All photos by Oliver King.
The launch of the Blue Derby trails in North East Tasmania have received a lot of attention, and that is completely justified. The development of the trail network there has been made in the hope of rejuvenating the town and surrounding communities that have shrunk since mining stopped and forestry was reduced.
Those two means of income have left a lot of scars on the surrounding landscape. But you have to look to see them. What is most noticeable is how quiet the town is. Or was. Since the official opening on February 7th, people have started to venture out to Derby. It’s a two pub town, but you can add in a couple of cafes (including a Corner Store, like that in Forrest and Mt Buller), some new bed and breakfast operators, and other accommodation options that are setting up just to cater for mountain bikers.
Mountain biking is going to be the saviour of Derby.
MTBA announced that Derby will host not just the 2015, but the 2016 Cross Country Marathon (XCM) National Championships as well. In previous years, it has moved around. That’s not a problem, but having the event booked for another year to come allows athletes, businesses and official bodies to plan accordingly, and promote the event to lift the profile of mountain biking.
The course is going to be lap based, just as the past four Australian XCM Champs have been. I can look back at each of these events and call them a standout race on the Australian marathon calendar. They have all had a lot of singletrack, lots of climbing, and the lap based format (always 3 laps) allows for good feedzone support and at least some interest for spectators.
The proposed loop for the 2015 XCM Champs starts right in Derby, and starts on the small road climb out of town – it turns to dirt in less than one kilometre, and climbs through the forest on a reasonable quality 2WD dirt road for about 5km.
Crossing a bridge takes riders onto the lake trail, which is currently in construction. Unlike many tourist rides around lakes, this feels like a pump track through temperate forest, with enough granite boulders thrown in to keep things very interesting.
You climb up a while and end up on a pretty long descent, all bermed, with rocks to roll over, small gaps to take if you’re so inclined, and plenty of free speed for those comfortable to let loose. This spits you out onto the next climb. Again, all singletrack.
The climbs use a lot of switchbacks, and reverse grades to shed water. What’s most noticeable is when you change from one soil type to another. Some is quite soft, but when you’re closer to granite the soil is also a lot firmer. It’s almost like riding on road base. Something your legs will notice on the third lap.
The descent from this climb is fast, and takes you down some more powdery trails with fast lines and more optional gaps if you have the skills to take them. There are plenty of options to gain small amounts of time on the descents. Or lose a lot if you mess it up.
Hitting the river, you’re right onto rock. The line is scrubbed free of lichen and mould, but it’s not smooth rolling – there are plenty of edges to hit or burp a tyre on.
With just a few kilometres of the loop to go, you have a two way section of fire trail that has a few passing opportunities, and then you hit the “Relics” trail, which is littered by refuse from the mining days. It’s also a whole lot of fun as it mostly descends back to the start/finish along some dusty, red dirt trails.
With a few more pinches, the course leads back to the trail head along a series of fairly loose corners. There’s a good open section of firetrail to pass on, but it’s rough enough that you need to get your line right. Expect a lot of spectators as you get to the twisty corners as it’s right next to town and a prime place for someone who is a bit tired to bin it.
The following laps take the singletrack climb, which meets the original dirt road climb about 1km in.
The event schedule is being finalised, but at this point it is proposed that age group races will take place late morning on Saturday 16th May, allowing practice in the morning for Elite, and Elite men and women will race no later than 8:30am on Sunday 17th May, with presentations coming soon after the podium finishers have crossed the line.
Previous XCM Champion Ben Mather has had a lot of input into the logistics of the race, and is hoping to make it a great experience for elites and age group riders as well. While the Championship event often has a feeling that non-elite shouldn’t attend, Mather is hoping instead to make it a weekend of racing, taking away the pressure of Elite racers needing to pass other riders, and making sure all racers can enjoy the stunning trails in North East Tasmania.
We’ll have the full schedule as it’s finalised, including a course map once the final trail is open. For further details, check out our event post.