Norm Gray is a stalwart of Victorian CycloCross. He has been racing Cross for decades. Starting in England, continuing in Victoria. An all round good geezer. So when there was a crisis in Victorian Cross, as there was in early May when there was only likely to be 3 CX races, Norm stepped up. Off his own bat he decided to organise a Cross Race at Mt Beauty MTB Park. That race took place on Saturday, 19th July.
For all those of you who didn’t make the trip, you missed a hard race on a wet side of a hill. What is it with Victorian CX courses and the sides of hills? Competitors were faced with wet grass that cut up during the race, mud, up hill off camber turns, steep gradients 10-25%, obstacles, sandy corners, and a “ride or run” decision on the hill of leaves. All in all an old school English type course.
No doubt many were put off from attending by the weather forecast. It did look like it would be baltic with possible snow. Oh you doubters. After leaving Melbourne in the drizzle we got to Mt Beauty around lunchtime and the sun was splitting the rocks. Well, it was a bight sunny 14c afternoon. Not knowing if there was a changing room at Mt Beauty MTB Park Lily and I headed to the Information Centre to get changed and apply the obligatory embrocation. The lady in the Centre was a little surprised to find me go into the toilet looking rather respectable then to appear dressed in a very fetching onesie and smelling of wintergreen. Lily would have done the same but apparently I forgot to put her onesie in the car. That will learn her for not checking her kit.
Arriving at the course unfortunately there weren’t too many prospective racers but we were greeted by a very enthusiastic Norm and local MTBer Kim McKeown. Looking around there was John Czechowski, Duncan Murray, Amity McSwan, John Groves, Jarrod Quinn, and a few others. So a small but select field. After a bit of arm twisting the Race Director / Commissaire / Race Promoter / Starter / Finisher (i.e. Norm) was persuaded to start everybody together and run a 50 minute race.
The Kids race was the Nels versus Mae Czechowski sibling rivalry race. Two laps of the muddy grass section was tough on the kids especially as their mechanic had put on a pretty hard gearing on their single speed machines. In the end it was a photo finish with both declared the winner.
Just before the start of the main race there was a bit of consternation when Neil Van Der Plog arrived in the car park and pulled out the brother’s CX bike. After seeking tyre pressure advice from Lily (her knowledge knows no bounds) he settled for 30psi front and back. After a bit of discussion it was decided that Neil may be the danger man in the field.
“Oliver takes the holeshot” was shouted by the large and knowledgeable crowd. Yes, read that again “Oliver takes the holeshot.” Leading out of the grassy area I was about 10 metres ahead of Grover, then the MTBers, Duncan and Jarrod. Grover caught me on the first climb of the eight lap race. He had decided that running was quicker than cycling the steep inclines, especially the section covered in leaves. The MTBers were in third and fourth but unfortunately coming to grips with the CX course.
After the second lap the MTBers had passed me. Grover was out in front so I was faced with battle against John, Paul, and Amity. Having about a minute lead on John at the third lap I was pretty sure I could hold him off so long as I didn’t blow up or fall off (easier said than done). Neil was an unknown. Not that I didn’t know his prowess, it was how would be go on a CX bike with a lot of climbing. By the fourth lap Neil has passed me on the grass section. I did mention to him that it had taken him longer than it should have to catch an old bloke like me. Obviously that heckle put him off and, to my surprise, I cycled away from him never to be challenged again.
Around the sixth lap I noticed that John was catching. Not by much but enough to make me extract the digit. Much as I like and respect John I really didn’t want to gift him a victory from a minute lead. So said digit was extracted and an effort was made on the next lap. I was expecting the bell to go but it didn’t so another painful lap “in the box” was on the cards.
The bell eventually went. Grover was still in the lead and the MTBers were in second and third. I had about a minute over Neil, with John a bit further back. To ensure that I held on to fourth and first master I tried even harder on the bell lap. Fortunately, the eighth time up the side of that bloody hill was taking its toll on everybody. Coming on the the grassy section for the last time all I had to do was negotiate the last sloppy turn. Don’t hit the maker post or the barrier tape I told myself. So I duly did. Luckily no damage done. Sprinting, ah hem, up the hill to the finish I was fourth and first old bloke. More importantly I was wrecked and had to have an immediate lie down in the sun.
In the ladies race Amity showed all her skills to beat Lily and a couple of the blokes. So Amity was crowned “Mt Beauty Queen of the Mud.” To nobodies surprise, Lily extracted revenge later over a few pints on wine.
Prizes were chocolate bars. For some reason the winners of the support races (Elites & Ladies) got sashes but Masters did not. Norm, do not let this happen again! Post ceremony every body mucked in to assist with the course break down. A few others must be mentioned including Jenny V.D.P on commentary, the local radio station for providing the tunes and the man on the coffee cart coffee cart. Kim McKeown was the excellent race photographer.
Next plan, which boozer for the post race re-enactment? Mt Beauty’s fine brewery Sweet Water was chosen. Not unsurprisingly myself and Lily lead the charge into the pots of porter. Amity had finally met her match with Lily trying to pour vin rouge down her gullet.
Later a small group who shall remain anonymous caused all sorts of havoc in Flour PLUS Water in Tawonga South. The day was finished off with a stretch limo home.
Events like these are the lifeblood of CX. They need to be supported. Lets hope that the 2nd Mt Beauty CX Race will be as hard as this edition but will have over 50 starters.
‘Cause here’s more songs about chocolate and girls,
It’s not so easy knowing they’ll be heard,
A lot less time, but a lot more care,
So here’s more songs about chocolate and girls.”