My trip started with a great week of riding and racing at Maydena bike park for the Enduro world series gold Qualifier. The week started off with an arctic front leaving the trails, very wet and slippery. With a majority of the stages being on mostly steep and natural trails it took a couple of days for my body and mind to get comfortable riding steep big mountain trails again! The week dried out as it went on and by the time the queen stage rolled around on Saturday the trails were starting to grip up in sections, others were just as treacherous as if it had never stopped raining! The queen stage started almost at the summit with a 800m vertical decent to tackle. I was pretty happy with my pace on the stage trying to make sure my arms and hands didn’t deteriorate too much and only made a few mistakes. With a time of 8:41, I placed 6th with some big names ahead and with it all to play for come Sunday!
The day started cold but with the sun shining it was set to be a great big day on the bike! After not being able to ride any comparable trails for some time because of covid restrictions I was still riding on the edge of caution. Each stage I kept building speed and confidence and by the end of the day it all came down to the last stage between myself and Dean Lucas for my goal of top 5 for the event! I let it all hang out and was stoked to keep it upright to make it into 5th overall for the event! It was an event worthy of the gold qualifier status and could have been mistaken for an actual full Enduro World Series round, and a gnarly one at that, With over 3000m descending and 1500m climbing over the two days!
Satisfied with my first week in Tasmania, I had a couple days off for some sightseeing and and a bit of time to refocus on the national Downhill championships the next weekend.
I was looking forward to seeing where I stacked up having not raced a downhill national championships since 2017 after shifting my focus from World Cup downhill to EWS.
The trail crew put on an amazing brand new track for the race, with a mixture of natural technical, man made features and super high speed jumps and corners at the bottom, there was something to play to anyones strengths!
First runs on Thursday and I was struggling to wipe the grin of my face! The track quickly rutted up and started to evolve from run one! Having only brought my enduro bike with less travel and single crown forks, I set about finding a balance of fastest/ smoothest line getting ready for seeding on Saturday! A few people trackside were telling me they were impressed with my speed in practice. But I tried not to read too much into it and keep pushing on dialing in my lines and pushing my speed on the dusty blown out track.
We all knew of the rain forcast for seeding on Saturday but weren’t sure to what extent the downpour would be. Quite substantial as it turned out! Practice runs in the morning were not too slick, but it was the big downpour in between practice and seeding that did the damage. We all knew we were in for a full mud run come seeding. My run was pretty smooth and in control pretty much on full auto pilot and just riding the terrain on feel. The timing took a while to come through but a few people were speculating on my time but I didn’t want to get too excited until the full results had come through. Results showed me in 2nd just a second back on Dan Booker, track builder, Maydena local and all round Pinner. We had put 4 seconds into 3rd and the big time gaps kept going. This filled me with a bit of confidence to be up there on pace with what felt like a fairly conservative run. I was really looking forward to finals on Sunday now!
The sun on Sunday morning was a welcome sight! Not least because I now had a chance of getting my muddy riding gear washed and dried out before practice! The joys of van life!
Both my practice runs felt great and I couldn’t wait to lay down a run for finals! With the sun shining and strong winds the track was all but perfect apart from some greasy turns at the top of the track. It was great to be at the top of the hill with just one rider behind me and knowing the caliber of riders that had gone down before me.
My first 30 sends of my run felt great holding good speed and I was into the more natural section. I struggled to read how dried the track was and just missed my line of a berm into off camber section and blew low just skimming a tree but only loosing a second or so, I tried to reset and push on but the next chute I carried too much speed into a very technical ledge high line. I blew my front wheel off the ledge and lost both my feet of the pedals trying to save myself but ended up bouncing off line and hitting other tree with my shoulder, I battled to build up speed again as this section lead onto a long straight and I knew the mistake would have cost me dearly. I pushed on for the rest of the run and rode well for the rest of the track. But eventually crossed the line in 7th with Dan going quicker pushing me into 8th overall for the race.
Happy with my raw pace but disappointed in what would have easily been a podium run missing out by only 1.5 seconds, having lost a lot more than that with the mistakes I made. I narrowly beat Josh Button to fastest enduro bike of the day and was very happy with my bike and how I was riding on what was a track definitely worthy of a full downhill bike!
It was a great couple of weeks in Tasmania, feeling very privileged to finally leave the state again and I look forward to building on this success towards our local races and Enduro World Series rounds when I am able to attend again!