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Saturday, 30 June 2012

We've Come So Far (To Be Here Today)

SKCC members and fellow CX tragics Paddy & Diane took advantage of a weekend in Sydney that coincided with a Manly Warringah cyclocross race to pack their bikes and fly the Melbourne flag in NSW and possibly sneak in a recon before the national series round.

Words by Paddy, grab a cuppa and settle in.

John Denver was surely writing about our CX race trip to Sydney when he wrote "All my (bike) bags are packed, I'm ready to go. Im standing here, Ouside your (garage) door."

Two bike bags and one person is a little more challenging than I anticipated. After struggling through Melbourne Aiport with two bike bags on one luggage trolley check-in was completed. Everything arrived in Sydney still in two bags. As P J O’Rourke said “there is only one type of car, a hire car” so a car was duly hired.  Picking up the hire car was a dawdle that can’t be said for the drive from the Airport to Manly in Friday afternoon traffic. People of Sydney, the sign posting, or to be precise the lack of sign posting, on the Eastern Distributor is a cruel joke. Surely it would be relatively inexpensive to have a sign for North Sydney or somewhere relatively close rather than Newcastle! After negotiating busses, cars, lorries (trucks) and the Spit Bridge, Manly was reached.

Chris, our host for the weekend, was at home so we dumped the bikes in his garage and headed to the 4 Pines for a pint of porter and to wait for Diane. As an athlete I only had one pint, very abstemious. Diane arrived, had a quick pint, then we headed home for the pre-race meal and an early night. Oh yes, we built the bikes which of course took twice as long as expected. Lots of mutterings of “if we got it off it should go back on”.

We awoke to a bright crisp Sydney winter morning. In fairness, the Emerald City does have some charm and contrary to popular Victorian belief it doesn’t rain all the time. After a large bowl of porridge we loaded the bikes and hit the road for the drive to the well named JJ Melbourne Reserve in Terrey Hills for the big race. Now bear in mind that the first race started at 08.30 with the Prestige race at 10.00. Yes, CX before lunch. The drive to Terrey Hills took about 30 mins. Interestingly for that time on a Saturday morning there was a distinct lack of Saturday Roadie Warriors and one can see why with the traffic and bad drivers in SUVs (me).

The gymkhana site was reached by 09.00 just in time to see the end of the MB Dirt Crit. They all looked wrecked. The temperature was already about 15C and rising. We were getting nervous about all the heat and sunshine. Surely nobody will allow a cross race in that kind of temperature, is there no extreme heat rule? 

Bikes were assembled. Photos taken. Tweets tweeted. We headed to rego. As inter-state travellers it was thought rude not to enter Prestige Cross (basically A grade cross). Now this was our first ever A type grade race as we usually skulk around in B Grade cross. Diane was feeling particularly brave in ignoring the Open Cross and Ladies race. At this stage we hear mention that the Prestige Race was 45 minutes plus one 1 lap. Now, that made us a little more nervous. Are they unhinged up here? Is Parbs an evil man? (Luckily, quite the reverse).

Next, the warm up laps. The first 100 metres went well, even the triple hurdles (it is a gymkhana site after all). Next was the tight turn followed closely by a log. Everybody was bunny hopping the log so I decided that I give it a go. Bad decision. Never done one before. I’m sure the chain ring isn’t designed as a fulcrum. Even more embarrassing was the resulting fall. There is a split second before you hit the grass when you realise that stem bolts and handle bars should be tightened before taking your bicycle on the grass, the handbook does mention that fact. So, back to the pits to tighten the stem bolts.

A full lap of the course made us even more nervous. The course comprised a jump track, vertical inclines, forest trails, tarmac, and some grass. Where was the mud? Was that little bit about behind the eventing arena the only dirt? Yes. 

The Open Race was now in full flight. About 10 hardy soles were braving the heat and lack of mud. One bloke was about 3/4 of a lap ahead. The only lady was doing well about mid fleet and dicing with a bloke on a mountain bike. 

Next up, Prestige Cross. Some relief at finding it was now only a 40 minute race (although we were still under the impression of 40+1 lap). 16 of us lined up. A look around confirmed my fear that these young blokes would be fit and fast, as they proved to be. The whistle went. We are off and racing. As in any cross race the slower people get to the back fairly quickly. That proved the case for us. We were quickly in the back 5. But remember it is still competitive down the back! I got one bloke, then another. Great, 4th last. Diane first lady but last rider. I travelled around in 4th last for the next couple of laps. One bloke dropped out with a broken fork on his new Ridley.

The bell started sounding at about 35 mins and I hadn't been lapped, result. They had meant a 40 minute race in total. No extra lap, result. All I needed was to cruise around until the finish. Unfortuantley disaster struck on the last lap. In my heat exhausted state and having lost a contact lense through my eyeball sweating I was muttering to myself “take it easy, you are 40 meters in front of the next rider, don't fall off at the tricky gravel u-turn”. As I was picking myself up from the mud I remembered that you should never back off in any race. The rider behind was now right behind and I suspected that he would be determined to beat me. He did, in a sprint.

It was a relief to see the chequered flag. Parbs was giving encouragement to all finishers and I think I heard him through the sore legs and my one eye. 

Diane finished a few minutes later. DFL, but she was pleased to have completed the race only having been lapped once. She conquered her dislike of jump tracks only to be told that nobody else had taken the hard route, all the men had taken the easy route.

After some restorative lying on the grass gasping for breath, enough energy was found to chat to some other riders about the race and their trip to Melbourne in July. Merri Creek mud was mentioned, as was the difference in track design. The lads were enthusiastic so we hope,to see them at DDCX and FGP. A quick chat was had with Parbs thanking him for the evil course, the heat, and MWCC’s hospitality.

Bikes were put in the car then we headed to Manly for a second breakfast and a few schooners for rehydration.

So, points to note. The course will be different from a DDCX course, more like a FGP one. It will be held on and nearby a pony club eventing ring. You may have to bunnyhop a log. Jumps may be in triples. Driving to the site rather than riding might be the safer option. There is a motel nearby the venue, as well as a pub.

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