It has been a long time since a downhill race has been held in the town of Lithgow, in fact the last time there was, was State Champs at the Gun Club back in 2010. On that high note it wasn’t long before things were going downhill fast (no pun intended). Circumstances arose and soon the Lithgow crew found they were without a downhill track to race.
Fast forward two years and there is a new track to race, the “Pony Express” thanks to many volunteers including Flynny, Mal,Skinny, Duke and more. With its predecessors being the previously mentioned Gun Club and State Mine tracks this trail also had a lot to live up to. This also meant very few knew the track and in addition there were many absent racers thanks to a few key overseas jaunts. So just who would be walking away with the win come Sunday.
Friday afternoon and reports of snow were heard on the tv, down to 900meters they said. Instagram pictures showed snow from Oberon, Bathurst and a smattering at Lithgow. If it snowed at Lithgow on Saturday, it would be one crazy race weekend but it didn’t and it was just bloody cold.
In the pits Saturday morning, rain jackets are donned and every spectator is at least wearing two layers. Aboard the bus, the shuttle is short there is no longer a round trip through town. Up top a fire burns to keep the marshal warm but the wind rages none the less. Riders, shiver and huddle before they head off on their first laps of the day.
The Pony Express takes its name in part from the Pony Club where the track exits and I take it ‘express’ refers to the rapid descent to there. Previous, estimates suggest it to be a two minute track but with the calibre of riders present it looks as if it will be easily broken. Don’t take things the wrong way however what the track lacks in time it certainly makes up for in features.
Ok, so after saying that I am going to have to back pedal a bit (gah, second no pun intended), starting of straight the course traverses the ridge line similar in style to Ourimbah (for those of you who have been). A few features are thrown in such as a hip and a rocky off camber through a tree but do not mistake the top section for being slow, throw in a few pedal strokes and the distance is covered with ease and its on to the real good stuff.
Dropping in from high, it’s straight into manicured berms (for now) back and forth until one viciously smooth right hander spits you into a minor up hill, enough to slow your speed before dropping you into the rock garden. For most of the weekend this served as a bus stop for riders before they dropped into the more technical bottom section. On and off rain made conditions difficult but at least the trail was low enough on the ridge that the wind could not touch riders, unluckily however the trail still could.
Whilst a wooden ramp had been put in to essentially erase the drop into the steeps ,the real obstacle lay just beyond. Two trees lined the entrance to the next corner ripe for the clipping of handlebars. Whether it was people trying to carry speed where they perhaps should of been playing it safe or whatever, many a rider were caught out. Not just caught out, they went down hard, Nich Shields decided he would head butt one of the trees to great success and Ricky Boyer tried his best to shoulder barge the other. They weren’t the last to take on the trees and lose this weekend.
Two corners down and further strife could be found. Essentially a two line feature was causing many to go ass over tit, with a tricky inside rock roll over or round the outside which once again brought handlebars too close to trees. Into the final section riders really had to control their rhythm with drops and jumps to negotiate speed had to be fine tuned. A certain drop to hip combo had a few riders visiting the local bushland.
The rain was on and off all day and the track was switching from wet to dry and back again. No one was certain what tomorrow would bring, bruised and sore riders retired for the day , after heading to the workies for shnity.
Race Day Sunday
Awaking to cloud filled skies, the weather looked to have changed little but lucky for all involved spots of blue could be seen. Slow shuttles due to a beaten shuttle road meant most riders only got one or two runs in before racing. However that was enough time for even more crashes to leave their mark. Elite rider Brendan Moon when down at the now infamous two trees spot tumbling down the hill his shoulder popped out and back in, still he rode on. Nich Shields was also spotted back on the hill, his hard hitting crash seemingly having no effect on the big man. Extra bunting was erected but no one could stop the crashes.
Race time. The Under 19′s lost a series leader to Whistler in Brent Smith, this left the field wide open. Well, actually not so much , most knew it would be a showdown between local standout Joel Willis and ex intense gun Andy Crimmins. Other notables included Canberrans Matt McCorkell and Conor “the Bull” Bullard who were looking more than up to speed.
In U17′s Maggs again showed prowess putting a solid 3.92 seconds on Alec Reid and Pat Hancock who were taking their first steps onto the podium this season. Hecklers were out in force in the rock garden, in true lithgow style it was pants optional and showers out of the can. They weren’t the only ones getting involved though as class after class finished, they joined the revelry on the hill. Megaphones, cow bell, vevuzelas and voices rang out long and hard as finals got underway.
Results in Elite Women have been hard to pick this season, so well matched in speed it is hard to put one higher than the other in practice. Michelle Crisp the Coffs Harbour winner was Whistler bound but round one winner Vanessa Thompson was still in with a chance. Would there be third and different winner this round? There was. Sarah Booth took it to both Thompson and Fox (who disobeyed doctors orders just to race) for the win.
Both Willis and Crimmins were hungry for the win, Crimmins seeded well but Willis better, this was his home track after all. More suprising was Liam Towers seeding into first always up there this was his first pole of the season. Bullard sidled into the hot seat but was soon unsettled by Crimmins, little time was spent worrying though with Willis coming down just behind to grasp it from beneath him. A loud “ohhhhh” could be heard from up the track, Towers had gone down the win was Willis’s.
After the stomping Jack Moir handed out at Coffs, he was looking to be up to his winning ways once more laying down a fast seeding but Joey Vejvoda looked like he could easily bridge the gap. Local Cillian “Killer”Kennedy and ACT’s finest were also in the hunt.
Vejvoda came down hard in finals taking almost 4 seconds out of his seeding time, sprinting in the smallest of gaps , in the air as his manic muscling over the bike style. Moir just couldn’t replicate, even going under his own seeding time, I cannot think of a better pair headed for worlds. Vejvoda steals the win, Moir in second, Cory in third and Kennedy in fourth.
Another round over, whilst the juniors head to worlds the state series takes a small break until the next round in Stromlo in a months time. Thanks to all the trail builders and to Rocky Trail for hosting the event. See you there!
You can find all results in pdf format : HERE and be sure to check in with Rocky Trail regularly for all your early bird specials for the next round : http://www.rockytrailentertainment.com
Words & Photos : Robert Conroy
Video thanks to Ty Bowmaker head over and like Captyvate