Sunday, April 14, 2013

Thredbo FLOW Rollercoaster

After all the good practice of the mornings runs down the mountain it was time to get competitive, well at least against myself and the clock. Surrounded by heavy hitting 6" travel bikes, quite a few Downhill rigs and a stack of large knobbly tire, I felt a little under-welmed. The bike that had gotten me this far was sub 4" travel and had an integrated seat post, a XC/marathon machine that had been my chosen steed for countless adventures. Wrapping an old set of racing wheels was the rubber I had been thrashing for the last 3-4 months, fast, hardwearing, UST, brilliant in the dry.

But as the rain fell over the lunch period, I forced myself back on the chairlift, surly these recent intermittent showers would disappear as quickly as they appeared. Ping! Something just bounced off my helmet, strange, as we are above the treetops on the chairlift. The bike is nestled on one pedal between the chair and the safety bar, I look down, don't drop anything, you'll never get it back!

Then suddenly the rice sized hail starts, oh crap this is so very close to snowing. I'm already cold, my feet generally numb, I try to stuff my gloved hands in my pockets and hold my bike at the same time, awkward.  The hail is short lived but as I reach the top of the chairlift the conditions around the mountain don't seem to offer any improvement. There are a few bike and the respective owners taking shelter beneath the Eagles Nest awning, this is a different sort of fun.

Rob snaps me trying to keep warm as we wait for our start gate.
I wander down to watch a few of the initial starters launch themselves from the gate. After the initial gathering of speed all we hear is the squeal of brakes and a battery of curses. This is cause for some jovial conversation which dies quickly from the lips of the rider who next slides up to the gate, his mates keep the banter going.

A quick trail inspection finds the brown loamy dirt moisture laden, the next close thing to mud. I can only imagine the conditions further down the mountain as the trail changes from dirt base to clay, the rocks and the off camber sections. One by one riders pass by me, one foot out, the wet dirt spinning from their wheels. You cant just flick a traction control switch and every rider that passes seems to be right on the edge of out-of-control.

Into the mist.
I'm at the gate now, glasses clean, gloves on, clip in, a couple of deep breaths and I hear the beeps. I'm off. There are many things running through my mind, mostly the lines I want to take through the various sections but pushing to the front just about immediately are the other new issues I'm up against. Traction, I brake and slide before the corner, I go to pedal out of it and the rear wheel just spins on the brown stuff. Gravity, as the trail cuts across the ski fields it still mostly slopes down resulting in a weird fight against gravity, the slippery trail and where you want to go. Muddy dirt, spitting off my tyres and the tyres of any riders you catch, caking everything.

Getting to the bottom of the hill without an off and I'm happy. The time I did doesn't matter, there is still another run and hopefully the conditions will better.

On the edge of in-control.
As we wait at the top it is still cold, it hasn't rained though since lunch and all 150 or so riders have completed their first muddy run. This time as riders set off there is less squealing brakes and by the time I'm at the gate I'm pumped for a faster run. There is more traction, it seems all the riders that had gone over the trail during the first run have pushed much of the muddy dirt off the main line. It is still slippery in sections but the trail has vastly improved. I'm pushing the bike and tyres as hard as they will go and just wishing the XC tread would miraculously become moto for that extra bit of traction. I fly through that final on-camber snaking section, brake slightly for the sweeping flat corner then it is gas gas, the final bermed corner, through the arch and timing beam.

This had to be the most competitive Rollercoaster yet as there were riders from as far away a Queensland, Victoria and South Australia. Thankfully the NSW/ACT crew were able to find their way onto the top step and it was dominated by the experience of our Downhillers, who can now claim state champion status. But there was just about every style of mountain bike being ridden during this event, from hard-tail XC and right through the gamete of trail, all-mountain and free-ride. It isn't down to the bike you ride or where you place, as long as your having fun with mates. Flow Rollercoaster.

No comments:

Post a Comment