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TriHards Work towards the London Olympics!

21 January 2012

21 January 2012

TriHards Work towards the London Olympics!

The Henderson kids are going to London! Okay, that sounds a bit too much like a bad 80’s Australian tv show, which it isn’t, well, the show was, but that’s not what we’re talking about. In this case, it’s Bec and Ben Henderson, elite level mountain bike riders who are trying to qualify to represent Australia in the London Olympics in 2012. Now, you may well think that qualification for the Olympics just involves being really excellent on the bike and winning a lot of races. Well, in fact, it does. But there’s more to getting to the Olympics than hard training and stiff competition; athletes are faced with the additional challenge of paying their way - not just to the Olympcs, but to the various qualifying races as well.

Now, there are plenty of ways to raise money; you can hold a raffle. You can get one of those big boxes of chocolates and sweets that people put in tea rooms at work (which other people then take without actually putting money in). You can buy lots of lotto tickets and hope for a good return. But nothing so boring, simple and unhealthy for Bec and Ben. No, they would raise money by organising a race; a race in Canberra which is surrounded by excellent mountain biking tracks, and full of mountain bikers.

They called it the DuoClassic, held on the lively new track at Kowen, taking in 12.5km of sweet, flowing single track, with just a dash of firetrail thrown in to allow for overtaking. Competitors had the option of 25km (two laps) or 50km (four laps) and raced as pairs. Not as a team of two, relaying throughout the race, but as a pair over the course, always in sight of each other, which really added to the social atmosphere of the event.

Mountain bikes with plates

So the TriHards put their not-quite-best wheel forwards and sent along the unlikely pair of the Cyborg and Junior to carry the flag for the 50km event (because everyone knows, Junior won’t get out of bed for anything less than 50km!) They would join another 324 riders on the day, including some of the cream of Canberra’s riders, such as Dylan Cooper and Shaun Lewis, Milto and some ready regulars.

The day started rather dubiously with a fine, misty rain falling throughout Canberra. Fortunately, it cleared as the TriHards entered NSW, and by the time they reached Kowen, there was no sign of rain, though the clouds lingered to cool the day (and a little dampness in the air settled the dust). All in all, it was looking to be a perfect day for a ride. So, the TriHards registered, prepared their bikes and headed up to the hub to wait for the start.

Bikers waiting to race

The race briefing was held around 9:15, when everyone was told the rules of the ride (keep your partner in sight, and let people pass!) then everyone was told to loop around on firetrail back to the start, when the field would start in categories. The TriHards, putting the lie to their "masters’ moniker, took this opportunity to discuss strategy. You see, in their usual style, they had more or less completely forgotten about the event after they entered, right up to the week before when the only discussion they had on the subject was what time to head out. But their strategy was like all the best strategies: simple and sound. Junior would lead out on the first lap, as he was much better at pacing himself than the excitable Cyborg. Then they would alternate the lead, just to be fair.

Pack of mountain bike riders

So the race kicked off around 9:30, with the TriHards riding in a dusty haze through firetrail, while everybody jockeyed for position before turning onto the first section of single track. The TriHards were familiar with this section of track, having only ridden it a few weeks prior (which was when they saw the flyer for the DuoClassic) - nice, flowy track with a slight climb. And in no time at all, a conga line formed, which wasn’t such a bad thing really. It provided everyone with a chance to slow down and study the track for a bit, and not let the initial excitement of the race get them carried away. Just to make things a bit more interesting, one of the pairs ahead decided to rub their tyres against each other for a bit of fun and frivolity!

Rider on dusty track.

In no time at all, this track came out onto a short firetrail climb, which riders made the most of to try to move forward through the line. Then, as the course wound back into singletrack once more, the TriHards rejoined the conga (fortunately, they were not leading the conga!) and spent a bit more time studying the track and considering the race ahead. After all, they’d be doing four laps - so it was worthwhile taking bit of time to study the terrain!

Once more the track spilled out onto a firetrail, though this one was a bit more of a steeper climb, and the TriHards pushed forward a few places, though remained at a relatively slow pace. It has to be said, the Cyborg was thankful for the slow pace. His bike had some untested work which included swapping out his standard wide bars that came with his Giant 29er (which were about as wide as his shoulders) for extra-wide bars (which are about as wide as his house). And, to make things a little more challenging, he put tree-catchers on the end. So, he was a bit nervous heading into this slightly tighter bit of single track.

Fortunately, it wasn’t quite as tight as he remembered it, and they cruised happily along the flowing track with a mixture of grass, rocks and sand, for quite some time, before coming out to yet another climbing firetrail - this one steeper than all the others, though fortunately not very long. The next piece of single track was long, winding, climbing switchbacks, through shady forest which pretty much concluded the climbing for the lap. From there, it was into downhill and cruisy sections.

The first downhill section, full of sweeping turns was great fun, and provided an opportunity to fly through the course, though it had the challenge of rocks interspersed throughout the track. The TriHards passed quite a few riders pulled up changing tyres after getting some pinch flats. After casually coasting downhill, then into the flatter, windy track of Tanglewoods, it was onto Last Tango, and the hub, and the TriHards were through their first lap in less than an hour! Well, that’s not all that good really (about 20 minutes off the lead lap time...) But they were having a lot of fun!

Riders on course

Armed with their familiarity of the course, and Junior’s freshly-tightened seat post, they set off once more with the Cyborg in the lead. With a much wider spread of the field, they were making much better time, at least until the downhill section when Junior’s front brake decided it liked to be on. It was also shortly after this section that the whippets began to fly by, overtaking the TriHards (who, by comparison, would be slower, much happier labradors, and everyone loves a lab!) Though, it has to be said that everyone was patient and polite with passing, which was a great assistance to the TriHards - in particular the Cyborg who was eager to practice his skills at being overtaken for the forthcoming Capital Punishment and Mont. Yes, there is a lot of skill in allowing someone to pass...

Riders coming through transition

Halfway into the race, at the second transition, the TriHards were still happy and fresh, consuming a bit of food, before eagerly setting off once more. The course had been cleverly designed, with most of the climbing in the front third, which meant that by the time riders reached the transition, they remembered only the fast flowing tracks leading up to it, and not those firetrail climbs closer to the start!

Then came the third lap, with the TriHards making it through transition with 20 minutes to spare from the cutoff, and off they went again, though this time a little more tired and sore! And more whippet overtaking. Bloody whippets. Whippets on bikes - would that be a dog and pony show?

Cyborg riding

By the fourth lap the TriHards were a little tired, which was beginning to show in their line choices. Then the time came, as in every race, when the Cyborg must come off, preferably in the most embarrassing way possible. In this case, he’d yielded the track to some other riders, and actually pulled off to stop. Without unclipping his shoes. Naturally, he went down. Though, being well versed in falling down whilst clipped into his bike, the Cyborg managed to unclip and do a backwards roll to regain his feet in moments, which ultimately just made the whole thing look like a far more spectacular fall than it was!

All in all, the race was a great day out. The pairs format is a novel, and excellent idea, and the course provided for an excellent mix of technical and fast-flowing riding. The TriHards would like to thank the Hendersons, CORC and everyone else involved in organising the event. It was fantastic day out.

Race Stats

Date: 14 January, 2012
Location: Kowen Forest, near Canberra (okay, closer to Queanbeyan)
Rating: (3) Excellent Adventure
TriHards: Cyborg and Junior
Event website: DuoClassic site
Results Time Cat Placing Overall Placing
  3:32:21 20 / 31 99 / 131