Lake Crackenback Cross Triathlon Race Report
Hey everyone, my name is Virginie and this is my first race report as part of the Top Gear Racing Team.
I started my sporting career as a triathlete a few years ago and got pushed into the off road adventure a couple of years ago.
I got my first MTB two years ago and I’ve been riding it on and off the first year “participating” at the odd MTB and off road events until the news came down that the Cross Triathlon Worlds Champs would be in Australia at Lake Crackenback in November 2016. I started riding my MTB more seriously last winter. Training was going great guns, with me winning the Cross Triathlon Victorian Champs in my age group in Bendigo last November.
Fast forward to February… and the Cross Triathlon Australian Champs. Training had been good, I felt my MTB had gone up a notch and my running was going well.
If you have never stayed in the Thredbo/Crackenback area, please, go. It is an amazing place in lots of different ways. It’s high up there in altitude (by Australian standards…), comparable to Falls Creek, but it doesn’t look like it. The resorts sit along the Thredbo/Crackenback river so they actually look like villages in the valley. With Mt Kosciusko on one side, you don’t really feel like you’re on top of the world like in Falls Creek or Hotham. Plenty of trees and wild life (deers, kangaroos). And the warmth. Air temp 22 degrees, feels like 30.
Pre race preparation went fine.
The lake was a bit warm with lots of things growing in it. A bit like swimming in this lake where Harry Potter has to dive in to save Ron and Hermione from the lake people in the Three Wizard Tournament movie.
The MTB course was nice, flowy and fun but to be honest I was a bit disappointed because it seemed too easy to ride. I had spent time improving my skills and it didn’t seem to matter that much on this course. Oh well.
The run course was designed to test strength. That’s OK, I feel strong!
Then came race day. Bring it on.
Turned out it was going to be a non wetsuit swim. That made me happy because I’m a strong swimmer, am I not?
Well, yes I usually am. I didn’t have a good start, then got bashed and pushed down. I ended up swimming breaststroke 40m in to calm down a panic attack. Things settled after that and it was a long slow slog to pass as many people as I could. When I exited the water I didn’t have my usual lead (was 3rd) and I felt I had used up much more energy than usual. As I found out later this is called ‘swimming in altitude’.
Onto the bike (2nd) and straight up the technical bits. I wasn’t really happy with how much my heart was pounding in my chest but at this point I wasn’t worried yet. I passed heaps of people on the first lap, including the leading lady in my age group. My competitive self couldn’t be satisfied with only passing people, I also wanted to stay on the wheels of the fast guys. That was a good plan until I realised that my heart rate was still sky high. Assuming it was already there during the swim, it would have been there for more than an hour by now. I was killing myself. Time to slow down. My second lap was a bit slower and a lot less controlled. I managed to stack coming down the technical bits. I lost the flow. My brain wasn’t quite there anymore. In other words, I was overcooked.
I was so happy to get off the bike. Now onto the run. Run. Run. OK, walk. See, when you’ve raced a three hour race as if it was a sprint, slowing down is not going to get you back. There is no coming back. Second place in my age group was only 40s behind, she passed me half way through the first lap. The eventual winner passed me not long after, then the third place not long before the end. I could have fought this one, maybe. Maybe not. At least I got to see and cheer on a lot of friends on their way to the finish line!
Of course I’m writing this after taking the time to analyse my race. It wasn’t that clear at the time why things happened the way they did. And people are quick to say that you just had a bad day. Maybe I had a bad day. But the Worlds are going to be same place and same course so I can’t buy in the bad day, otherwise I’ll just do the same mistakes in 8 months.
So what am I going to do? Well, I reckon the key is the bike course and the altitude. The bike course is fast. There is a lot of pedalling to do to be fast and less oxygen to fuel it.
I don’t know what you’re going to do this winter, but I’m going to work on my endurance. I’m going to train for the Worlds as if it was a 5+ hours event (instead of 3). Let’s see how this goes!
Big thank you to the great team at Top Gear Cycles who set me up on my new Specialized Epic in a very short time. Turns out this bike is fast. It’s almost too fast for my fitness level 🙂 so rather than slowing down I’m going to improve the engine!
It may not be cooling down out side , but we have some super hot deals instore on the latest Specialized bikes, check out the list below. We also have 20 to 50% off all cycling clothing and Aquasphere wetsuits, call now to check availabilty or drop into our store in Bulleen. 98502996 email@example.com
2015/16 Australian X-Tri Championships – Australian X-Triathlon Champs – 27 February –Lake Crackenback, NSW
1500m swim – 30km MTB Ride – 10km Trail Run
In2adventure event company know how to put on an event. Its very evident that they run race’s for the athlete. The passion that Robyn and Simon Lazenby have towards putting on events is outstanding and I can highly recommend their races after doing two TreX off road Triathlon races recently.
After I did the Bendigo race I decided to take on the National Cross Tri Champs at Lake Crackenback, near Thredbo in the NSW Snowy Mountains. Both these races are qualifying events for the World Champs held at the same venue coming up in November this year. With a race course set out to test the skills of triathlete’s and mountain bikers alike it didn’t disappoint with me feeling a massive sense of satisfaction when I crossed the finish line completely exhausted.
With 6 of our shop riding group all traveling up together , I was pumped to be sharing this experience with them. To me this is the best part of what owning our shop is all about , having fun with your mates and challenging ourselves with crazy adventures. I had done a 4 minute PB the week before at the Gatorade Sprint Triathlon so I was pretty pumped to do well.
Two days of checking out the course , relaxing in the beautiful Snowy Mountains resort of Lake Crackenback and making sure all of our team had their bikes in top condition, had us all nervously contemplating what lay ahead on a tough and technical course.
The morning started with athletes being told there was no wetsuit alloyed policy because the water was too warm at 22.2 deg, which when you are at 1200m altitude and at a ski resort was a surprise.
Not great for me as I am not a strong swimmer and with a freshwater swim compared to the usual salt water to give me some form of buoyancy I was in trouble early. I have lost approx 10kg training for this event and now I had wished I had a few of them packed back on!
The race started with the pro men and women starting together, closely followed by 1minute wave starts [men then women] keeping the field closely bunched through the two lap swim. With surf lifesaving legend Guy Andrews in my category the pace was on early. I had a good start to the first bouy, but then the pack swum over the top of me and I soon started to panic. I have had this before in surf swims, not a great feeling and I had to swim to the side and compose myself. Disappointing after I had tried to work on my swim over the last few months and now I was faced with pulling out or toughen up and get back into the race. I had picked this race 6 months before and had trained hard for it so I had a good long look in the “suit case of courage” and got back into my swimming. With the girls starting 1 minute behind they soon swum past thankfully I started to get some free space so I could concentrate on just swimming, not just surviving.
Into T1 and my watch read 32 min, way off what I had planned , head spins trying to put on my MTB shoes didn’t help either. I was so happy to be out of the water and onto the bike course. Two 15km laps of tight flowing single track. Not as technical as Bendigo so it suited the strong road based athletes, but still a fun track to ride. As I had lost so much time in the swim I was now faced with the traffic jams of athletes struggling to find a line through the singletrack. After about 8km I had used a lot of energy passing riders on limited opportunities of double track, I also was trying to keep hydrated as it was getting hot. I soon started to pass some friends , first Dim then Karina, which made me enjoy my day even more. These girls are so full of life and so encouraging, I couldn’t help but get spurred on to push further into the pain cave. We have a great group of riding buddies in Melbourne and it was so much fun traveling to a race with some of them.
By the second lap I new I wasn’t riding as well as I had leading up to the event, but pressed on hoping the work I had done would let me finish strong.
Into T2 and I was looking forward to the run, we had walked the 3km looped course the day before and it was challenging then to say the least , with river runs,
swing bridge’s, very uneven terrain, climbing through very low tunnels and some rock climbing, there was never going to be any sub 5min/kms going on.
I thought I was running ok and started passing people , I really enjoyed this course as hard as it was, it pushed us to our limits. The run was so demanding that if you stopped concentrating for a second, you would end up flat on your face. The river run was refreshing but I ended up with so much sand and small stones in my shoes the sensation soon wore off.
I got lapped by our shop ambassador Mack Clarkson who gave me a slap on the back as he went by at lightening speed to finish of in 2nd place in the 40 to 45 age category. He keeps amazing me with his performances after not that long ago, he had a debilitating back injury that kept him out of the sport for a long time, massive congratulations to him.
I managed to run evenly for the 3 laps, again not my best run , but I made the most out of what I had for the day.
Congratulations also to our traveling group with Karina 5th, Virgini 4th [35to40], Dimiti 5th [30 to 34], Nathan 18th [35 to 39] , Mack 2nd [40 to 45]
I ended up 7th in my category [45to49] which I had hoped for a top 12 placing , so pretty stoked with that. I was initially disappointed with my race as I felt I had thrown away any chance of a good performance with a bad swim, but proud I regrouped and got over some of those swim demons. Thanks to all those who came along for the journey and to In2Adventure for a great weekend of events. Now time for some recovery.
Team Tgr www.topgearcycles.com – Specialized Bikes – Aquasphere Wetsuits – Swisseye Sunglasses – Verge Custom Clothing – Torq Nutrition
Day after the “after Party” was pretty cool , riding up the valley to Thredbo, sweat single track will cure a hangover every time!
Redbull Defiance conquered, 2 days and a total of 18+ hrs of racing over the massive mountains at Wanaka! That was damn tough, especially the hiking.
Day 1 started early with a bus and barge to the start line. 43km Mtb to begin, flat gravel road to start which then delivered some sharp pinches, creek crossings, sand riding, goat track hike a bike, nasty loose gravel speedy decents and some singletrack.
11km run to follow with a flat start we then headed up up and up to our abseil, lots of hiking and I wasn’t feeling great. Abseil was amazing.
5km paddle across Glendhu Bay should have been easy but with our steering not working it was hard going.
14km run along an undulating beautiful gravel path back to Wanaka to finish the day.
4th team at end of Day 1 and seriously wondering how we are going to back up another similar but longer day!
Day 2 started on the banks in Wanaka for our 20km lake then whitewater paddle down the Clutha. With our steering fixed we had a great paddle, the 2.5km run up to the clay bird shooting was an unwelcome surprise leg, in booties! Lou hit the clay bird 1st shot which was great as I wasn’t overly keen.
28km ride up the Criffel Range followed, having done all of this climb within Godzone I was excited for the long hard upward 1200m slog. Lou had a mechanical and a spectacular crash into a massive puddle at the start of this leg so we lost some ground. We dug deep and got ourselves back in the mix with the girls teams. The decent down was awesome, definitely my highlight of the race was this ride, I felt strong and enjoyed every pinch of vertical it delivered!
Finding ourselves surprisingly in 3rd position after the ride with 3 young NZ teams hot on our tail, we decided to stick to our own game plan as to get through this 29km run leg with 1848 metres of vertical was going to be tough going. With my weakness being vertical hiking and Lou carrying a dodgy knee from day 1 it was going to be epic and painful. Teamwork up the never ending winding, switchback road to the top came into play, both of us having a go at towing each other in our darker spots. 2 of the girls teams passed us up this climb, finally reaching Mt Alpha then the rocky sketchy decent before climbing again to Roys Peak. Now for the decent, 8km of decending along a grassy zig zag track was taxing on the body but we managed to run down with Lou’s knee surviving surprisingly ok.
The very young NZ girls team (they were 22), flew past us near the start of decent, we didn’t think we would see them again but knee troubles kicked in for them and passed them 1/2 way down. Arriving at bottom of hill we are surprised to see a sign that says 20km, ouch we still have 9km of flat running to go, surely not! We soldiered on trying to run, was more like a shuffle. Crossing the line after 11+ hrs on day 2 was the best feeling, we did it! 5th position for today’s epic journey!
Thanks Lou Carrington for being a great teammate, we worked together and achieved our goal of finishing! 5th overall in women’s and didn’t get short coursed which was fab! #hydratewithhydralyte Topgear Cycles
Specialized bikes are running their demo test days this February, come and test ride Specialized’s latest 2016 mountain bike offerings including the 6Fattie, 29er and 650b wheel sizes back to back, both womens and mens bikes available. See below for details. Call shop for more details 98502996.
Lysterfield Demo Day
Where: Hallam North Road Carpark Area
When: 6/7 February 2016
Time: 8am – 2pm
You Yangs Demo Day
Where: Drysdale Road entrance
When: 13/14 February 2016
Time: 8am – 2pm
Helmet and ID required to test ride bikes.
Some crazy deals on 2016 model bikes, be quick to grab a bargin , stock wont last!
Mountain Bike SALE
2016 Bike model Old $ New Sale Price
FATBOY FATBOY 24 $1,299 $999
FATBOY FATBOY 20 $1,299 $999
FATBOY FATBOY SE $1,799 $1,499
FATBOY FATBOY $2,299 $1,999
FATBOY FATBOY TRAIL $2,999 $2,499
FATBOY FATBOY COMP CARBON $3,799 $3,299
FATBOY FATBOY EXPERT CARBON $7,499 $5,999
FATBOY SW FATBOY CARBON $9,499 $7,999
HELLGA HELLGA $1,799 $1,299
HELLGA HELLGA COMP $2,299 $1,799
HELLGA HELLGA EXPERT $3,599 $2,799
FATE FATE COMP 29 $1,999 $1,599
FATE FATE ELITE 29 $2,499 $1,999
FATE FATE COMP CARBON 29 $3,799 $2,999
FATE FATE EXPERT CARBON 29 $6,999 $5,499
FATE SW FATE CARBON 29 $10,999 $9,999
RUMOR RUMOR FSR 650B $2,699 $1,999
RUMOR RUMOR FSR COMP 650B $3,499 $2,999
RUMOR RUMOR FSR EXPERT 650B $6,499 $4,999
ERA FSR ERA FSR COMP CARBON 29 $5,499 $4,799
ERA FSR ERA FSR EXPERT CARBON 29 $8,999 $6,999
ERA FSR SW ERA FSR CARBON 29 $13,999 $9,999
ENDURO ENDURO FSR COMP 29 $4,799 $3,999
ENDURO ENDURO FSR COMP 650B $4,799 $3,999
ENDURO ENDURO FSR ELITE 29 $5,999 $4,499
ENDURO ENDURO FSR ELITE 650B $5,999 $4,499
ENDURO ENDURO FSR EXPERT CARBON 29 $8,499 $6,499
ENDURO ENDURO FSR EXPERT CARBON 650B $8,499 $6,499
ENDURO SW ENDURO FSR CARBON 29 $10,999 $9,999
ENDURO SW ENDURO FSR CARBON 650B $10,999 $9,999
Topgear Cycles Christmas Shop Hours
Saturday 19th 10AM TO 4PM
Sunday 20th 11AM TO 3PM
Monday 21st 9.30AM TO 6PM
Tuesday 22nd 9.30AM TO 6PM
Wednesday 23rd 9.30AM TO 6PM
Thursday 24th 9.30AM TO 4PM
Friday 25th CLOSED
Saturday 26th CLOSED
Sunday 27th CLOSED
Monday 28th CLOSED
Tuesday 29th 10AM TO 5PM
Wednesday 30th 10AM TO 5PM
Thursday 31st 10AM TO 3PM
Friday 1st CLOSED
Saturday 2nd 10AM TO 4PM
Sunday 3rd CLOSED
Monday 4th 9.30AM TO 6PM
2015 ITU World Duathlon Championships. 14-18 Oct 2015 Adelaide by Celine
My adventure started last October when I qualify to race the World Duathlon Championships at the National and finished 1st in my age group . I was very fortunate to be able to have a practice race 12 months earlier.
My excitement started when I received the National uniform with my name on it. Pressure, pressure I was representing Australia and the Hepworth Family.
My twins daughters Adele & Elise flew with me to Adelaide on Thursday. Registrations were at the Intercontinental in Adelaide. Getting my competitor pack and getting a photo in front of the ITU Duathlon Championships board gave me lots of goose pumps.
The Parade of the Nations was held at the Elders Park where transition was at 6.30pm. Marching in my Australian Uniform with all the other competitors of the other countries was an amazing and proud moment especially in front of my beautiful daughters. I felt very privilege and very lucky.
We got back to our accommodation at West Beach and I started to put my bike together. I only had to screw the hanger back on my Shiv and managed to do it the wrong way. After calling Peter all distressed he told me to go to Bike Society the next day to get it fix.. I did not sleep very well and I was very worried that I had stripped the hanger. I got there at 9.30am and it was all fixed in 10 min.
Friday was very relaxing just went for 6km run and I felt like a gazelle. Took my twins shopping and a walk down the beach. It was overcast and 22 degrees.
Saturday morning my 20 km ride felt amazing and fast. I love my Shiv. Lots of riders out with lots of colourful uniforms. I picked up Peter from the Airport and we went to bike check in. Race day was tomorrow I was getting very excited and so relaxed at the same time. I have been training and racing well .
They had the under 23 Women’s presentation and the played the National Anthem for Annelise Jefferies who finished 1st. I was World Duathlon Champion 20 years ago in Hobart. How amazing would it be to win again in front of my daughters.
We all got back to West Beach to have my good luck pasta vegetarian dinner and get organized for tomorrow World Duathlon Championships Day.The twins cooked dinner and even clean up just so their Mum could relax. It was time to get my number and category tattoo organized. Oops forgot to remove the paper and after keeping wetting the Number with no luck it was destroyed… Lucky, we drove to the 24 hours petrol station and mini shop to get a black marker. My twins carefully re did my number 553 so perfectly it was better that the tattoo.
5.45am Wake up. Ready to race. Perfect day and perfect condition. Just got in transition to put my helmets and shoes and pump my tyres. My wave was second last at 15 min. Just did a small warm up and I felt really good and so relaxed. Gave a big kiss to Peter and my twins and lined up to my wave start.
Starting with the 5km run I took the lead at the first km mark and felt very comfortable. The run was along the river so scenic and perfect condition. I kept passing the wave in front and all the Aussies kept cheering me up. I had a 30sec lead when I got to transition. Run with my bike to the bike start and saw another competitor from my age group passing me in transition. I went passed as soon as I started riding down the hill.
The cycle course was 2x 10km loop with a few sharp corner and a couple of short climbs. I just kept passing people and felt very strong. My Shiv is such a good bike, the DI2 makes it so smooth. I just felt amazing, powering off the corners. The 1 hour sessions on the wahoo kicker finally paid off.
I got to transition for my second run and could not believe how fresh I was still feeling. Try to have a speedy transition and started the 3km run. I kept passing people, kept being encouraged and I only got passed by 2 men from the last wave no women. I kept thinking relaxed your shoulders, enjoyed ( My husband’s directions when we do our speed sessions together)
I got to the finish line and look at my watch 1h 06min nearly 3 min faster than last year on the same course. I was not sure if I had won as they did not announce it as you finished. Peter came to get me and checked on the live results on his phone and yes I was World Champion win by 3 min and got 9t overall women. I had tears in my eyes and I could not believe that I did it again at 53 years old.
My girls where so proud of their mum and so was my husband Peter. I could not have done it without their help and support. My twins are amazing they wake up and go to bed happy, nothing is ever too hard. And my husband has always put my training first and he always encourage me.
He is racing the off road triathlon in Bendigo next month so it is now his turn. I am so lucky we train together, own Specialized Dealer bike shop and I get to ride the best bike in the world.
When I got called on the Podium at Presentation Night I could not stop smiling and I wanted to cry.
I would like to thank you all my relatives, friends and customers your good luck wishes and all the congrats and comments after my win. Also to the crew who put on the Park Run at Diamond Creek and Westerfolds Park , I really have improved my 5km run time by doing these great community events. It has been an amazing and very emotional experience. Thank you all so so much to have made it so Special.
DESTINATION TRAIL ……. ARE YOU INTERESTED?
“Are you interested? Are you available this weekend?”
An intriguing email subject that landed in my inbox from Pete at TopGear Cycles … and grabbed my attention.
What: Destination Trail ….. Glamping, Specialized Destination Trail swag bag, Test riding the latest Specialized Bikes 650B, 29er and 6Fattie and riding the famous Cairns trails with the World Trail crew
When: Thursday 24th – Saturday 26th September 2015
Where: Smithfield, Cairns QLD
Hmmmm ….. Am I interested and available??? ……… AM I EVER !!!!!
Fast forward a couple of weeks and with bags packed, it was off to Cairns we were headed. Pete had been kind enough to extend the invitation to me as one of the TopGear ambassadors to join him on the Destination Trail experience that Specialized Australia had organized for Smithfield and the fantastic Cairns trails.
The anticipation and excitement had certainly been building for an adventure that sounded pretty much like the perfect escape from the stresses of the work world of Melbourne via a nice little break that was well and truly needed.
We didn’t really know exactly what we would be encountering, but the #Destinationtrail series of videos that had been published on social media over the previous few months had certainly planted some seeds. If what we were about to experience was even a tenth of what any of those films had been about, then we were certainly in for a fun weekend.
Well … the one tenth part was pretty much shattered, exceeded and multiplied on arrival at Smithfield. On exiting the bus with a number of other guests that had been invited from various shops around Australia, we were greeted by the smiling team of Emily, Helen, Emma and Pat from Specialized Australia, welcomed in and checked into our accommodation for the next couple of nights. Flash Camp. Flash Camp indeed!!! Two rows of 10 safari style tents neatly arranged and kitted out with two double beds each; towels and bed linen with accompanying fully powered and heated showers and amenities. There were even after dinner mints on the pillows!!! I should have known that Specialized don’t normally do anything by halves, but this truly did surpass my expectations.
On dumping our stuff in our Glamping tents we were onto the exceedingly important task at hand …. Getting a beer. Once again … expectations exceeded as the Specialized team hadn’t just set up the tents to sleep in … they had also erected a massive marque that covered some dining tables, a display area and a bar. Beer …. Tick. But …… where were all the bikes that we were to be testing??? Well …. Ummmm …. There had been a bit of an issue. The boys driving the truck and trailer had some mechanical issues. . …. About 15 hours short of their destination. But as the team said …. Nothing to worry about. Operation rescue had swung into action and amazingly, the bikes were all loaded into two new trucks and due to arrive a bit later than night. Needless to say, we all waited until they did arrive and welcomed them in. As stressful as this must have been for the entire team at Specialized, it was actually fantastic to see how well they handled the situation and swung into gear to ensure the event proceeded as planned. Many months had no doubt gone into the planning of this event … and this team was determined to make it happen. You could excuse them if they decided to pull the pin given the gravity of what had happened, but they were determined to see it through. And do that they did, with aplomb. In actual fact, if they hadn’t said anything to us about what had happened, I actually doubt we would have realized. Such was the professionalism of how the event as a whole rolled out. Well done Specialized Australia.
Following a night of Taco’s via the Taco Loco guys from Cairns, a fire pit, great company, a few liquid refreshments and a perfect nights sleep, Friday morning dawned with a smorgasbord breakfast and a Rise and Grind coffee van (As I think I’ve already mentioned …. Not done by halves) then straight into the good stuff. The bikes.
We were introduced to the various machines that we would be able to test during the day. There were a multitude of models across male and female specific models, including the Camber, Stumpjumper, Rhyme, Rumour, Fuse and Ruze. But essentially the choices and the riding experiences came down to the wheel sizes. The bikes were available in 29’er, 650b and 6Fattie wheel options. Broken down again, basically this meant 29’er for Fast, 650b for Fun and nimbleness and 6Fattie for Forgiveness and traction. The rest of the features of the bikes were actually all very similar. Frame geometries were similar if not identical, all bikes ran dropper posts and all bikes also ran a 1 x 11 gearing set-up. The bikes had various iterations of Specialized’s SWAT Technology (Storage, Water, Air, Tools) with innovative ways of storing each of the SWAT elements including on some models a huge storage area under the bottle cage in the down tube that literally could fit all your tools, a banana and a beer if you really needed it to. The main difference between the bikes though …. The wheel sizes.
Today’s mountainbike marketplace is full of different choices and different opinions on what’s good and what’s bad, what suits who and who suits what. The purpose of today was going to be to try to simplify this and simply go and ride the bikes … and feel the differences. As Nick said during his brief presentation to us about the bikes, he could talk to us for hours about each individual feature of each bike and where and how one bike was different to another, but this would likely get pretty boring. Instead, Destination Trail would be about actually going and riding these bikes and feeling for ourselves the differences. Then making up our own minds as to what was good where and what we liked and what we didn’t. With the renowned Cairns trails literally at our camp doorstep, more riding sounded pretty good to me!!
The idea with the riding was that we would be split into three separate groups with each group being provided with a specific wheel size. We’d each get to cut a lap of some of the Cairns trails, then head back to camp, grab some water and food, swap bikes and wheel sizes and then head out again, doing this three times to cover all the bases and get a ride on each wheel sizes on the same sections of trail for a true comparison. Our group would hit up the 29’er to start with, followed by the 6Fattie and then ending on the 650b models.
Our group had Nick and Scotty from Specialized to guide us around the trails as well as Rhys Atkinson from World Trail … one of the actual builders of the trails and a professional Specialized rider, so we were pretty much looked after with regard to knowledge of the trails and also being shown how to best ride them. And shown we were. The trails were a fantastic mix of fast flowing downhills with berms and jumps a plenty, flat to climbing sections where views and the rainforest could be appreciated and short sharp little climbs with varying levels of technical difficulty. The thing I noticed the most though was the ability for you to take a “B” line if the “A” line simply was beyond your ability. World Trail really have done a great job here with regard to making the trails as accessible as possible to all levels of rider. Certainly, the loop that we were taken on provided a raft of different terrains and experiences. My favourite probably being the Jacobs Ladder section of the World Cup XC course. This was a combination of technical downhill switchbacks or a drop into a rock garden depending on the line you took, followed by berm after berm of flowing goodness. Heaps of fun that generated whoops of joy on every lap ….. and a couple of sneaky additional laps of this section just for the fun factor!!
As for the bikes, comparing the wheel sizes certainly was an interesting exercise, with riding each of the sizes back to back absolutely highlighting the differences between each. Our group started with the 29’er wheel size that I was quite accustomed to having ridden this wheel size on my own bike for the past couple of years. The Stumpjumper model that I rode though was vastly different to my short travel XC Epic. This bike simply ate up the terrain and literally felt like it could take anything I could throw at it and more. I have a saying for my own bike that each time I ride it, it shows me how much better at being a bike it is than I am of being a rider. My ability will never exceed this bike. Likewise with the Stumpjumper, my ability will certainly never exceed this bikes capability. There is a reason that the Specialized Stumpjumper model is so well respected. And getting to ride it on trails that were absolutely made for it, was an experience I won’t soon forget. Just so much fun!!!
The 6Fattie was next on the agenda. All I can say here is traction, traction, traction. Just when you think you’re at the limit of speed and angle that you can throw this bike into a corner at …. It allows you to do more. Likewise in climbing up some very loose and rocky elements on the Cairns rails, I was unable to break traction with this wheel and tyre size. Given, I was running about 17 Psi in these tyres as recommended so there was plenty of give to be had, but this 3 inch tyre with this wheel size really is unlike anything I had ridden before. It certainly isn’t as nimble and easy to get up the hills and doesn’t have the speed of a 29er, but for fun factor and loads of confidence and forgiveness when things get a little out of hand, this wheel size is amazing.
The 650b wheel size isn’t something I had normally considered in my riding future. I’ll be honest. I really like the feel of a 29’er wheel and have been convinced for quite some time that this size is the size for me. However …. Trying this 650b wheel size again on a Stumpjumper and in these trails really was an eye opener. The roll over ability of a 29’er wheel perhaps wasn’t quite there, but the nimbleness and pure fun factor of this wheel size was something I really wasn’t expecting. For this type of riding too, that of a pure fun based trail experience, this wheel size was just so much fun. The traction obviously wasn’t the same as the 6Fattie, which was ridiculous, but the mix of climbing ability, and lightness and “flickability” when descending made this bike a pure fun machine. Smiles a plenty after this loop …. Even after being convinced to ride a bit more and being taken a long, long way up a very steep hill, I was still having fun. Admittedly, we did get to bomb down from the very top on a section of trail that is being used next month in the Australian Enduro championships … so that likely accounted for more than a bit of the fun factor, but regardless, the 650b wheel size was a pleasant surprise to me.
Before we knew it, our three laps of the trails and our three wheel size rides were done. The sun was setting and it was time for a well earned beer. Again the Specialized team put on a beautiful dinner of spit roasted meats, some live music, a fire pit and more great company. Plus giant Jenga and some faux fire twirling and juggling. They were making it very hard to think about going back to Melbourne that is for sure!!
The final morning afforded us the opportunity to sit in again on the product presentation to the new arrivals at Destination Trail that had arrived the previous afternoon as both Prize winners from the Specialized Destination Trail competition and also as local Cairns shop owners and customers. Having been through the experience the previous morning, it was interesting to sit back and see some of the reactions of the attendees to the information being given to them and seeing the excitement on their faces in anticipating the riding adventure that they would be having that day. We were lucky enough to be able to sneak in another ride around the trails prior to our departure from Destination Trail. It was during this ride that I had a chance to reflect on what we had experienced the day before and the amount of fun that was had. And that is what really stuck with me. The fun. At the end of the day … isn’t this exactly what mountainbiking should be about? As much as I can recommend a certain wheel size and the positives or negatives of one over another …. As Nick had said on our very first morning …. Just get out there and ride and see for yourself, have fun and then make up your own mind as to what you enjoy most. What do you enjoy the most?
Now I know that not everyone gets to go to Cairns to be looked after by Specialized, ride around on their bikes, eat their food and drink their beer …. BUT … if you DO have an opportunity to ride the Cairns trails, then take it. They are awesome. Likewise, if you get the chance to test ride the various Specialized offerings of bikes and wheel sizes, then I can also recommend that you take it. Specialized is running their Destination Trail Experience via various Demo events being held around Australia over the next few months. Details are available on their website, but for those in Victoria, they are going to be at Lysterfield on February 6th – 7th and at You Yangs on February 13th – 14th. Alternatively, TopGear Cycles also has various models available in store for you to try before buying. If you can make either of these demo event’s or get into the store then it will be well worth it. And it will be fun!!! And that is the most important thing.
As a side note, the team at Specialized had not only provided us with their full range of trail bikes to ride as part of the Destination Trail experience, but had also kitted us out for the riding with some of their latest trail kit. The new Ambush helmet, XC Lite Gloves, Atlas Knee Pads and a range of their SWAT enabled knicks, baggie shorts and tops. They also had available for trial their new 2FO Cliplite and Flat shoes. Essentially a trail enabled bike shoe with the function of a more traditional mountainbike shoe, but the comfort and usability of a normal flat pedal shoe.
Now I’m not normally a baggie wearer when I go riding …. Well … I’m NEVER a baggie wearer. That being said though, one of the things about the Destination Trail is that we weren’t actually there to race for sheep stations. We were there to experience the trails, the bikes and to have fun. And that’s what we did. I can honestly say that having put all the new equipment on and got used to the slightly different feel to that of tight lycra everywhere, that I then didn’t think about the equipment again. Not at all. Now that isn’t a bad thing … that in my book is a great thing!! All the stuff was simply so comfortable that I didn’t think of it once when riding. We had come from cold Melbourne to hot and humid Cairns and thrashed around up and down some pretty demanding trails and for me to be in gear that I hadn’t worn at all previously and not feel one bit of discomfort … and in fact not even think about anything that I was wearing is a big tick in my books. Don’t tell anyone … but I’ve ridden back home a couple of times since … and both times I’ve reached for the baggie gear rather than the normal lycra. This trip may well have changed me!!! The Ambush Helmet and the SWAT knicks in particular are just so comfortable to wear that I am struggling a bit with the thought of going back to my lycra ways. A huge tick for me for both of these products.
Thanks to TopGear Cycles for inviting me to Destination Trail Cairns and thanks to Specialized Australia for organizing it. It was a truly amazing experience.
Until next time, keep riding and keep having fun !!!