If you are aching with cold, struggling for motivation to ride, and running out of daylight faster than you can devour a block of 85% Lindt chocolate, then chances are you will welcome the coming of Spring with the zeal of a junior racer. In the Southern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice has well and truly passed, and soon enough our days will actually become noticeably longer, and perhaps the temperatures will warm up.
I’ve heard it said that there is no better place to be in September than in Sydney – and I tend to agree, being Sydney born and bred. The past few years have seen me arrive home from a stint living fairly hand to mouth overseas, racing my bike wherever I could, with an ‘enter everything’ approach. From a cheap hire car, to a train trip, to a mates couch, a media gig, a driving job, a stage race, a mountain hostel, a marathon, a Lidl, and back again. So September would normally find me back home in Sydney, quickly doing a tax return to find some income, making friends with a previous employer, and getting acquainted with my road bike again and the gorgeous lack of rolling resistance it offers.
But that’s not to say there isn’t some awesome racing going on. Here’s a selection of some kick arse events to get to this Australian Spring.
Dwellingup 100 – 6th September
Western Australia isn’t close, but there are more and more reasons for riders from interstate to make the trip. The ‘Dwelli’ has been running for a number of years, with refinements fro one year to the next to make it Western Australia’s premier marathon race. This year sees course changes to help spread the field out, using more singletrack, and ensuring the half distance riders don’t merge with the full distance until much farther into the race. Less congestion, better racing, and better trails. Everyone wins.
Entries are open, visit the race website for more details.
Flight Centre Cycle Epic – 13/14 September
The grand old dame of Australian XCM Racing. I remember sitting in a poorly heated lounge room in a share house of MTB racers back in 2004, guffawing at the thought of racing over 100km on a mountain bike. Ridiculous! Why would you? But people went, riders made it a hard and fast race, and the high prize money on offer kept the field deep and the racing hot for years onwards. The Epic celebrated it’s 10th birthday last year. After the floods in 2011, the course changed shape quite a lot, and the infamous Ma ma creek singletrack that ended races with flats, or slowed them down with mud – was gone. No longer a point to point race from Toowoomba to Peppers Hidden Vale in Grandchester, now the Epic starts and finishes at Peppers. This means a pool, showers, toilets, accommodation, grass… all mod cons. And car shuttles to faff with. The Epic is still a rich race, paying to 5th for Elite men and women. It’s 84km of hard graft for the full distance event. No one who has raced it will bemoan it not being a ‘true marathon’ for being sub 100km. There are shorter events, kids races, and even a cyclocross race the day before. The race draws well over 2000 riders, and should attract you too.
Entries are open, and you can enter online.
Kowalski Classic – 21st September
Now in it’s 3rd year, the Kowalski Classic is part of the new Maverick Marathon Series, which ties together four premiere mountain bike marathons in South East Australia. With a rich prize purse and high quality trails, the Kowalski has quickly gained a reputation of a ‘mountain bikers marathon’. It’s the race that thumbs it’s nose at those who say marathon racing doesn’t use fun trails – and that they don’t capture the true mountain bike experience. If that sounds like your trail head whinge, sign up for the Kowalski. With countless corners, berms, dips and whoops, plus feedzones with bacon and egg rolls, along with the nations elite marathon stars in attendance – this race has it all.
More details an entry information are online
Crocodile Trophy – 18-26 October
More than a Marathon, this is an XCO race glued to eight marathons to make one of the most varied stage races in the world. The Croc Trophy climbs from the rainforest of Cairns to the tablelands of Atherton, inland to Mt Mulligan cattle station and back through Granite Gorge to finish at the resort town of Port Douglas. This is perhaps the best use of time off work, as you get to race your MTB every day. Eat, sleep, race, repeat. Or mix up that order a little bit. For 2014, the race has a UCI S1 ranking, the highest ranking for a MTB stage race by the UCI save for the Cape Epic. It has earnt that by refining the route and the provision of more than adequate comforts for the riders and crew. The stories no longer hold true. This is a brilliant race experience. And a win here would place you well up the start of a World Cup grid – if that’s your fancy.
If the Crocodile Trophy tempts you, but you can’t commit to 9 days, consider the ‘Croc Lite’ (Soft Trophy) where you just race the first two stages. It will give you a taste for Croc. More details are on the race website.
Cape to Cape – 23/26 October
A race that has quickly become known as the MTB Stage Race to do in Australia. It’s in a popular tourist region, the promoters listened to feedback, the racers came, they raced hard – and now Western Australia has a huge race to show for it. What other stage race in Australia sells out with 1300 riders? The Cape to Cape offers 4 days of diverse racing in the Margaret River area, with countless accommodation options and plenty to do for significant others who make the trip over.
More details for the race, and information about travel packages, are on the event website
Highland Fling 9/10 November
Happy Birthday Highland Fling! The Fling turns 10 in 2014, just as the Convict 100 did in May. Both are synonymous with Sydney MTBing, and at each race, riders know what time they want to do. The Fling is a little different though, as it changes a little each year. One year 112km, 114km the next. Tiny route changes as little pieces of trail are added here and there. With some new machine built trail in Wingello, it’s likely the course will see some more small changes this year. More than that, the Fling has a category for everyone. Elite, half distance, relays, cyclocross, 100 mile, open, age groups… no wonder it draws a crowd!
For more details on the race, head to the Wild Horizons website.
Hellfire Cup – 20/23 November
It’s been burnt to a crisp, and it has been drowned. What else could befall the Avanti Plus Hellfire Cup? A four day, seven stage race in South East Tasmania, the crew behind the race are working hard with new trails, some new logistics, but the same great format for the 2014 race. It falls late in Spring, so could well be a great preparation race for those who want to contest the as yet unannounced Subaru National MTB Series. Find yourself a nice house to stay in, or bring a campervan or camping gear, and get set for what promsies to be a great four day event
More details are available on the event website
Of course there are plenty more races too, with 24hr races aplenty, 4 and 7hr events, and another marathon race, the Husky 100, in summer. All events are listed on our calendar.