Rocky Trail Entertainment have a vast array of events, and play a key role in others. Their Shimano MTB GP Series has helped plenty of riders get the taste for competitive events, and are a proving ground for endurance riders around New South Wales and the ACT. But their lap-based marathon race at Mt Stromlo, called the AMB100 since 2014, has had a slightly different appeal.
With a traditional date in February, you can guess what sort of conditions the AMB100 became known for. Plenty of Canberran riders know that if it’s 35 degrees in the carpark at Mt Stromlo, then it’s probably 45 degrees when you’re on the hill. Given the fires that tore much of Canberra apart also denuded the mountain of trees, there’s not much respite when the sun is out, despite some impressive regrowth.
Finding your place at the AMB100
The AMB100 has played with a pairs category, and unfortunately seen it go, and Rocky Trail Entertainment have also sat on the edge of their seats waiting to hear whether the fire danger would be too high for the event. But the AMB100 has also offered enough distance options to keep a whole host of riders happy. Based on a 25-33km lap set by Race Director Martin Wisata, there are 1, 2, 3 and 5 lap races. Called 33, 66, 100km and 100 mile races, they usually end up around 25, 50, 75 and 125km long. But given there’s a lot of rock at Mt Stromlo, no one ever complains about being short-changed.
So with choices on offer, the event attracts more riders – as they can race the distance that suits their needs. This weekend the one-lap race saw a few top elite women sharpening their form ahead of the XCM National Championships, and some elite men were doing the same, albeit in the 66 and 100km races. the 100 mile event still remained the domain of the endurance specialists, especially those who favour the 7 hour solo races at Rocky Trail’s Shimano MTB GP.
The AMB100’s date with April
It was probably the most popular decision on the marathon racing calendar when the AMB100’s date was shifted to April. There was a chance it could clash with other events, and a shift from 30th to 23rd April meant the race sat a week out from the Australian National XCM Championships, and many of the Championships’ favourites reside in Canberra – so it was set for a good show.
In the Elite men’s 100k race it really was a battle of Brendan Johnston v Mark Tupalski. As the 100km race starts with the 66km race, Michael Potter and Marc Williams were also along for the ride – although Potter racked it after one lap and Williams finished after 2, winning the 66km race.
And it was in that final lap Johnston showed that continual hard training pays off, edging away from Tupalski. While ‘Tupac’ has had a great return to mountain bike racing recently, his focus is on study first, mountain biking second, and being able to push hard beyond 3 hours isn’t quite in his capabilities after a quiet 2016. Not yet anyway – expect a bit more later this year.
Subaru-MarathonMTB.com racer Justin Morris had his first true race experience at Mt Stromlo, and kep it steady to finish in 7th in Elite men, just a few seconds shy of 6th place.
In the women’s 100km race Kelly Bartlett was first across the line, but she missed the expected battle with Eliza Smyth (nee Kwan) after Eliza had to withdraw after one lap with a mechanical.
There were few surprises in the age group races, with Jason Chalker the fastest Master, and Garry James the fastest Super Master, with Cristy Henderson and Su Pretto taking the same positions in women’s respectively. Henderson was actually the fastest woman in the 100km event outright.
While Marc Williams won the men’s 66km race it was Meaghan Stanton who won the women’s gaining some extra confidence ahead of the National XCM Championships.
If you want the full results, head to the results page.
My day at the AMB100
With a lot of time off the bike nursing and injured wife of late, the AMB100 offered a chance to reconnect with mountain bike racing and my friends who share the same passion. Plus it would also serve as panic training ahead of the National Championships – as flights and accommodation are already booked!
While hardly my best race performance, I was happy enough to just get through. Given my last two mountain bike races both left a ‘DNF’ against my name on the results sheet, I was happy to make sure I finished. This meant watching the fast guys ride away on the climb, and being completely happy with people passing me when I didn’t want to push too hard.
Normally I would consider this a boring way to race, as I’d rather have a crack. But it really helped to just get the 66km event finished, prove my bike and setup was working correctly, and feel a little more confident about the racing this coming weekend. In the end I came in 4th, a long way off the pace of even 3rd place.
As I watched other riders finish, or heard from riders who had already done so, I realised exactly what the AMB100 was. It was something different for every person. For some, a social gathering. For others, a chance to ride their local trails against others and against the clock. It was a taste of competitive mountain biking for some riders, and then for other riders it truly was about picking their distance to get the best result given their current training load or state of fitness.
From what I could tell everyone got what they wanted out of the race – myself included. And that would be a big part of why there were so many people in a good mood afterwards.
I’ll certainly be back again next year.