Emma Rhymer | Granite Belt Grunt and Grind Festival Enduro 2021
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Granite Belt Grunt and Grind Festival Enduro 2021

On Saturday May 29, I took part in the inaugural Granite Belt Grunt n Grind Festival enduro on Mt Marlay. As Stanthorpe’s first mountain bike race, and my very first enduro, this was an exciting day for me. I may never have ridden an enduro before, but I certainly wasn’t going to miss out on this one!
From the very start, it felt more like a weekend of riding with mates than a race weekend. I broke all my pre-race routines: I didn’t carb load, I didn’t taper and, with friends staying for the weekend, I even drank wine the night before a race! On Saturday I fuelled up on porridge and coffee (quite a lot of coffee, actually), found a bag of Allens red frogs and made up two bottles of Infinit. How on Earth was I supposed to fuel for an enduro race? I had no idea, but I knew I liked red frogs!

Arriving at the trails early, I spent a few hours getting in some much-needed practice runs with Allegra Mcgrory, Jon Willis, Kate Craft and Phillip Craft. As we stood there comparing lines and discussing tactics, it still felt much more like riding with mates than racing. This feeling was only reinforced when Naomi Willis offered to shuttle us up and down Mt Marlay – and with pinches of up to 24% it was an offer we all happily accepted! It was great to meet so many people enjoying my local trails for the first time, and particularly to see Jon’s huge smile after his first run down Tankslapper!

Unlike XC-type races, there was no official starting line and, as such, I didn’t experience my usual pre-race adrenalin kick. Instead, I simply rode off to the start of the easy green run after the riders’ briefing. This was a very new way of racing for me! I had no experience to base my race tactics upon, but it seemed logical to complete the pedalliest runs first, then focus on the flowier black downhill trails. I enjoyed the novelty of racing hard for a few minutes, stopping to catch my breath, chatting to the other riders, and then slowly riding (or walking) back up the hill. My biggest dilemma was trying to work out how to pace myself on the runs, until I belatedly realised that “flat out” is the only pace in enduro.

I made a few minor stuff ups during the day and struggled with a couple of uphill pinches over rocks (damn it), but Chris Maierhofer assured me that these wouldn’t make much of a difference to my run times. Hundredths of a second count in the EWS, apparently, but not so much at my level.  Most importantly, however, I followed John Pinnell ‘s sage advice of “eyes up, wheels down” throughout the afternoon – and any day without crashing is a good day for me! Now I just need to work on getting faster and making it up those techy rocky pinches.

Having not checked my run times all day, I was surprised and absolutely stoked to finish 2nd in my age category behind Kate Craft, and to be pushed the whole way by the amazing Allegra Mcgrory in 3rd place. I suspect a little bit of local knowledge may have helped me! My favourite memories of the day, however, were seeing so many local kids enjoying themselves in their very first race: they were absolutely smashing it! Hearing numerous positive comments about the Mt Marlay trails was also extremely gratifying, especially when they were repeatedly likened to a small-scale Derby.

I have been warned that the enduro bug is highly contagious and I now suspect this is very true. I’m certainly keen to ride some more enduro races when I can – although I still maintain it felt much more like a really good day of riding with mates than it did ‘racing’. Of course, it helps when you have great mates to ride with!

A massive shout out to On the Edge Events and the Bonney family for seeing the potential of Mt Marlay, taking a gamble and organising this event, as well as to Southern Downs Mountain Bike Club for their support of the Granite Belt Grunt n Grind Festival. My heartfelt thanks also go to Dylan Rhymer who encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and give enduro racing a try, to my Scott Spark for thriving on all I put it through, and to iRidebikes in Toowoomba for their ongoing support of me and my bikes.
I can’t wait for the next one!

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