Of course it is a race! But nothing like any other enduro race out there! The Dirty Gran Fondo is one of the most unique concepts on the enduro mountain bike calendar, a race for the masses. It’s an epic journey through the lush forrest of Mt Disappointment where riders choose what bike and distance to ride. An off-road race with no single track but plenty of steep dirt road climbs and descents to keep riders entertained. A great day out on the bike with coffee stops, vegemite and cheese rolls and heaps of Oreo cookies to go around.
After a very cold 2013 edition, the 2014 Dirty Gran Fondo will be forever remembered as the wet edition. In the night before the race, water was bucketing down from the skies but it couldn’t break the motivation of almost 200 riders to line up next to the Wandong footy oval at 8am on Saturday the 10th of May. Amongst this bunch of brave men and women, a surprisingly high number of riders on cyclo cross bikes indicating how much this discipline of off-road cycling has grown in popularity in only the last two or three years.
After the briefing by race director and eventual first runner up in the 90km CX category Rohin Adams, the race was on! The holeshot went to John “Grover” Groves closely followed by yours truly. Although the rain had taken a short break around start time, the dirt road climb that took the bunch into the Mt Disappointment forrest was one long stretch of muddy potholes. Not knowing how deep these all were, riders were forced to swerve all over the road in an attempt to avoid flat tyres and wet feet.
In the front of the race, some of Australia’s top cyclo cross riders fought out a fierce battle with a few of the big names in the mountain bike scene. While mountain bikers had a much lower risk of puncturing and greater stopping power allowing them to take more risks in the descents, the cyclo cross riders had the weight advantage on the climbs. With some treacherous descents in the second half of the Dirty Gran Fondo, it were the big wheeled mountain bikes that rode clear from the skinny tyre cyclo cross bikes in the end.
Overall victory in the 2014 Dirty Gran Fondo went to Tasman Nankervis ahead of Adrian Jackson and Will Geor. First cyclo cross rider to cross the finish line in the 90km was national champion Allan Iacuone closely followed by Rohin Adams and Paul Jones. In the women’s race, victories went to national cyclo cross champion Lisa Jacobs on her 29er mountain bike and national marathon mountain bike champion Melissa Anset on her cyclo cross bike. Looked like this two ladies got their bikes mixed up or just didn’t feel like getting their green and gold championship jerseys dirty. In the open 65km event, Lewis Rattray piloted his cyclo cross bike to a convincing victory almost 20 minutes clear of the second, Mark Mos, and third, Liam Jeffries.
Big thanks to the Big Hill Crew for organising another splendid event, the rain only made it more epic than it already was. Thumbs up for DC from the Fitzroy Revolution for brewing a few hundred coffees and giving riders a motivating caffeine rush.