“Ooh baby baby, what can I do? You know you drive me crazy when I’m looking at you. The summer’s really here and it’s time to come out . Time to discover what fun is about”
Go West! So along with a big Victorian contingent we duly followed the Pet Shop Boys’ strict instructions and headed to Perth, WA. Sun, sea, and sand was promised by the organisers Brew CX and Perth MTB Club. We got two out of three with the sea being replaced by a long run in the sand.
Perth certainly put on a show with the weather, the course, and the Redcliffe Tavern skimpies bar, but more of that later. Coming over from Melbourne where it was the depth of winter the warm, nay hot, Perth weather and bright sunshine was quite a shock. It had been a long time since the Victorian CX-ers had raced in over 10C, certainly not 20C.
Sam Watson had arranged the accommodation for myself, Diane, and Paul Redenbach. The apartment was just lovely but as it was beside the airport there wasn’t much of a village atmosphere around. So much so that Friday night pre match meal was held in the Redcliffe Tavern. Now, for those of us not from Perth little did we know that said tavern is one of the last remaining skimpies bars in the gentrified Perth. Lucky us. Actually, lucky Sam as a T-Bone steak was only $20 and it came with a side order of skimpies.
After the obligatory attempt to watch Le Tour we headed to our scratchers to get over the jet lag. Saturday dawned with a cold crisp day with bright sunshine. Diane had made a huge pot of porridge to fuel the boys for the day’s racing ahead. With a mid afternoon race start time we ventured out for an open up cycle down the Swan River bike path to Ascot. All very professional.
Saturday’s race was race 3 of the National Cyclo Cross Series 2014. The venue was Midvale Speed Dome which is actually an indoor velodrome. Luckily the 1.8km course did not include going around the velodrome track. It did include long tarmac start finish straights, long grass straights, several technical turns, a sand ascent and a couple of barriers. After practice there was lots of talk amongst the small but knowledgeable crowd of a roadies course but like all cross course the proof of the rice pudding is in the eating.
40 Elite Men, including yours truly, lined up for the main men’s race of the day. The temperature was nudging 20C helping the start line red mist. After being advised by the umpires that we were racing for an hour (more of Rule 5.1.052 later) the race was on. Now, a 100 metre sprint on tarmac towards a 90 degree corner in a cross race is not for the faint hearted. So like the proverbial lemmings towards a cliff the whistle was blown and we accelerated towards the corner. Only the first five were able to get through before the brakes were applied with force by the rest. Burning rubber was the overriding smell.
Settling into the race I got towards the back where I belong. For those who are at the front, yes battles do go on down the back. Battles between competitors and the battle not to get lapped (or pulled if Rule 5.1.052 is being injudiciously applied). My battle was with Allister Payne, Nic Cotterill, Stu, and the bloke on the Giant.
It was tough going in the heat. Places in our group were swapping regularly. Allister was battling a fever, so much so that he put me into the barrier on the mulch climb. Feeling alright at about 45 minutes I was being to get thoughts of beating the lads. Never entertain such thoughts as the next I knew the front wheel had brought me down on the off camber 180 turn. Allister and Stu managed to avoid me and pedalled off. It took a while to get the chain back on. Chasing hard I managed to nearly get back to the lads, unfortunately on the next lap lighting struck twice. My skills let me down again with another fall. This put me further back on the lads and the gap was insurmountable. The bloke on the Giant got me just after the sandy ascent. Finishing was a little difficult with the drunk bloke’s dog running unrestrained on the finish line.
Only being lapped by about 15 of the really good blokes was a bit of a result on a short course and I don’t think I was last. So a decent enough day.
It was a shame to see only 7 Elite women, with only one local competitor, line up for their race. As expected April sailed off into the distance with Mel in second. Kate Swain, the Perth local, caused a bit of an upset (well to us who didn’t know her) finishing third. Diane was a red faced sixth.
After Diane assisted with the course break down we headed to the very fine Rose & Crown in Guildford for a much deserved restorative pint.
Dinner was a bit of a celebration as Paul had run second and Sam a commendable 19th. Our celebration was in the less than salubrious Bel Eyre Hotel. Perhaps we should have retraced our steps to the Redcliffe Tavern.
Sunday dawned another bright but chilly morning. What would Race 4 have in store? Sand and running would be the answer. After another pot of porridge we finished off the logistics and headed down to Garvey Park. The temperature at 10am was already nudging 20C. People were seeking sunblock at a cross race. In fact there were several sunburnt faces by the end of the day, unheard of at a cross race.
Practice revealed the monster of a course. A full 3km long. Stairs so big that I could just about get up them. Flowing single track. Tight technical corners. Long straights. And the sand. Now most of us have only ever experienced about 5 meters of sand. Not Garvey Park where the sand section was an ankle deep 70 metres long. To make it even harder there was a sandy incline up to the section making it very difficult for those with lesser skills to try to cycle the sand. It was running for the mere morals.
Trepidation was the emotion on the start line. How would our bodies react to an hour of hard racing on that course? How would 40 of us get around the first couple of corners into the steps? Well, as usual we did, but again the first 30 seconds was not for the faint hearted. No quarter asked, no quarter given.
If the first half of the first lap was relatively normal for a cross race then the sand put an end to that. I’m sure it was a sight to behold watching the field attempt to run the sand for the first time.
Again, after a couple of laps I was back where I belonged. This time battle had been joined with Nic C and Stu as Allister had suffered a mechanical. For a couple of laps I was ahead of Nic. He would catch me in the technical sections and I would gap him on the open sections. Around the fourth lap we were together. I decided to settle in behind him to recover a little knowing that barring a disaster I should be able to outsprint him at the end. It never came to that. I tried falling off in front of him but that didn’t unsettle him. On the sand for the third time we were running handlebar to wheel. All those CX Hairs blocking manoeuvres were being used. The fourth lap sand run had me try a different tactic. The old school dummy. Being behind I had the advantage. I advised Nic that I was passing on his left. As he moved left to cover my move I swiftly moved right and showed him a clean pair of heels. At the end of the sand I continued to run not remount and had a bit of a gap which I extended.
Feeling rather smug I pressed on. Stu was just ahead so he was the next target. Oh the best laid plans. Coming to a complete stop in the mud on the sixth lap allowed Nic back in. Doing the same thing on the next lap allowed him ahead a lead he was never to relinquish despite my best efforts and his successful attempt to put me into the barrier tape. All is fair in love and cross. Chapeau to Nic and Stu.
Having been lapped at about 50 minutes I thought that my race would be over at the end of that lap. But no, as I crossed the finish line I was waved on for another lap. That lap was possibly the hardest lap so far in my fledgling CX career, rivalling Cranwell Park. So I finished 33rd. Nic was 31st and the bloke on the blue Giant got me on the last lap. Boy, we were wrecked at the end.
In the ladies race it was the same 7 faces. The same first and second but with Josie third. Diane was a consistent sixth.
For the CX aficionados Mel Ansett appeared to be the only suit case carrier. On occasions she was also able to cycle the sand which was just brilliant. It must have been her extra small new bike.
Then it was time to dismantle the bikes and say our goodbyes. It was great to see around 30 interstaters make the trip over to Perth.
A strange phenomena occurred in the airport. Everybody began to have soreness in their right shoulders and right forearms. We had all expected Cross Shoulder but Cross Forearm, Pedalled Back, and sore ribs was not on the list of painful body parts.
A big thank you to Paul, Greg, Perth MTB club, and everybody else who helped. It was a great weekend of racing with two very different courses. Sunday’s course will go down in the annals as a brutally tough CX course especially with the sand run in the heat. Yes, there was some non CX regulation single track but the overwhelming majority of racers did not take issue with this feature. To those that did, sometimes perfection can only occur on rare occasions in a State which did not have convicts. For the rest of us, we’re just happy with an hour of hard racing on a decent course.
On my favourite topic, Rule 5.1.052 it was good to see common sense prevail. There were under 50 competitors in Men’s Elite so this rather local Australian rule did not apply. Why the 50 competitor cut off? Anyhow, it would have left a bad taste to travel to Perth to support the race organisers and CX in Australia to be faced with being pulled after 40 minutes. When being lapped I, and those around me, pulled over or stopped dead to let those behind through. Hopefully we didn’t affect anybody’s race.
Onwards and upwards. This weekend has the prospect of a CX race at Mount Beauty in the Victorian Alps. A fair assumption will be that the temperature will be around zero. A 20 degree turn around from Perth.