Thursday, March 16, 2017

Rocky Trail kicks at Glenrock

Glenrock was host to the first round of the Grand Prix Series for 2017 over the weekend. Plenty of competition in respective categories with the likes of locals Jason English and Andrew Lloyd present. 
JetBlack MTB Racing was just one of the teams present amongst all the riders, our kit colours toned down this year but you'll still see plenty of flashes of fluro through the trail.

With over twenty riders in the four hour competition is was great to see our junior and pairs riders placing well.

Our solos and teams in the seven hour also went well with solid performances including overall line honours and fastest lap of the day.

Our race was initially marred by a slow start from mid-pack, better self seeding would help next time.  Getting down the singletrack of Glenrock was a pleasure no matter what the pace, but over the first three laps or so it was hard to find some nice open and clear trail.

Once riders were better spaced out it was all froth and whoops, from the organic lines to the man-built obstacles. Every moment a rush, tyres screaming to hold the variety of terrain, our fastest laps were number 3 and 4.

Then the trail pointed up, switchbacking through the trees and past some of the most scenic views from the trail. The pain and agony bites deep as our thumb searches for another gear in an attempt to spin all the way to the top.

On lap seven it was evident there would be room for just one more, one a last effort particularly on the climb out. Once again it was great to race the Grand Prix Series, thanks to our supporters and partners JetBlack MTB Racing with The Odd Spoke, Natural Balance and Rocky Trail Entertainment. Our new Ascent Cycling Enterprises custom built wheels and Mitas tyres handled everything with ease and helped us remain fast throughout.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

2017 Willo Enduro

Leading up to the Willo Enduro we were pretty excited. Over our summer we had managed a trip down to the Southern Highlands and ridden much of the trail with our crew. It had been in near perfect nick, fast, hard-packed and near dry.

Every time we had raced at Wingello previously, wether it was the local club or a larger event, it was always a great event on superb trails. The SHCC 5hr Enduro 2010 RIP WilloSTM Wingello 2011.

With all this in mind we had prepared a dutiful bike. Ok, truthfully there was little preparation, it was the same bike we commuted, chased roadies and trained on. Steel frame, 1x10 and some nice trimmings, a real road-hog.

That said it would have been easy to change out some tyres as the forecast worsened, rain in Sydney and on the coast. But in the spirit of adversity, skilfulness and adventure we stuck to our original bike and plan.

So it was we left rainy Sydney and headed south where the rain eased to patch showers. A left turn to Wingello and follow a small group of cars along the pine-tree lined forestry dirt road to the hub of the action, teaming with hundreds of keen riders.

Turning up for the Willo Enduro is a real who's-who of mountain biking, and the event was included as Round 1 of the National XCM Series. A quick glance at the sign-on board, Cooper, Henderson, McConnell, Blair and Kwan, just to name a few.

But for most it was a chance to catch up with friends, ride some sweet trails in a friendly atmosphere, sharing in the camaraderie that mountain biking brings.

Our race happened in multiple of stages, first there was the start, fast flat fire-trail, making our way close to the front of the pack before we entered the singletrack.

Then it was in this initial single track all our hard work on the start was undone, dropping our chain in a moment when we forgot to be hardtail-smooth.

The trail was slippery, especially now that the 75 and 50km riders were already out in front of us. Now that I dropped my chain, there were those 25km riders that passed me all conga-lined in front too.

On every fire-trail or open trail section we made it passed a few more riders, finding speed in space. We had to make every attempt to keep our bike on the trail, the lack of substantial knobs on our chosen tyres making grip in every corner very difficult.

After the initial stage the trail was littered with tail-end 50 and 75km riders who would graciously give a little room at opportune times. The trail conditions weren't improving but there was a good mixture of trail as we transited through the Wingello forest.

Thankfully the RFS was on hand to point us in the right direction at major intersections, in fact all the volunteers were helpful, from rego to presentations. The RFS helped us transition during the race from the traditional end of the Wingello trails back towards the aptly named the Wall, the KOM for the 75km riders. 

The Wall was followed by another tough ascent, but with the faint sound of tunes pumping from transition all energy was mustered to punch up the pinch and find ourselves on the return trail, making our way through the shelters and onto the final straight.

We were pretty happy to collect a podium spot for our efforts, thank to our supporters and partners JetBlack MTB Racing with The Odd Spoke, Natural Balance and Rocky Trail Entertainment. Our Ascent Cycling Enterprises custom built wheels handled a couple of close calls and helped us remain fast throughout.

You can read "the facts" by Ed McDonald here.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Nambucca Valley CC The Tulk #2

Nambucca Valley Cycling Club have been running a number of twilight races over summer and we were able to get along to one over the weekend. Held on private "MTB lifestyle" property near Kempsey the trail is continually being developed and the 8km of marked trail we rode was fairly flat, fast and flowing. 

While it was fast and flat, there were a number of man-made features, themed sections, natural obstacles and corners to keep the mind busy. Aptly named by some as "The Jellyfish" after it's gently meandering shape as viewed from space, the mostly 1m wide trail cut through bush and farm-scape.

All up the weather was hot, but some wind kept the temperature reasonable and the dust fairly low. We had received a good amount of rain the night before which helped settle the dry conditions. It was still dry and hard packed in most sections, the others just being dry/loose.

Our host, head trail master, landowner and all-round-nice-guy lead us out on the first lap, it was fast for a social race. We hadn't gotten out for a sighting lap, so the perfect person to show us round was the exact person on the front of our little group.

The first short open fire-trail section on the second lap we switched to race tactics to see who I was riding with. We slid to the front and put some higher effort in, pushing to the edge of grip through corners and getting up speed early on the way out.

At first the gap opened little by little, with all the corners it was hard to tell how far big gap was. But after a while and a couple of laps later it seemed we had control of the proceedings. As it went from dusk to night we tried not to drop the pace, keeping the pressure on ourselves to maintain our heart rate and general speed.

In the end we lapped just about everyone and it felt like we had kept a constant pace throughout the three plus hours. It was a small but dedicated crew in attendance, nothing quite like the normal events we go to. A massive shoutout to NVCC for putting it all together and giving me a chance to have fun at a unique location.

Our first outing in the new JetBlack MTB Racing kit with The Odd Spoke, Natural Balance and Rocky Trail Entertainment as partners.

We rode our Pivot 429 Alloy with custom wheels by Ascent Cycling Enterprises and X-Fusion fork from DIYMTB.

Friday, February 3, 2017

WSMTB Summer Series Twilight 4hr Round

We weren't able to make the first round of the series due to another riding engagement but with the calendar clear and the end of our summer holiday period almost over, the twilight round of WSMTB's Summer Series was good to go.

The holiday period had meant we were able to prepare nicely (a visit to Orange for XCO Nats included), with a quick check on Strava for the route and a multitude of visits to familiarise ourselves with the trails.

Of course the summer weather was punching pretty high with plenty on heat during the buildup and on race day, when we arrived at Yellomundee mid afternoon there was little getting away from the scorching conditions.

A few riders mentioned prior to starting that it could be a race of attrition, particularly if the sweltering heat stuck around into the evening, bottles of fluid were neatly packed away in eskies of ice, or in some cases portable fridges.

Riders at the starting line. Photo: CrummyMTB
As the riders launched from the start line dedicated support crews huddled beneath 3x3 shades with cool towels and water sprayers, after a short while all eyes and ears were peeled for the first riders to pass close to transition, signalling the start of the crew duties.

We weren't surprised to see BigDog pass by first, but what did surprises us was the gap to the following riders. A quick fix of some bunting and everyone was back on track, four hours is plenty for the leading teams and solos to battle out the difference.

It was that first hour of racing that hit everyone pretty hard, some riders stopped after those first one or two laps, rightly complaining that it was extremely hot. At this stage it was time for a couple of snappy laps after our team mate had been out on that initial lap.

The course was fast but every breath felt like breathing from a furnace, dry baking the back of your throat. Breath less, ride faster. The usual tough but short Yellomundee climbs were offset with rocky flowing descents.

A quick sub forty minute double and we were back at transition to check on our team mate. The conditions were not favourable and it took our team a while to recover and get back out on the trail. It had only cooled off ever so slightly.

Enough time had passed and it seemed like on our second lap we would be out during the "lights-on" period so we quickly fitted our Ay-Ups, gave the bike a once-over and prepared for our next double lap.

Our team mate had made they way around the track, we placed a cooled towel over their shoulders and leapt on our bike. Down the first descent the bike felt stiff, feeling like it was more than a tyre pressure check. It was quickly obvious that our most junior support crew, still in training, had done their own bike check, locking out the fork.

This second double was quicker than the first and it was pretty good to be out during the twilight. The trail was dry and fast, WSMTB had picked a fairly open climbing course, opting the narrow climb of Steve's Descent instead of the parallel firetrail.

Now was crunch time for our team, head out for another lap with the possibility of it turning dark while our team mate was still out there. This would be their first night ride, some encouragement and support from another rider, and they both headed out lights blazing.

Before long our team mate was back, a quick look at the time and we could head out for one more lap. Lights back on our bike and it was out for a casual night lap to wrap-up the 4hr up for our team.

Thanks to WSMTB for putting on a great 4hr event, it was great to see a wide range of teams and solos out on the trail. We had a helpful crew in transition, supporting multiple solos and keeping an eye on us too, cheers.

We'll see you at the next event!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

National XCO Series Round 1 & 2

Photo: Iona Reynolds
Orange hosted the opening rounds of the MTBA 2017 XCO National Series over the weekend, with all participants facing hot, dry and dusty conditions at Kinross State Forest. The first time National Series hosts put together a couple of short and steep loops, reminiscent of old classic XC loops for both days.

With a number of local Sydney based riders attending, given the chance to race Kinross again and catch up with riders from other areas, we sealed our trip to Orange with the race fees. It was busy at Kinross when we arrived, the Juniors and older Masters were finishing their round 1 race. Rego was a breeze and we were able to watch the start of the Elite Woman.

There were a number of big names in mountain biking in attendance, across many of the categories and riders had come from almost all states to represent. Did that mean that all racing was fast and furious? Thankfully no, there was some breadth albeit just a handful.

Photo: Iona Reynolds
With any XCO racing it was super fast paced, probably something we could work on after all these years of endurance racing. Those who could punch up the climbs had the time wins, but the trails featured numerous great descents plus a number of rough blown-out ones, putting smiles on dials.

A sprint to the first section of singletrack initially sorted the groups out, particularly on Sunday when there were some already heavy legs. Flowing trail took us up to the large rock climb and from there the trail differed for the each round. Saturdays round included the longish quarts-climb, previously used in a Ginja Ninja (2015?). From there we connected up to some firetrail before the epically good North Shore trail back to transition.

On Saturday our pace wasn't super fast and over the four laps we managed to pull a few riders back from our grouping. The older categories were hot on our heel though and the fastest of them caught us and in a couple of cases, just powered away.

Photo: Russ Baker
Sunday's route took us up a few climbs that felt like we had never seen them on previous visits, after turning right at the rock climb we continued to climb for what seemed like forever, some gradual but most of it steep or pinchy. This trail was only completed three times for our category, where as Saturdays was four.

We had a good weekend in Orange and were pretty pleased with our first outing at National XCO level. Bec Henderson and Anna Bec won the womans elite rounds consecutively and Dan McConnell made it all look pretty easy in the elite mens.

They were long hot days in the sun and dust so a big shout-out to our JetBlack MTB Racing team mates and our support crews. See you all at the next event!