First, the numbers:
- 500(ish): Number of bikes and riders
- 300: Metres in elevation gain each lap
- 26: Four-person teams in the race
- 24: Hours in the race
- 22: Number of laps my team completed
- 16.5: Kilometres in each lap
- 14: People in the various teams we were connected to
- 3: Times the burger van sold out of food!
- 1: Times I’ve now competed in a 24hr mtb race
- 0: Number of punctures for our squad
Second, the story:
The event, of course, is the Merida 24Hr MTB race, hosted at Hiddenvale Adventure Park. It’s a regular feature on the SEQ mtb calendar, but as relatively recent arrivals in the ‘regular mountain biker’ category, the first that I (and many of our crew) had attempted.
At the front, the pace, performance and professionalism was genuinely impressive. Tineli Racing, for example won the four-person teams event with a dominant performance, leading from the bell to the flag and never looking in doubt. They finished just 11 minutes behind the leading 6 person team, Chip and Dales, another team to bank an impressive performance.
And then there’s the solo riders. 24 hours. Non-stop. Body pounded from pillar to post on a rocky, dusty course. Amanda Reddy swept the womens field, while mens went to Peter Bigalia on 23 laps. That’s more than my 4-person team managed. Something like 380km of tough single track. Incredible. Truly. All the results are here.
But the thing about this sporting event, and so many like it, is that the stories are just as good at the tail of the field as the front. I mean, kudos to the ladies, gents, teams that won and took podium spots, but likewise to those that just did it for the fun of it.
Like a father/daughter combo I met, racing as a pair. What a great experience that must have been for them! Like the team we were locked in combat with right down to the wire, just seconds separating us with a couple of laps to run, battling over our anonymous mid-field position. Like those that entered into the spirit of the event, smiling, laughing, crying, falling, getting up, pounding the pedals, bombing the descents. All of it, a wonderful mix of serious and celebratory. A great race.
We were loosely connected with three teams and four individual riders in various categories across the weekend.
Rory, Ethan and Mitch took on the 24min Kids Race on a shorter 2.2km loop, all in the U13 category. Rory snapped up third to grab a podium spot just a handful of seconds ahead of Ethan, while Mitch celebrated a top-10 spot in his first bike race.
Dave Lawrence lineup up in the four-hour solo category. Starting with the 24 hour field, this race-within-a-race took place from midday to 4pm Saturday, blazing sun, 30+ degree temps, super hard work. Dave rode a great race and enjoyed the experience…..right Dave? 😉
Our good mates Chris & Greg Lander, Darren and Steve Perry (well known to all you R/C racers out there) running as Team L&P were awesome – running solidly in the top 10 throughout, and climbing forward to a fantastic fourth place in the four-person category (27 teams) in the closing hours. Consistency, speed, preparation and Steve’s shiny new bike all contributing to a great performance. Chris battled flu all weekend but banged in the lap times anyway. Kudos guys!
Brett and Mark Farren-Price (more R/C racers, though retired now) with Simon and Sheree Stewart made up “The Big Rings” and put together a race plan that included blazing speed, consistency, and a short early-hours rest period for their first ever 24hr experience. Each rode fantastically well, with Brett and Mark punching out some very competitive sub-60 minute lap times late on Sunday morning to put an exclamation mark on the race. That early hours rest-period might just have been the difference between finally finishing 15th, and just maybe a top-10 position, or a podium in the mixed-fours. No sleeping next year!
“We might be Giants” was our final team, with Adam Lynch, Peter Joyce, Kevin Coleburn and myself. We had, it must be said, a chequered run. I was laid low with flu Friday and almost didn’t make the race at all, but managed to put down a few (slow) laps. To add to our woes Peter crashed on lap one, tearing a muscle in his chest and putting him in a world of pain and off the bike for the night. That left Kevin and Adam to carry the can, hauling us up the leaderboard with middle-of-the-night heroics and multiple double-lap stints to bring us into the morning in a great (for us) mid-field position. They were an amazing pair of team guys, giving their all to keep us in the game. Peter and I managed to combine for a couple of Sunday morning laps and we got home in around 13th place (its a little unclear due to a hilarious finish line incident that resulted in two of our riders crossing the line instead of one….but we’ll save that story for another day, right Peter?).
Thanks from our team too, go to Matt Guyatt. Matt hooked us up with some gels and rehydration formula from Endura. Good stuff….get on it! Definitely made the 3am lap a little more palatable with a bit of Endura gel supplying the energy!
The race-track itself was 16.5km of variety. Some beautifully built climbing trails, fast sweeping, banked and bermed descents, rocky, stony technical climbing pinches, rough, blown out sandy and dusty chutes. Four decent climbs and four good descents each lap with the course passing through the pitlane to start/finish each time around, and returning to the edge of the main pit area at the half-way point. Super dry conditions means some parts of the trail blew out, and the dust was, in places, inches thick. Great sense of fun from the organisers, with different trail-side decorations coming and going during the night. Arriving at the Dinner Camp (a remote paddock at the furthest reach of the race track) to a full-on disco sound and light show was one way to wake up at 3am!
On the whole we loved it. Glad we raced. Disappointed that illness and injury that hampered one of our team’s efforts. Sad for a couple of people in the whole field who suffered significant injury. Stoked to have been part of it.
Would we do it again? The planning is already underway. If you want to be part of the squad for 2017….there’s always room!