going faster than a dobberman chasing a commuter cyclist. The short chain stays, stiff wheels, crisp shifting and direct power transfer tell you to get up out of the saddle and click up a few gears out of every corner.

The frame is quite low and the wheelbase on the short side, so it's an easy bike to throw about.
The frame is quite low and the wheelbase on the short side, so it’s an easy bike to throw about.

At less than 10.5kg, the Rebel 7 is incredibly easy to move around. There’s no lethargy to the steering, it can be lifted and popped over every undulation in the trail. Thankfully it still doesn’t feel overly twitch, the wide (well wide given the style of bike) bar gives everything a touch of stability, as do the grippy tyres.

There’s definitely a knack to riding this style of bike, and coming off bigger wheels and longer travel it takes a little bit of smoothing out your riding style before you find some flow. The Rebel 7 isn’t happy if you plough and the chainslap against the carbon stays lets you know loudly if you’re riding roughshod, rather than floating. Sit-down riders (or regular dual suspension riders, like us) will soon be beaten out of their lazy ways.

The Crank Bros cockpit is stout and stiff. We approve of four-bolt stem and decent width bar.
The Crank Bros cockpit is stout and stiff. We approve of four-bolt stem and decent width bar.

While decent rubber and 100mm-travel fork provide a little more forgiveness than some other cross country hardtails, there’s still nothing particularly soft about the Storck. The large diameter 31.6mm aluminium seat post is at odds with the trend towards narrow, 27.2mm carbon posts – there is not a lot of give under your butt. As we’ve noted above, we didn’t have a tubeless conversion kit handy, but setting the Storck up tubeless is a wise move, so you can drop the pressures lower than we dared without fear of pinch flats.

It's a fun looking bike, and it's playful on the trail too. But it will punish you if you're sloppy!
It’s a fun looking bike, and it’s playful on the trail too. But it will punish you if you’re sloppy!

As you’d hope, the Storck is a fantastic climber, particularly in situations where sharp accelerations are needed, like getting up ledges or steep pinches. Get your timing wrong though and the rear wheel will kick back and skip, get it right and it shoots up any incline like a lizard up a tree. On the flipside, high speed descending requires a good nerve; the sharp head angle needs a firm hard on the tiller to avoid the front wheel tucking. We had a couple of hairy moments hitting sand at pace before we got back in the swing of things. Getting the bike off the ground and floating over the worst of it is the way to go, and the Storck is happy to oblige, its short wheelbase a pleasure to bunny hop.

Overall:

While the window of appeal for the Storck Rebel 7 is narrow, it hits the mark for those who know what they want from a cross-country race bike. Its construction is a true highlight, and when it comes to that critical aspect of acceleration, the Rebel 7 feels like it has an afterburner. We’d love to try the Rebel 9 (the 29er brother of the Rebel 7) by way of comparison to get a better feel of the trade off between weight, acceleration and abilities in technical terrain afforded by the two wheel sizes.

The Soapbox: Should GPS Be Mandatory in Marathon Racing?

When bogans get involved the results are rarely good. A few months ago, the Brownie Points Burner 80km race, held at Taree, was thrown into disarray after local idiots decided to remove course markings. End result, lots of lost riders, some of whom ended up running out of water. It could’ve been a very bad day.

But even when markings aren’t stolen or altered, the potential for riders to go missing during a marathon race is always a worry for event organisers. Plenty can go wrong when there’s 100km of dirt to be navigated; when the red mist of racing descends, tired brains start missing things, or riders just simply follow each other like sheep, it’s easy to see how a rider can quickly find themselves five kay down the wrong fireroad and unsure of the best way out. In some instances, the results can be life threatening (take the 2012 Crocodile Trophy for example, when riders found themselves heading towards bush fires!).

Which leads me to ponder the question: should GPS units be mandatory during marathon races?

Obviously there are some barriers and the potential (and consequence) of getting lost is greater at some events that others. But with the costs of GPS units dropping rapidly, increasing numbers of riders are already using these devices to keep an eye on their progress, heart rate, power output or to manage their nutrition. With all this technology increasing utilised and increasingly more accessible, it does seem a little incongruent that we rely solely on bits of corflute nailed to a tree to make sure we don’t get lost!

There are plenty of advantages. Event organisers could upload a GPS file of the course ahead of race day, allowing racers to have a map right in front of their noses (on devices that have this capability); if a racer pulls this pin they can easily navigate their way back to the event centre; if a rider is badly injured, calling in help is a matter of simply providing the coordinates on the device and the heli is on the way. Ostensibly GPS units could even negate the need for expensive timing equipment. Perhaps this could lead to lower entry costs, offsetting the costs of buying the GPS unit itself.

On the flipside, mountain bike racing is already expensive enough as it is without imposing additional equipment costs on riders. Plus a GPS is no guarantee that riders still will not go a-wandering. It may be that this suggestion is one step too far towards the nanny state, but I do think it’s worthy of consideration.

 

 

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: Croc Trophy Sees 15 Nations Gather in Far North Queensland

The 19th Crocodile Trophy starts this Saturday with a lap race at Smithfield in Cairns. As the world’s oldest mountain bike stage race the Crocodile Trophy has become known as the hardest and most adventurous event. This year more than 80 riders will race for 900 km through the Outback and the rain forests in Queensland’s Tropical North including Canadian’s National Marathon Champion, Cory Wallace, last year’s third finisher Wolfgang Krenn from Austria and Lotto Belisol pro-team rider, Sander Cordeel from Belgium.

Cory Wallace from Canada is just one of the big names in attendance this year.
Cory Wallace from Canada is just one of the big names in attendance this year.

Organisers of the Crocodile Trophy confirmed today that Sander Cordeel, pro-road cyclist from the Belgian Lotto Belisol team will be at the start line in Cairns this week. En-route from the Tour of Beijing Cordeel will arrive in Cairns just in time to race the first stage’s lap race at Smithfield MTB Park on Saturday, 19 October. “I was chatting with my team mate Adam Hansen about the Crocodile Trophy the other day and he talked me into signing up,” Sander Cordeel said of his last-minute decision to travel to Australia for the nine-day stage race through the Outback of Far North Queensland. “It has always been my dream to do this race”, the 25-year old road cyclist added.

Hot weather conditions, rough terrain and the images of racers pedalling towards the horizon on endless Outback Highways have characterised the race coverage since the event’s inception two decades ago. This year the event promises again to be a challenging stage race, “Part of the Crocodile Trophy fascination is the sheer adventure that our riders will experience. We will be showcasing some of the best mountain bike trails in the Cairns region and cross the Atherton-Mareeba Tablelands to take them deep into the Australian Outback.”

The remote Outback town Irvinebank and the Mt Mulligan cattle station will be two of the stage destinations next week before the riders and more than 80 supporters and crew arrive at the historic gold-mining town of Laura, where an individual time trial will add to the challenge on day seven.

This is where everyone's aiming for! The finish atop Grassy Hill in Cooktown, 900km after first departing Cairns.
This is where everyone’s aiming for! The finish atop Grassy Hill in Cooktown, 900km after first departing Cairns.

The strongest international contenders for the win this year are Canadian’s National Marathon Champion, Cory Wallace, who already has two 5th places at the Crocodile Trophy to his name and last year’s third place getter Wolfgang Krenn from Austria, who also sees the Czech rider Jan Fojtik as a major competitor. “Cory Wallace and Jan Fojtik are my main opponents, I think this year. The Crocodile Trophy is a tough event, you have to be ready for anything”, Krenn said of his competition. Also Cory Wallace is ready to claim this year’s win, “I expect a lot of high end competition from both Australia and Europe at the Croc this year and will be ready to battle whoever shows up!”

After a stop-over at the Aboriginal community of Hopevale on day eight, the Crocodile Trophy will finish in Cooktown on Sunday, 27 October with rewarding ocean views and the Great Barrier Reef from the top of Grassy Hill. For more event information, visit www.crocodile-trophy.com

 

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.

 

Racing: World’s Oldest MTB Stage Race Summons Adventurers for 19th Crocodile Trophy

More than 80 participants from all over the world are expected to compete in the 19th edition of the International Crocodile Trophy Stage Race with start in Cairns on 19th October.

They will race for 900km from Cairns to Cooktown and cover 15,000m of elevation through the incredible landscape of Queensland’s Tropical North, travelling through some of the most remote and fascinating locations in the Australian Outback.

Wolfgang-Krenn_DSC_0929-001
Major contender for Crocodile Trophy 2013 title, Wolfgang Krenn from Austria says, “I know that a lot can happen during nine days and especially at the Croc. I’ll race hard and we’ll see if it all works out after 1000 km in the saddle.”

Over the last two decades the Crocodile Trophy has become known as the oldest, hardest and most adventurous mountain bike stage race in the world. For some riders it is the challenge of a lifetime and for everyone an unforgettable adventure.

Canadian pro-mountain bike racer Cory Wallace will be at the start line in Cairns for the third time this year. “I want to use my experiences from the last couple of years at the Croc to have a smart race and stay out of trouble”, said Wallace as he arrived in Australia this week. With two fifth places in 2010 and 2012 and an incredible racing season 2013, the Canadian National Marathon Champion and TransRockies stage winner and overall runner-up is one of the clear favourites for this year’s 19th Crocodile Trophy. In an intense racing programme over the past few months the 29-year old won the Mongolia Challenge stage race as well as the Otaki 120, Japan’s Premier MTB Marathon and will compete in the 24 Hour Solo World Championships in Canberra this weekend. Wallace added that he had confidence in his form, “When the opportunities arise I will try to make the most of them.”

CoryWallace_Cooktown2012_DSC_4448
Canadian National Marathon Champion Cory Wallace is ready to tackle the “Croc” for the third time and to take advantage from his racing experience in the Australian Outback from previous years.

Another major contender will be last year’s overall third at the Crocodile Trophy and experienced marathon and mountain bike stage racer, Wolfgang Krenn from Austria. Among the Australian contingent of riders will be last year’s fastest Australian, Steve Rankine from Mossman near Cairns as well as five riders racing under the Amy Gillett Foundation banner.

The Crocodile Trophy will kick off with a lap race at the World Cup trails in Smithfield with the Cairns Mountain Bike Club on 19 October, before heading towards the Atherton Tablelands and into the Outback. The finish will again be on top of Grassy Hill in Cooktown on 27 October. Fore more event information, visit www.crocodile-trophy.com

Video: Flight Centre Active Travel Cycle Epic

The award-winning Flight Centre Cycle Epic is a great mountain biking tradition that began in 2002 with a bunch of mates challenging themselves on a 117km epic trail ride. In 2003, the inaugural Australian mountain bike marathon started a new era in the sport.

Over the past 10 years, the EPIC has gone through multiple evolutions, most recently due to the 2011 floods which destroyed much of the track infrastructure. The track-building team have worked hard to develop extensive tracks of an international standard – creating rides that cater for different ages and skill levels.

The EPIC weekend has something for everyone, from the novice rider through to the professional, offering six races and several categories to challenge and reward riders.

Flight Centre Active Travel Cycle Epic from dean saffron on Vimeo.

Racing: Newcastle Puts On a Perfect Show For Round 3 Of The SRAM Singletrack Mind Series

There can be only one word to describe Sunday’s SRAM Singletrack Mind Series event and that is “perfect!” Glorious spring weather greeted riders as they rolled to the start line for Round 3 of the 5 event series and with mild temperatures all day, a course that was in excellent condition and a large, high quality field entered, a day of tight and thrilling racing was assured.

With the World 24 Hour Championships soon, Canberra's Jason McAvoy has found form at the perfect time, winning the Masters Solo category.
With the World 24 Hour Championships soon, Canberra’s Jason McAvoy has found form at the perfect time, winning the Masters Solo category.

Off the start, the first riders to hit the front were talented youngsters Harry Wiles (Stevens Bikes) and  Jack Lavis (Target Trek Racing) and experienced road racer turned solo rider Cameron Peterson. Recording the fastest lap of the day, Lavis took the lead in the overall race and the Men’s Pairs category while Wiles gave his team a solid lead in the Male Threes.

The solo categories featured some new and some absent names. With the World 24 Hour solo championships coming up soon many were keen to give the legs a final hard hit-out while some, including Series leader Ed McDonald, decided they’d start their taper period and skip the round. This would present an opportunity for others including Andrew Lloyd who trails McDonald in the Series by just 25 points. Lloyd wouldn’t have an easy run to the 80 points on offer as wildcard entrant Cameron Peterson kept the pressure on in the early laps but Lloyd kept to his race plan never relinquishing his lead. The Female Solo category saw an equally entertaining battle between Lana Moy and current solo 24 hour National Champion Liz Smith. Moy taking the early lead but Smith’s experience showed through as she put down a set of very consistent lap times to pass Moy and establish a small but decisive lead. Smith taking her first win in the Series this year after a pair of 2nd placings.

The Masters solo categories are always highly competitive and round 3 was no different. Janet Martin got off to a great start in the Female Masters but Series leader Wendy Stevenson showed her depth of experience to slowly but surely reel her in and take the win. The Male Masters would be an epic battle with 5 riders in contention almost to the end. After up and down results this Series, Jason McAvoy has found his legs at just the right time and by race end built up a 10 minute lead to the chasing pack of Mike Israel, Phil Welch and David Langley. The minor steps of the podium would be decided with only 1km to go when Israel reeled in a tiring Welch just prior to the final section of singletrack. The margin after 7 hours and 18 minutes of racing was just 13 seconds! The top four place getters hugged and congratulated each other on a great battle, a display of exemplary sportsmanship. The mighty Solo Clydesdales competition was also a gripping battle, early favourite David Smith was forced to withdraw with a mechanical problem leaving Cory Dimmer and Graeme Scott to battle it out. Dimmer the victor with a significant margin on laps and Clydesdale ‘burliness’!

 National Champion and Mixed Threes winner Holly Harris, who also recorded the two fastest female laps.
National Champion and Mixed Threes winner Holly Harris, who also recorded the two fastest female laps.

The large team categories were well subscribed for this round, SXC Racing taking the Masters Threes, Target Trek’s team featuring Australian Champion Holly Harris comfortably won the Mixed Threes, the Female Threes saw Dirty TORQ walk the walk and talk the TORQ, and Stevens Bikes led from the gun to win the Male Threes. There was a good roll-up of junior riders at this round with many competing in the Open categories, however the Junior race category saw a dominant display from Target Trek over local teams Newy Coghead Dirtbags and 2Tyred. While only two teams competed in the Fab Fours, 2nd placed Velo Vita/TMO Sports kept chasing all day but didn’t manage to pip 2Up Racing, the margin just two and a half minutes at race end.

It was tight and competitive racing as always in the Pairs categories. A dodgy kebab was blamed for one of the leading Masters Pairs teams being unable to field a team, so the race would be team Ren & Stimpy’s to lose. They didn’t disappoint, leading from the gun with Gladjanus Racing in pursuit but the margin was a comfortable 15 minutes by the end. The Short Circuit Chix took a second win in a row on the Female Pairs while the Male Pairs saw an unexpected victory for Velosophy Racing who had intended to race in the threes until one of their team couldn’t attend on the day. It worked out pretty well for them, keeping the fast duo of Jet Cycles at bay by 6 minutes. The Mixed Pairs featured the top three teams all on 11 laps and only 3 and a half minutes separating 1st and 2nd. While they’re leading the Series it would be the first win for the consistent due of Martine Robin and Gary Harwood over Danielle and Doug Pollock.

Full results can be found at www.chocolatefoot.com.au/singletrack-mind-series.

Competitors raved about the excellent quality of the course which has been created and maintained by the Hunter MTB Association, volunteers who have put in hundreds of hours to craft a true singletrack nirvana.

Cory Dimmer grinning his way to victory in the Clydesdale category
Cory Dimmer grinning his way to victory in the Clydesdale category

The 4th round of the SRAM Singletrack Mind Series moves to the beautiful Southern Highlands on 20 October, the Welby track near Mittagong has seen significant improvements by the local cycling club, making for great riding and racing all within a few kilometres of a major regional centre.

For more info and entry details see: www.chocolatefoot.com.au

Racing: The 2013 Kowalski Classic

With so many events to choose from at the moment, it takes something special to stand out from the rest. If it’s a good event, your mid-race garble will reflect the fact that you’re in your happy place. If the event is a dud, and you’re not the whinging type, you’ll probably mumble something unintelligible, or grunt a bit.

Good, fun trails make for good, fun riding.
Good, fun trails make for good, fun riding.

Chatting with riders who rode the 50km and 90km circuits at Sunday’s Kowalski Classic, it was clear that the Kowen/Sparrow singletrack network had imbued riders of all types with very positive experiences indeed.

In fact, it felt like event crew, Self Propelled Enterprises, had sat down and written a long list of everything they could think of that would make their event one to froth about in a manner akin to a pouring bubble bath into a public fountain. Then they set about making it happen, mountain biker style. With 950 people entered in the second running of the Kowalski, they are obviously onto a winning formula.

We wrote about the development of the massive trail network the Kowalski’s have been building in last year’s story on the event. Their passion for creating fun singletrack was even more evident twelve months on.

This year saw a refinement of the start wave system and an opening uphill fire trail. This eased congestion and put like-minded riders together as they embarked on the day ahead.
This year saw a refinement of the start wave system and an opening uphill fire trail. This eased congestion and put like-minded riders together as they embarked on the day ahead.

Signage was clear, comprehensive and stood out from the pine trees. The distance never disappears as fast as when you’re completely immersed in the trail ahead.

Chase your mate

About 20km into the maze, Flow video man Reiner Schuster, came whooping through the forest behind me. We rode together for a short period and gave each other a quick tow through the trails.

‘They are a beautiful set of calves,’ I found myself yelling at the Samoan Sprint Champion, a clear happiness indicator at this early point in the event. He’s not really Samoan, but it’s a name that has stuck. His calves hold their glowing tan all winter long and produce a solid amount of power when he’s not carrying 20 kilograms of camera gear on his back.

If you appreciate fine calves, cycling is a really good sport to get involved in. Better still is when those calves belong to a friend who makes you laugh out loud as you blast along, leaning and pumping your bike in response to finely crafted dirt ahead.

These moments offer the highpoints of a social ride with little bits of food and drink stashed in the forest along the way. There’s also something addictive about pushing each other to ride better than when you are on your own.

The pace was hot up the front.
The pace was hot up the front.

Mark Tupalski, who finished second overall in the 90km race, revealed a similar sentiment: ‘If you get split up too much and you’re riding by yourself, you can get a bored and loose yourself a bit. But if, like today, you have to think about things a bit, and there are people around all day, it makes it a bit more interesting.

Mark Tupalski: The course is really flowy, but it’s also really chattery. You have to work hard everywhere and really work the trail.'
Mark Tupalski: The course is really flowy, but it’s also really chattery. You have to work hard everywhere and really work the trail.’

Soon enough a gap formed between the Rainman and myself that was widened by the feed zone. And what a feed zone it was. In terms of terms of enhancing riders’ experiences of the event as a whole, and keeping the impetus on fun over finish times, the feed zones were gold.

Bacon. Eggs. Bananas. Jelly Belly jelly beans. A barista, behind a coffee machine, who asked riders what they would like.

Fresh made coffee a the feed zones? And jelly beans, and bacon!?
Fresh made coffee a the feed zones? And jelly beans, and bacon!?

‘This is the best invention since the beginning of ever,’ I said, eyes bigger than a set of 29” wheels. The barista’s reaction implied he’d heard equally extravagant statements from the several hundred riders in front of me, a sure sign that we can expect similar goodness at next year’s event. Why rush through a race when you can sit in the forest and drink art before fanging through the trails again with a thousand of your friends?

Suited Escapades' David Grech (right) won  the Sram XX gripshit random draw prize. 'I'll have to get a new bike now,' he said.
Suited Escapades’ David Grech (right) won the Sram XX gripshit random draw prize. ‘I’ll have to get a new bike now,’ he said.

There was coffee?

There is always a group of riders who do like to finish in a bit of a hurry, and the Kowalski Classic served up the things that they enjoy as well. Equal prize money for men and women saw podium contenders travel from afar hoping to hold the $2000 novelty cheque at the end of the day. Oddly to us, both winners left their novelty cheques behind. Perhaps something to do with catching a plane home or the fact that signee, Des Kowalski, isn’t a real person.

Jodie Willett travelled to the bush capital from Brisbane. She praised the logistical ease of racing in Canberra and was upfront in saying it’s the prize money that attracted other quick women from interstate to the event.

It's not the hilliest course for a race, but it's definitely one of the singletrackiest.
It’s not the hilliest course for a race, but it’s definitely one of the singletrackiest.

‘For the average rider I would highly recommend the Kowalski Classic. It’s a well-marked course and the single trail is amazing. You can be at the back of the pack and still have a great day. But I think for Elite riders, given the choice of races, there really has to be a bit of an incentive to come over. If a race wants a high quality elite field, that’s what they’ve got to offer.’

Physically tired after a win at the Flight Centre Epic a week earlier, and suffering in the Canberra cold, Willett was dropped by the lead girls in the first hour of the event. ‘I just kind of hoped that the legs would come good. In the middle I tend to ride really well, and that’s what happened. I just sort of picked them up one by one.’

Jodie Willett: 'A lot of riders like Tory Thomas (right) and Jo Bennett (left) have now come back. They’ve had kids and now they’re hitting top form again.'
Jodie Willett: ‘A lot of riders like Tory Thomas (right) and Jo Bennett (left) have now come back. They’ve had kids and now they’re hitting top form again.’

The Progressive Coaching Systems coach finished the 90km course in 4:31:30, one minute and 43 seconds ahead of Jo Bennet from Perth and eight minutes in front of Victorian, Jenni King.

‘When I first started racing you could pretty much pick who was going to win. It was, like, “Ah well, she’s going to come first and she’s going to come second.” It’s just the way it was. Whereas now there’s a group of five or six girls who could be on the podium.’

A singletrack heavy course, and a solid depth of field, made it hard to pick a winner in the elite men’s event too. To see local 22 year old, Mark ‘Tupac’ Tupalski, mix it up with the best of them, then fight it out with Jason English all the way to the line, was exciting to say the least.

The hard work of the Kowalskis is evident every where you look.
The hard work of the Kowalskis is evident every where you look.

‘Jase and I got away from the rest of the guys with maybe about 20km to go. On the last couple of climbs, I put a bit of effort in to try and get rid of him before it came down to a sprint.  I didn’t quite manage to – he’s very strong! Coming into the sprint he just pipped me at the end.’ Andy Blair rolled in two minutes further back after a flat.

‘I’ve been working pretty hard lately,’ said Tupalski, who is faster every time he hops on a bike. ‘I do feel a lot better and feel a lot more comfortable chasing those guys now. I’m pretty darn happy!’

Last year the Kowalski travelled to the Royal Hotel at Bungendore. This year, the pub came to the Kowalski. Scotty Preston from The Royal pours a thirsty rider a cold draught.
Last year the Kowalski travelled to the Royal Hotel at Bungendore. This year, the pub came to the Kowalski. Scotty Preston from The Royal pours a thirsty rider a cold beer.

Laughter lines

Riders trickled in over the next few hours and the start/finish area transformed into a social hub. Riders chilled out in inflatable lounges, refuelled on hot pizza and celebrated their efforts with a cold beer from the Bungendore Pub. The good vibes from the feed zone and singletrack earlier in the day continued on through to the presentations.

Post-race chillaxing. Matt Carling and Gaye Camm swap stories after their respective  races in the retro category (for bikes from 2000 or earlier).
Post-race chillaxing. Matt Carling and Gaye Camm swap stories after their respective races in the retro category (for bikes from 2000 or earlier).

That night I caught the sight of my face in the mirror shortly before I went to bed. It had more lines etched into it than normal. Those big ones you get on your cheeks from laughing all day were the most prominent and made deeper by some light sunburn and dehydration; a sure sign of an excellent day outdoors.

Thanks Kowalskis. I had a marvellous day experiencing your trails. Reiner’s beautiful calves and pictures in a mid-race coffee certainly added to my own highs. But what made the event so good overall was seeing so many others transported to their happy place as well.

 

Racing: Wollombi Wild Ride 2013

The small town of Wollombi nestled in the Hunter Valley welcomed mountain bike riders plus their supporters on Saturday 7 September for the 2013 Wollombi Wide Ride.

Wollombi_Wild_Ride_2012-2

Now in its fifth year, this race continues to capture the spirit of mountain bike riding with its unique course through vineyards, farmland, fire trails and a famous historic village. Attracting just under 500 competitors across three distances – the Wild 60 (km), Wild 30 (km) and Wild 15 (km) – the day was spectacular and it was great to see such a diverse range of competitors.

Wollombi_Wild_Ride
Jason English in last year’s event

The Wild 60 division drew the biggest field of the event with some talented riders. Cameron Ivory claimed the overall trophy in a winning time of 2:01:10. Justin Morris placed second not long after in 2:04:34, followed by Simon Ritchie placing third in 2:08:06.

The first lady in this 60km division was Sarah Garland in 2:46: 40. Erica Galea was right behind her in a time of 2:48:37, followed by Deb Moorhouse in third after 2:57:13 on the course.

wwr1

The Wild 30 was close behind in numbers with just over 200 entries. Ty Cerlenizza completed the 30km course in less than an hour – 0:58:49 to claim victory. Luke Nuttall took the silver position in 1:04:12, and Clinton Coker finished third in 1:06:04.

The first female, Nicole Sutton did very well against the boys winning the overall women’s category but also placing ninth overall in a time of 1:13:57. Melissa Cocks finished strong behind her in second place (and 10th overall) in 1:14:29. Belinda Hickson placed third in 1:22:33.

wwr2

The Wild 15 saw an increase in participants from last year and is the ideal event for families, novice and younger riders. Murray Halyburton was the overall winner in a dashing 0:28:26. He was followed just seconds later by Jonah Kinnavong in 0:28:55, with Jason Callaghan in third place with a time of 0:30:16.

The females were very competitive with the overall winner Lynette Alder also placing a credible eight overall. She finished the 15km course in 0:35:18.

In second place (and 11th overall) was Natasha Lee in 0:37:49 and Charissinia Tonks claimed the bronze medal in 0:37:56 (also 12th position overall).

This year’s official event charity was Devil Ark and organisers thanked everyone who helped to fundraise towards this worthy cause of saving Tasmanian Devils from extinction.

This event would not be possible without the continued support of our valued sponsors.  Thanks goes to Ted’s Bike Shop, Merida and Norco Bicycles for their generosity with prizes on race day and offers for race participants.

Thank you also to the staff at the Wollombi Tavern for their hospitality, and for the promotion by our media partners The Newcastle Herald and Carraro Design Management.

We would like to acknowledge owner/operator Peter of Undercliff Winery for providing a magnificent course for riders through his property.

For more information about the event, visit www.wollombiwildride.net

Check many other exciting events hosted by H Events at www.hevents.net

 

Kowalski Classic Entries Closing Soon – Think Quick!

Only 2 days left to enter the Kowalski Classic: Entries close 9pm Friday

The Kowalski Classic features two race distances over the very best trails in East Kowen and Sparrow Hill. Both distances feature a high proportion of singletrack, so get set to rail a monumental amount of corners. This year’s course will take in brand new trails built especially for the race and launched officially on race day.

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

It is a single track marathon like no other.

THE FULL KOWALSKI (Circa 90km) / THE HALF KOWALSKI (50km):

ENTER HERE

LATEST NEWSLETTER

Kowalski Classic 2013 3

Feature: The Bucket List Part 4 – Final Preparations

Mike Kennedy is an ordinary guy doing something extraordinary – he is going to race the BC Bike Race in Canada in just a few short weeks. Mike has been documenting his adventures for Flow and you can catch up with the first 3 parts of his journey here: 1, 2, 3.

Now, with only weeks left until the big day, Mike contemplates what is ahead and if he has done enough to prepare.


Where am I at now?

Over the weekend I was doing what has become my regular training ride. A mashup of a few local trails connected by short sections on the road which, all combined, add up to about 55 km and 1100 metres of climbing. I felt great. It’s not a very technical loop but after the last couple of months where I have gone from one gumby stack to the next. The one thing I’m happy to do is sit back, pedal and keep the rubber side down.

Anyway 55 kms and feeling good. I even felt I could do more, which I guess is handy because this will be my average day during the BC Bike Race. Repeated 7 times…Yikes! To get a feeling for what’s ahead of me here’s a video from the 2012 race and some stats about the 2013 journey.

Day 1- Cumberland
Distance 53.4km
Elev Gain 1200m

Day 2 – Campbell River
Distance 50.7km
Elev Gain 1005m

Day 3- Powell River
Distance 48km
Elev Gain 1070m

Day 4- Earls Cove to Sechelt
Distance 65km
Elev Gain 2110m…This one’s gonna leave a mark!

Day 5 – Sechelt to Langdale
Distance 40km
Elev Gain 1420m

Day 6 – Squamish
Distance 48km
Elev Gain 1660m

Day 7 – Whistler
Distance 26km
Elev Gain 860m

The weekend also marked 4 weeks to go till the start of the race and my riding has become more fitness training than just out and out razzing around with the boys. I still do that too, but I would definitely say that I’m way more conservative as I get closer to the big day.

Time on the bike is all it’s about now. Sometimes fun, sometimes lonely, and sometimes boring.

Avoiding injuries is one thing, but managing them is another thing altogether! Lets just say I have kept my physio gainfully employed. A few silly crashes and the niggly little injuries quickly stack up. We’ve all done it. You are just riding along, somewhere you’ve ridden a million times and splat, ”what the hell just happened?” This has been a recurring theme for me lately. Weekly physio, stretching, and a good supply of anti-inflammatory drugs has helped. I think I’m pretty much back on track.

At the moment I average 5 rides and 150 km per week but still feel I need to do more. Now I know I said I wanted to do all of my training “off road”, which in hindsight was a very idealistic concept. I have mostly stuck to the plan, but with a few injuries, some crappy weather and less and less time, I have come to the realization that time spinning the cranks is better than not training at all.

Enter the stationary trainer. An evil invention clearly designed during the dark ages to dole out punishment and boredom in equal quantities. Sadly we are set to become very well acquainted over the final few weeks. The only upside is that there is zero chance of injuring yourself, unless you count the strange desire to self harm induced by sessions on trainers.

And it’s not only me who needs to get that final bit of preparation done, so too does my bike. Today I took my bike down to my local bike store, Manly Cycles, who along with Specialized Australia have really stepped up to support me and my team mate Mark Wrightson. They’ve all be super in helping me thorough out my race prep & service on the trusty Stumpjumper before I leave for Canada late next week.

With only a few weeks to go you guys know where I’ll be in the meantime. I may be punching out endless kilometres on the evil trainer but my mind will be elsewhere – deep in the lush forests of BC.

There’s still time to have fun with the camera though.

 

 

The Kowalski Classic – Entries Now Open

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

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

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

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

ENTER HERE

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

The Nedbank Sani2c – An Experience More Than A Race

The Nedbank Sani2c stage race is overwhelmingly big for an Aussie. It’s big for a South African too, with some local riders reporting a five year wait to get a entry into the event.

The feed zones are a source of great pride for the communities that host them.

In fact, the largest mountain bike stage race in the world is so big that it is divided into three separate instalments: The Trail, the Adventure and the Race. Flow was at the Trail event – the one that’s about enjoying the journey over chewing the stem.

In each sub-event, up to 750 pairs of riders follow the same 260-odd kilometres of trails, but start a day apart. A total of almost 4500 entrants enjoy breath-taking landscapes, sleeping in sprawling tent villages, huge food halls, and three very different race atmospheres. Every rider receives a 100L tub for transporting their gear between each stage and will be seen wandering around the race village in one of the three warm jackets they received just for entering.

Riders camped between macadamia trees on night two.

Key to the Sani2c’s success is that it’s about giving each and every participant an exceptional experience. In addition to the large scale of the event several other elements add to the spectacle too.

A floating bridge on day one has become something of an icon, although this was upstaged in 2013 by an even larger floating bridge – just before the finish line. The final 800m pedal wound over a lagoon, hit the sand, then moved with the surf. Riders who came in later in the day got the larger tides upping the challenge further still.

The floating bridge on day one had more than a few riders a little nervous.

We joined a crew of 12 passionate riders from Sydney who have come to South Africa to experience the Sani, enjoy some of the other riding the country has to offer and tie in the mountain biking with some much appreciated charity work as well. Keep your eyes on the Flow website and issue #4 of Flow for more in depth stories from this exceptional stage race and the journey that has surrounded it.

Not all riders kept it high and dry accross the lagoon on the way to the final finish line.
Another floating bridge took riders to the final finish line on day three.

Entries for the tenth anniversary of the Sani2c, in 2014, open in August this year. Some extra slots are set aside for international riders and a few special solo slots are available too. Keep an eye on the event website and Facebook page for up to date infomation and start planning an experience of your own!

Event Director, Farmer Glen, took the time to meet almost every competitor as they finished the event.

Andy Blair Makes It A Hatrick and Rowena Fry Dominates

Andy Blair left his rivals in the dust, winning the final Stage of the Ingkerreke Commercial Mountain Bike Enduro in Alice Springs today, cementing his yellow leader’s jersey for the third year in a row; whilst Rowena Fry continued her classy in-form week also taking the win at Stage 7 and sealing her general classification yellow jersey victory.

Andy Blair crosses the line to take the win and overall title.

Stage 7 proved to be one of the best and most enjoyed stages of the five day, seven stage event, showcasing why Alice Springs is the hidden gem for mountain bikers around Australia. The final Stage saw riders take to a 36km fast course with varying terrain of single and 4WD tracks, beginning at the Chifley Alice Springs Resort and finishing at the scenic Telegraph Station reserve.

Blair dominated the week, winning all but two stages to wear the famed yellow jersey for a third year in a row, throughout all Stages. His winning time today of 1:34.45 gives him another time-bonus, to finish the week on top of the general classifications with a cumulative time of 9:44.30; ahead of Swell-Specialized teammate Shaun Lewis in second with 9:46.39, and fast finishing Michael Crosbie in third place just over four minutes behind.

“I came here with a job to do and it’s really great to get a hat-trick!” Blair said.

“When you come to Alice Springs, there’s a lot of things that can go wrong throughout a week of racing, so I was lucky enough to only have 1 flat tyre (Tuesday’s stage) and was able to make up for that and stay in the lead all week.” Added Blair.

The humble winner was wrapped to go one-two with Lewis.

“Shaun has looked after me all week, and it’s been awesome going 1 and 2 together. I was in a good position through the stages, but you can never count your chickens until you cross the line on Friday.” Blair said.

Lewis finished second to Blair on general classification overall, and was also the winner of last nights’ spectacular night race; crossing just 0.04 seconds ahead of Blair.

“I’m stoked by my riding this week. We came here as a team, so to go one-two with Blair who is the stronger rider, I’m really happy to finish second behind him. Hopefully I’ll be back next year too!” Lewis said.

Third place overall, and winner of Stage 3 Michael Crosbie (who rides for Rush Racing), hit the trails of Alice Springs for the first time on Monday and along with being a top contender all week, he was blown away by the diversity of the terrain.

“Firstly, I could not believe how much single track there is up here; and the diversity! You go from rock to sand; there’s little pinch climbs everywhere, awesome little descents; and lots of double track and fire roads that are super clean.” Crosbie said.

“I’m very happy with third overall – I’ll definitely be back again.” Added Crosbie.

In the women’s field, Rowena Fry was all class, and despite being pushed non-stop through the week by Jenny Fay, she managed to win 5 Stages and stay in the yellow on top of the general classification. Fry’s total cumulative time was 10:46.33; Fay took second place overall with 11:12.04, and Alice Springs born Terri Rhodes took third with 11:27.32.

Rowena Fry celebrates her victory.

Fry finished her stellar week simulating ‘plank-man’ over the finish line today winning the final stage in 1:49.50, with Rhodes second in 1:57.25 & Kelly Bartlett taking third place with a time of 1:57.26.

“I’m stocked with the win today and to take out the yellow jersey here in Alice Springs!” Fry exclaimed.

“The trails are absolutely pristine! A fantastic way to finish a ‘top top’ event; and I think all the riders had a blast!” Continued Fry.

“Yesterday was a tough day losing time on the individual time trial, but last nights’ Stage race was crucial for me, and I had a ball mixing it up amongst the guys and riding through mud puddles.” Fry said.

Fry took her hat off to the determined Fay, who despite building some fantastic form through the week, suffered from a mechanical in last nights’ stage, and a flat tyre today.

“Hats off to Jenny Fay; she was absolutely smashing me on the fire roads, and I was hanging on by a thread. I couldn’t wait to get to the single track (my forte) and I was wrapped to really just enjoy the day. It’s been great racing all week with Jenny and I’ve had a blast; I’ll definitely be back again next year.” Fry said.

Stage 7 second place Terri Rhodes grew up in Adelaide, but was born in Alice Springs and was very exciting about her racing all week.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the first stage, the night race and then today’s stage. It’s the single track I really enjoy. I pretty much rode along with a smile on my face – it was a really nice day.” Rhodes said.

“This is my third time in the Enduro; but the first time I felt like I was in good form, so it’s really nice to come back to my home time and go well.” Added Rhodes.

The feeling amongst all riders in the 2013 Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro was that of elation and sense of achievement in an iconic Australian location – the spectacular red centre.

One rider to add some flair to the exciting week of racing was John Groves of Victoria who crossed nearly every finish line doing the ‘plank’ on his bike, and was therefore known amongst riders as the infamous ‘plank man’ (with which Fry simulated).

“It’s my first time to Alice Springs and this stage race is something I’ve wanted to do for a number of years.” Groves said.

“Now that time permits, I’ve made it up here and it couldn’t be much better! I love the loose trails, it makes it more exciting and my favourite stage was today for sure; I was taking in the views and really enjoyed riding along the fun single track and down all the rock faces.” Groves said.

Whilst the pointy end of the field had some fast finishing Stage races, each category also showcased some fierce competition. Michael Brill won the veterans (40-49) age group today, and took out the general classification to finish off a great week of mountain biking.

“The riding through Alice Springs is just amazing; the tracks are just awesome and I’ve had such a great time. I’m absolutely spent, but I’ve loved it.” Brill said.

STAGE SEVEN MEN

  1. Andy Blair                            01:34.45
  2. Shaun Lewis                       01:34.45
  3. Michael Crosbie                01:35.19

STAGE SEVEN WOMEN

  1. Rowena Fry                        01:49.50
  2. Terri Rhodes                      01:57.25
  3. Kelly Bartlett                      01:57.26

OVERALL STANDINGS MEN (Total Cumulative Time –All Stages)

  1. Andy Blair                            9:44.30
  2. Shaun Lewis                       9:46.39
  3. Michael Crosbie                9:51.03

OVERALL STANDINGS WOMEN (Total Cumulative Time –All Stages)

  1. Rowena Fry                        10:46.33
  2. Jenny Fay                            11:12.04
  3. Terri Rhodes                      11:27.32

 

All over, until next year.

Stage 3: Ingkerreke Commercial Mountain Bike Enduro

Rowena Fry makes it three from three so far at Stage 3 of the Ingkerreke Commercial Mountain Bike Enduro – a 49km single track sweetener; whilst Michael Crosbie takes his first win ahead of the Specialized-Swell duo Shaun Lewis and Andy Blair.

Michael Crossbie – On Course

The stage began at Alice Springs Telegraph Station heading out on 4WD tracks before becoming an almost continual trail of single track through some of the region’s best trails, and finishing up at Lasseters Hotel Casino.

At the half way point at the front end of the field, Lewis, Crosbie and Ben Hogarth were fanging hard together on the sweeping single tracks as Andy Blair played catch-up after being stuck with a flat tyre early on in the piece.

Blair said he didn’t panic, but just kept working it. When he came towards the end of the course at the water tower, he could see Crosbie and Lewis just one minute ahead, and was hoping to retain his yellow jersey for the overall lead; which he still holds by 1 minute and 31 seconds.

However it was Crosbie’s fine form which held off the fast finishing Lewis in second place, and Blair taking third, to cross the line first in 2:03.41.

“The plan early on in the race was to see what everyone else was doing. I was riding with my mate Kyle Ward before he had a mechanical at the 30km mark; then there was me Lewis, Hogarth and Blair just behind us.” Crosbie recounts.

“We started to tempo through the single track and Lewis and I got a gap at about the 40km mark and just kept riding away. I was lucky enough at the end to time trial through to the finish and unfortunately Lewis got a flat right near the finish.

“I’m feeling a lot better than yesterday though as I was just finding my legs; and today I was able to open it up a bit so I’m stoked,” Crosbie said.

Swell-Specialized rider Shaun Lewis is making a habit of second place, but was on the defensive today for team-mate Andy Blair due to his flat during the early stages of the race.

“The start was pretty quick with a big bunch all fighting for position. But my team mate (Blair) flatted so from there I took the more defensive role and followed everyone for a while.” Lewis said.

“When Andy wasn’t in the front group, my role is to not push the pace; giving him as much of a chance to get back in the front bunch.

“Crosbie was doing really well and took the lead so I was able to follow him; but I hit a gutter at the end resulting in a flat. But I’m happy we both got up for 2nd and 3rd and Blair retains the yellow.” Added Lewis.

In the women’s field, it was at the halfway point where in-form Rowena Fry was spotted screaming in front and having a great race, sitting 2 minutes ahead of Jenny Fay, before finishing convincingly in her third 1st place of the stage race in a time of 2:19.36.

“It was a great day today, lots and lots of single track, but pretty tough to back up after the Hill Climb and Stage 1 yesterday.” Fry said.

“Today I’m a bit better suited to the conditions on the single track than Fay, and at about a third of the way through I put the hammer down a bit to try and get a bit of a gap; whilst still looking after my legs with tomorrows big stage looming. I just kept working to the finish. It was tough!” Added Fry.

Jenny Fay felt like she chased Fry from the get-go.

“I knew I had to stay up with Row right from the beginning. We rode with each other and fought for position going into the single tracks.” Recounts Fay.

“I got a bit of a jab on one of the rocks and she (Fry) got a bit of a gap; I kept chasing and chasing her. It’s not over until the finish line so I just buried myself and raced to chase her the whole way.

“The course is a lot more technical than yesterday – it’s my nemesis. I’m much better on smoother surfaces. But I’m learning so much already this week as I want to improve technically so this stage race is where I need to be.” Fay said.

Unfortunately Target-Trek rider and yellow jersey contender Jenni King has had to pull out of the stage race due to medical reasons.

Tomorrow sees riders take on the biggest stage of the week, a point to point iconic outback 88km course from remote community Santa Teresa, through to Alice Springs. Riders will traverse a variety of beautiful and rarely accessible desert terrains and is set to test everyone’s legs.

STAGE THREE MEN

  1. Michael Crosbie                2:03.41
  2. Shaun Lewis                       2:04.32
  3. Andrew (Andy) Blair       2:04.51

STAGE THREE WOMEN

  1. Rowena Fry                        2:19.16
  2. Jenny Fay                            2:21.37
  3. Terri Rhodes                      2:30.20

OVERALL STANDINGS MEN (Total Time: Stages 1, 2 & 3)

  1. Andrew (Andy) Blair       3:32.25
  2. Shaun Lewis                       3:33.56
  3. Michael Crosbie                3:34.38

OVERALL STANDINGS WOMEN (Total Time: Stages 1, 2 & 3)

  1. Rowena Fry                        3:59.13
  2. Jenny Fay                            4:02.21
  3. Terri Rhodes                      4:17.36

Stage One A Blast At The Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro

Defending Champion Andy Blair, and six-time National Champion Rowena Fry blast around the 42km Stage 1 of the Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro to take convincing wins in Alice Springs today, 13 May 2013.

Stage 1 winner Andy Blair.

The course was described by Rapid Ascent’s race director John Jacoby as ‘rude, rocky and rough’; and with the wet conditions a far cry from the hot red dust competitors were expecting, it was nothing to stop the 200 riders ready and raring for Stage 1.

The 42km course began from the Chifley Alice Springs Resort under neutral support through town, before popping out on to the western side for the beginning of the single track MTB madness.

It was stage winner Rowena Fry’s first time to Alice Springs, and despite the weather, she had a blast, finishing in 1:39.42 just four seconds ahead of Jenny Fay; with Jenni King taking third place in 1:45.19.

“Being from Tassie, the rain suits me just fine. What an awesome little stage!” Fry said.

“It was a bit of a frantic start with lots of mud and puddles; then Jenny Fay came across to me and we rode together the whole race having a blast! There’s just so much fantastic single track; and short climbs which suits us both.

“There was nothing splitting Jenny and I, but when we came into the velodrome, I was just ahead and felt a little ‘Fabian Cancellara inspiration’ and managed to pinch the win,” continued Fry.

Third placed Jenni King was all praise for Fry, and was happy with her Stage today.

“Fry is always tenacious and loves the single track. I think I rode as well as I can, but I always struggle a bit on the flat open windy bits. But the single track parts I really enjoyed, particularly the rocky parts. All up I’m very happy.” King said.

In the men’s seeded field, it was Andy Blair setting the pace early on taking out the King of the Mountain at Railway Cutting Hill which was the first steep climb of the course.

Blair appeared to have one of the cleanest bikes at the finish line, claiming to have stayed on the front so he didn’t get too much spray as riders roared down the slick and super- fast decent on the other side of Railway Cutting Hill.

Blair edged out rivals Shaun Lewis who took second place, and Ben Mather in third, with a winning time of 1:27.25.

“The wet weather was new to me today as every other year it’s been sunny.” Blair said.

“The course was quite grippy because the sand’s a bit harder in the wet, so it was really fun and you got really fast. There was heaps of single track, it was just awesome,” added Blair.

Returning to some much loved mountain biking, Wade Wallace (cyclingtips.com.au) took on Alice Springs for the first time… in his new category as a ‘veteran’ after celebrating his 40th birthday yesterday.

Wallace took out the veteran male category for Stage 1 in a steaming time of 1:36.37. Knowing his background on the road bike, it’s fair to say Wallace will be one to watch going into tonight’s Stage 2 ANZAC Hill Climb.

“I sussed everyone out in the beginning during the neutral start to work out where I’d fit in. I ended up following one of the Specialized riders and he pushed into the single track.” Wallace said.

“It was perfect conditions, nice and tacky; but with some sharp rocks hitting my pedals, I know now to be more careful for the rest of the week,” laughs Wallace.

STAGE 2, the ANZAC Hill Climb begins at 4:30pm local time (Alice Springs). Results will be posted online and via Rapid Ascent’s Twitter and Facebook accounts this evening.

Tomorrow, Tuesday 14th May, sees riders take on Stage 3, a 49km course starting out on 4WD tracks before becoming an almost continual trail of single track through some of the region’s best trails. The stage begins at Telegraph Station at 9am, before finishing up at Lasseters Hotel Casino from 11am.

STAGE ONE MEN
1. Andrew (Andy) Blair 1:27.25
2. Shaun Lewis 1:28.46
3. Ben Mather 1:28.49

STAGE ONE WOMEN
1. Rowena Fry 1:39.42
2. Jenny Fay 1:39.46
3. Jenni King 1:45.19

OVERALL STANDINGS MEN
1. Andrew (Andy) Blair 1:27.25
2. Shaun Lewis 1:28.46
3. Ben Mather 1:28.49

OVERALL STANDINGS WOMEN
1. Rowena Fry 1:39.42
2. Jenny Fay 1:39.46
3. Jenni King 1:45.19

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.

Swell Specialized Dominate the Convict 100

After eight attempts Swell Specialized rider Shaun Lewis finally broke the hoodoo by taking out the  2013 Convict 100.

Not to be outdone was team mate Jenny Fay, returning to the event as defending champion and fresh from hervictory at the XCM National Champs in Atherton – Fay produced a clinical ride putting 10 minutes on her nearest rivals Naomi Hansen and Imogen Smith.

Jenny Fay crosses the finish in first place.
Winners are grinners. Shawn Lewis celebrates his win.

As an Irish National, Fay could not be crowned as the Australian Marathon
champ but there is little doubt that she is the leading female rider in the
XCM format: “I’m very happy to win the Convict 100 for a second year running
in the elite female category. To top it all off, Andy and Shaun showed great
teamwork to get Shaun on top of the podium in the elite male category.”In a tactical men’s race, Lewis was pushed all the way to the finish line by
24hr hard man and recently crowned XCM National Champ Jason English.

After almost getting dropped by English in the last kilometre of the race, Lewis
got the jump into the final corner and outsprinted English for the win – at
the same time setting a new course record that was held by team mate Andy
Blair in 2012. Blair carrying good form into the event played his part in
the first half of the race but was unlucky when a sidewall tear ended his
race prematurely.

In previous editions of the Convict 100, Lewis’ undoing came early in the
race in the form of the well-known (and much feared) Blue Hill – a steep
graded climb only 10.5km into the race.   Lewis explains: “In the past I
have either been dropped on the climb and never got back in contact, or I’ve
made it over with the leaders but then lost contact after going too deep.
This year I tried something different and went in an early break so that I
could get over the climb in a good position without going too deep.”

At the halfway mark the early break was pulled back and a group of seven
including Lewis, Blair, English, Johnston, Crosbie, Hall and Ward went
through the second feed station in quick succession.  Lewis and Blair hit
the next single track section at the front. Blair explains: “The next
section was the bit I was most looking forward too, you know, the bit with
all the rocky step-ups and gnarly free-ridy descents. It was actually for
this reason that Shaun and I had decided to try out our duallies for the
first time in a marathon, so I was dead keen to have fun. Unfortunately,
sometimes having fun isn’t the smartest thing to do in a race, and in this
case I made a mistake and opened up a sidewall.”

Blair’s unfortunate run-in with the rocky terrain signalled an opportunity
for English who went straight to the front and at the 75km it was English,
Lewis, Johnson and Crosbie left to fight it out for podium positions.

In the end Lewis’ showed the same sprinting form that won him the 2012 Wombat
100 title over Adrian Jackson, saluting the crowd as he took line honours in
the 2013 Convict 100.

Mens podium (L-R) – English, Lewis, Johnston.

Australia’s Toughest MTB Marathon – 17th March 2013

Big Hill Events will be running the 4th Marathon Challenge; which started with the huge Australian Marathon Championships in 2010.

Each year the event has had fantastic reviews, with great marshals and fully stocked European Feed Zones. The course has attracted all different riding abilities from elite riders to local mountain bike riders – all of which have been well respected in the mountain bike community for tackling the toughest mountain bike marathon in Australia.

Regardless of the number of riders, this event has always been run to the highest quality; with Big Hill Events investing time and money into building and maintaining trails, mapping over 90k of course, managing our army of friendly volunteers, setting up the best feed zone stations and offering an event which gave it all back to the riders.

Unfortunately, with such a legendary reputation, the majority of the mountain bike community has been put off by the challenge. Which is why Big Hill Events will be running the last Marathon Challenge of its kind at Avoca on Sunday 17th March 2013, just a week and a half away.

For those riders out there who thought “One day, I’ll tackle the Marathon Challenge” Sunday the 17th will be your last chance.

We’d like to thank all the sponsors who have been on board in the past, including Tourism Victoria, The Pyrenees Shire, Mt Avoca Winery, Blue Pyrenees Winery, Peerick Winery, Ground Effects, Degani Bakeries, Total Rush, Nemisis, Shimano, Sport Recovery, Endura and Fitzroy Revolutions.

We’d also like to thank all our volunteers who have helped out over the years, including a special thanks to the Avoca Primary School, Kyneton 4wd Club, St. Arnaud Motorcycle Club, Ballarat District 4wd Club and the Avoca Golf Club (with their fantastic gourmet burgers).

Most importantly we’d like to thank all the riders who have continuingly supported this event, who have toughened up and taken on the challenge every year.

Big Hill Events will continue to support the area, building and riding trails in the Pyrenees state forest, along with organising the trail running event “Run From The Hills” in November each year.

For 2013, this event will be a celebration of the 4 years spent running the Marathon Challenge; Degani bakeries and Endura are supplying food for the feed zones and Ground Effect clothing are supporting our prize packs. With so much activity in Avoca on at the same time – including the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival – this is set to be a weekend to remember.

The Marathon Challenge – 90k or 45k distances and the 4.5-ish hour Enduro around the vineyard this event is a great day out on the bike for all abilities.

Yet again the event has attracted a great mix of riders, including elite riders Adam Cobain, Warrack Leach, Jessica Douglas, Naomi Hansen and Amity McSwan – All up for the challenge.

Online entries for both the Marathon Challenge and the 4.5-ish Enduro will close on Wednesday the 13th March.

www.bighillevents.com.au

 

Australia's Toughest MTB Marathon – 17th March 2013

Big Hill Events will be running the 4th Marathon Challenge; which started with the huge Australian Marathon Championships in 2010.

Each year the event has had fantastic reviews, with great marshals and fully stocked European Feed Zones. The course has attracted all different riding abilities from elite riders to local mountain bike riders – all of which have been well respected in the mountain bike community for tackling the toughest mountain bike marathon in Australia.

Regardless of the number of riders, this event has always been run to the highest quality; with Big Hill Events investing time and money into building and maintaining trails, mapping over 90k of course, managing our army of friendly volunteers, setting up the best feed zone stations and offering an event which gave it all back to the riders.

Unfortunately, with such a legendary reputation, the majority of the mountain bike community has been put off by the challenge. Which is why Big Hill Events will be running the last Marathon Challenge of its kind at Avoca on Sunday 17th March 2013, just a week and a half away.

For those riders out there who thought “One day, I’ll tackle the Marathon Challenge” Sunday the 17th will be your last chance.

We’d like to thank all the sponsors who have been on board in the past, including Tourism Victoria, The Pyrenees Shire, Mt Avoca Winery, Blue Pyrenees Winery, Peerick Winery, Ground Effects, Degani Bakeries, Total Rush, Nemisis, Shimano, Sport Recovery, Endura and Fitzroy Revolutions.

We’d also like to thank all our volunteers who have helped out over the years, including a special thanks to the Avoca Primary School, Kyneton 4wd Club, St. Arnaud Motorcycle Club, Ballarat District 4wd Club and the Avoca Golf Club (with their fantastic gourmet burgers).

Most importantly we’d like to thank all the riders who have continuingly supported this event, who have toughened up and taken on the challenge every year.

Big Hill Events will continue to support the area, building and riding trails in the Pyrenees state forest, along with organising the trail running event “Run From The Hills” in November each year.

For 2013, this event will be a celebration of the 4 years spent running the Marathon Challenge; Degani bakeries and Endura are supplying food for the feed zones and Ground Effect clothing are supporting our prize packs. With so much activity in Avoca on at the same time – including the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival – this is set to be a weekend to remember.

The Marathon Challenge – 90k or 45k distances and the 4.5-ish hour Enduro around the vineyard this event is a great day out on the bike for all abilities.

Yet again the event has attracted a great mix of riders, including elite riders Adam Cobain, Warrack Leach, Jessica Douglas, Naomi Hansen and Amity McSwan – All up for the challenge.

Online entries for both the Marathon Challenge and the 4.5-ish Enduro will close on Wednesday the 13th March.

www.bighillevents.com.au

 

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.

Some Like It Hot: The JetBlack 24

There’s just something about the Jet Black Sydney 24 Hour that brings out the extreme riding weather. For the last few years (in a different venue) the Jet Black Sydney 24 Hour has had it’s share of torrential rain and scorching heat. Come last weekend, and with over 500 riders ready for anything, it was again heat that would keep everyone honest.

The start of the JetBlack 24 Hour in Sydney. A hot day for some hot (and delirious) racing.

Set in the Botanic Gardens of Mt Annan in Sydney’s South West the riding setup was perfect with a hard packed surface coated in fine dust for a slide, and a drift. Having now been around for a few years the Mt Annan trails have been naturally corrected by racing lines and with pace the little berms and pops reward creative riding.

There’s nothing like 24 long hours to fine tune your skills and groups of stoked riders were spotted beer in hand at one rocky gully roll down to check the fast lines and cheer on their mates.

Lewy Cressy enjoys the sweet trails of Mt Annan.

In true Sydney 24 Hour style as the sun set the beats went up. DJ Nigel Jeffries from Pedal 4 Pierce took time out from racing 24 Hour Pairs with Flow’s Craig Baylis to hit the DJ decks. Heads nodded throughout scattered tents and riders were sent away on laps with banging beats resonating in their heads. Sure beats packing an iPod!

With a crowd this big of course the DJ was going to get the tunes out.

At 24 Hour races day break often heralds more than just a magical sunrise.  With 18 hours of tough riding in the bag you often come across many strange events. Strange enough that’s it’s almost worth the entry fee alone!

One merry solo rider was heard to be loudly debating with himself about the merits of Wallace and Grommit. Another disheveled chap was seen to be dragging his protesting bike over a grassy knoll asking “Is this the quickest way back”. Seeming that he was heading in the complete opposite direction I’d say it was lucky a ranger sorted that one out.

A focused Andrew Hall probably wasn’t as delirious as some poor folk. But with a smile like that maybe he was?

Many riders treat the Sydney 24 Hour as their end of year party. With the jolly season oh ho so close it’s the perfect way to round out a racing year.

For full race results, visit www.rockytrailentertainment.com

Blair’s Marathon World Champs

[SV_VIMEO id=”51663139″]

Andy Blair, Australian Marathon National Champion, recently headed to France to contest the Marathon World Championships.

It’s fair to say that Andy didn’t have quite the race he was dreaming of; his Australian team mate, Jongewaard, was sidelined with broken ribs, the conditions were abysmal and  nothing really went to plan out on course. After rolling in 72nd place, Blairy will be more hungry than ever for next year. [private]

Andy’s form is unquestionably good – the Gu On The Go team (of which he is a member) just won the Scott 24hr overall, with Blair setting the fastest laps of the race. Andy is heading to WA shortly too, to defend his crown at the Cape to Cape, and soon after he’ll be looking to snatch the overall Real Insurance XCM victory from Shaun Lewis at the Highland Fling in NSW.

So grab a cuppa and biscuit and have a listen to how it all went down in the slop of Ornans, France. [/private]

Blair's Marathon World Champs

[SV_VIMEO id=”51663139″]

Andy Blair, Australian Marathon National Champion, recently headed to France to contest the Marathon World Championships.

It’s fair to say that Andy didn’t have quite the race he was dreaming of; his Australian team mate, Jongewaard, was sidelined with broken ribs, the conditions were abysmal and  nothing really went to plan out on course. After rolling in 72nd place, Blairy will be more hungry than ever for next year. [private]

Andy’s form is unquestionably good – the Gu On The Go team (of which he is a member) just won the Scott 24hr overall, with Blair setting the fastest laps of the race. Andy is heading to WA shortly too, to defend his crown at the Cape to Cape, and soon after he’ll be looking to snatch the overall Real Insurance XCM victory from Shaun Lewis at the Highland Fling in NSW.

So grab a cuppa and biscuit and have a listen to how it all went down in the slop of Ornans, France. [/private]