After clearing a thick layer of ice from cars and mountain bikes as well as applying as many layers of clothing as was feasible, Round 3 of the SRAM Singletrack Mind Series hit the trails of Stromlo Forest Park in Canberra for a seven hour test of team work and endurance. The hosting club, Canberra Off-road Cyclists (CORC), served up an 11km course that unusually for Stromlo didn’t feature many substantial climbs.
With 350 riders on the start list it was a packed starting grid and a chaotic start as Trek’s Brendan Johnston had a mechanical problem after only a few meters and riders had to swerve to avoid the talented young local. As competitors returned from the opening lap, it was of little surprise to see local riders off the front including Ben Henderson, Shaun Lewis and Dylan Cooper. Normally suited to shorter events, Lewis and Cooper stepped up to the challenge of riding the seven hour event solo, Cooper saying it was a good opportunity to get quality training in for upcoming events. Cooper led the solo men’s category from start to finish winning by a complete lap from Andrew Hall and Ed McDonald.
The Women’s solo race had a surprising twist in the closing hours as third placed Erin Zimmer found her second wind, putting in two 39 minute laps in a row to accelerate her up the leader board into first place, which she held until the seven hours had expired. It was a quality field with less than nine minutes covering all three podium positions.
The pairs categories are generally regarded as being the elite categories and competition was fierce across all four divisions. The local Canberra duo of Gary James and Richard Peil had a slow start but regained momentum to take the the Masters pairs category with the amusingly named teams of ‘Bruce Banner and the Incredible Hulk’ and ‘Beware Hulk Here Comes Horccules’ in second and third. Three very closely matched teams were entered in the women’s pairs, every team finished with 10 laps and only 10 minutes separated all three teams at the end, Gill Lugg and Kirsty Cummin’s team ‘On Safari’ making the best of the 3-way battle. The Men’s pairs were the biggest field of the event with 41 teams, it was also the most star packed with World Cup level riders Ben Henderson and Andrew Blair featuring. Leading the category and leading the event overall from the first lap was Henderson who crossed the line with solo winner Dylan Cooper on his wheel, Henderson with team mate Greg Doerkson defended their lead all day, finishing with a three minute buffer to second place.
The leader board of the Mixed pairs category see-sawed continually throughout the seven hours of racing, a testament to the high quality of the field. After a blinder of a start, ‘Bike Culture Nowra Physiotherapy’ started to slip while the ‘Bike Culture Pups’ did it the hard way starting from ninth position then climbing up to third place but they effectively ran out of time to catch Bree Webb and Jason McAvoy who sat just seven minutes ahead in second. The team of Vanina Vergoz and Gavin Burland also had to work back from a slow start but the ‘City Bike Depot’ combo hit the front from the three hour mark and didn’t look back taking the win by just three minutes.
The CORC club also showing that they have a whole new generation of talented riders coming through as they won the Junior teams category with Hamish Prosser, Cameron Prosser and Toby Stewart taking the win over Wollongong’s Cameron Tavener-Smith, Callum Carson and Connor O’Dwyer.
The category winners shared in over $10,500 worth of cash and prizes from series sponsors SRAM, Avid, Rockshox, Truvativ, Leyzne, Merida, Hammer Nutrition, Muc-Off, Kenda Tyres, Nzo clothing, Mountain Biking Australia magazine, Jimmy Jack wines and Aussie Butt cream. Full results will be posted here.