After a 3 month hiatus from racing, I decided a few days out to give the Rocky Trail 12 hour a crack. It’s actually a race I’ve always wanted to do solo, but due to clashing calendars or injury has meant I missed out in the past. This year it was a must do but a niggling knee injury put paid to my solo ambitions, so plan B came into effect and pairing up with one of the many competitors in Masters, Clayton Locke put up his hand. Cool! So instead of bludgeoning each other for 12 hours, we’d team up, do some quick (old fella quick) laps, enjoy the event and actually talk to some people.
It was a great day, made even greater by the fact that a respectable contingent of fellow team mates from Quantum made the leap and were also racing. There really is nothing like having a tent and a few familiar faces to chew the fat with between laps and when the southerly blew in at the 11th hour, Ondrej’s caravan leapt up the rankings on TripAdvisor to 5 star. Imagine watching big fat freezing rain drops falling outside in a gale, whilst nestled up in a heated van with a warm cup of tea, reliving the day’s highlights.
This is Mountain Biking “gold”
So three things that I think made the day truly great and worth going back for.
1 1.) Lots of chicks
I mean there were big groups of girls of all abilities racing. One group in particular had CYCOS on their kit. They all had matching kit and were riding SWORKS and they rode all day. Not only that they had smiles on their faces all day, despite of few of them taking some bark off the smile remained. It was really great to see and is characteristic of Rocky Trail events. I couldn’t hide my rueful smile as I sat by a warm fire near the end of the event and listened to the chatter about the days racing and a few tales about faster racers who had done some strange manoeuvres trying to pass, like taking the b line behind them and so on. There was no malice in the chatter, just a question as to why they did what they did. Of course there was probably a bit of education required on both sides but that’s racing and the sooner everyone realises passing is just part of the game and a kind of nice way to encourage your fellow rider, whether you are the passer or the passee, the better.
2.) Rocky Trail.
These guys go out of their way to make an event truly memorable and they are well prepared and experienced enough to make the right call when things don’t go to plan, like a thunderstorm rolling in after 12 hours of racing. Nigel the DJ provided an intoxicating cocktail of continuous beats, Crafty, as always provided the witty often funny and engaging commentary, and Martin, Juliane and the team kept the race running like clockwork.
3 3.) James Estate
The trail, the event centre and the setting are simply awesome, and this is only possible thanks to the hard work and support of Graeme, Christine (the lovely) and the team from James Estate winery. Recently there was some consternation about the lack of fodder in many race show bags, but when the headline sponsor hands over a bottle of their finest Rosé to every racer, and follows it up with 12 hours of free tasting well it doesn’t get much better than that, and I am pretty sure the racers are returning the favour with plenty of purchases of this top winemakers product. I really loved the trail, at first it doesn’t seem like there is a lot of vertical, but the first interval up the fireroad to the very top paddock at the beginning of each lap was enough to warm up the legs again. The soil is a lovely red loamy well drained mix; who knew winemaking and mountain biking thrive in the same micro climate!! There was plenty of good flowy single trail, with A lines a plenty and enough to keep even a World Cup competitor like Cam Ivory and the Day boys interested. The Epic relished the trail, from the tight technical berms and rollovers to the final flat and fast snake track leading back to timing.
In the end Clayton and I got the win in category, but More Caffiene riders Andrew and Scott never let up all day and pushed us to the very end. Just over 300 racers competed at this event which I guess is pretty standard, but I wonder what it would take to get 600 or a 1000 riders and how that might lead to an even bigger festival of the bike. There has been a lot of navel gazing over the last few months as to how we grow this community and ensure the viability of our favourite events. Here’s three things I think would help:
1.) Fewer events
I’m no marketing expert, but it happens in most markets I dare say, the market grows, more suppliers starting crowding the market and suddenly it looks like demand in waning. Eventually there is a rationalisation and only the suppliers with the best reputation and access to the best locations are left standing. Noone wants to ride through some backwater moto-churned bike destroying mud bath to get from one sniggle to the next. Will we see some merges in the event promoter scene and a culling of some of the less popular events?
2 2.) Different events
There needs to be some variety in how we race and it needs to be fun. The endurance side is the first to suffer when entrant numbers drop because what is the point of the result being decided in the first hour of the race and then continuing to ride for another 23 hours to the finish line. This applies equally at the pointy end of the field as it does to the middle and rear of the field. With enough racers you end up in your own little sub-race no matter how “fit” you are. Close competitive racing is fun and interesting but it needs a large field of racers. Some stalwarts like “The Fling” will always be there, but newer formats like Hellfire cup and Duo Classic (not so new) offer more “Yeow” for your racing dollar.
3 3.) Cheaper entry
Land owners and councils need to realise that a MTB race is like Golden Goose. If you grab the event promoter by the neck, before the race is even started, then you put that event viability at risk. Instead take a longer term view of the benefits to your local community of allowing an event to take place your backyard. By reducing the upfront overheads for the race promotor, you ould think that would enable cheaper entry fees, hence encouraging larger entrant numbers and a bunch of riders for potential sponsors to hock their wares to, ultimately leading to a greater spend in your local community. MTBA can help to by endorsing races and leveraging their insurance infrastructure, so event promotors aren’t having to setup their own event insurance
|Riders head out of the start chute|
|Miles Watson our newest Quantum member had a great day, watch this space, former multiple NZ national XC champion, this guy can drop some serious watts!|
|Angelique had a great day riding solo and achieved something like a personal best result #inspiration|
|The beautiful James Estate|
|Clayton returning on one of our 25 laps|
|Mike and Clayton, our team ran like clockwork, apart from that one transition where Mike got a little too cozy in the caravan|
|Masters Pairs podium, thanks for a great race guys|