Lap based Enduro racing has been highly popular in Australia, probably since soon after the first Mont 24 hour race at ‘the old’ Mt Stromlo in 1999. Plenty of stand alone 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 12 and 24 hour events have come and gone. Good ones have stayed – but for the most part they have always been popular with those who want to ride quality trails in a competitive yet low stress setting.
Event promoters Chocolate Foot have this format dialled in the greater Sydney area. Their races use great tracks, and each event is supported by the local club or trail builders. PLenty of prizes are an offer across all the grades and categories – with cash as well for the opens class. That is just the cherry on the top though – the events are well run, and the vibe is good all day.
Sunday 24th June saw the running of the second round of the series, at a positively freezing East Kowen Forest. There were certainly a few remarks about how cold it was, and whether racing near Canberra at this time of the year was sensible.
“Look at what the Euro’s do – they go skiing” said renowned ski bum Tim Bateman (Hoax Racing). “Even Nino Schurter hangs the bike up to ski in winter.”
The size of the starting group showed the growth of solo racing over the past 14 years of lap based Enduro’s – As one rider from each team is required to start, such a big start group was clearly a combination of a large amount of entries, and quite a few solo competitors. Some riders were still wearing leg warmers, others opted for knees only. Shaun Lewis (Rockstar Racing) chose to seemingly empty a whole tube of embrocation on his legs. Other competitors had grown a beard to stay warm – a smart move, but one that needs to be planned well in advance!
The start was fast! A lot of racers dug deep, some made something of it, others just blew up and went home early. Kyle Ward (Jet Racing) managed to get the three fastest laps of the day. As he did four laps in total in a team of three – that’s some quick bicycling. Close racing was developing in most categories, with not too much time between the top Male Pairs, or the Mixed Threes, the Mens Threes, Solo mens, and Masters Solo mens. Give a race seven hours, and you normally get a pretty decisive result.
I was racing in Mens Pairs with Canberra local Liam O’Dea – my ring in to make a Subaru-MarathonMTB.com Team. Our plan was friendly, then fast if appropriate. Having raced together at numerous 12 and 24 hour events in the past, the unspoken motto if things need to get faster is “as fast as possible while remaining friends”. Liam was riding a single speed – as over time that has shown to be faster than gears as he is less likely to have a mechanical problem. This race was no different, and we were happy enough to be bouncing around between 3rd and 4th – but by doing another set of double laps in the afternoon we pushed back into 3rd for when it counts. The big change here was how much fun was had – compared to my last two MTB races I was having fun on the trails, even if the pace wasn’t there.
All categories saw great racing, but it was Jet Racing that took the overall win and won the Mens Threes. Ed MacDonald had another impressive ride to win a closely fought Solo Mens. Jason McAvoy had a great ride for the win in Masters Mens Solo – and he’s about to take that great form to Europe, where he is racing the Trans Alp with his Radical Lights Factory Racing team mate Andrew Hall. The women’s solo field had Liz Smith taking a commanding win, with Janet Martin and Bethany Thompson duking it out for 2nd and 3rd.
Thanks to Chocolate Foot for putting on another great event, and to the Kowalski Brothers Trailworks, who were out doing even more trail work. Plenty of the trails that were used at this race will be in their Kowalski Classic at the end of September. One for the diary I’m sure!