9 February 2014
Duo draws the dreaded DNF, again.
The DuoClassic is a race with a difference - it’s a race with a mate. Teams of two partner up and ride together for 50 kilometres; and it’s entirely up to them how they treat it - a friendly ride ’n chat, or the chance to put your mate in a world of hurt as you push from the front. And with the strong support of CORC (not to mention the fact that the race is put on by the Hendersons - including Olympians Bec and Dan (nee McConnell) - who are about as close as you can get to royalty in Australian mountain biking) it’s a great opportunity to bump rubber with some of the best mountain bikers Australia has to offer.
The TriHards have fielded teams in all three of the DuoClassics to date: Junior and Cyborg took to the first, four-lap format event. Then, an injured Cyborg took the two-lap event on with Engine in 2013, barely managing to scrape through a single lap. This year, Groucho joined the Cyborg for another outing. And being the more serious riders of the TriHards, they had even been out to practice the course. Naturally, as this involved the Cyborg, it included at least one fall. But the only serious injury there was to his right-brake finger, and who uses their brakes in a race anyway?
The week leading up to the race proved to be a scorcher; which combined with a strong, hot northwesterly wind created a severe first risk, so the race had to be postponed as all reserves were closed around Canberra. The TriHards breathed a sigh of relief, and curled up comfortably on their various couches in air-conditioned rooms... But this comfort was short-lived, as the event had only been postponed for two weeks.
Once more, the week leading up to the new date was hot and dry. However, the organisers had managed to get permission to run the race no matter what. More importantly, they had also rejigged the race schedule, starting everyone at the much earlier hour of 8:00 to save the field baking in the hot sun around midday. Then, undoubtedly as a clear sign that the heavens favoured the new date, the Canberra region received a dump of rain the day before the race; this rain came, almost as if on queue, the moment the Cyborg stepped out of his car for the pre-race registration.
Race morning dawned clear, and relatively warm even before the sun rose; and the Cyborg was surprised to see a message sent from Groucho late the night before. He was even more surprised when Groucho replied just a few minutes later - it was very odd for him to be up so early in the morning. This didn’t click to the Cyborg, however, in his race-focused mind, he just considered that this meant Groucho would turn up on time.
Then it was off to the race! And the organizers of the DuoClassic had cleverly worked in a decent warm-up for all riders entering in the event! Cars were to park down at the Sparrow Hill carpark, and back down the old Highway. By the time the TriHards had arrived that meant a ride of maybe a kilometre up to the HQ, providing all entrants with a chance to test their legs and bikes before the event (well, for those who didn’t ride to the event!)
The Cyborg, believing he was already late, rode straight to the hub, leaving his esky and phone in the car. And, after doing two laps of the hub with no Groucho in sight, he listened to the briefing and began to head back to cars, only to run into Groucho - who was wearing black and hiding in the shadows.
They were about the last riders to leave the hub, and raced down the 1.2km to the start; noting the dry, dusty tracks. Finding a nice place in the middle of the pack, they waited a few minutes until the start, and were off in a cloud of dust with the rest of the field.
The race started with around about 1.2km of fire road, which gave everyone a chance to find their place in the pack, before turning in to the first of the single track in Kowen forest. The TriHards, for their part, were sticking to their game plan. Groucho, being the more experienced and fitter rider, took the lead to pace them. The Cyborg would then lead on the second lap, by which time he should be too tired to get over-excited.
While the riders were queued through the first sections of single track, it couldn’t really be called a conga line; they each seemed to be riding pretty close to each other’s pace - and there was certainly no agro. Everyone was quite happy and friendly. And Cherry Lane is a fun track. Then it was onto a short firetrail climb, providing some riders the chance to overtake a few as required, before getting into the rocky Mixed Bag, followed by Restless Natives.
Riders could already be seen putting new tubes in on the side of the track; and the Cyborg- who had a puncture just the week before, was happy his luck was holding! Yet, the pair passed without incident through all the Kowen side, and pushed through to Sparrow.
The ride was going quite well; and the TriHards were having fun - which was, after all, their aim for the event. The horror climb up to Big Wednesday had been cut out due to the heat, and in no time at all the boys were racing across the link trail and into Quadrophenia - which felt almost air-conditioned after the exposed tracks of the Enchanted Forest!
Then it was back to the hub, where the TriHards topped up their water, and the Cyborg fell under the mesmerizing gaze of a dog. If you ever want to beat the Cyborg at anything, bring a dog along. Preferably one who likes a pat, and has big, sad eyes. Every time the Cyborg went to leave, the dog would take one more look with those big, sad eyes and entrap the Cyborg once again! But, seeing Groucho heading off, the Cyborg tore himself away from those big, sad, brown eyes and raced off to join him.
As they approached the first single track, the Cyborg took the lead. Rested, and without anyone in front, he upped the pace-Cherry Lane had grown to become one of his favourite tracks. But after a few winds and turns, he noticed that he couldn’t hear Groucho’s extra-loud hub freewheeling behind him. Looking back, the Cyborg called to ensure he was okay, and Groucho responded in the affirmative. So, on they went.
During Two Bridges, Groucho mentioned how he hadn’t slept the night before, and had been sick all week. He managed to hold on for the climb up to the WEB track; then as they reached some of his favourite tracks - Sweet Apples and Tanglewood, he really began to falter. Fatigue was getting to him, and Groucho found himself hitting obstacles, picking bad lines, and generally not having fun anymore.
And fun was what it was all about. So, with the knowledge that the day was only going to get hotter, and harder, the pair elected to drop out of the race. After all, they were here for a fun, social ride; not chasing pain. And, that also meant they returned to the hub sooner, and rub shoulders with mountain biking legends like Andy Blair, Dylan Cooper, Jenny Fay - as well as Dan McConnell and Bec Henderson, and Dave Medlock from NiteLights. If there was such a thing as Mountain Biker Collector Cards, the Cyborg would have them all - and he would’ve chased them all down to sign them too! Instead, he contented himself with a coffee whilst watching somebody else win the Superfly.
All in all the DuoClassic was a great event with a warm (okay, hot!) friendly atmosphere. The TriHards will certainly be back again next year-if only to actually finish one of these races again! Many thanks go to the Hendersons, and CORC for organizing the event; TAMS for supporting them, and all their sponsors who helped put it in. And, of course, to the volunteers who were out in the heat on the track, encouraging everyone and meeting us all with smiles. As always, they did a fantastic job!
Grouch image courtesty of Greg Long.