Me to a friend, “Hey, do you want to drive 650km to race in Rockhampton?”
And just like that, the Rocky road trip extravaganza was underway.
Friend, “Have you ridden there before? What are the trails like?”
Me, “Nope never ridden there and no idea what the trails are like. I internet stalked some photos and it looks kinda, well rocky…”
The fourth round of the Queensland Gravity Enduro series is being held in Rockhampton and I figured, what the hell, lets go ride some new trails in an exotic location. Okay so the second part of that is a lie. No idea what I’m in for but no better way too find out then go (attempt to) ride them. I figured if it they are too hard, I could always get off and walk (yeah right).
Prepped my gear and Poo Brown the night before. There have been some last minute dramas with Poo Brown. I think I pinged the rear wheel on a rock at the last race and it has developed a slow leak. I run tubeless tyres meaning there are no tubes just a cup of a milky looking substance called sealant. It creates a glue like seal between the edge of the rim and the tyre. The theory is, when you get small cuts in your tyre the sealant clogs it up where as the old school tube would just go pop. I wasn’t able to get Poo Brown into any reputable mechanic for a second opinion so I was just going to have to wing it with the dodgy rear wheel. This is a fairly new tyre too, only 8 weeks old so surely it will hold up. I should have known better.
First challenge was to find some cheapish accommodation that is not a crack den. There were some very sketchy looking options available however a suitable level of cheap and dodgy motel was found that had two beds and hopefully space for our bikes as well. Well according to the internet photos it looked acceptable but we all know the internet sometimes lies.
My friend, Super A and I departed Brisbane at approx. 1pm on Friday afternoon and headed north. The plan was to get to Rockhampton that night, practice all day Saturday, race Sunday and then drive home Sunday night. The weather was not looking great. There had been showers all week in Rockhampton making the trails unriddeable. A few of the Elite riders went up on Wednesday to get some extra practice in however they spent Thursday sitting in the carpark at the trail head watching the rain. Friday they tried to ride in the wet conditions but had to carry their bikes back down the mountain due to the extra sticky mud. While I drove, Super A was doing a recon of what we had signed ourselves up for. As far as we can tell, there are going to be some rocky trails and possibly muddy.
Rain showers sprinkled on us the whole way up however apart the weather the drive north was relatively uneventful. One McDonalds stop, one fuel stop, one dodgy 80’s truck stop dinner and one brand new Puma service station stop for ice-cream allowed us to roll into our accom 8 hours after leaving home. The accom was on the second floor and not tooooo bad. I have definitely stayed in far worse motels. It was clean but old however there was room for both of our bikes and us.
Saturday we awoke to overcast skies, heat and humidity. Showers still threatened with low hanging clouds everywhere. There was no way in Satan’s sauna that we were drinking the Bushell’s sachet coffee provided and we went in search for Rockhampton’s finest coffee. We were pleasantly surprised by the Giddy Goat that served a breakfast beyond our expectations as well as a very respectable cup of coffee. Once caffeinated to the appropriate levels and post-coffee poo out of the way, to the trails we went.
The event village for the race had already been set up. Having no idea where to go, the crew from the local bike shop and race organisers were super friendly and pointed us in the right direction. Sometimes during practice I wear my normal open-faced helmet (its cooler and lighter) however not knowing what we were in for, we errr’ed on the side of caution and wore our full faces. The climbing trail is huge and the weather is oppressive. Huge, slight exaggeration however it still was 4km of unrelenting uphill. This is not winter. This is summer conditions. What the hell. By the time we found the first of the trails at the top of the mountain, I was shattered and soaked in sweat. Jesus wept it’s unpleasantly hot and humid.
There are two black trails and one blue trail (easier) called Megatron that we targeted for our warm up. The trail had dried out enough that it was just rideable. This trail was fast! Berms and jumps with super tacky dirt is all I remember. My legs were screaming by the end of the trail. Then it was climb back up the unrelenting hill which took about 35mins of soggy saturated sweating inducing pedalling. Ergh. Ran into some random guys who were saying how hard the Smokescreen trail was; super rocky and compared it to a Nerang trail we know. Well then, we better hit that one next. They say hard, we say fun. It was super technical, slippery and rocks, rocks, rocks, off camber corners and trail. It was challenging but oh so fun, we don’t have trails like this in Brisbane. There was one rock drop in there of a decent size and my rear tyre flatted while I was trying to ride it. Fark. I was struggling with my tyre when two very helpful guys came to my rescue. Got the tube in, inflated and boom flat again. FARK! Sweat is absolutely pissing out of us and I’m so not having fun at this point. The humidity is so high you would swear we were deep in the tropics. Nope just Rocky Rockhampton. Pushed Poo Brown several kilometres back to the event village in the stinking heat, humidity and sun. You can imagine how happy I was with that damn rear wheel. However the race gods were kind to me, as the local bike shop had set up a stall where I pretty much threw Poo Brown at them. I was able to get a new tyre fitted in no time. Given the drama’s I had been having with the back wheel, I went into diva mode and got a new beefier tyre rather than try and fix this one again. Second new tyre in 8 weeks however the heat and humidty had shortened my tolerance down to minus 10. What annoyed me that most with the tyre drama is my own poor planning. I have two fresh tyres sitting at home that I have been waiting to put on for my Canada trip. I um’ed and ahh’ed about putting them on too soon as they are soft compound tyre that is perfect for Canada but not so good for the rock and shit soil here. Fail. I should have put one on. It is about $80 for a tyre (still looking for a bike mechanic to date… if anyone knows one….. just saying….) not the cheapest of things to be throwing around.
While this was going on, I took the opportunity to reintroduce myself to the manager of the local Enduro team. It is well known that this team doesn’t have any females in their troupe and I introduced him to Super A. She is an upcoming fast Elite rider that absolutely deserves some support. As there is no bike mechanic in my life just yet, I figured I could do with any help or support I can find.
We went back to the car for some food and water. I was sitting in the boot, feet resting on the rack, Poo Brown lying on the ground and I realised that I was absolutely stuffed. Not a good state to be in as we had only ridden two of the six trails we needed to. I was ready to call it but knew I couldn’t, so kitted up, picked up Poo Brown and rode up the 4km/30min climb again to ride the last trail from this side of the mountain. This was no drama for Super A; it was only Poo Brown and I that were suffering. The next trail K9 was fast and had some gnarly sections for some serious carnage, it was challenging as everything was blind. Stopped a few times to session some sections. Then onto to the other side of the mountain to ride the next three trails. This climb wasn’t as bad as it was shorter however the weather hadn’t improved and it was still like riding in a sauna. I had soggy sweaty everything by this stage! The trail 1995 was next and it was fun! The name reflects when the trail was built and it was an old school rough, technical but fast trail. Thoroughly enjoyed this trail and was getting over my diva tyre distress from earlier in the day. Back up the hill for the second trail last trail of the day which turned out to be soul destroying. There were two nasty uphill pinches that were completely unexpected. I was shattered and didn’t have enough speed to get up. That could potentially be a race losing section due to the amount of time that could be lost. This trail had a mix of just about everything, as it was technical at the top with some tight corners but the bottom part of the trail was fast and flowing. I had run out of water and we still had one uphill to go and of course, I was freaking starving too. We all know how pleasant I am when I’m hangry!! The final climb was on a different section of the hill and was by far the most respectable of all the climbs. The final trail was like a long bmx track with corners, rollers, jumps etc. Smashed it out and we headed straight to the car. I was done and in serious need of hydration. Cooked. KFCooked. Roasted. We covered about 30km over 5ish hours.
I didn’t think I would be so happy to get back into the car so soon after the drive north however the air con blasting on my sweaty clammy skin was oh so welcome. The golden arches beckoned and I smashed a burger, fries, large drink and desert. No hesitation, no guilt and the air con was amazing. A shower that night never felt so good. That night we had dinner a the local pub where we caught up with some of the other riders we knew while we checked out the locals J Most entertaining however being the party animals that we are (insert eyeroll) it was one beer, inhale food and head for bed asap.
Sunday was completely different day to Saturday. Like about 15 degrees cooler for a start, crystal clear blue sky and a cold breeze blowing; perfect riding conditions. The dodgy motel came with a microwave, which was perfect for race day breakfast porridge. Packed up the car, went in search of coffee and ended up at Macca’s. Second breakfast was had along with coffee/nervous poo. Now I’m race ready.
Prepped Poo Brown and I was excited to see the rear tyre was still up. Headed off for a warm up run on the last trail we did yesterday, the bmx style one. Our warm up was 6.5km long which is a fairly decent ride for some. Super A and I had worked out our Stage race strategy. Pretty much the exact opposite on how we rode yesterday. Race briefing was the usual spiel 6 stages over 4hours blah blah. Super A and I spent most of the time trying to suss out our competition. Cleared the timing beacon and we were off and racing.
Headed straight up to the bmx track and had a fairly good run. Only made one stupid error but didn’t lose too much time. Race mode is now fully engaged. Next stage we tackled was the soul destroying one with the uphill sections. There was no way I could have coped with that one when exhausted. Had a fairly clean run, managed to get up the pinches with only one foot dab. Back up the hill for the 1995 trail – the old school downhill track. Had a blistering run and Poo Brown was glorious. If I was to get a flat tyre it was going to be on this track however everything held together; even if I had completely forgotten the bottom half of the track features.
Then it was up the 4km climb to the final three stages. We hit Smokescreen next and it was excellent. The dirt had just dried out enough that it was perfect and there was some killer traction in the grass on the edge of the trails. I had my heart in my mouth the whole way down as I was going so fast. Right on the edge of sanity. Love this shit! Super A and I were beaming at the end; the trip to Rocky was worth it for this run! So good!! Second last stage was K9 and I had a disaster of a run. Completely messed up a technical section as I forgot the line coming into the rock chute. Not the place for a fark up. Had to get both feet on the ground before I could move on. Damn. Then had a random stuff up on rock jump, once again I missed my line. This trail is so fast I almost scared myself. I came in too fast and stuffed up. Didn’t crash but had to slow right down to get myself right. Then not long after the rider behind me caught me. Fark more time lost when I pulled over to let them pass. The guy passing me was really great about it (everyone here has been super friendly). It was a disaster stage for me. Back up the hill of doom, well that’s what it felt like now for the final stage, which was the first one we did yesterday. By this time I can’t remember a damn thing about this trail except it was fast… And fast it was. Holy skid-marked underpants batman, was it fast. I felt fast! The dirt was super tacky and I was grinning the whole way down. Only one small error in a corner when I skidded around the berm which was fun but not what you want to do in a race run. It was a great stage to finish the day. Poo Brown was great and it was so worth the drive up to Rocky to race here. One day of riding or race prep didn’t do these trails any justice. I could have easily spent some more time riding them. We rolled back to the event village after 25kms and 3hours and 55 mins of racing.
The ladies I thought were in my category weren’t, so I won my race against myself. Wooo. However I would have placed 4th in the Elite Women so I pretty happy with that. I won an awesome tyre so I was super stocked!
The Rocky mountain bike club had some pretty awesome prizes for the podium and in for the random draw afterwards. Super A nailed 3rd spot on the podium and had to spray champagne everywhere. It was hilarious, as she couldn’t get the bottle open. It was a cheap bottle with a plastic cork tee hee and they had no idea how to get it open. Me being the super supportive friend that I am, filmed the whole thing while giggling. I would have helped her finish the champagne but we had to drive back to Brisbane. Post race food was consumed and we started the epic journey back home in fresh clothes but covered in dirt, sweat and sunscreen, and in Super A’s case champagne. It was a long delirious drive home filled with caffeine, sugar, me doing stinky banana farts the whole way and cursing at bloody roadworks. We rolled into Brisbane just before midnight, parked the car and collapsed into bed. Oh man you should smelt the car the next morning after leaving two days worth of sweaty riding gear in there. Hmmm delicious. Have been a zombie for the past few days but it was so worth it. Great weekend.
Now to prep for the big race. The first round of Australian National series and the first World Series qualifier is being held in Toowoomba on Sunday 15th July.
The Rocky MTB club interviewed Super A and I after the race. So here is my one minute of fame, while we sit tired and sweaty after the race and stuffing our faces with post race snacks.