“Where the bloody hell are ya?” I’m sorry I just paraphrased one of the most annoying television commercials in history but I do have a point so hold on. NSW State cross country has seen a gradual decline in recent years, in fact it has been without a series in sometime and save for a yearly championships the pointy end of racing has fallen a little off the map. Whys that? Well with the emergence of enduro racing in its various multiple hour formats (8,12,24) and the ever popular marathon length races everyday riders have gradually turned away from this short form of racing. There is a perception that State racing is too competitive, a stigma perhaps, well hopefully I can change that view for you.
Headed south from Sydney to the picturesque Southern Highlands is always a thrill, trust me those back country roads are a heap of fun and Range rd certainly brought some meaning to rolling hills.
Sunny skies would hopefully yield some interesting racing at the second round of the series at Fitzroy Falls, a small town where the McGee family have a plot of land and a wicked cross country trail. Built by the McGee brothers it is only open on select race days throughout the year, the rest of the time it’s private property.
Arriving moments before the Elite riders were to take off, I rushed to the line and it wasn’t long before they were off. A smaller than expected Elite field but the level of competition was high with many a familiar face filling the ranks including Andrew Arthur ( Stevens bikes) , Troy Glennan (Rockstar Racing) and at least 90% of the Jet Cycles ( Rob Booker, Kyle Ward and Gary Millburn ) . The Jet Cycles boys were into it straight away with Gary Millburn literally burning rubber as he attempted to sprint away from the others at the get go. It wasn’t long before they had passed through the backyard pumptrack and were in the thick of the tight twisty singletrack.
The Elite Womens field had quite a turnout out compared to the previous round with Megan Stanton, Tanya Moss and Clea O’Brien all in it to win it. The U19′s had a pretty similar look about them with the returned Jayden Ward looking extra edgy, along with Batemans Bay local Jack Lavis and Harry Herne the local club MTB captain all looking to shake things up.
Rushing down amongst the trees, I was able to sample the flowy trails in reverse, ending up finding a spot side by side with up and coming East Coast Media hot shot Dominic Di Pietro. We didn’t have long to wait before the Jet Cycles duo of Ward and Millburn came hammering through the turns having already put a sizeable gap on Andrew Arthur and team mate Rob Booker. In the chase was Glennan with Jack Lavis in U19′s having already over taken the expert field of Hoax racers hot on his heels.
The trails were keeping everyone on their toes, with bits of North Shore esq features littered around the course riders had to keep their eyes open and their senses sharp. However it was not just the man made features that were catching riders out, the trees were tight here and the rock surfaces slippery. Glennan being a tall man crossed the line looking as if he’d tried to elbow every tree along the way, with cuts and scratches littered down his arms.
Stanton led out early gaining a momentum and gap that the rest of the Female Elite field could not match. Indeed she remained out in front for the entire race with Moss and O’Brien unable to bridge the gap. Ella Scanlan Bloor left without any competitors in the U19′s field moved up to race alongside the Elites, whilest she obviously took out the win in U19′s she raced strong and hard to claim what would have been fourth in Elite.
Sources on the finish line later told me, that every lap Ward was in front but on the trails it was a different story.Ward and Millburn traded places with every passing lap, and whilst it was near certain one of them would win, it was impossible to guess which. Millburn dropped away briefly in the middle but by the final lap they were back once more neck and neck.
Rushing once more up to the finish line, I arrived expecting a sprint finish but alas Ward had put in the hard yard in the final lap to cross the line with a one minute advantage on Millburn to claim the win.Andrew Arthur after suffering a mid race slump had mounted a late attack on Rob Booker but even he admitted he didn’t have the legs on the day and was left to settle for fifth when a resurgent Glennan also went on the attack for fourth. Booker held on for third. Jack Lavis was unstoppable in U19′s managing to maintain the gap on second placed Sutherland’s Harrison Wiles for the win. Local Harry Herne fought hard to maintain third a position he will fight to improve in future rounds.
Expert’s was dominated by the “Panther” as he valiantly held off his fellow HOAX club members Tim Bateman, Scott Nolan and the “Captain” for the win. Some friendly yet serious racing from the boys in blue. The more serious racing of the day over it was time for a champagne podium and then it was on with the good times.
Whilst their is a serious element to State racing that falls away slightly in the afternoon when the Juniors , Masters and many more take to the trails. There is always that racing element but it is as much about meeting new people as it is about riding rad trails.
However I don’t think the U13′s got that memo as youngsters Matt Dinham, Riley King and Benny Metcalfe took it to each other over the one lap race. These three certainly already have that racing spirit, with Matt Dinham took the race from Metcalfe and Riley. However crossing the line, collapsed on the ground, there was no gloating, no one up’ing just hand shaking and friendly chit chat.
Rider numbers in other classes seemed to be a bit up and down, buoyed by local rider numbers, so where are you all, why not give state racing a crack.
There seems to be a stigma about this kind of racing but obviously some information has gone very much afoul. State racing is not only family friendly but its a great way to meet riders and if you look at it, its probably easier than any 4hr, 8hr or 12hr you can come across. The trails are short and so are the races, so if time is you issue you’ll be home for afternoon tea with ease. Race entry is ridiculously cheap, and the venues are amazing, so no excuses, where the bloody hell are ya?
Thank you to all those who have helped get this series up and running once more, after years of absence and all the riders who are helping to keep it all going. Thanks to the McGee family for the use of the trails, Cyclenation for the support and the Southern Highlands Cycling Club for their time and devotion.
Words & Photos : Robert Conroy/ The Roost
1. Kyle Ward ( Jet Cycles Racing)
2. Gary Millburn ( Jet Cycles Racing)
3. Rob Booker ( Jet Cycles Racing)
4. Troy Glennan (Rockstar Racing)
5. Andrew Arthur ( Stevens Bikes)
1. Meaghan Stanton (SHCC)
2. Tanya Moss
3. Clea O’Brien
4. Rosemary Stewart
5. Robyn Low
1. Jack Lavis ( CORC)
2. Harrison Wiles (Sutherland)
3. Harry Hearne (SHCC)
4. Tristan Ward ( SCUM)
5. Jayden Ward (WMBC)
Full Results can be found HERE
NEXT ROUND IS AT WSMTB ON THE 21ST OF OCTOBER for all information and links on the series click HERE