In a way you'd be forgiven for wondering how the hell trail ended up being out here, such is its overwhelming sense of secrecy and remoteness. When I first laid eyes on it, it remember thinking that it resembled singletrack with aspirations to be purpose built - yet won't shrug off its nostalgic, old trail leanings.
That is, it'd have swooping bermed lines that disappear into hostile rocky step-ups or mad A line cliff drops that fell away into mellow green grass hardpack. Looking at it with tourist eyes, it was an acid trip. However, with a little race pace, some soft hands and some hard-eyed commitment and suddenly it all began to make sense. What at first appeared to be half baked trail, ended up being an almost perfectly balanced, beautifully difficult and deeply rewarding whip through the Castlemaine hinterland. It was like a 3 hatted 7 course degustation accompanying wines, or - if you like - a dirty magazine with some really good crossword puzzles.
|Jubberland - Rocky Riders Country|
In inimitable style, Bruce Dickey of Flat Hill events arbitrarily kicked off proceedings and at some absurdly fast pace the race began. The pack clung together like margarine in milk as the course funnelled us down a long grass slope into the first section of singletrack. I was bouncing around off elbows, still blinking through dust, trying to both hold and get around wheels as the first of the technical sections opened fire on us.
Mountain biking isn't usually that loud. A little wind, a freewheel spooling away, some birds and the odd freaked out marsupial, and thats it. Amongst a paceline of hard men and women under such an assault and the ambiance was different indeed. Rocks and wood pounded upon carbon, be it wheels, frames or the vertebrates perched upon them - eliciting a maelstrom of swearing and the sounds of sudden failure.
|Jubberland Wallride - AKA Matching wines|
Come lap five and I was 9 minutes 50 up on Martin Grannas. Not that I knew it. Instead what I heard was that had a mere 50 second advantage. Angered and a little scared I attacked the new lap with less flow than gusto. Within about a minute I'd cut open my tubeless rear tyre and found myself with my hands full either spare tube or gritty sealant covered rubber, yet I was able to execute a pro-level speed repair and get back on the trail at the cost of only about 3 minutes. In my mind Martin was gaining and with my heart racing like a chased fox I forgot to replace my spare in transition - a mistake that I realized some 4 kilometers from pit lane on the very next lap. Despite some the very kind donation of a tube and CO2 from a fellow rider, my second rear wheel pinch flat and failure to fix it had me running.
I hate running. I really, really do. I had been running for about ten minutes, pushing my wounded bike, swearing, cursing and flopping into my cleated, carbon soled shoes like I'd had my hamstrings cut when Martin finally passed me. 'Bummer Jase'. I'm sure he didn't do it just to piss me off, but he got out of the saddle and blasted up the hill.
I really, really hate running. But I hate losing even more. Especially when I've been a douchebag.
So I kept running. I ran until lactic pooled in the back of my mouth. Pit lane seemed miles away and I was passed by chatty rolleurs and kids and the fucking shadows of growing trees but I still ran.
Finally I jumped on my bike to safely roll my flat tyre into neutral spares where I was able to switch in a downhill spec tube and set off in a spirited although seemingly ceremonial pursuit of first place.
Over three laps I'd burnt 25 minutes, turning a 10 minute lead into a 15 minute deficit with 4 laps to race. While the run had killed me, it felt like it was all in muscles I don't really use and so it was almost a relief to be able to tip an effort into a set of pedals. Craig Muir (father of U18 racer Hayden) was giving me updates in pit lane and to my surprise was able to give me some good news. On my next lap I'd turned everything up to eleven and was rewarded by the report that I trimmed the gap to 10 minutes. On the next the gap was now 5 minutes, and on the start of the very last lap I was chewing through the carbon on my stem when Craig bellowed that Martin was 50 seconds ahead. I kept thinking I'd see his orange jersey rushing up at me at every bend but it was still over halfway into the lap when I finally got on his wheel. I'd had this moment played out an attack/chase/counter attack/defend scene so many times in my head that it was almost an anticlimax when Martin amiably pulled over and let me pass. Immensely glad I was though. After bouncing around in the red zone for 90 odd minutes a pitfight with a tough old punk like M.Grannas was the last thing I wanted.
By the time the very welcome sight of the finish line was in view, I was grinning like a thief. As I came down towards my pit I even allowed myself a celebratory victory salute...the opening syllable from a popular Village People track.
|'Young man'...um you're not talking to me are you?|
Thanks again to Kenny Soiza and Craig Muir in pit lane for their help and patience while the red mist descended and to Bruce Dickey and the Castlemaine Rocky riders for ensuring the stars aligned for a cracking race.
And Jubberland? Awesome. Don't go changing baby. Stay as you are.