What an awesome weekend that was had in Pemberton, Western Australia for Rounds 2 & 3 of the Subaru National Mountain Bike Series. With two XCO races being held on consecutive days it was going to be a tough weekend for all riders but I was looking forward to the competitive racing ahead.
The beauty of having a 2pm race start time was that the Elite and U19 men could take inspiration from watching the whole of the days Tour Down Under stage before kitting up and rolling down to the race village at the Pemberton Mountain Bike Park. The race started on both days by heading down a ﬂat ﬁre road for 500m before entering the ﬁrst section of dry dusty single track where if you were any further back than ﬁrst wheel you struggled to see. On Saturday a quick start by all riders saw me settle in towards the rear of the top 10 for the ﬁrst few kilometres of trail where the pace was hot, the dust at its highest and the gaps starting to form left, right and centre. As we exited the ﬁrst technical descent I knew it was time to make moves and I rode myself up to sixth by the start of the ﬁnal descent where I tried to settle in to my rhythm and really focus on smooth riding.
The strategy was working well as I continued to ride at a strong consistent pace while holding the gap to the riders in front before Hamilton began to come back to me at a rate of knots. After passing Hamilton I was sitting in fourth where I was determined to stay until the completion of the race. The rad course included a jump rhythm section on the ﬁnal straight that majority of riders looked forward to each lap as it was lined with a superior heckle crowd and offered a whole heap of free adrenaline if you were able to get it clean, not to mention the speed you got off it. Along with other super fun sections of the course the seven laps for Elite seemed to ﬂy by and the race was over before you really realised. I was super happy to cross the line in 4th position after a very solid day in the saddle where I was supported well all day by spectators as well as my fantastic Trek Racing Australia team including the Peil Family, Pete Dowse and my own family.
The rounds of the National series for a few years now have been run in a similar fashion with an XCO race one day followed by either a XCC or XCE however this weekend was different in the fact it was classed as two rounds but both rounds only consisted of one XCO race each, one Saturday and one Sunday. It was therefore important to recover well for Sunday as there was just as much riding on Sunday as there was Saturday in terms of series and UCI points available.
The start was once again fast paced along the ﬁre road except this time I managed to get myself on the front for a while before I was challenged by 4 riders in to the ﬁrst corner, pushing me back to ﬁfth. I started the climb in sixth where I stayed for the ﬁrst lap as positions did not change by anyone until during the second lap where I moved myself up to ﬁfth position. A bit of jostling with Bowden on lap 3 and Hamilton on 5 was as much riding with someone I got until lap 6 where Van Der Ploeg put in a stomping effort to catch and pass me before stomping on to pass Bowden moving himself into 3rd position for the ﬁnish and myself down a spot to 5th. The course was completely different from the previous day’s course and was changing on every single lap, especially the descent which was getting some decent Pow action. Special mention goes to the track known as “Black to Blue”, a super challenging, undulating section of trail which is off camber and either steep down or steep up. It appeared at the end of each lap to remove any punch left in your legs after its steep off camber nature offers itself to you for a dirt sample which quite a few riders accepted, even if it was unwillingly! Both days consisted of great racing and even better trails to race on which made for a rad weekend of good results combined with solid rides. It couldn’t have been done without the support of everyone, especially my parents, Trek Racing Australia, Pete Dowse, The Peil family and everyone who helped!
Just as a side note, if you want to know how to make Tony Tucknott happy there are a few ways but the main two are: 1) Froth over a race course or race that he has put on and let him know, 2) Feed him caffeinated gels and put a microphone in his hand or put him in a feed zone at a mtb race. This week for myself is Track Nationals in Melbourne followed by National Round 4 held in Canberra on the weekend of the 8th February, onward and upward!