Photos: Russ Baker
Bendigo is a regional centre in Victoria built upon the Gold Rush of the 1800s. Now with all the gold dug out of the ground it has become a hot bed of cycling talent. Like was mentioned previously in Armidale, NSW, the town of Bendigo has created and continues to create some amazing cycling athletes. National road champions Darren Lapthorne and Peta Mullens call Bendigo home as does the new generation of world class riders Jack Haig, Chris Hamilton and as we witnessed this weekend Tasman Nankervis. What is it that encourages so many young people in Bendigo to follow through with the sport? I saw a common thread linking what I witnessed in Armidale to here in Bendigo – A group of impassioned and dedicated volunteers driving the local cycling community. The road scene has numerous ‘race’ bunches leaving the town centre seemingly every 5 minutes of a saturday morning and the MTB scene is creating another world class trail network at near by Spring Gully.
Spring Gully would be the setting for this years ‘Golden Triangle MTB Epic‘, now in it’s 4th edition this race has been a staple for local riders over the past few years. The inclusion in this year’s MTBA XCM National Series has opened up this event for 2016 to a much larger and deeper quality field. A number of elite riders made the trip from all over Australia to compete on the 100km race. This made for some tight and classy racing in both the men’s and women’s elite field.
It was however the locals who came away with the gold in both the men’s and women’s. Young Tasman Nankervis coming off a 2nd place at the national titles last weekend was the marked man of the day and showed why as his strength, skill and local knowledge proved to be too much for the chasing group of Jongewaard, Ward, Jackson and Blair.
It was a similar situation in the women’s field where local and recently crowned national XCM champion Peta Mullens powering away from a strong field to take a home town victory.
Full results can be seen here.
The conditions on the day were typically Australian. This race, these trails and this location is so typically Australian I can see this event becoming a staple on the national scene and emerging as a long term classic marathon like The Otway or Convict have become.
It will be appealing for overseas visitors also as this is what the vast majority of our country is like, the race is a good taster of what the typical conditions on Australian trails is.. Dust, rock, corrugations, heat, sun, mines and scampering native wildlife all over the course.
The Bendigo MTB club have done a stellar job of establishing a trail network here and in conversation with local guru Wil Barrett the plan is to establish a world trails style trail system similar to other mountain bike destination towns like Derby in Tasmania. The right people are in charge here and the talent that has emerged and is emerging from the area is testament to the potential of Bendigo to become an MTB mecca.
My day at the Golden Triangle Epic
My race left a little to be desired, I made a goal in my mind to crack the top 10 at this event. In the first 10km I was on track, feeling good and bridged a few gaps to get onto the reliable wheel of James ‘JD’ Downing, feeling good I was negotiating the trails well on the Norco Revolver FS which was gobbling up the rough and rocky conditions whilst many other riders were opting for hardtails I was happy to be riding the duallie.
The sharp rocks of the area however did take their toll cutting a large slice out of the sidewall of my front tyre at the 10k marker. After a frustrating change and finally getting a tube in I saw my top 10 ambitions dwindle away. To further the frustration my Rear mech had taken a bash on the flight down so was grinding away misaligned. However, with still 90km left to ride, the thought did cross my mind – I could just step off after 1 lap (50km) as I had nothing to race for really.. However, it’s funny even when there is not much to be gained from pushing on, I did and do find it worthwhile to give it your all, no matter what! I ground away, the sweet trails made it actually quite enjoyable and started to chip away at the many positions I had lost. I crossed the finish line in 14th and completely spent.
That’s what I love about racing and I think the purpose most of us do it. To empty the tank and know that no matter what you gave it everything you have! It can be a quite cathartic and satisfying feeling. Even when no reward at stake just ‘racing for soul’ is always worthwhile!
Next up the National XCM series head to St Albans, NSW for the classic ‘Convict 100‘ on April 30.