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!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Awesome Awaba and JetBlack MTB Racing Team

All good intensions, train, eat, sleep. Reality, work, sick, sleep. And with this level of preparation we headed into the final round of the RT GP. Initially we were disappointed that the location was moved from Mt Annan, only due to travel convenience. But Awaba, well, what can you say about this trail, a favorite of just about everyones, a trail that encourages flow. You know where we'd rather ride...

Finally a great start with limited hold-ups on the first lap for us. The trail has seen some rain and it was tacky in spots. Unusually we come across team mate, Browny, off the rivet on this initial first lap, we're feeling good and hammer up Camelback Climb (my fastest ever - Strava) but don't see Browny again.

It is on our second lap flyer we drop a water bottle after Camelback on a fast flat section, we silently curse our poor bottle handling and mentally note its location as to pick it up next lap. Thankfully it wasn't to far to transition, and we picked the near empty bottle up on the next lap.

Again it is a race where we are swapping places (for four hours at least) with 7hr team of two, Max and Charlie. Max would warp-speed his SS past us then, on the next lap, we'd come across Charlie as she was having a ball on a sweet section of trail.

We also spent some time with our JetBlack MTB Racing team mates, like Jason Hewitt, a man on a solo endurance mission. Jason has been making his mark at the top end of the 7hr solo for a couple of years. Can't forget our other team champion Dalene Pretorius, again a 7hr solo, who every time we passed her had a big smile.

Back in our race we catch up with Morgs from Shimano and once again we figure we're riding a little fast for our current fitness level. Morgs was going at a good pace so we hung out with him for a couple of laps. It was on the second last time up Camelback after leading Morgs for the lap we knew the pace had been to hot and we motioned to Morgs that this was it for us. 

Transitioning to what would probably be our last lap our team mates passed on info the team mate Kurt, also a 4hr solo rider, who had gotten away from us on the initial laps, was jus 30 seconds ahead. It was tempting to rush into the single track and chase Kurt but we didn't get carried away, catching Kurt in the first quarter of the lap. Kurt looks like he might be hurting, testing him we don't ease up as we pass but Kurt doesn't tag on the back of my wheel.

Reaching Camelback another of our team mates has caught us though, it was one of Browny’s team of 3 partners in crime, Shad. It was going to be a fair effort to climb Camelback and we tell Shad to take the lead, of which he declines. Ouch! No it was more than that it was double ouch this time.

Thankfully from the top of Camelback it seems like the trail is just about all down hill. Shad is yo-yoing off our back wheel as we make the final kilometers back to transition. As we get closer we hear the PA is alive with race updates, seems like the 4hr race has just finished. We have time to zip up our JetBlack MTB Racing jersey and be the first 4hr #rockytrailracer across the line.

It has been a great series in 2016, I've especially enjoyed the company I've been able to keep on trail. There has also been such a diversity of trails too, epic hills of the Glenrock region to the speed of Singleton. With Awaba being the final jewel in the GP Series crown.

Thanks to JetBlack MTB Racing and all our supporters for making this series of events as smooth as it has been. We'll see you at the next event!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Happy Trails at Ourimbah

We were super keen to return to Ourimbah in 2016 for another round of Rocky Trail's Shimano Grand Prix. The 2015 event had seen our good effort rewarded with a No.1 on the podium and I was frothing to do it again.

Being part of the JetBlack MTB Racing team is incredibly motivating and from the start whistle I could see team mates up ahead, team mates I wanted to follow into the single-track. I slipped onto the back wheel of Grant Shaw for the starting portion of trail, Grant was riding in a fast team of three for the 7hr and was a good wheel to follow.

It was incredibly cold, southerly winds had brought snow chilled air to many parts of NSW and Ourimbah it was no exception. Had our Gound Effect jacket on as not to freeze.

Keeping warm. Photo: Outer Image
Grant had worked hard on the initial section of the lap and he eased up over a climb. We took this moment to pass Grant, setting about to catch the next group in front. In this next section of single track we came across an unusual event, all-round shredder Kramer having an issue on a short down-hill section.

It was during the first couple of laps we were surprised to catch a couple of seasoned endurance riders, which gave the inkling someone was riding to hard. But it was so fun to ride at this pace we just pushed on, crossing our fingers it was sustainable for the 4hrs.

On the rivet. Outer Image
Ourimbah is a trail-riders dream, sweeping and short punchy climbs followed by fun rough descents, many of which seem un-proportionally long. It is rocky in sections, loamy in others, Ourimbah is a bonanza of mountain biking goodness.

When team mate Tom Morwood came whooping up behind us, our spirits lifted, just as there was a feeling of some fatigue. A few friendly words really helps out when all focus is on tearing up the trail. The same went for team mate Simon Ballard some time later, except this time all our biscuits were spent and we were about to start digging. It is so hard to see your team ride away at the pace you want to be going.

Working hard to maintain position. Photo: Outer Image
Another successful event run by Rocky Trail, no gripes here, everyone was super polite and there was plenty of rush and two-wheeled drift for an endurance event. We finished 4th, our best GP result this year. Thanks to JetBlack MTB Racing team for the friendly atmosphere, on-trail support and transition expertise. We have awesome sponsors, check them out! The team was well represented across all categories and delivered some top results on the day. You'll see us at the final Grand Prix if not before!

Friday, May 13, 2016

A balance of Stromlo

Returning to Stromlo to race always brings some pre-race nerves, we have been racing at Stromlo since 2007, when we had our first go at a 24hr solo. We were returning this time for round three of Rocky Trail Entertainment's 2016 Grand Prix Series after round one at Glenrock and round two at Singleton.

Nerves were good though, we had sufficient experience to handle any trails and conditions that would be thrown at us. Goals had been set and our energies would be focused on those achievements.

It was super busy in location with not just the GP but a massive junior road event on too. Our JetBlack MTB Racing team were once again in mass attendance excited to get out on the trails.

Thankfully Rocky Trail set a good length starting run before we set into the singletrack on the first lap, we tacked onto the back wheel of one of our youngest team mates, keen to set some fast laps early and knock over some goals. Through the next few laps there was some trading of places as we all settled in to race pace.

We were super happy with the selection of trails, a gradual single track climb into the steeper fire-trail climb, descent into Luge, crossing over to a gradual climb punctuated with technical rock sections. From the top it was pretty much a loose downhill run back to transition. We felt it was a good balance of climbing and descending, we were having fun without to much effort.

With a good start and flowing trail we were ticking our achievements off for this round as we headed into the second half of the four hours. We have been very happy with the change to XT 11 speed this year, set to a 30t Hope N/W cog we've got the perfect ratio for style of events we are riding at the moment.

There was some surprise when we found ourselves on the back wheel of a leading 7hr solo JetBlack rider, Jason. Our other 4hr team mates, Tim and Kurt, had dropped back some. It was a good feeling knowing in this instance we were back with this sort of pace.

Turns out the 30-39 category was the most competitive again in the 4hr, with the likes of Jason English, Dillon Cooper and Andy Blair taking the top three spots. Very happy to place 6th to those guys.

Great work by Rocky Trail Entertainment, delivering a versatile course. Thanks to JetBlack MTB Racing team for the friendly atmosphere, on-trail support and transition expertise. The team was well represented across all categories and delivered some top results too. You'll see us at the next Grand Prix if not before!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

NSW Junior Series - Round 1

Sixty riders entered the NSW Junior Series on the weekend, this first round was hosted by Western Sydney Mountain Bike Club at their home trail Yellomundee. While the conditions were dry there was some nervous anticipation as dark clouds hovered overhead.

Local riders were joined by mountain bikers from across Sydney and further afield. It was great to have representatives from the Central Coast and Singleton to the Southern Highlands and Wollongong, Manly to Lithgow.

After the race both parents and junior riders said they would check out the other Junior Series rounds, for some this had been their first mountain bike event. Other riders couldn't commit time to travel to the furthest afield rounds due to their senior year of study and HSC.

A number of riders did a double race as there was under 10's before the NSW Junior Series and senior racing afterwards. Massive kudos to those under 10's for following it up with the Junior Series and the dedicated few who took on the senior event.

Great work by WSMTB, their committee and volunteers. The Yarramundee RFS put on a BBQ fundraiser and all the riders who came along made it a successful morning.