The Evocities MTB series now in its 2nd year is setting a standard for well run, quality, fun yet competitive mountain bike events in Australia. The Evocities movement is designed to showcase the benefits of living in regional NSW to those who may be disenfranchised with Sydney’s high cost of living and chaotic traffic mess. The Evocities MTB series is a perfect way to encourage mountain bikers to take a weekend away and visit one of these emerging regional towns that have been labelled ‘Evocities’. The latest round of the MTB series headed to Tamworth last weekend, the centre of NSW’s ‘New England’ region known for it’s promotion of country style music and strong agricultural heritage.
Last time I was away for an mountain bike race, I was in Armidale with my Subaru-MarathonMTB.com team mate Mike. I wrote then about how impressed I was with how well organised, promoted and encouraged the sport was in the area. This sentiment is definitely carried the 100km down the ‘Moonbie hills’ from Armidale to Tamworth. The Tamworth MTB club hosts a modest membership count of between 50 and 60 members. Yet from this small pool an amazing event has been put together, an entire world class MTB facility has been built and enough volunteers were sourced to run an entire weekend of MTB festivities. This is a real testament to the passionate people behind the Tamworth MTB club.
A round of the Evocities MTB series involves an endurance lap based event over a number of hours. The Tamworth round was 5 hours in length making a return drive to Sydney or Newcastle for work on the Monday a possibility for those attending from afar.The large prize pool offered at these events has also proved to be attracting some of the country’s finest mountain bike athletes. Tamworth, similar to other regional towns has developed its own fair share of world class cyclists over the years. One of whom came for a shred on the MTB on Sunday, current road professional Sam Spokes gave the solo elite category a run whilst back in Tamworth for a mid season break from the European professional circuit. Also lining up was current no.2 ranked Australian XCO racer and MTB World Cup afficionado Cameron Ivory, current 24 hour World Champ Jason English, former marathon XC hardman Trenton Day and the current U19 national XC champion Michael Harris just to name a few.
With such a high quality start line the first lap of the 5 hours was nothing less than frenetic. The elite end of the field set off at a cracking pace trying to sort out a pecking order for who was most deserving of the $1000 novelty check at the finish line. Sam Spokes caused a bit of worry for the traditional mountain bikers and was fastest after the first lap.
The course was however going to be suited to the more mountain bike trained athletes. A super fun trail which offered approximately 30% flowy & fast singletrack, 30% steep, strength focussed climbing rewarded with stunning views of town and 40% gnarly rocky descents designed to test the best bike handlers.
Although achievable by all on course, the lap proved to reward those who could nail the technical sections with speed. A variety of riders turned up to enjoy the day. Along with the solo categories pairs and 3 person teams were also offered. The Armidale based 2 Wheel Academy showed why they are touted as one of the best MTB development programs in the country with many of their young riders setting some ripper lap times in the teams categories.
Cameron Ivory showed why he is one of the most highly respected mountain bike athletes in Australia at the moment, powering away from roadie Sam Spokes and holding off the endurance race specialists Jason English and Ed McDonald to take the win. Liz Smith rode a fantastic race in the women’s category, completing 8 laps of the 12km circuit finishing 1 lap ahead of Melinda Allen. Equal prize money and a complimentary sausage sandwich was welcomed by both athletes who assure me they are more than excited to line up at the next Evocities round.
Getting back on the bike at the Evocities race
For me personally, this was a comeback race after a 4 month lay off due to a broken pelvis and ribs. To be back on the MTB and trying to shred again was a little nerve racking at first but after finding my groove a few laps in I was stoked to push through the entire 5 hours. The Norco Revolver performed flawlessly, the gnarly stop/ start nature of some of the technical sections were tackled with confidence thanks to braking with Miles brake pads and the sharp, puncture inducing rock gardens posed no issue for the EXO Maxxis Ikons which rolled over the rocks sidewalls and tread in tact every time! The track was DEMANDING and after 4 hours of pushing around my weakened body was bearing the brunt of the tough terrain. But hearing Dave Harris from Armidale on the mic say “If your back is hurting- It’s because you have been mountain biking for over 4 hours” gave me the encouragement to keep on pushing through the pain! Thanks Dave!
I was so glad to be back at an event such as this also. Seeing the smiling faces at race rego, timing tent and sausage sandwich stall helps to remind the main purpose of our sport- FUN. The Tamworth MTB club president said it best during the rider briefing:
“the list of priorities at our events is simple 1. Safety, 2. Fun, 3. Competition”.
It was also great to see the ‘don’t be a dickhead’ rule enforced regarding rider passing. I always love coming to these events, an opportunity to race hard, do some quality and socialising and experience some quality MTB trails is a far too good an opportunity to pass up. Make your way to Tamworth to ride the sweet trails and get yourself to Wagga Wagga on September 4 for the next round of the Evocities MTB series!