Sorry for the delay getting this race review out, people….work had me on an international flight 36hrs after the race and I was without a laptop for the trip. Anyhoo…better late than never, so here we go…
I was lucky to even get to Buller in the first place. Family comes first. Our talented niece, Claire (aka Night Owl Sings), had secured her first official public gig…travelling from her quiet Tassie home to noisy old Melbourne for it! There was no way Marcelle and Gus were going to entertain the idea of a trip to Mt Buller while one of our own was on show. Fair enough too…I was happy to be outranked and was disappointed to miss the show. For the record, she did an amazing job and the crowd loved her. A promising start 🙂
Click the image below for a taste of what you missed too 🙂
So, now without transport I was in a jam. Enter stage-left, Marissa (aka Life Elements…aka Fit To Travel ), stepping in with a cheerful “I can take you to Buller. Sounds like fun.” As you would expect, I was pretty taken back by the offer….it’s no small thing to drive someone around for 7 hours and donate your entire weekend. After offering her dozens of rejected exit-clause opportunities it was clear we were locked in. Legend.
Tying the whole thing off was a very generous offer of accommodation (massive thanks, Lex) for myself, Marissa and her new +1, Grant. This awesome ski lodge was located a mere 2 minutes walk from the Bike Buller event hub and left us gob-smacked on a daily basis with breathtaking views.
With my horse (2011 Giant Anthem X2) freshly sorted out after the recent Mountain Raid thrashing, there was really no excuses for race performance except conditioning and general ability (or lack of, depending on the task at hand). I took this gig on to sample the taste of 50km of XC racing….a litmus test for April’s 100km Giant Odessey.
RACE 1 | SCHWALBE STIRLING CIRCUIT 50KM
I clearly missed too many school buses as a kid because I was revisited by more (cue: adrenaline spike) “You’ve slept in and missed the start, idiot!!” dream sequences. Seems to have become a regular pre-race tic…fan-f^cking-tastic. Sleep is over-rated anyway, isn’t it?
So after rising from my pseudo-sleep and bidding a good morning to the spectacular skyline, I sorted my kit out and headed to the start line. Unable to quit staring at the endless supply of high-end machinery on display, I wheeled my humble horse to the start chute…settling into a spot pretty much in the middle of the field (otherwise referred to as Mistake #1).
I’m not going to bore you with a blow-by-blow analysis of the race, but here’s a few “moments” for you…
Mistake #1 If you’re a bit new to the game, sit in the tail of the field in the start chute…it’s far more pleasurable passing riders as you settle into a pace and find room than it is to hear “Track!” every f^cking nanosecond. To make it worse, every time I sidelined the horse it it was not one, but multiples that would scoot by…such is the nature of dumping hundreds of bikes onto single track.
Mistake #2 Closely related to Mistake #1. When you’re not getting “Track!” barked at you, the sound of riders in close proximity to your rear wheel creates an evil witch’s brew of three parts pressure, two parts competitive streak and four parts lactic acid…gassing you out and forcing a pace that you know cannot be sustained…’cause you’re a newby. I’ll say it again people, I believe there is indeed merit in the idea of making riders stop periodically to complete such tasks as 30x 60kg squat cleans, 100x chin-ups or some other activity I happen to like. Yeah.
Mistake #3 Writing technical cheques neither I nor my horse could cash. Although I do embrace the fact “if you don’t fall off you’re not trying hard enough”, I was diving more than a European footballer. By the half way mark it was almost vanilla. I was lucky to escape relatively unharmed though and saw plenty of others who weren’t quite so fortunate…one guy breaking his fall with his face, at speed (he looked bloody hardcore the next day though)…and another walking his bike with one arm in a sling serve as good examples.
Highlight #1 Finding a rhythm and settling into a pace….even though it may have taken forever to get there, it was nice.
Highlight #2 Passing more people as the day went on. OK, some may have been sidelined with mechanicals, but it serves them right for riding such flighty thoroughbreds. Ironically, it was the hardest climb of the day where I pulled the most in. A cramp-free 5km grind up a bitching hill, accumulating 400m of elevation…hello, Mt Stirling.
Highlight #3 Actually feeling quick on some single track sections down the other side. A big grin, a few woo-hoo’s and some more overtakes. The odd reassuring glance to my Suunot Ambit2, watching the numbers creep ever closer to that 50km mark!
Highlight #4 The chairlift ride to the final downhill section before hitting the finish line. Rest for the legs, some casual conversation with the guy sharing the chair and knowing the hard stuff was over. The beer was palpable.
This was a race through the best MTB country I have experienced….the weather was perfect, tracks really were awesome (despite the pain) and the scenery was something special. Finishing at 4:31 I know I’ll be back next year to make a better job of it…equipped with lessons learnt and (hopefully) a slightly better skill set under my belt.
The rest of the afternoon was spent around food, drink and friends before sorting out the next day’s gear in time to see the stupendous FLOW pump track showdown. Competing in a knockout series for the princely sum of 100 Australian pesos, riders were required to complete two laps with only one revolution of the cranks. Very cool. Totally skilled. Check it out…
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RACE 2 | MAVIC CROSSMAX DOWNHILL ENDURO
I’ll admit the thought of riding a 7.5km downhill course with -300m of elevation as many times as possible in 4hrs PLUS a ski-lift ride to the top after each run sounded like the best way to spend another day in the mountains.
All riders were required to complete a minimum of three runs to have their fastest time count for the overall Premier Division scores.
After my second run, my opinions had shifted somewhat. I was clearly trying hard because I was coming off, my back teeth had almost shaken loose and my upper appendages felt like they had been violently assaulted. This shit was no walk in the park.
….and a tip of the hat to those crazy cats that would FLY past like I was going backwards.
While my spills only totalled two on this fine day, I came close to a third one that would have seen me in hospital. My fourth and final run through the last section where I had started to really learn the lay of the land and was not lacking in confidence. Then my ‘ability cheque’ bounced again as I ran wide on a cresting jump, diving the front end. I have no idea how the bike didn’t cartwheel onto my face but the moment demanded a loud, “Faaaarrrrk!”….closely followed by a louder “Woo-hoo!”. Even the guy behind me added to the chorus line.
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Once I managed to un-pucker my arse from the seat, it was back onto the chair lift for some contemplation. Another run? Yes/No? Making mental calculations of an ETA home, I had already decided to withdraw from Race 3 | Cornhill Cranker 22km…it was just not realistic to consider racing Monday knowing I was on an overseas flight the next morning.
Fate decided it. Travelling in the opposite direction on the same lift line was my ride 🙂 As Marissa and Grant passed by mid-way on the chairlift it was unanimous…”See you at the top”. Home time.
An hour later we were stacked, packed and mobile….meeting Marcelle back in Melbourne just in time to spend some much needed hang-out time together over a few quiet drinks before the last of the Sunday sunshine was lost. Not a bad way to finish up, yeah?
Once again a special mention must go to Rapid Ascent for putting on an awesome weekend of first class MTB action. While it was my first crack at this one, I had the chance to speak with dozens of others who were past combatants of the Bike Buller MTB Festival….all shouting praise for the event and the people around it.
If you’re on the hunt for more of the same, get off your arse and register for the Giant Odyssey. With distances ranging from 15km to the epic 100km enduro there’s no excuse not to get in amongst it.
On your bike then!