Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Enduro Hucks the Ditch

Ollie hooks a wooden berm on his way to finishing run #1
Photo Joshua Nicholson
From my remote observation post in Sydney, I’ve watched the burgeoning kiwi enduro scene with envy. Races seem to be popping up all over the country, followed by the inevitable wave of social media containing smiling faces at the end of epic bar clenching runs. Championed by pinners like privateer turned pro Jamie Nicoll, the scene seems to go from strength to strength. With ample shredworthy tracks and a growing disillusionment with the cross country norm of mass market gravel-fests and mind numbingly repetitive circuits, it is not really a surprise.

Shuttles make for good effort/stoke ratio
Photo Joshua Nicholson
So when the gravity enduro phenomenon hucked the ditch to New South Wales like a supercharged skippy the kangaroo, I was fizzing to get amongst it. The first round of Rocky Trail Entertainment’s Rollercoaster series was held at the trails of Ourimbah, a club built network consisting of all sorts of flowing trails, the perfect setting to introduce the masses to the fun format.

Lumpy tree and shredding rider
Photo Joshua Nicholson
The course started with a shuttle to the top of a gnarly downhill track dubbed CBD after the Sydney bike shop. It started with steep swooping drop into dusty berms, followed by sizable jumps that rewarded bravado rather than finesse, then a fast rocky section and an energy sapping final sprint over ladder bridges to stop the clock. This first trail suited bigger bikes, while the second run was a much flatter pedal fest that left those on downhill bikes suffering through waves of pedal bob and drowning in fullface perspiration. And that was only in the ride to the start! While a bit short at only 12 minutes of time at race pace,  the combined courses made for an ideal mix, with parts of the track favouring pedalling, and others just good old fashioned chutzpah.
Course for the day. Short but sweet.
Photo Joshua Nicholson
I hadn’t raced downhill in anger since the Trans-Savoie in France which was a mind blowing 6 days of riding which left me flowing natural gnar like Sam Hill (at least in my mind!). As such, my expectations of both the course and my own enduro pace were low, but I’m pleased to report I came out pleasantly surprised on both counts. I finished up 7th equal in Elite, and on buckling over my bars at the second stage finish I’m certain I couldn’t have eeked out any more pedal strokes.  The other course of action would have been to get off the brakes, but the amount of time I’d spent with the scary/fun feeling of drifting my rear tire through corners told me that any less braking would have been to tempt fate!

This sign proved prophetic
Photo Joshua Nicholson
Perhaps the coolest experience was just hanging at the finishing tent and sponging up the buzz of everyone’s post-race stoke. While the potential for crashes is high in races downhill against the clock, it seemed everyone kept the rubber side down and lived to tell stories of saved nose cases, high speed punctures and brief off track excursions. With the event selling out with over 200 riders, there was plenty of stoke to go around, and you’d be hard pressed to find a frown amongst the sweaty faces.

So when work and time allows you can bet I’ll be strapping on the kneepads and saddling up my squishy bike, looking  to claw back seconds against the proper brave loonies who seem to float down the trails. Gravity endure is pretty rad and I’m stoked it has made it to Australia!

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