Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Fat Tyre Flyers - Officer Six Hour

The Officer 6 Hour had the mid winter honor of being number 4 of the 7 events that form the Victorian MTB Enduro Series. I'd done OK to date, with two wins and a runner up in the 40+ category and I was pretty keen to adorn my VES campaign with a little more podium glamour.
Bad weather was somewhat in Melbourne. It growled and strained against the sky like a pod of hungry whales as I departed, but as I approached race central, it'd let - totally, almost laughably loose. When the rain came down, it did so by the metric tonne.
Within a minute I was snorkling.

There was discussion and I slopped my way to race central. A few furrowed brows as the commissaires blinked through the deluge. As good mountain bikers would have it, irrespective of the weather, we raced. The rain may have turned a dry Officer trail into an accident with a chocolate truck but there were significant measures of points, pride and pity to be earned, and though few riders would have been saddened by a decision not to race - they were not unsurprised that we did.

I'd already switched onto a mud tyre for my front wheel, hosed my frame with silicon spray (helps the mud slide off) and did my warm up in shoe covers and full winter combat wear. I was sort of ready, though there are few things that really prepare a rider for a 6 hour mud-mauling.

'Dedicated racers' is another term for a small field. We thundered up the opening climb as the rains tumbled down. The Officer trail is what you may call pretty organic. It's old school evolved rideable walking trail, with ninja-pinch climbs, tight corners and more disruptor features than a game changing iPhone app.

In the dry, its killer fun, mad technical and a brilliant, if brutal, nostalgic trip to what we all used to race on before people got paid to make trail. In the wet its like being caught in an avalanche of wet socks.

The trail held up ok for the first lap. It still had something resembling structure and grip but within an hour serious leaks were beginning to appear. Double digit gradients and were now tyre deep in mud and going both up and down required a level of bicycle manhandling totally disproportionate to the speed of said bicycle.

My front wheel was holding in just fine, but my back wheel was searching for grip and finding none. Every now and then any forward momentum I had would run for the side exit as my back end broke away and slipped sideways off the trail.
Three hours in it was becoming a real slog. By the time the 3 hour riders were testing their metal circa 1:00pm there had been enough water and wandering rubber on the trail to render it almost completely unrecognizable.

Big pools of water had now formed over technical catch-outs, muddied into opacity - leaving a rider needing either an excellent recollection of the line choice at each corner or blind luck that they didn't mutilate both bike and body. The climbs were hard in the dry, but under these conditions it was like scaling a mountain of icecream. As I came through transition I heard somebody say something really, really nice to me.
The race has been cut short - I only had 60 minutes to go.

60 minutes meant about two laps, and with a handy lead over an equally soggy Peter Shaw in second (40+) all I needed to do was swim another few miles of this Shawshank escape and I'd be ready for a 35 minute shower and a full body enema.

And a very pleasant shower it was too when I got to it. A little win to stretch my lead in the VES, some more bike schwag and a new chainring shaped medal to hang on my full sized mannequin of Dennis Lillee.
Despite the conditions my Pivot Mach 420 Carbon ran without issue thanks to Cycles Galleria and while I longed for a clean pair of glasses I never wanted for energy, thanks to Pro4mance Sports Nutrition.

Moreover, a huge shout-out to a certain Kevin Skidmore who not only toughed it out for another great result, but shared my sojourn through the Somme and to Kenny Soiza who supplied us with unsullied food and grit-free water for the duration of the race. And thanks to the Fatties, (Fat Tyre Fliers) who against the odds, still put on a great race and had the good sense to call it short.

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