St Albans is a sleepy town on the banks of the MacDonald River, a tributary of the Hawkesbury River about 2hrs drive north of Sydney. Settled in 1842 it doesn’t see a lot of heavy traffic other that 1 weekend in May for the Convict 100.
Due to the location from Sydney, many opt to camp overnight before the race to avoid a 4am alarm. This appears to be getting more popular every year with 3 paddocks overflowing with everything from swags, tents to camper trailers and full blown caravans.
Seeing over 900 competitors line up for the 13th edition of the “Century of Dirt” across 3 race formats simply dwarfs and transforms this tiny town into a party for all!
Saturday’s Race was broken down across 3 major events.
100km – Convict 100 “Century of Dirt”
68km – Convict Half
44km – The introduction
Returning to defend his 2016 title, Jason English lined up along side a relatively smaller Elite field than that seen in recent years however, the age group and open riders can never be discounted in the mass start format.
Under heavy fog, the field rolled out in the reverse direction to the course of previous years, heading North up Wollombi Road.
Switching the course directions means the iconic kayak bridge spanning the 100m wide river crossing, would now come early at the 33km mark of the race. Certainly not a deciding point of the race, but it can make exhausted riders nervous at the 70km mark and lead to unnecessary mistakes.
An early solo break formed before the first major climb at Jacks Track but at only 12km into the race it was unlikely to stick.
As the elite group made its way through the Yengo National Park, Jason English employed his consistent pace setting and saw a handful of riders including Andy Fell, Chris Ferguson and Michael Kafka head up the road, with Ferguson and Kafka hitting the kayak bridge, 2.30min ahead of English.
Fell lost contact with the lead group after coming unstuck and essentially de-robing himself of his jersey in the process, but well enough to continue.
Looking comfortable the lead duo of Ferguson and Kafka, pushed on up the Old Great Northern Road climb (part of the original Convict trail between Sydney and Newcastle).
Through the 2nd half of the course, time gaps and reports feeding back were reporting English had regained the gap and joined Kafka and Ferguson at the front, however with such remote checkpoints it was hard to confirm.
It was not until the leaders hit town at the finish that the performance of the day was on true display with Quantum Racing Team/Way2Live’s Michal Kafka soloing into the finish straight with enough time for two hand salute and a post race beer and interview before 2nd placed English arrive approx 4.30min down on Kafka.
If you haven’t ridden this race, it really is a stunning and challenging course. Open fire roads, water crossings and single track provide a great event for a wide variety of skill levels and with camping on offer, you can’t use the sleep in excuse any more!
All photos by Sam Moorhouse – follow him on Instagram @mozimage
More photos from The Convict 100