Rolling into the Ourimbah mountain bike area and it is busy, wall to wall team tents and bikes going every which way. There is a large line-up at registration, this isn't unfamiliar though, Rocky Trail Entertainment have built on their Grand Prix Series since 2009 and it is now one of the most popular events on the mountain bike calendar. I reach the rego table and Juliane from RTE confirms the big number of rider entries, it is around 300.
There is the usual scurry around to get prepared for the next four hours of racing, finding a clear patch of dirt beside the trail I place my bottles next to other riders from WSMTB. I pull out the chosen bike for the day and now that I'm here I second guess the choice of a hard-tail. While the Ourimbah trail has plenty on flow, it is technically demanding with rocks and roots to bounce off, hopefully the 9er wheels can just do their thing. I scuff the dirt with my shoe, it looks pretty dry up in the transition area, there were a few questions leading up to the weekend re the weather but it looks the goods for at least the top sections of trail.
For this round the start was conducted down the hill, beside the adventure park and was more of a good scramble up the hill to be the first into the single-track. RTE had included the section with the aptly named feature G-Out and included some slippery tree roots to keep us all on our toes. But the usual fun stuff of Jurassic Park and Rollercoaster were incorporated. After the first lap shenanigans the trail opened up and you could make the most of the faster sections, on camber corners and all the hard packed trails.
It is only after a few hours that you get an appreciation for the technical aspects of the trail. It is an upper body workout lifting the front wheel constantly and soaking up all the front end hits. The climbs are a short grind but with every climb you’re rewarded with some sweet descent. I felt on the hard-tail you have to work much harder to keep everything smooth, my calves were on fire from being the shock absorbers for the rear wheel, 2.2” tubeless tyres only float over the small rough stuff.
On completion of the four hour race it was Jon Odams who took the top step for the Solo Elite Males. James Lamb took advantage of the situation when cracks started to show for Kyle Ward who in the second half of the event slipped from Odams’ wheel. James placed second with Kyle holding onto third. In the Solo Elite female category it was Nienke Oostra who led from start to finish, some sneaky training before she heads to some racing in Europe . Belinda Diprose finished in second place with Emily Cunningham rounding out the top steps.
Now that many riders had finished, there was a relaxed atmosphere on course even though the seven hour riders still had quite a few hours to go. It was also a Saturday afternoon and there wasn’t as much of a rush to pack up. A BBQ and a few light refreshments were shared around as we saw riders through transition with plenty of encouragement.
In the seven hour, Canberra road-trippers Mark Tupalski and Ed McDonald placed one-two consecutively with Max Richardson in third place for the Solo Elite category. The Female Solo Elite winner was Sarah Neumann, both Sarah and Liz Smith, the other rider in the category, rode consistently through the seven hours.
The next round of the Grand Prix will be held at Mt Annan on the 13Jul13. More details on the Rocky Trail Entertainment webpage of visit them on Facebook.