All photos by Robert Conroy
Brewing for three years, the 2016 Bright National Championship XCO course, by all accounts, had been aged to perfection. Flowing singletrack gave way to technical rock rolls that dropped riders into collapsed mine networks and spat them out onto tough steep climbs with rewarding berms tall enough to swallow a bike and its rider as they descended back down! While it feels like magic as you ride, the real magic had occurred months before as deer tracks were turned into mountain bike single trails. Living in Bright allowed me to view first hand the magic of the process by the hardworking locals, as well as sample the end result!
Speaking of results, I was looking for a nice single digit number to sign off on the Australian summer series with. After an ever improving (minus the Toowoomba debacle) national series, I was hopeful for a good showing in front of the home crowd. Giving it some beans off the start line put me in third right before the washing machine started. With a flat start loop the gaps weren’t formed easily and the recent rain had filled sections of the road up with deep puddles of water. Things got a bit messy and I found myself off in the grass a few times and ended up drifting back to 8th.
Although a fantastic track to ride, the lack of passing proved to be frustrating and it wasn’t until the start of the second lap I was able to move up onto the wheel of Paul Van Der Ploeg. Sitting on the bubble of the podium in 6th with Paul in 5th meant, I hoped, we were in for a good battle for the final step on the podium. Not half a lap later though I felt the air escaping my front tyre. It was just a burp from a compression but it was down enough to force me to stop and get a CO2 canister into it. By the time I was done getting it back up I had lost Paul and Adrian Jackson had caught and past me putting me back to 7th.
With about 40psi in the front, it was into a rough time trial mode for the rest of the race. Even with some reasonable laps towards the end I couldn’t make the time up I had lost but I was still happy crossing the line to finish 7th. As usual there was no time to dwell as the short course race was the next day! Dan McConnell proived again he was the best in the country, with Cam Ivory and Kyle Ward battling it out not far behind for the final podium positions ahead of Brendan Johnston and Paul van der Ploeg.
Full gas in Short Track
Full gas, bar to bar racing is what short course is all about and with a flat course with some simple singletrack the racing was going to be close and tactical. Clipping in smooth and then unclipping in the start straight sprint was less than ideal but with 24minutes 45 seconds plus 3 laps to go and still in contact with the front I was happy. Slowly I moved my way up while making sure I didn’t go too deep for just one place. Coming up on half way I was sitting 3rd with a red and orange chase group chasing. With 1st and 2nd checked out it was time to look behind. Cam Ivory was hiding in the chase group and attacked when they made contact. Quickly building a lead and consolidating 3rd. Our little group of red, orange and blue took turns at the front to add pressure and see who was going to crack first.
Entering the closing laps, we were all together and with a course lined with spectators it was exciting and just the way a short course should be. Up the start straight entering the final lap I attacked and got a gap before the single track. Pushing hard I held the gap and took home 4th. Overall for myself it was a good weekend but for the Bright community and cycling club I would class it an overwhelming success. Next year the National champs move on but I’m sure the lasting effects of such a high class event will linger for many years to come.