Race Report from the Cyborg
I have been a naughty boy. I have been a very, very naughty boy. I deserved to be punished. And not just punished, but severely punished. Not being into self-flagellation, I turned to the team I knew could punish me properly: the dedicated people of AROC. And they certainly didn’t disappoint!
I should tell you my sins, so that you know I did really deserve the penance meted out to me by AROC and their Capital Punishment. Please don’t judge me harshly - I am, after all, only human and full of human flaws and frailties. I too suffer the same daily temptations and doubts as everyone else. Which leads me to my greatest sin.
I didn’t train. I did not prepare. I did not, if you will, spend my time kneeling and praying to the gods of MTB to help me through the race. I let myself be distracted. I let myself down. Sure, sure, I have some good excuses: in the intervening time since the last Capital Punishment (when I swore black and blue, I’d train and come back this year with a vengeance!) I had lost my job and spent some time trying to find new ways to hunt and gather the fabulous dollar; and I had an injury which required some hospitalisation, worry, and taking it easy. But perhaps I took it too easy.
And the Capital Punishment punishes such flagrant disregard of a training schedule. It doesn’t care about the mighty dollar, about the injuries and hurt feelings of we feeble humans. No, the Capital Punishment is pure. The Capital Punishment is real. It is at one with the mountain biking experience. The Way of the CP does not allow for people to break their words, it only respects training, dedication, guts and glory.
I did have some sense, however, in that I dropped down from my optimistic 100km entry to a 50km in the weeks prior to taking my just desserts. Groucho, being a smarter (and fitter) man than I, dropped out altogether; leaving the Globetrotter and I as the only returning members from last year’s punished. We were, however, joined by some others: Roo was lining up at the start with us in the friendly part of the field. Biker Boy and McFly, being more dedicated riders than us, started in the more competitive pack. The TriHards were rounded out by the entry of Junior and Engine amongst the serious 100km riders; so we retained some credibility!
So it was that early Saturday morning I lined up to take my penance with the pack. As an interesting side note, I saw the doctor who had treated me in the emergency ward just a few weeks prior, though he wasn’t riding. I dared not chat to him in case he sidelined me from the event! Shortly thereafter I was joined by the Globetrotter and Roo on his mighty 29er; Groucho came along to see us off from the start and take some happy snaps.
By 7:40 we were on our way, up the familiar (though dry!) firetrails towards the grounds of Majura. Big Red Roo shot out ahead of us, bounding away and leaving the Globetrotter and I in his wake, like big, fat Labradors giving up chase once he was out of sight. Undeterred, we continued on, overtaking riders as we went, until we came to our first trial of the day.
Hacket Hill, oh, how I hate thee! Despite a lack of training and fitness, I tried to push myself up. I pedalled until my legs burnt, then started to drop down gears. One by one they dropped, until finally I decided to spin into granny gear. My freshly-tuned 29er, itself guilty of the sin of pride, refused to let me drop down to granny gear; leaving me to finish the climb with the walk of shame.
Fortunately this shame was short-lived and I found myself leading Globetrotter into the fabulous singletrack of Majura - which included some new track! And, in a stark change from a year ago, we found ourselves flying fluidly through the track, well, at least until we caught up to the people who didn’t walk up the hill. All told, however, even with people in front of us, we were still moving faster than a year before.
Until we reached the gully. The big gully. The gully that I am sure, had people not stopped to walk their steely steeds through it, would have served as a mass grave for those who could not take their punishment! Unfortunately this brought out the only incident of bad behaviour I noticed during the race when, far back in the line, someone started vociferous complaining about people halting. The Globetrotter was confused by these protests from the rear and called ahead, “Can everyone get out of the road, the race leader is behind me!”
Once clear of the gulping gully we were on our way again and the pack thinned out quite quickly, leaving us ducking and weaving in the shade of Majura with little care in the world. Riders were back to their charming selves, sharing war stories and tales of yore as we took a pleasant Saturday ride through the leafy forest.
Until that hill. That loose, rocky, gravelly road. With a timing station just at the top. The start of the untimed area. Why, oh why, did the untimed section start at the TOP of that hill? Globetrotter made quick work of it while your humble narrator paid once again for his sin of lack of training by undertaking yet another walk of shame up the hill; my helmet feeling more like a crown of thorns...
Then it was time to blast through the untimed section, and the dynamic duo of Cyborg and the Globetrotter elected to ride fast while they could, and take as much rest as they needed prior to the timer starting again. Until, of course, they had a photo opportunity with Groucho who had turned up at the exit from the Mount Majura reserve. Groucho informed them that Roo was not far in front of his chasers, so they set off at pace along the well-formed roads and bike paths leading them through Hackett, O’Connor and up to Black Mountain. Another entrant must have missed the soggy slop of the previous year’s punishment, dropping down from the bike path to the drain. This proved to be a strategic move, as he zipped beneath a bridge in the drain whilst numerous riders waited above for traffic lights to change.
Before long, the penitent pair found themselves approaching the timing strips marking the resumption of the timed sections of the race, and elected to sit and rest for the 15 minutes that remained to them. Then it was on to Black Mountain; over the timing mat the sign read, “Kid’s Lookout”. How hard could it be?
Of course, the “Kids” in the sign referred to young, energetic mountain goats, certainly not little people! We ground our way up the climb, and I had to once more take the stride of shame as my injury began to let itself be known once more. Fortunately, there was only one major climb, and before long we were onto some undulating track (yes, it was very steep, but this part of the course closely followed the immutable law of “What goes up must come down!”) And down we flew, until we were back on bike path, and in no time at all at the feed station.
The timing pads beeped as we crossed over, then stopped to enjoy some of the marvellous refreshments on offer. Whilst taking in some Endura, a young rider informed us of his belief that, since we had crossed pads, the feed stop was an untimed section. We didn’t quite believe this, and set off once more to climb yet another hill (I am beginning to suspect that hills grow around timing mats; that somehow the radio waves given off by timing mats interfere with the magnetic fields of the world, and thrust the tectonic plates upwards).
Rolling down the hill with full bellies, the Globetrotter and I reached the spot where just a year before both of our brakes had failed, to find Groucho awaiting us, camera in hand. Perhaps he was expecting some carnage. We paused for more intelligence on the location of the Roo, but he was nowhere to be seen (and undoubtedly bounding much farther ahead of us). So, we left Groucho and rushed Stromlo in a bid to catch Roo.
This year there was no muddy soft-serve in the cork plantation. This year, after walking our bikes across a broken bridge, we mounted again on bike path, and rode smooth, easy path all the way to the Stromlo single track! Though, I knew I was in trouble, as my weary legs were having difficulty in the small climbs along the Cotter road.
A marshall caused all cars to stop, and we turned toward Stromlo, starting on the bottom single track. We flew through the track around Holden Creek, with the Globetrotter on home turf and shooting ahead of me. Feeling fantastic once more, I began to push, and push, and push, perhaps too hard, as I came around a corner too fast and the back wheel slid out behind me, sending me bike and all sliding across the track. Getting up to dust myself off, I saw a rider in the grass with his partner; I asked if they were okay, at which point I was informed he’d made the same mistake as me, though didn’t come off so well. They had help on the way, so continued on my way, only to hear anohter rider slide out in the same spot five seconds later!
Then I was at the junction, with no sign of Globetrotter; he’d spent the whole morning ensuring I was okay, it was only reasonable for him to finish at his own pace! For myself; it was decision time. My goal for the day was to reach Stromlo; and that was achieved. Actually climbing Stromlo would be a bonus, and an incredible push on my strained body, though I knew it was possible if I could just take it easy and stick to my plan of resting at each firetrail.
Not being one to leave a job half finished, I gave up the alluring temptation of the loudspeaker and smells of food at the hub, and ventured back on to the single track to finish my penance. And I remained true to my plan, riding through the first section, then resting at the fire trail. Then it was Blue Gums, and another rest on the fire trail. Then the climbing proper began, and the elite 100k riders also began to come. As I heard them approach, I’d pull off the track and stop to let them by; not because the climb was taking it’s toll on me, but out of politeness. Honestly!
From here it was tag team with a mother and her son, and another rider suffering from severe cramps. We all pushed on up the mountain, doing as best we could. As my injury flared once more on one of the steeper sections, I had to actually stop and sit down; fortunately there’s always a nice view to be had from Stromlo (which is so much nicer than other riders’ bums!)
Before too long (well, after an hour) the pain was over, and I was on the path to Skyline! My faithful 29er carried me across Skyline without issue, then down towards the Luge, and Old Duffy Descent and into the Hub. Then it was a bit of a pedal around the crit track, and under the finish arch to finish in about 4:30, and be met by Globetrotter, Groucho, McFly and the Immoral Support Crew who has the uncanny ability to read my mind, and put a steak sandwich in my hands!
Though, the Punishment wasn’t over! There was more penance to be performed for my sins of impatience! So, after a shower and a change, I was back at the hub to wait for Engine. And wait. And wait. Junior came in, exhausted and cramping, but his usual happy self. Everyone else came in. But no sign of Engine. By 4:30, which would have been nine hours after Engine started, McFly and I became quite concerned for his safety, so we asked Tom who reliably informed us he was in fact on the mountain, and still going.
Poor Engine finished his ride around 5:00, though not in last place, swearing to shoot his bike and blow up Stromlo (yet still with a smile on his face!) Though, he did have the benefit of being escorted around Stromlo by angels.
All in all, we all had a fantastic day at another great AROC event which turned out to be a far cry - yet no less adventurous and enjoyable - from the year before. Many thanks go out to the crew at AROC for organising the day, and for all the fantastic volunteers scattered throughout the course to look after all the riders.