The second instalment of the Real Insurance XCM powered by Cyclenation series took riders to the sweet trails of Sparrow Hill, Kowen Forest, Majura Pines, and the world class Mt Stromlo Mountain Bike Park. There was much discussion before the race on expected temperatures on the start line and what the best strategy for clothing was going to be. As it turned out, overnight cloud cover ensured temperatures didn’t drop too far into the single digits and arm warmers were all that was needed.
Once again, the pace in the first few kilometres was sensible and riders shuffled into position well. Perhaps due to this, entering the first section of singletrack was not the carnage that I have seen in other races. It wasn’t until after Sparrow Hill that I had joined into a good group and was content that these were the guys to stay with until the untimed section. In the group was Bernard Beer rider and driver Ondrej Slezak, Ashfield Cycles rider and ex-roadie Ben Isaksen, Australian representative Daniel McDonald and fellow team mate Graeme ‘Biscuit’ Arnott.
The trend over to Majura Pines was Ondrej would drive the pace through the singletrack, and I would have to play catch-up on the fire road. The smoothness of the more experienced riders proved too much through Majura Pines and I crested the KOM about a minute in arrears of the rest of the six-man group. To my amazement, feedback from spectators was we were running just outside the top 15.
A quick refuel and the heat was back on – which couldn’t come soon enough as the body started to hint at going into shutdown mode in the Canberra Chill. Last year I was dropped at the first short sharp climb straight after the timing mats for the trek over to Mt Stromlo. This year I went in early to make sure the body had a chance to warm-up and make the group. In the space of a relatively flat 10km, the group was systematically torn apart by powerhouse Brock Roberts. One by one, riders were pumped off the back of the Brock train, and I was no exception.
By the base of the Stromlo climb, I was starting to suffer the effects of the furious pace in the first stage. Thankfully, the legs co-operated and whilst I wasn’t cracking any Strava segments up the demanding climb, I was confident the SiS hydration formula had done enough to keep cramps at bay.
The descent back down the mountain to the finish line was nothing like it could have been. The 50km traffic did not mix well with the faster riders, and this cost some of the front-runners dearly. Pete Hatton was unfortunately denied the chance to contest for the win due to a mis-communication with a slower rider. With the best three of a possible six races counting in the overall series, chances are the points tally at the end of the series will be extremely tight. The reality is these few seconds lost could prove costly for Hatton.
In October 2010, the World 24 Hour Solo Championships and the teams based Australian Scott 24 hour were held on two entirely separate 20km circuits around the vast trail network Mt Stromlo has to offer. Using the same 10km circuit for both 100km and 50km riders is unfair to both parties.
The race was a well-run event, and holding a mountain bike race that traverses across Australia’s capital is not without its challenges, however separate Stromlo tracks and a reliable timing system are two areas that ArocSport should address in future editions.