Rocking up almost late after a near serious time wasting, yet picturesque detour , I headed through the Jet Black flagged gated entrance as the full mass of the field and tent empire looms before me in, well , a field. For 364 days of the year Dargle Farm is a working farm, cattle, paddocks, abandoned moto jumps the lot but for that one other day it is Sydney’s favourite twelve hour. The Jet Black/WSMTB 12hr.
In the realm of multiple hour enduro racing this would have to be up high in the list, it just has that vibe, that every rider craves . Also time wise it is not so long that you are longing to go home but long enough that you have to test your limits. That may not sound fun to you but from go to woe, enjoyment levels never really seem to drop at this one
Whilst the telly the night before hinted at rain, everyone was lucky enough that it was only overcast skies and wind that greeted us at the start of the race. Abandoning the pre race riders meeting, I headed out to a more interesting vantage point, standing just outside of the event centre looking back across it. Even a couple hundred meters away I could hear the start, the countdown and then the distant screams of family members cheering on loved ones. Then it was on.
Sprinting off the front came local elites Troy Glennan and Andrew Arthur searching for first lap honours. Now this may not be the most serious of races but there is still a little something to a strong start perhaps a track record or just plain getting your team out in front early. Hot on their heels were the rest of the racing field, towing one great dust cloud and two world champions.
The trails at Dargle Farm are naturally suited to a endurance event such as this, with its open paddocks, singletrack, natural rock sections it is simple enough for beginners whilst being a solid race track for the regulars with ample passing areas and sections to rest tired legs. Fallen trees knocked out one of the stellar rooty and technical sections of the track from last year, so instead riders were re routed back towards the event centre and towards the pinch climb.
The usual team rivalry between the Bernard Beer riders and Ashfield Cycles had resumed with Project 63 joining in the mix to shake things up once again. However even from the outset you would have to say the Bernard Beer boys had things under wraps with their number one team of Slezak, Kafka, King and Lakeman taking things to another level.
Elsewhere on course the solo riders were taking it to each other, Andrew Hall had led out strong but 24hr World Champion Jason English was fast making his move. Spying a lapping Bernard Rider he hitched a ride drafting Slezak and Kafka respectively. Hall was unable to bridge the gap and the race was made, all English had to do was hold the gap and the lead and then the race would be his.
For Jess Douglas fellow World 24hr Champion (thats right currently they’re both Australian) it was her first time in NSW racing but that did not slow her down one bit, clearly dominating the womens field.
Outside of the heavy hitters the race evolves differently, Neil Thompson has been the photographer at many NSW events before me but most recently he has turned his attention back to the bike. Whilst he may not be the fastest rider out there, he more than gives it a go, progressing from 8hrs solo to 12hrs solo may only be a extra 4 hours but it can be a lot for a everyday rider. When I chatted briefly with Neil later he said all he had set out to do was reach 14 laps, now that didn’t take him to the win but he was satisfied none the less and I can’t wait to see him out on track in the future. By the way Neil races in Super Masters.
Rolling on the BBQ was in full swing as riders refuelled and the weather continued to be uncertain. One minute the sun would shine the next the skies would be black and gray. Jet Black were on hand throughout the day with a full demo fleet of Pivot bikes for racers to try, however getting you hands on one was increasingly difficult with them generally all being out on track.
The rain never came but we were all treated to a rainbow and a magnificent sunset before darkness decended and the race entered its final hours. MC “Crafty” really begins to perk up now and this really is his time to shine. The Bernard Boys had lapped the field and permitted themselves a beer or two but were they getting too cocky. It turns out they were not, easily continuing their lead to the end for the win. The real race was transpiring between the Project 63 riders and Ashfield Cycles as the P63 inched up towards them second by second minute by minute.
It came down to the wire, with starting member Glennan left to bridge the gap on Ashfields Ben Isaksen. Race end. Beers were handed out, smiles showed relief and everyone waited for the final racers out on course to return. After hearing the 4min alert out on course Jess Douglas slowed her pace through the final section to cross the line with ease for the win with 22laps, in front of Liz Smith and Mel Hayes. Whilst the Bernard Riders crossed the line with ease who would come in second? Ben Isaksen go into second but less than a minute after Glennan crossed the line he had nearly closed the gap.
In a stacked mens solo field there was never any doubt, Jason English rolling in for the win with 26 laps, with Andrew Hall a lap down in second. The beers rolled fourth (not for the juniors) and it was time to go home. The only real disapointment from the day being that the wind was to strong to light the bonfire, oh well hopefully next year. (I’m not a pyro)
Races such as these for many are all about the small goals, the long wind up from weekend rides and theres no reason that you can’t give endurance racing a go. Away from the hype, of World Champions and Elite racers its all about a community of riders having a go and having fun. Thanks to Rocky Trail for putting on the event and thanks to Jet Black and Western Sydney for putting back into the community.
For full results head over to Rocky Trail Entertainments website HERE
Words & Photos : Robert Conroy