A late venue change to Awaba didn’t seem to sway the masses and over two hundred strong descended on the forest park. Rain late the previous night had made everyone worried and race day morning I was extra cautious about entering the bushland carpark. Especially since I had bogged my car there earlier this year at the nationals.
7:30 am. Most people were stuck in the long conga line that is rego but there were still plenty of people milling around the pits chatting and getting ready. The bigger teams had their tents up and the Bernard Riders certainly seemed to be out in force along with their Ashfield Cycles counterparts.
Soon enough it was time , for the start and whilst the riders disappeared down the road, spectators and team mates headed for the entrance to the singletrack. Just who would have the hole shot.
Jon Odams (BikeCulture,Whyte), lead the spearhead with Michal Kafka (Bernard Riders) and the full brunt of the racing field behind. Soon a bottle neck had formed and it was all down to a crawl, slowly one by one every solo rider and team were out on course.
Finding my own bike it was time to hit the trails and grab some worthy snaps (see attached). Heading out into the first section of trail , I was overwhelmed by flash as members of the local photography club took my picture corner after corner. I must get a crew together like this someday.
Second lap Odams was way out in front, it is no secret that he enjoys this track not only shown by his wins here before but by his own volition. Kafka had now been replaced by Ondrej Slezak already looking strong in the 7hr teams category , with the nearest team minutes behind. Wendy Walker eventual winner of the Womens Solo 4hr was really give the blokes a run for their money tearing apart the singletrack section by section she seemed to be fast.The race slowly became a war of attrition with the rain affected trails playing havoc upon riders drivetrains.Some 4hr racers suffering mechanicals just deciding to “pull the pin” rather than push on. Team riders were taking a brush to the chain and re lubing before each lap, it was that muddy.
The wet and sodden trails that prevailed over the first half of the race were replaced with slicker and muddier sections in the second half of the race as the track dried out.
At the end of the four hour most riders were happy for it to be over, with some riders having only really just finished stripping down their rides from the foul weather at the husky 100. Solo 4hr Winner Jon Odams however seemed to be loving every minute of it, claiming on the podium a little later he wished he was still out there.
The 7hr riders continued to go round and round. Racers waiting in transition were overheard saying that the disappearance of the 4hr riders really freed up the track. Leaving plenty of room to punch out nice clean runs and leading that charge was the pairs duo of Slezak and Kafka putting 10 minutes on their nearest competition the fighting duo from Ashfield Cycles Olivier Vallee and Mark Griffin. It may look like Vallee did all the work but after a serious mechanical on Griffins bike, they were both forced to race the remaining laps on the same rig. True never say die spirit.
The day was slowly drawing to a close and the darkness was creeping ever closer as well. The MC Crafty was getting extra excited as the race entered the final hour, teasing those riders who could be forced out onto a extra lap. Glenn King suffered as he stood beer in hand as he came to realise his teammate would be in before the bell. Bernard riders were out in force today so it was only fitting that they would be the last out on track and they cut it fine. The countdown had begun and 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 and James Heron came sprinting over the line just before close to send team mate Matt Sheather out for one last lap. Sealing the win in the masters pairs.
All over it was, time to crack open the beers and hear the stories and riders slowly returned from the field. Mark Tupalski, rode consistently in the solo 7hr to beat Andrew Loyd, after 11 harsh laps he crossed the line.
Michelle Morris took out the solo 7hr in the Womens by a lap, riding at her own pace all day she seemed to take the win with ease a lap up by race end.
Almost dark, podium frivolities ensued before the slow slow walk to the car as the conversations and tales continued. Last obstacle was the fire road out, slick with mud, camry’s do no not do offroad well. A fun day, on some crazy trails, I can’t wait for the next one. See you there!