“Transitions are a blur of sling-shotting hands and one-sentence messages. Back at camp our race whiteboard is busy, keeping track of timing and laps as the day progresses”
– Alice ‘Dirty Girl’ King
Four hours and a packet of caramel Tim Tams after leaving Sydney, we bump our way past the James Estate winery sign and up the long dirt drive. Headlights light up long lines of grapevines silently standing watch.
Next morning and it’s going to be a hot day. We’re racing mixed pairs, taking turns smashing out laps for 7 hours at Round 1 of the Rocky Trail Shimano MTB Grand Prix. Ben lines up on the starting line and they’re off in a cloud of dust.
Then I’m up. I wind it up along the firetrail, fields giving way to vineyards and then olive orchards. Onto the singletrack now, dusty washy corners ducking and diving back and forth. My new 27.5 is more responsive than my old 29er. I accidentally launch sideways off a log balance, managing to land it… just.
Transitions are a blur of sling-shotting hands and one-sentence messages. Back at camp our race whiteboard is busy, keeping track of timing and laps as the day progresses. Negotiation begins about who will do which laps. Ben is persuaded to pull a double - I breathe a little easier.
Out on track the atmosphere is cheery and banter friendly. Even the top guys blasting through take a moment to say “cheers”. My favourite is seeing kids perched on top of big wheels, chicken legs pedalling a million miles an hour. With no phone reception and printed results broken down by age group rather than overall GC, we’ve got no idea how we’re going. We’re just riding.
As the end of the shorter 4 hour event approaches, the track is clogged with people heading out for one last loop. Trains form behind slower riders and precious seconds tick by waiting for a chance to squeeze by.
My next lap empty by comparison. With only the odd 7-hour rider to chase, I focus on putting down some solid laps. Carving corners, attacking pinches, grinding longer climbs…a constant battle for momentum. While I can feel myself slowing on the hills, my bike is simply floating over obstacles and thundering descents.
Ben rolls in from the final lap, dust caked and chest heaving. Riders shake hands and exchange weary grins; it’s been a long day on the trails.
Prize-giving is short and sweet, with crowd favourite Mike Tomalaris the man on the mike. We’ve taken second in mixed pairs, and a massive haul of Czech beer and the winery’s own ‘Jimmy Jack’ vintage (complete with grinning mountain biking boar on the label). We pack our swag and head home.