Thanks to a lot of hard work from a lot of people, the 2021 Snowies MTB Festival is ON. It is tempting – so tempting – to draw some inspo from that poem (all the tried and noted riders… loved hard riding… hidden ground full of wombat holes…etc. etc.) but someone’s probably done that already and if they haven’t they really shouldn’t. I promise to be disciplined.
Back on the horse
We did all gather together at the Lake Crackenback race village this morning for a 10am start. After race briefing we were given a traditional Snowies welcome from a geniune man from Snowy River resplendent in Driza-bone, Akubra, and wielding a stock whip, which he used liberally on the front of the elite field. The neutral rollout lasted exactly 10 seconds and we were off, stampeding up a road pinch and into the Crackenback singletrack.
Stage 1 – Thredbo Summit Smash
This part of the race (the first 30 seconds) went extremely well for me, so much so that I found myself sitting next to Bec McConnell, who’s ranked #5 IN THE WORLD. This terrified me so I did the sensible thing and slowed down a bit, then a bit more, and so on, until the end of the race.
The stage is undeniably an uphill battle, climbing a few hundred metres from Lake Crackenback Resort to Thredbo Village, but despite the leg-sapping upward trend, the Thredbo Valley Trail always has something fun over the next rise or around the next corner, so you never really feel like you’re just climbing. The trail traverses the Snowy River several times over some very expensive-looking bridges, dips between snowgums and around wombat holes, dodges rocks and roots, and for every kick in the trail, there’s a swinging descent down the other side.
After about an hour of this and some light rain, plus plenty of wind and dramatic alpine scenery, the bright orange finishing arch popped out from a hillside right in front of me. I pushed over the last couple of rises and suddenly it was over. I came in fourth, wedged between talented Canberra riders Em Viotto in third and Jenny Blair in fifth. Zoe Cuthbert took the stage in a narrow win from Bec McConnell, promising an exciting battle between the two world-class riders in the coming stages. Dan McConnell won the men’s field in a blistering 51:46, followed by Jon Odams then Andy Blair – the men’s race for the podium looks to be a close one.
Stage 2 – Happy Hour Time Trial
This afternoon’s 5.5 kilometre Happy Hour time trial turned out to be a race against the clock in more ways than one. With a ‘possibly severe’ thunderstorm rolling in sometime in ‘the afternoon or evening’ riders were pretty eager to get off the start line and into the twisty Lake Crackenback Resort singletrack. The trails themselves are fairly technical, ranging from sandy hardpack to loose gravel with a few slick spots, hitting it full gas on an already tired body took everyone to the limit, particularly me. I put in my usually woeful short afternoon TT performance and came in fifth. Full results are available on the In 2 Adventure site. I am too scared to look at them.
The more things change…
There’s a French expression that I really love: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose It means that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Our whole world has changed, but despite social distancing measures, the Snowies MTB Festival is showing us that mountain bike racing hasn’t changed: we still love dressing up in Lycra, we still love cramping, we still love getting together for the challenges of riding a stunning and rugged landscape. Yay!
Tomorrow’s much anticipated Snowies Legends Descent takes us on a run from Thredbo, through Lake Crackenback and down to Gaden at Jindabyne in a 39.5 kilometre rampage down the mountain.