Friday, 21 April 2017

Gravel tasting in Mudgee

There was wine as well, but I’m way too smart to get sozzled by that stuff….well….sort of.  There was also great coffee, food, beer, star-gazing, photography, music, friends, BBQ, vibe and weather.  Thanks to BTi and Isabelle for wrangling the whole thing.  We did two gravel adventures, both via the quaint town of Gulgong.  The second was a little longer and lumpier than we had in mind (90 km), but the return leg involved burgers then lengthening shadows with afternoon sun on our backs till we got home, and lots of yellow rumped thornbills along fencelines.  Best bird was crested shrike tit, which I don’t think we’ve seen since the last time we visited Putta Bucca.

(links below to some action)

Friday, 7 April 2017

MontE Python

The Mont is dead, long live the Mont!  Yes folks, after 18 years of Monts the last edition was (probably) run last weekend.  A combination of ebbing numbers and organizer fatigue as seen it go the way of the Scott the year prior.  I have a sneaking suspicion, however that it’ll be back - if not next year, then soon after. 1650 riders voted with their feet at Kowen’s forest.  I just can’t believe there aren’t enough fans of the format for it not to make a return.

And when it does return, I hope it does so without an E-bike category, the only blight, IMO, on what was another sterling weekend bashing round the bush with like-minded friends.  And just in case you are wondering, it's dead obvious, from sound of the motor alone, when one creeps up behind you.

Now that I’m all fired up and nostalgic, it got me thinking about Monts of old.

It’s 2009, and with two Scott24s under my belt I get roped into a team with Craig and a couple of other ACT dudes (Sparrow Smugglers).  Lawrence, Ben, Mike and Adam also joined in (Lamb Tender and Tasty) and we all crushed into the Sparrow Hill venue as a rainstorm drenched the tent city, bogging cars and giving Lawrence and I a good soaking as we put up our tents.  Someone turned the tap off during the night and left the flowy trail in perfect knick for the race itself.  I know time does funny things to one’s memory, but I still reckon that course was the most flowy of any of the Monts I’ve ridden.  The Smugglers had a fairly sedate race by Lamb standards; Mikey establish his precedent for hitting things at speed and corked a thigh, Adam broke a saddle rail, and then snapped his seatpost bolt altogether on the replacement saddle.  Ben discovered the stove half the world cooks on, and there were about 450 teams in total.

2010 returned to the Sparrow Hill venue, where mega amounts of dust was the order of the day.  The Salmons joined Lawrence and I as “Sushi Salmon and the Wasabi Nostrils”, whilst a second team, comprising GK, Jimmy, Sean and John, were “Green Eggs and Spam”.  Lawrence, Jimmy and Sean must have broken some sort of record by squashing three people, three bikes, and camping equipment inside a VW polo.  GK established his penchant for bringing the wrong bike, and the Nostrils clocked 400 km to place 136th in a field of 545 teams, and over 2600 riders.

2011 saw the venue change to Kowen’s forest and the first incarnation of the Soggy Bottom Boys (along with Mike, GK and Ham), with the fantastic kit put together by GK, who also impressed by bringing a portable shower.  We fielded three teams in total, including Kev, Chris, Mike, Iain, Felix, Jasper, Andy, Sara and Giles.  Collectively, the 2011 edition was packed with misadventure.  Mikey with 4 punctures, Chris and Kev crashing out, Andy crashing out before the event had even started, and Ben crashing the car in sympathy.  We wisely called it a day on the second morning when a deluge hit the venue.   550 teams in total.

2012  The much anticipated slop fest, on the tail of Capital Punishment just prior, didn’t happen.  Miraculously conditions were perfect.  We fielded two teams, with Craig roped in as a gun to join Mike, Ham and myself.  Ben rocked the stripy duds for the first time.  Mikey hit another something early in the piece, and ended up in the hospital tent with a hematoma below the knee.  Heavy winds, followed by heavy dew, and down to three resulted in us having a break through the night.  The excuses column first appeared on the lap board.  Mikey recovered Lazarus-style to roll morning laps, giving the same leg another whack for good measure.  Good times!

2013.  Another dry and dusty affair, with 593 teams making for an extremely hazy first lap of a figure 8 course complete with flyover. Anita did her first day and night laps, overcoming abject terror before stating that she actually enjoyed bits of it.  Them’s slippery words.  Giles proved that you can circulate with zero brakes.  Sara joined GK in rocking a 29er, Felix rocked his laps on flats, I lost a crank arm on the last lap, and Mikey sweet-talked the MC into donating a carton of butt cream to the ensemble, to ensure the Soggies stayed soggy. We placed 107th outright.

2014 was the year of the deluge so dramatic that the event was re-scheduled till late in the year, when the weather gods provided spectacular conditions.  2800 riders and almost 600 teams on track.  This edition was notable for grumbling among the riders union about rider order and schedule - resulting in the team of 6 (Sara, Nicky, Anita, Giles, Dave LB and Ben) showing up the showpony quartet, and in doing so placing quite respectably in the team of 6 mixed category.  This sparked a rethink as to how we might attack future editions.  And we didn’t have to wait long.

2015 rolled around in no time, and back to the late march timeslot.  Moira was now keeping the lapboard in check, and the quartet reshuffle gave us the top spot in mixed masters quartet.  The race was rolled in perfect weather apart from a fog of biblical proportions in the early morning, which made seeing through goggles of any kind nigh on impossible.  No one ended up at first aid, which in and of itself pointed to a successful weekend for all.

2016 was the yin to last year’s yang (or is it the other way round), and a few of us did indeed end up in the hospital tent; take a bow Mikey, and then Anita on day two.  Campsite shenanigans now extended to Frazer and Jeremy wielding lightsabres to keep things in line, which was just as well as, down to three, an evening of chit chat and beer was in order, including discussion of lumens and the warping of space-time.  Sara was now starting to get mistaken for Anita, and also posted the fastest split, finishing only minutes after she’d started. As in 2014, the sextet (Ben, Sara, Andrew K, Dave LB, Nicky and Giles) kept things sane and sensible, running through the night, although Giles’ much improved splits caught Ben napping, twice.

Which brings us to 2017 and an episode of the Mont on a very different track to the similar variations of years past, but one that grew on me as the laps tumbled.  The mixed 40s quartet had a real battle on its hands, with three other teams (of 9) all in close contention till the very end.  Despite our taking the lead briefly during the wee hours, the Jindy Trail Fairies came back strong and in the end deserved the win, holding us by 9 minutes, with the Podium Pensioners rounding out the steps.  Hats off!  The other two Soggy quartets were a little undermanned, but thus had more freedom to be lapping when it suited.  Giles once again demonstrated that he is only getting quicker with age, and Chu Wei, despite never having ridden such an event before, posted a pair of day and night laps, on a 26er so antiquated as to be fully rigid.  Chapeau!  According to the results 316 teams took to the event (the SBBs placed 42nd outright), which is towards half the number of teams as in it’s heyday, only a few years back. However it’s still a big number in my book. 

Hopefully this is not the very end of the Mont24 chapter, but a mere breather before it re-emerges in some form in the future.  Even though it takes quite an effort to get down there, let alone get the dust out of everything back home, I’ve never regretted doing the event, catching up with fellow Soggies, furthering my education about negotiating corners, and experiencing the joys of trailer showers and trailer cuisine.  Guess I’m just a trailer kind of guy.  I’ll miss it!