This entry has been provided by Imogen Smith, an accomplished MTB racer, who is sneaking some more racing back into her full time academia.
The first thing I need to say is that, as exciting as it is, the upcoming Rocky Trail Shimano MTB Grand Prix Enduro at Mt Annan is NOT the main reason I’m heading south in the middle of winter. I’m going to Sydney for a week to babysit my mother’s cat while she goes snorkelling in the Solomon Islands.
Not only am I frightfully allergic to cats, I kind of have a few good things going here in Brisbane that would otherwise require my presence. A PhD, a job, and a training program.
I moved to Brisbane about seven years ago now, and I’m not ashamed to say that what’s kept me here is not the climate or the traffic or the vibrant cultural life. It’s the riding. What my mum and Dorothy the cat have failed to understand is that catsitting in Sydney in the first week of July is messing a crucial phase of my training for the Epic, which requires a complex combination of home trainer, road, and MTB sessions.
Always adaptable and committed to the cause, I tried to find a way to get both road and MTB bikes there, got my brother to take a day off work so we could do a long ride together, and contacted some riding buddies and talked to Marathon Man Mike Blewitt about some races. My plans went through several iterations, which included (unsuccessfully) trying to find a demo MTB to race so I could fly the roadie down. All the energy I’ve got left after the planning phase has me really excited about Rocky Trail’s Shimano Enduro, which Mike set me up to race. Phew!
I know nothing about the Mt Annan track except that it’s in the Botanic Gardens and that sounds cool. In my mind’s eye I see myself rolling past interesting specimens from various temperate regions of the world, exotic succulents, tall pines and conifers, perhaps through an immense greenhouse filled with giant carniverous swamp species that snap at my elbows if I slow down. I was a little disappointed when I watched video from last year’s race and discovered that this is not the case. The track looks like most of our Aussie tracks, surrounded by native scrub, rolling over bush rocks and traversing the odd paddock. I haven’t raced in the Sydney area for over six years, but Sydney is where I learnt to ride bikes. The sandstone, the lemony-peppermint smell of the bush. I’m looking forward to it. And the track looks fun. Dusty (my favourite), and flowing, with loads of singletrack. What’s even better is that the event video features a guy with a generic Euro accent. Always a good sign.
Another good sign is that I might have a bit of support there in family form. My family all live in Sydney and Big Bro has taken a recent, corporate-style liking to riding and we go for the odd pedal when I’m visiting. He said he might come and commandeer the pits for me. Infinitely less likely and slightly more exciting is that my Dad might come. As far as I know, in ten years my Dad has NEVER watched me race. Come to think of it, my Father has never even seen me on a bike… For all he knows my cycling career could all be an elaborate ruse.
My Dad’s what they call ‘socially awkward’ (that’s where I get it from), so expecting him to give up his Sunday to stand around and look happy among a crowd of exotically-attired strangers is actually a pretty big ask. And we do ask a lot of our support crews: Driving us there, fixing our bikes, having sticky, grass-covered bottles pegged at their heads, taking photos, packing up and driving home again with a lungful of dust. I hope they know that so often it’s their cheers and the pats on the back that make racing so special for us.
And I am babysitting the cat, after all.