17 Nov Mt Crosby 4hr
There haven’t been a lot of races this year, but Sunday’s Shimano MTB GP 4hr is certainly one race I’ll remember!
My practice lap in the rain on Saturday was definitely a bit of an eye opener. I would find this course challenging in any condition, but in the wet it was even more so: the rocky climbs, steep climbs, wet logs, and wet roots had me a little nervous. Some of the new sections were also thick red clay that stuck to my tyres and took away any pretense of speed. Rocky Trail Entertainment confidently assured us the weather looked good for Sunday morning, however, and that the trails would drain well. I was skeptical on both counts but decided that Sunday’s race would be the perfect opportunity to practice riding wet trails; not something there’s much opportunity for in South East Queensland. And mud is fun, right?
Much to my surprise, however, I awoke to blue skies on Sunday and the trails had indeed dried out brilliantly. The logs were a different story though, turning from simply wet to slimy, slippery wet overnight – and I crashed twice on the very first log obstacle in my warmup lap. Hitting the ground quite hard, my confidence was dented and my nerves increased.I decided that “risk vs reward” was not in my favour and that the sensible option was to swallow my pride and walk that particular log. I’d ridden it yesterday in the rain, but today it had me spooked.
Lining up at the start shortly afterwards, the familiar feeling of pre-race adrenaline kicked in and, despite my nerves, I couldn’t help smiling. I placed myself well back in the packas I knew I’d blow up if I went out too quickly – this race was going to be all about pacing!My nerves calmedduring the first lap and I enjoyed the feeling of camaraderie with the other riders out on track. I surreptitiously noticed I wasn’t the only one walking the first log, and my confidence grew as I managed the other logs on course without incident.
Lap 2 was my “planning lap.” Feeling stronger now, I worked out how many laps I thought I could manage in the time allowed: I hoped for 7 and was confident I could manage 6.“You’ve got this”, I told myself, and settled in for a morning of pedaling uphill and staying focused downhill. On lap 3 those plans went out the window, however, when my bike stopped changing gears and the chain kept dropping off the back ring and jamming. I had no choice but to get off and start walking. Sigh. Three riders caught up to me and each offered assistance but I waved them on, not wanting my mechanical to affect someone else’s time.
Almost immediately afterwards a young, fast rider screeched to a haltnext to me and refused to leave without helping. He couldn’t solve my gearing issues but got the chain to stay on and assured me I should be ok as long as I didn’t use first gear. Just knowing how best to manage the situation was incredibly reassuring and I was able to ride back to pit lane. Without first, the hills hurt – but not as much as walking would have! Kenmore Cycles were offering trackside assistance during the race and worked hard to quickly rectify the damage my earlier crash had caused.Huge thanks to both Kenmore Cycles and Caleb Dodds, who turned out to be the mystery rider that gave assistance.
Lap 4 was all about the joy of having first gear again: the climbs still weren’t easy, but they were definitely easier than lap 3! After the delays of the previous lap, I realized that my goal of 7 laps was unlikely. I swallowed my disappointment and refocused to try and finish 6 laps in a time as close to 4 hours as possible. Lap 5 was delightfully uneventful, but two obstacles on course continued to elude me – that first darned log, and a tricky (for me) little root section where I needed a foot down every time. The root section now had a well-carved “B line” next to it, however, so I knew I wasn’t the only one having issues there!
As I headed out on lap 6, threatening clouds were gathering, the wind was picking up and the temperature was falling rapidly. The forecast thunderstorm was about to hit. As the skies darkened, I pushed hard to get around my lap but struggled to see through my sunglasses in the dark, misjudged a soft edge on a corner and lost the front wheel. No sooner had I righted myself than the rain began in earnest, pelting down and bringing some welcome relief from the earlier humidity. Hail followed shortly afterwards, however, stinging my shoulders and pinging off my helmet. Thank goodness for the protection offered by my Camelbak! I conducted a quick risk analysis under swaying trees and to the soundtrack of loud thunder cracks overhead. Conclusion: just get back!! The hail didn’t last long, but the steep tracks quickly turned to rivers and my glasses were fogged up and mud splattered. Trying to clean them on my shirt was totally ineffective, and I would best describe the rest of that lap as “riding by braille”. It was NOT my fastest lap, but it certainly was an adventure!
Seeing Dylan cheering me on at the finish was a welcome relief, and I enjoyed sharing storm stories and a laugh with the other riders. I was pleased to meet my goal of 6 laps and encouraged to realise that I would have likely made 7 laps without my mechanical on lap 3. I also turned out to be the only female participant in my age category, so managed to take home a medal despite my misadventures during the race. Now I just have fingers crossed for a couple of weeks of good health and solid training before the Shimano MTB GP on the Sunshine Coast. Rocky Trail Entertainment certainly know how to host a memorable race, so here’s hoping there’s a bigger field at this event!
As always, I have a fantastic support crew around me and I’m appreciative of all they do. Big thanks, as always, to Dylan Rhymer for his help at races and at home so I can pursue my mountain biking midlife crisis. Thank you also to iRidebikes for their continued support and advice, and to Jess Douglass for her training plans and race advice. This race a special mention also goes to my beloved Scott Spark – this was my first race mechanical and, believe me, I really do put my poor bikes through a lot!