Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Jet Black 24hr 14-15 Feb 2009

As I begin this report, I am struck by two scary themes,
1.) this is the second ride report in 2 months where I question the suitability of the name “Wise”man’s Ferry
2.) This ride was so wet and muddy it actually became easier to ride up the water courses flowing down the middle of the track than to try and find a line that didn’t leave your rear mech dragging in 6 inches of mud.
In the lead up to the race, we were praying for the Weather forecast at Google to change, for this cloud to clear, but alas the only thing become clear was that this race would be test of man and machine not likely to be matched for a very long time.

Starting off for Team TORC was Mark who set a hot lap around the 8km track of 26 minutes, with Peter, Mike and Greg following all with sub 30 laps. After a couple of hours we were into 4th position in the Open Men’s 4’s with Tim Kerle’s and his team leading our category. The other interesting action was taking place on the river (ie. the Hawkesbury River not the river we were attempting to ride through every 30 minutes). The 08/09 Water Ski Racing World Selection Trials were on and what a sight (and sound) to see these boats rushing by with humans in tow at around 70 miles per hour. Mountain biking in these conditions certainly makes you want to take up Water skiing.
By late afternoon the rain was getting heavier and the track was working its way into a lovely thick oozing consistency.

A word on the track. Ahh ….yes….. well…. it has potential I suppose, but being the type who calls a spade a useful implement, it’s hard to see what the designers were thinking when they put this torture test together. Apparently the brief was as follows “Make the climb impossibly steep and rocky then add water to achieve complete destruction of 300 mountain bikes”.

Despite the obvious challenge, riding through the wet bush was at times fun and at other times hair raising especially when attempting to negotiate a wet slippery downhill rock garden...oh and did I mention the slight brake problem that began raising its ugly head. At around 5:45pm, there was sudden rush at the Blackman Cycles Stand for brake pads, seems the combination of water, sand, grit and clay makes for the perfect brake pad destroyer. A set of $40 brake pads was lasting just 3 or 4 laps, so half riding, half sliding down a slope and discovering you left the last remnant of pad lining in the last dam you rode through certainly get’s the adrenalin pumping. (Note to Avid, please design some wet weather brake pads)

Despite all this our team of masters pressed into 3rd position in the open category, half out of shear bloody determination and half because most sane people by this stage had packed up and gone home. At around 7:30pm the word came that a number of riders had fallen down a gully and now the race would be paused until 7am tomorrow morning. Around the same time, Mark appeared back at transition with a stream of red mud oozing from his shin. It didn’t take long for first aid to dress it and dispatch him to the hospital for an x-ray and stitches. All OK, he’ll back in no time, tough man! Fast forward to 7am, and we are thinking “please please call it off”. We are still in 3rd position but down a rider. But no luck, the marshals inspect the course after a night of torrential rain and declare it open for racing at 7:30am. Go figure.

I think that’s all that needs to be said now about this race. You may have detected a little negativity in this report, and maybe I have a few things to get off my chest, but I can’t finish on a negative and we managed to finish a very credible 4th for a masters team in a field of much younger riders.

To my team of Mark, Greg and Peter, you guys are top shelf, hard as nails and damn fine riders. It was a privilege to be part of this team, never once did anyone complain and through it all the camaraderie and the smiles remained.

To Sue Cheesman and Ann Hatton, what an amazing support crew you were. We could not have achieved what we did without your help and our time at Del Rio was made so much more comfortable with you taking care of us.

To the guy in the funny hat who cut a new track in the middle of the night so we didn’t have to ride through a 50 metre rice paddy anymore, my bike thanks you and I thank you.

To Ben, Chris and all the guys from Blackman cycles, who worked tirelessly to keep those many determined riders circulating, thank you. You guys are legends.

To Jet Black who provided enough lube to fill an Olympic pool, thanks heaps.

And finally to Rocky Trail. Thank you for your vision and determination to put on this event. Your organization was first rate and with some better weather and a rethink on the track, entry to this race could become a highly sought after commodity.

Now please excuse me while I go dig a grave for my mountain bike.

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