Unexpected Race

Tuesday October 8th

The morning was spent on the motorway heading south from Sydney towards Canberra. It’s a fairly straightforward journey but it does take a while. I had a stop in Goulburn to buy some food and some bike bits which I couldn’t bring on an aeroplane, pressurised containers like the CO2 cans and spray-on chain lube and a tub of grease to rebuild the bikes with. The bike boxes had been designed to take the bikes with just the wheels and seatposts removed but on bikes with ISPs it is necessary to remove the forks instead.

I rolled up at Stromlo to find that there was a race just about to start, I went to say hello and was invited to join in. There followed the fastest bike build ever. I had 20 minutes to fit the forks and adjust the headset, get the bars straight, attach the shifters, lockout lever and brake levers, attach the rotors to the wheels, find the mech hanger (which was the hardest part!) put it back on the frame and attach the rear mech, put on the chain and pedals, fit and adjust the seat and then pump up the tyres and both shocks.

The race was an XC-Eliminator, a short 500m course (sorry for going all metric, but it’s metric they use over here), 4 riders racing against each other over a single lap with the top 2 going through to the next round. They had put me in the last group but still had to wait for me to finish putting the bike together.

It was an interesting course to ride blind, lots of very tight corners and one unexpected drop off, from which I nosedived with no grace or style at all. The bike handled like a pig, both shocks and both tyres quite badly underinflated and the seat pointing towards the sky. It was still good fun though, a nice close race with plenty of people cheering us on. I crossed the line 3rd in my group, which unfortunately wasn’t enough to get through to the next round.  I sat and watched the rest of the competition and sorted the bike out, straightened the bars, untangled the gear cables and got the shock pressures and things sorted.

I have no idea who they are, but this was first and second in the final, doesn't get much closer!
It turned out that the race had been part of the Australian Defence Force championships, a series of different races over a few days. There was a British Army team there, having done pretty well in the 25hr team race the weekend before (the extra hour being to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the event. Note to self; avoid the 50th anniversary...) Anyway, one of their riders was heading out for a lap of the course so I joined him for a guided tour. Sorry mate, I can’t remember your name. He only did one lap, so I then did another with Elena, a Ukrainian rider we had met on our first time round. The first half of the course was familiar to me from last time I was here but the second half is new. It is a huge amount of fun, very rocky and well over 90% singletrack, which unfortunately does limit drinking opportunities a little. The dust is unbelievable, it gets everywhere, the bike was pretty much white after just two laps.

It was starting to get dark so we headed into the city for dinner.

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