Monday, September 4, 2017

Stolling on Stromlo

There is no doubt we have a thing for Stromlo, it probably all kicked off ten years ago with our first attempt at 24hrs solo. Over the last ten years the mountain has taken shape, from bare dust bowl to an all inclusive cycling hotspot. We still visit Stromlo on a regular basis, albeit once or twice a year, for an event or two.

It is our first outing to Stromlo this year and much has changed, the houses and units are now verging in the parks fence-line, and the hillside shrubbery seems more dense. Again we are back for another round of the Rocky Trail Entertainment Grand Prix Series, the final round for 2017.

With so many kilometres of trails and a variety of ways to gat around there had been much talk of the chosen route. No matter what, our experience told us there were gong to be rocks and the standard hard-pack of Stromlo dirt. This time Rocky Trail had setup a different event centre, in the carpark and transition from the trails was via the path to the jump-park. We then exited back out onto the trails by going through the tunnel under the DH track.

It has been another massive year with the JetBlack MTB Racing team and like all the Grand Prix's previous this year, we were going to litter the hillside with our bright stripes. Things were heating up too in the GC and Age Group/Team stakes for many, as this was the last chance to gather valuable points before the afternoons presentation. We were all excited to get out on the trails!

Rocky Trail continue to move forward from lessons learnt, and this year they had thrown in some significant fire-trail climbs. This allowed plenty of passing opportunities, nutrition ingestion and particularly open the field up off the start, reducing the first lap or two of conga lines during the single track sections. 

It was a heck of a line-up this round, the JetBlack MTB racing team had brought our own guns but what ever the lure, there were a number of national representatives present. And as such the start was pretty fast, we managed a number of snappy laps before settling into a comfortable pace.

Super happy to continue to ride our Pivot 429 Alloy, it has been dependable baring our poor maintenance routine prior to the Singleton round. Our change last year to Shimano's XT 11 speed with a 30t Hope N/W cog has been the the perfect drivetrain for just about every event we have ridden this bike. (We'll talk about our CX steed another time.) We are also touting Ascent Cycling Enterprises wheels, switching from Stan's alloy rims to Nextie carbon wrapped in Mitas tyres. With Ascent Cycling Enterprises now being based out of the greater Canberra region.

There were no surprises on the day that the 30-39 age category was the most competitive in the 4hr. This amass of speed-freaks has been a constant for every round of the Grand Prix this year, and this round we were pretty happy to place 7th. The particularly good news was that we had sufficient points in the series to take both 2nd in our Age Group AND 2nd for the General Classification. A definite step-up from both results in both 2016 and 2015. 

Rocky Trail Entertainment delivered a diverse repertoire of course for the Grand Prix this year. Many thanks to JetBlack MTB Racing team for the friendly atmosphere, on-trail support and transition expertise. JetBlack MTB Racing has partnered with The Odd Spoke, Natural Balance and Rocky Trail Entertainment, to allow us to ride how we like. The team was well represented across all categories and delivered some top results for this event and the series. You'll see us at another event shortly!

Full results for this Round here.

Our previous event wraps.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Hits and Misses in Singleton

Getting it all right for race day can often be as hard as the race itself. We definably like to make it look easy but this round of the Rocky Trail Grand Prix we seemed to be on the back foot before it even started. To wrap it all up and summarise it all, here are our hits and misses.

All smiles for the start lap. Photo: Cat Sturrock


Singleton isn't to far from our base in Sydney, even still we opted for a casual late wake-up and breakfast on race morning staying local.

We were presented with a very crisp but sunny morning, the frost didn't last very long though.

Super dry conditions, with a fast and mostly smooth trail, a regular on the HMBA calendar.

The open trail offered plenty of passing opportunities, with copious amounts of flow and peddling. Just a couple of loose, sandy corners amongst a whole heap of fun.

Getting out with our JetBlack MTB Racing team mates and the rest of the Rocky Trail racers, a nice easy vibe out on trail. Plenty of opportunities to have a chat with those riding around us, good topics included CX and SS.

We spent a whole our whole of our second last lap with @jasonenglishmtb, a rare period to mix it up with one of our very best. Bikes, Di2 and the juggle of training featured along the way. #whosdomestiqueareyou You can read Jason's account of 2017 WEMBO Italy here.

Learning on race completion that some of our solo team mates finally got a smooth run at a Grand Prix. There has been much banter between us, with mechanicals and sickness favouring CrummyMTB throughout the year. This round though, a solid performance without issues. Can't wait to see what happens at Stromlo!

Gloves are off and the fight to pull back time is on. Photo: Cat Sturrock


It is to easy to make excuses and on quick reflection a lack of proper preparation had significant effects on all our misses.

Some ghost shifting from what had been super dependable Shimano 11spd was the first sign. Thankfully it was on the back half of a lap and we eased it back to transition to see what the problem was. All bar two threads of the shifter cable were connected, the source of our shifting problems easily identified. Our quick race kit didn't have cable but our team sponsors, The Odd Spoke, had provided the team with a box of common kit. The old cable out, new one in and dialled-in faster than we had ever done before (even in a workshop environment) with our upgrade to full-length outers helping the process.

Arm warmers were off at this stage but gloves were still on, but further rattling was coming from the bike. So while out on the trail we paused for more reflection, finding issues with our chainring bolts. Again we nursed it back to transition from the returning section, called benefit of the doubt, and just re-torque the bolts.

The re-torque wasn't sufficient, again we paused finding the bolts loosening. We finished another lap with a visit to the JetBlack HQ tent. Our mind had been racing, searching to find a solution, after all we had run this chainring (32t) on the bike previously (we have been running a Hope 30t for all other courses this year). The fix jumped out at us and we hastily made the required adjustments, swapping the chainring around, providing the chainring bolts more area to grab when tightened.

We went on to finish the four hour race, seems our Pivot 429 is in some need of attention and for us to be better prepared leading up to events. Thanks to our supporters and partners JetBlack MTB Racing with The Odd Spoke, Natural Balance and Rocky Trail Entertainment. 

Ascent Cycling Enterprises support us with custom built wheels and Mitas tyres, proven as a fast combination.

Get your 2018 Giro d'Italia Grupetto tour tickets here.

Last years Singleton Round writeup.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Rocking, rolling, riding.

It all kicked off in Rocky Trail style and a unanimous vote, for the long uphill fire-trail start from behind the Shimano flag. While the sun was out it still remained a cool morning, riders from around NSW and the ACT chose to begin their day with the challenges of Ourimbah MTB trails.

Morgs from Shimano kept us company during the first couple of laps.
A quick sprint up the hill and we all slotted into the single-track without to many complaints. Around us we had many of our JetBlack MTB Racing team mates, no slouches on the bike in their own right and grouped up together they made formidable teams. As always a couple of stragglers were swept up in the mix of the first fast lap and many of the short fire-trail sections were perfect passing opportunities. It felt comfortable getting started with the team around us, some recently smoothed sections of trail were a great surprise.

Over the first few laps we kept up with Shimano's Morgs, and it was all going swimmingly till his bike started to seriously clatter. Morgs is fast and we had other some fast riders with us, both solo and teams. Morgs pulled over for a quick inspection for the source of the racket and unfortunately we didn't see him again. For us it wasn't smooth sailing either, a scraping sound began emanating from the back brake. We pushed on, an up hill fire-trail was the perfect spot to stop and have a look, it wasn't good but it wasn't seriously bad. Opting to not carry a multi-tool this race was the first sacrifice, and in this instance a little metal on metal rub would be the second. Something had to give and the rub would eventually stop. Back on the bike!

A couple of fast descents and we made it back to the general space we had been sitting before stopping. Transitions were smooth, the scraping was dyeing down and there were just enough spots out on the trail to eat and drink. No one was having a perfect run though, one of our fast competitors motioned us through, they seemed a little rattled and didn't hold our wheel. Our mind started to race, how many laps to go, what sort of effort was going to be needed to round this race off.

Thankfully there was plenty of positive vibes out on course, particularly from our JetBlack MTB Racing team mates. We even had a couple of team mates that weren't able to race, they still turned up radiating cheer for all as on-course marshals (see the video below). We held on to make it onto the podium, the second time in the GP series for this year. Whoop!

Ourimbah is one of our favourite trails to visit, made more special by a solid result in this, the third round of the Grand Prix Series. We've now got some nice points in both 4hr General Classification (GC) and Age Group. Thanks to our supporters and partners JetBlack MTB Racing with The Odd Spoke, Natural Balance and Rocky Trail Entertainment. 
Ascent Cycling Enterprises continue to stand true behind their great customer service, supporting our custom built wheels with Mitas tyres, a fast combination.

You can read the JetBlack MTB Racing team blog on AMB here
Get your 2018 Giro d'Italia Grupetto tour tickets here.

Monday, May 15, 2017


It was April and finally the WSMTB XC season has kicked off. Ok, there was a rained out start last month, to the effect that the trails have been suffering since. But Round 2 got off to a glorious start, mist in the hollows, but on the side of the Blue Mountains at the home of XC in Sydney it was all sunshine.

The dust started flying with the U10s and U13s, the U10s included juniors from age 3 on balance bikes, on their own trail. U13s completed a shortened loop of the main trail, with all the timing and lap counts the more senior riders are use to.

Over eighty riders had signed up for the round, and this time there was a re-visited twist. It has been a long time coming, but Lumley's is back. Some major time and effort by the small WSMTB XC trail crew has restored this classic climb. Had to cast our mind back, way back, to the last time this route was raced on.

Young gun Owen Gordon. Photo - WSMTB
In A Grade there were some of the usual suspects, the regulars, then there were the young guys nipping at the heels. The likes of Owen Gordon, who last year blitzed WSMTB B Grade, has made the move to A this year. Fergus Mackie - JetBlack MTB Racing, also joined in the A Grade fray.

Wheels kicked and cleats snapped from the call "GO", managing to reach the bottom of the first singletrack in the first half of the group. It then turned uphill and we went quickly from first half to virtually last.

From there focus shifted to staying in touch with the tail-enders and in-front of B Grade. A few B Graders slipped by as we battled it out for the remainder of the laps and it came down to a sprint finish with my fellow competitor.

James rolls one of the rock sections in C Grade. Photo - WSMTB 
The great thing about WSMTB is the inclusive atmosphere and of course the local RFS manning the BBQ, there is always plenty for that post ride recovery meal. It was a another nice morning out, fun on bikes for everyone. Awesome work by WSMTB!

Thanks to our supporters and partners JetBlack MTB Racing with The Odd Spoke, Natural Balance and Rocky Trail Entertainment. See you at another event soon.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Riddles of Rydal

Drifting at pace through the slalom trees.
It had been ages, a really long time, since drinks at Rydal. Our last visit to the trails just west of Lithgow was back in 2011 and 2012 with Fi, Joe and the Chocolate Foot crew (Gumby included). My wrap-up of the trails read  "With almost all of it being the twisty, on-camber, but mostly off-camber, flowing, but with plenty of tighter corners, SINGLETRACK. It all wrapped up on a fairly flat ridge-line and made the most of the land available". And not to much has changed!

The JetBlack MTB racing crew were all in attendance, we had a good measure of 4hr and 7hr riders, both in teams and solo. A mass of shades, chairs and tables, our bikes littering the grass, and looking down through the transition area it was pretty similar for everyone else. A good number of riders turning up for this round, maybe not as many as Round 1 at Glenrock but still plenty of competition.

Pinchy rises.
After a mild start at Glenrock, there was plenty of room for improvement and with a short open section before the endless singletrack, it was more crucial than ever at Rydal. A flurry of cleat-clipping and some mud we were into the narrow trails. It didn't go as planned for everyone, the self-seeding and XC style sprint start, saw some spills.

Happy with the start, the pace was manageable through the trees. It wasn't long and a few neat passing manoeuvres later and I found myself on the rear wheel of master-pedal-turner, Garry James. We were making good time and it was pretty smooth sailing wheel-sitting, getting use to the trail again particularly the newer and newest sections.

Pop-it or drop it.
A couple of laps with Garry and I found myself on the front and with a bit of breathing room, room for speed! Must admit Rydal did suit us, we have local trails that are just as twisty, tight and turny. Smooth fast cornering and connecting those corners was key for us, riding with some of the pairs teams it was easy to sense the over-braking and hard acceleration on the out of the corners they were doing.

Back in the race there were a couple of nice flying laps, lap three being our fastest before it all settled down to mid twenty five minute laps, at about 20kph. While keep up with the four-hour pairs was fun we were also keeping an eye on our team-mates. In this instance, at Rydal, they weren't inchingly close and just in front of us, this time they were just behind. Yes it felt good to be running with the teams as a solo, even if they were team-mates, riding the seven hour and in a team of three.

No troubling trolls.
A surprise find on the trail was BigDog, aboard his do-it-all long-travel bike. Super easy to follow, we had a good chat and then lost contact winding amongst the trees after a fast transition. From there it was a matter of holding on to as much smoothness as possible, fatigue was setting in, edges were getting dull.

Smashing a couple more gels and we were into the last hour, several quick in-head calculations and we would be heading out for a final lap with minutes to spare. Our team-mates, team of three, Elton, Browny and Shad were hot on our tail and Elton had just closed the gap on the final climb, second last lap. Elton handed over to Browny, who went down the transition like a startled gazelle. But, little by little the gap between us reduced, till we had made it onto Browny's rear wheel. Some chess moves later and we are on that final climb, Browny punches it out of that last pinch and sprints up the firetrail. There is a moment when all plans were to go with Browny, sprint those last final hundred meters, our quads had other plans.

A good day walking away with something to put on the fridge.
It was great to race back at Rydal and get a solid result in the second round of the Grand Prix Series. Thanks to our supporters and partners JetBlack MTB Racing with The Odd Spoke, Natural Balance and Rocky Trail Entertainment. Our new Ascent Cycling Enterprises custom built wheels and Mitas tyres continue to handled everything with ease and helped us remain fast throughout.