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Canberra 24hr MTB Race 2001

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Race Date: 10-11 October 2001

This is an annual event run by CORB (Canberra Off Road Bikers) in a pine plantation outside Canberra. It seems to be a lot about hand-made single track MTB riding, with the race being mostly that with a bit of forestry road to connect the dots (and you spend about 1/3 or less of the race riding it). I was invited along by Ken to bump up the numbers for the UNSW Bushwalking club team - there were only going to be three of them, and the other two don't actually own mountain bikes.

setting up camp in the dark
setting up camp
in the dark

We drove up on Friday night and camped with the rest of the early arrivals. Daniel, who organised our group and entered as a solo rider arrived later. Lots of people were there, with Ken expecting about 1000 riders. About right, and 250 on the track at a time (lots of teams). Cannondale had a factory team there, I think possibly from the USA. There was an NZ team from one of the outdoor equipment people as well. Mostly the rest are traditional MTB racing types, with fewer professionals than Ken expected. My feeling is that the event is on its way to becoming serious, at which point people like us won't qualify to enter.

The Start

going down to start
lane of bikes
runners at the start

To split the bunch at the start they did a "Le Mans" and made the riders run 500m to their bikes. There was still a big crush, but it was runners not cyclists so there was less damage. It did mean that the support people needed to be there to hold the bikes though. Daniel and a few others walked the 500m and arrived after the rush, which helped. Over 24 hours a few seconds at the start isn't critical, unless you use it to hurt yourself or break the bike.

Photos, left to right: walking down to the start; the channel of bikes; the first runners; picking up bikes.

traffig jam
first lap
starting lap two

The start worked, sort of. About 50m down the hill, however, there was a traffic jam that took a couple of minutes to clear. I suspect there was a crash, but couldn't see from where I was holding Daniel's bike.

Photos: the traffic jam; after the first lap (this is fun, remember); looking back towards the start tent.

The race was fun, and although I was the fastest rider in our team that's not saying much - lap times were down around 40 minutes for the best riders, and I managed one lap under an hour ;-) Mind you, I haven't ridden offroad on an MTB for more than three years, and no serious MTBing for about five. Plus Ken is not really at the cutting edge for racing - most people seemed to have dual suspension bikes with an awful lot of disk brakes also visible (dominated by Hayes). We were riding Ken's trusty unsuspended touring bike.

muddy bikes at camp
charging table
night change over

Photos: muddy bikes leaning on the van; inside the charging tent; nighttime behind the start tent, riders wait to race.

It rained a little overnight during the race, which made life more interesting. I got to ride during the worst of it, and coincidentally that was the lap when I forgot my daypack (containing the extra drill battery for the lights, as well as puncture repair and tools), so I had to be quite conservative.

The waiting was the worst - as a rider comes in the next rider has to be waiting to go out, and that means waiting from the earliest time they could get in (about 50 minutes after they leave), until they do get in (usually at least 25 minutes after that). Arriving back means going back to the tents, cleaning up, eating, then about half an hour after you finish going and waking the next rider.

Our lighting rocked - we used the Panasonic NiMH drill batteries to power a pair of halogen globes - a 50W 9 degree "spot" and a 20W wide angle. It meant generally changing batteries while we were out, but with 50W of light we could see really, really well. Most people used 20W 12V DIY systems or else Vistalight expensive systems, with generally a 10W handlebar light and a 10W or 15W helmet mounted light. Those more or less work, but a race system costs about $500, which is what our drill based system costs (with Vistalight you need four NiMH batteries, two chargers, plus the multi-light setup. And the charge time is still 6 hours with a dumb charger, so top-up charging is risky). There were other systems there, but homebuilt rigs were about half, and most of the rest were Vistalight, at least in the charging tent. Ken and I were the only cordless drill based setup in evidence.

rush hour

Daylight just seemed to mean more emphasis on speed, and bigger queues for anything that was in demand. There was one hose for cleaning bikes, so it was taking about half an hour to get through the queue for that. Our team managed to screw up, no-one woke the rider after my 6am lap, so I had to go back to the tent and wake them up, then wait interminably while they got organised. And queued up to wash their bike, since they didn't do that during the night. In retrospect I should have woken Ken, explained, then ridden another lap while he got the exchange students to admit to being awake.

Photos are of people behind the start tent, rushing round doing nothing as they wait for their next ride.

cleaning up afterwards

Ken cleaning bikes after the race was officially over. Note that the black bike on the left is "clean".

We came second to last in the team of four event (I think the other team went home overnight). We rode 15 laps, ranging from my 59 minute one through to Sumona's 2 hour 30 one (the early morning screwup). Cheeky Monkey came second in the team of three event! Go the monk!