I am never one to look at the forecast before heading off to races. It just seems a little easier to pack the car with those extra jackets and jumpers , prepared for whatever may come. Midway though my drive west over the mountains, I realised I had forgot those essentials and it was just as I reached Katoomba blanketed in fog and light rain. Bummer.
That was it though, descending Mt Victoria the skies returned to being pleasantly overcast and it was on to Rydal. Sneaking in the back way past Lake Lyall and some picturesque countryside I arrived in the one pub town with enough time to quickly grab a coffee and a bacon sandwich before the start.
There were quite a few campers, in fact over half the field were camping according to the race organisers. However, such positive things cannot be said about the nights sleep some had, fractured and on and off sleep could make things more difficult down the line.
It was cool but not cold under the grey skies, perfect weather to race in. At the bottom of the hill they lined up, Gumby on foot teased and joked (yes, you read that right) and then they were off. Running the course in reverse this year meant there was a lot more space and time to sort out the order before the singletrack began. The usual front runners were there Andrew Arthur, Jon Odams, Gumby and more cruised out onto the first lap from a cheering crowd.
Rain would do this course some good. Dusty, blown out and tough the Rydal course had it all, however technical as it was there was nothing that could not be rolled. Centred around one ridge line, the course traverses one side of a main fireroad before coming back on the other.
The first half of the lap involved a long warmup run before heading straight into a set of rollers and a jump. The course then moved through set after set of deceiving corners, with many trees obscuring views just enough that it was easy to misjudge where the exit was.
Riding along it was easy to lose your point of reference as the trail cut back upon itself using as much of the available hillside as possible. In contrast the second half of the lap was not completely different but at the least much more straight forward.
After a quick fireroad breather it was onto a quick steady rock garden before a few up and down berms. The course then opened up a lot more, flowier straights still ended in some abrupt corners but at least there was more of a chance to get back up to speed. The trail finished with a little off camber before returning to the Rydal showground and transition.
This was not a course you could go hell for leather into , a much more respected half boil was the best approach. Energy could easily be eroded on this tight track and a intelligent race, it seemed, would be what would be seen to unfold.
Solos Andrew Hall, Ed McDonald and Aaron Thompson had the right idea for the first few hours casually crusing together, chatting and waiting for the final hours to strike. In the end the results differed ever so slightly from those above, with Ed McDonald able to take the win from Hall and Thompson, Mc Avoy came in for a easy fourth.
Janet Martin, just managed to hold of Kate Heynes in the female solos whilst Susie Lamb cruised in for a third. Around midday fellow solo James Ross went down on the jump, possibly doing in his collarbone. To this day he is the only person I’ve seen who didn’t like the green whistle, for the ambos and those surrounding there were a few funny things said under the green whistle influence but I won’t embarrass James any further. Get better and you will be back on course in no time.
As the afternoon swung round the sun finally came round, no one was disappointed it was time to go out in style. “Yellow sunnies are a bad idea” Di Gbel hit the nail on the head as the white dusty trail glowed in the late sun.
The race rolled on and there were a few retirements and punctures but nothing major, it was time for the home stretch.
Despite being in different categories the battle was on for the overall as per usual between Bike Culture/Whytes Jon Odams and Lukie Dale and Stevens Andrew Arthur, Mitch Codner and Troy Fisher. BC/W had the all out power putting a 5 min lead into the latter in the later stages of the race to gain the overall but it was Mitch Codner who showed them all up when he put down the fastest lap of the day on his final lap of the race in a time of 00:25.46. So I’m not sure who wins the gloating war there.
Spectators and team members cheered the final riders across the line and there was time for a chocolate eating competition before podiums and home. Big thanks to the Central Tablelands MTB Club who helped out on the day as well as looking after all the regular upkeep at Rydal. The coffee van that stayed all day and of course Fi and Joe from Chocolate Foot.
Final race of the series is atAwaba on the 25th of November. CTMBC run twilight races on tuesdays on a smaller track at Rydal, if your in the area give it a go.