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Mud Slinging in Canberra

29 May 2010

29 May 2010

Mud Slinging in Canberra

It is an election year, so anyone in and around Canberra really should expect to see a bit of mud flying. However, on the 29th, the mud was going nowhere near Parliament House; it was being spread around north and west Canberra. And there was nary a politician to be seen-not even the newly-minted opposition leader, an avid rider, runner and swimmer-skills which would have come in remarkably handy during the inaugural Capital Punishment.

The team at AROC devised the Capital Punishment in 2009, but could not get agreement from all parties involved in time to get the event off the ground in May of 2009. Given their record on the south coast with the Angry Doctor event, not to mention their adventure races which always find some sweet single track for competitors, there was a lot of anticipation in the mountain biking community for the event. So much so that when they opened the site for entries in March, a flood of competitors brought the site to its knees.

Not to be denied for a second year, the clever cookies at AROC immediately came up with a lottery system to ensure everyone could sign up. And, indeed, everyone did! By the time all the golden tickets had gone out and been accepted, there were in the order of 1,900 entrants for the event; 828 (including the TriHards) lining up for the shorter 50km course, and 1,095 lining up for the grueling 100km course!

TriHards Father Brendan and Cyborg at the start.

Being a long-distance, single-discipline event, few of the TriHards were tempted. Many of them were still recovering from the Wild Endurance in May. LDSDEs - which shall henceforth be known as Twilights because, like the movie, they’re long, arduous and a true test of person’s ability to stay awake during the most boring of trials! Only Father Brendan, an avid mountain bike rider, known for jumping on his steely steed to ride down hills with reckless abandon not seen since The Man from Snowy River, and the Cyborg-not known for being an avid mountain bike rider, and still carrying injuries from the Wild Endurance-signed up for the TriHards.

They were joined by some friends and colleagues: Groucho - a keen road rider who had recently converted to mountain biking, receiving first a baptism in dirt, then rock and has finally been confirmed into the faith by a baptism in mud! The Globetrotter, with a number of major mountain bike events under his belt, including the Scott and the Mont, signed on to help them through, his camera ready to capture the carnage of the day.

So it was that the Fearless Four found themselves sitting in the rain at Campbell Park. They were in the friendly field-the final start wave for the 50km, where everyone estimated that they’d finish in the last 80-100% of the pack. The people with no illusions about their abilities, keen to just get out there and give it a go. And with some final instructions, AROC Alina sent them out onto the muddy tracks towards Majura.

Muddy riders on the fire trail.

Within minutes the riders were streaked with mud. There was no need for lycra on this wet, chilly morning; the mud was doing a grand job of coating the riders’ legs, providing plenty of insulation. As they began the first climb along the firetrail, the Cyborg spied joggers overtaking riders at the front of the last pack. The Globetrotter’s response to this observation was, “Yes, we’re too close to ADFA, we’ve got to get out of here!” And they continued riding. If it could be called riding; it really was more like bike-surfing in muddy waters; back wheels flicking out on every turn. Fortunately then the climbs began, where the back wheel would spin aimlessly in the mud instead of fishtailing.

All this slipping and sliding along firetrails finally led them to the Majura single track, where the riders took the swtichbacks down the side of Mt Majura; Father Brendan-a lover of single track-was off and racing, with Groucho hot on his wheels. The Globetrotter stuck with the Cyborg, who was having great difficulty navigating the switchback corners, until he pulled back his mud-crusted sunnies and could see the track! Then it was back to plain sailing through the course!

Muddy Cyborg after Majura.

The riders wound through the soft, muddy track, which took them towards the carpark, then back up the mountain, only to fly back down along flowing single track to the George course; which had them passing through gazillions of gullies. Many riders rode into the gullies. Few rode out! Nevertheless, they tried every single one, only to have the mud at the bottom grab their wheels in a vice-grip. Some almost made it out, their bikes stalling just on the lip, and doing the precarious arm-waving dance at the top in a desperate bid to keep their bike upright, or grab hold a of a tree, or rider, to slow their inexorable fall back into the mud.

Then it was out onto grassy plains, where the Fab Four could take a quick break and assess their mudliness. Father Brendan’s bike was particularly coated, his rear derailleur looking more mud than mech, and wasn’t functioning too well. A quick drink, and Gu chomp, and the boys were off once more, riding over green grass which actually felt easier than the slush of the firetrails and the muddy Majura single track! This path led them through the winery-where they were disappointed not to find complimentary bottles of wine... Not even someone standing with wine tasters and cheese...

Then the grass gave way to bitumen. Highway. The Federal Highway; and Father Brendan’s bike turned into a single-speed. “All for one, and one for all” the boys cried, as Brendan suggested they should all take off and leave him; and together they rode up the highway, towards Mitchell. It was shortly after this that the comedy of the Three Musketeers came into play, cursing the Cyborg for suggesting it, as his bike bucked him off, sending him sprawling into the mud. Fortunately-and despite being behind some horse paddocks-it was only mud, and the Cyborg could clamber back onto his bike looking no different than he did a few moments ago, so none apart from their small peloton would ever know his shame.

Riding on the Federal Highway.

To make things much more interesting, these tracks had horse-grates; like cattle grates, but larger, higher and made of coppers logs. There were three on this section of the course; the first was crossed easily by the Fantastic Four; the second just as quickly; and by the time they reached the third, lying amid the muddy ground, they began to wonder if perhaps they should be crawling under them, army style, with shells and gunfire going off around them...

Riders on a brief bit of bitumen near Mitchell.

After negotiating these obstacles, the Awesome Foursome were onto the GDE. Naturally, given the roadies in the group, and that this section was untimed, they made excellent progress pushing into the rain with their wheels actually having traction on the ground beneath them! They flew up the roads towards Aranda, with road boy Groucho in the lead, and the Cyborg falling behind attempting to give Father Brendan some draft, and the Globetrotter taking in the views from the rear. Groucho opened up a half-banana lead on the others, waiting for them in Aranda.

Riding on the GDE.

And once more they were onto slippery fire trails. They wound next to Aranda, through Black Mountain Reserve, the cork plantation and finally into the Arboretum. As the wide road began to descend towards the final food and drink stop, with Groucho and Father Brendan piling on the pace, the Globetrotter and Cyborg began to apply their brakes to slow down for the turn. Then they squeezed harder. Metal scraped on metal as the levers closed in on their handlebars, and the bikes continued unchecked down the hill. Fortunately, there was a right turn which led uphill, and they both went up and had their speed arrested by gravity-the hills finally working for them for a change!

After a quick adjustment of brakes they rejoined the group, or Groucho. Father Brendan had taken advantage of the food break to head out on his single-speed and get a bit of a lead up on the pack (he was, after all, wearing a yellow jersey-not that you could tell under all that mud!) After another quick fiddle on the Cyborg’s brakes the now stoppable pair, and Groucho headed off into Deek’s Forest.

Pushing bike through muddy slush.

Or Deek’s soft-serve! (Yes, there is another word for brown watery sludge which would have provided the benefit of alliteration, but there are places even I won’t go!) The ground was pure slush through Deek’s forest! Groucho managed to stay upright and head for the hill, while Father Brendan and the Cyborg made their best time through the slush. It was like quicksand, setting behind riders, so looking down you’d never know anyone had been through! The mud grabbed at the bikes, at the feet of riders as they pushed through, wreaking havoc on what remained of the rider’s will.

Meanwhile, in a desperate bid to save itself, the Globetrotter’s bike attempted to hang itself from the crank by it’s chain! It had managed to wind itself all the way around and lock the bike up entirely. But the Globetrotter would have none of that and applied the “hit it really hard” theory to his chain; which worked. Just to make sure he’d be right for the mountain, he then took a quick bath in one of the swollen creeks running through Deeks.

The Cyborg finally managed to catch up to Groucho, who was waiting at the start of the singletrack entrance to Stromlo. Growing cold and impatient, with Father Brendan and the Globetrotter still making their way through the forest, the Dynamic Duo began their ascent, the Cyborg having some reservations about being able to stop his bike on the very long downhill leg!

Up the fire trail they walked, then onto the ABC single track, which wound round and round, up and up. Groucho put on the pace and began to fly up the mountain, while the Cyborg pedaled hard on the hill, trying not to hit every single rock, and yet managing to. Riders in the 100km event began to catch up now, calling “Track” and flying by, seeming as fresh as the Quality Quartet were at the start of the race! They even had the energy to call out a thank you as they passed! Before long the Cyborg had lost track of Groucho above, and Father Brendan below, and continued his lonely trek up the hill.

About this time, the Globetrotter snapped his front brake cable halfway up the mountain. That would be the cable going to the brakes that worked. He momentarily considered continuing, before better sense took a hold of him and he escaped down a firetrail. Within moments of attempting to halt his bike flying down the trail, he was grateful for abandoning the climb! Now he had a much shorter fall.

Father Brendan muscled his way up the mountain on his single-speed; making it to the top through sheer will and determination before, in his usual style, setting his hair on fire and flying down with a total disregard for safety!

The Spirits of Stromlo know Groucho well. The mountain bucked him off-sending him skidding along the ground and taking it’ due in skin from his knee. But that didn’t stop him flying down, to be the first of the four through. He was followed by the Cyborg who had managed to go the whole day without really hurting his broken toe, only to pound a pedal into his shin, tearing the flesh off and raising a huge lump. The Cyborg was further abashed when tired, and sore he took the chicken run next to a jump, only to hear the joyful sound of a lady rider fly over the jump screaming *ldquo;Woo hoo!” before leaving him in her wake (there was no dust at Stromlo on that day!) As it turned out, she was the first female from the 100km event.

Father Brendan pulled in about 10 minutes after the Cyborg, who pulled in 10 minutes after Groucho, all to join the long queue of riders waiting to wash the copious amount of mud off their bikes.

The Cyborg was delighted to find they had made it back before the food had run out-not that there was much chance of that with three food stands! Steak sandwiches, baked potatoes, hot dogs, fresh pizza and, of course, coffee! Who could ask for more?

TriHards covered in mud at the end of the race.

All in all, it was an excellent event, despite the weather, or possibly because of the weather! Many thanks go out to the team from AROC for yet another great adventure! And to make things even better, the Cyborg finished in the bottom 85% of the field-not necessarily something to be proud of, but it did prove his initial guesstiation correct!

Thanks

Despite the rain - or perhaps because of the rain - the Capital Punishment was a fantastic event, and a fantastic ride. The TriHards would like to thank the AROC crew for putting together yet another fantastic event.

And we’also sure the ACT would like to thank the crew at AROC; it seems that they are responsible for breaking Canberra’s drought - first with the Paddy Pallin Race in February, the Newcastle Race and now the Capital Punishment, it seems that an AROC event is a guarantee of rain!

And many, many thanks go out to the army of volunteers who stayed out on the course despite the cold and rain. Your efforts were greatly appreciated by all the riders!

Lessons learnt:

  1. Never take your good bike on a muddy track! You know, if you have a good bike.
  2. When riding through mud, remember: a drink for you, a squirt for the rear derailleur.
  3. It doesn’t matter how big or how wrap-around your sunnies are, on a muddy enough day, with mud flying everywhere, mud will get through to your eyeball.

Pics

The TriHards have some pics on their Facebook page.

Damian Breach Photography has some excellent photos.

And the crew at Aurora Images spent hours in the rain taking a stack of shots!

Filthy washing.

Race Stats

Date: 29 May, 2010
Location: Canberra
Rating: (4) Tub Thumper to (5) I can’t believe I survived!
TriHards: Cyborg and Father Brendan
Event website: AROC Sport site