First, I must be blatantly honest that I have never had much time for MTB… However this trip sounded like fun to join in on and even though I missed the NZ team selection, I could still enjoy myself and try to ruffle a few feathers!
The Lower South Island contingent arrived in Brisbane early and on time, but those coming from Auckland had delays due to fog. Martin and I were able to reminisce about our youth which was spent in similar circumstances in our Junior days. When the rest finally turned up and it was action stations, we loaded up and moved out south to Coff’s Harbour.
The morning after the long drive and late night arrival in Coff’s Harbour, we were all up early and building up bikes and getting them ready for some nearby training at the Pine Creek MTB trails. Training consisted of a line course and a route choice exercise. The pine forest covered map was quite out of date and certainly did not fill me and the others with much confidence ahead of the NSW champs the following day.
The long distance was south in Kempsy, 1.5hrs away, but with leisurely start times, we had time for a short walk down to the beach before loading up the vans. The causeway gave a wide view of the beach and we even spotted some dolphins. This excursion turned out to be quite exciting for Jason. While jumping between concrete blocks in his crocs and socks combo (and trying to text at the same time), he misstepped and fell onto his face and cracked some ribs in the process. Not a great start to the trip!
At Kempsy there was a short delay to the starts as the planners had only in the last few weeks been allowed into the area due to a recent fire and needed to move a control or two. The map itself had some interesting areas of single track in the actual bike park and the courses made use of the large number of fire roads surrounding it. No major crashes today, but Martin had a tyre blow out at possibly the worst possible place and had a long walk back.
After a team BBQ that night the following day consisted of NSW Middle and Sprint Champs. A much eariler start today with much earlier start times at Jack’s Ridge MTB Park. The forest here was more temperate rainforest, quite different to the typical eucalyptus forest of the Long. The tracks were plentiful and technical with an assortment of structures to negotiate. The courses were quite tricky to begin with, with lots of technical tracks early on, then some longer legs to finish off with and even a map flip for the elites. This meant the times were also quite long for a middle distance.
No time for any sightseeing side trips before the sprint so it was straight back to Coffs Harbour Education Campus. The map was held on a standard sprint map with some special rules allowing travel in open areas. PAPO expat Bruce Meader planned some tricky courses that kept us all on our toes. I really enjoyed it, prossibly because it was quite technical and suited the traditional orienteer more so than those that could ride fast and hard. The most fun part was probably negotiating the centre of the map with sets of stairs, ramps and underpasses!
After the NSW Champs were over we had a few more days in Coffs Harbour. We filled our time with some sightseeing to Dorrigo National Park, some more mountain biking at Jacks Ridge, Sunset at Nambucca heads and some more beaches to see some kangaroos.
Before heading north to Brisbane we had one training day at Bom Bom Mountian bike park. This forest was another typical dry looking Eucalypt forest. The map was quite out of date and Marquita put in quite an effort the night before to get all the strava heat map tracks on it! This training was open to the Aussie’s as well and it was well attended, almost more so than the NSW champs! Goanna’s and snakes on the top of the wildlife bingo list today.
The following day it was a moving day and we headed north to the Brookfield Retreat in Brisbane. It was quite an interesting 60’s style mansion consisting of a maze of buildings, including a pool, spa, billiards room, bar, table tennis, and many lounges and dinning areas, perfect for an indoor outdoor sprint.
There was just one day of settling in and a side trip to the Koala Sanctury before the Australian Champs got underway with the mass start race. The Brisbane events centre at Bondall was the venue which had a large concert hall in the centre, surrounded by parking lots and forest park lands. All the grades lined up on the start line in the parking lot while each grade heading off at 3 minute start intervals waited behind. Special rules for this event meant that we could cross the high-ish grassed curbs between the parking spaces.
One interesting aspect of this race was that the first control was 90 degrees to the left from the start line which was the triangle. So as we all started we were straight into jumping up and over about 4 curbs one after the other. The results turned out to be a bit controversial in the end as there were many one way roads and some of the ride vs no ride area were not so distinct.There were a lot of disappointed faces afterwards but I really enjoyed it, again maybe because it seemed to suit me! Despite the grizzling, NZ still ended up with 4 grade wins v’s the Aussies with an equal 4 making it a draw.
Martin unfortunately punctured again, but he turned his luck around in the afternoon, beating us all at mini golf, then taking out the win in the Brookfield Retreat indoor/outdoor O, and finally table tennis that evening.
This continued through to the next day as Martin once again took the M21 win at the Sprint held on the Alexandra Hills High School campus. The map was just a standard foot sprint map blown up in scale, and fairly intricate at that. Ironically called a sprint, I actually found there was very little sprinting required and much more technical nav skills. It was really quite fun too, apart from a collision or two, and a magically appearing retaining wall I managed to accidentally ride off at approx 20km/h….and unfortunately didn’t quite stick the landing. The NZ team ended up with drawn scores – 4-4 again.
After lunch it was back into business at the Scribbly Gums Mountain bike park. Another eucalypt forest in the suburbs, hot and dry with some interestingly mapped features and control placement. These added a lot to talk about afterwards! That evening we all caught up at the nearby pub with the rest of the Kiwis (not staying at the retreat) and the Aussies.
The final day required another early start and an early exit from the retreat. Similar terrain again today at the Bayview Conservation Park, except a few more hills. Most of the courses started with some technical trails, then moved through to some true long distance legs, and finished with more technical and hilly trails just when you were feeling the most tired. I think the NZ team sealed the deal with a 3 grades to 5, a much closer fought battle in the ANZ challenge than the 7-1 margin after the middle.
Thanks to Rob and Marquita for arranging the trip, booking and choosing the accommodation, planning the training and providing some great trips. Thanks also to Steve Pyatt for managing the NZ team. He did a great job in that respect from my outside point of view. I wasn’t a member of the team, and luckily the challenge rules are based on times rather than placings, I assume because of weasels sneaking their way into the top 4 grade placings on the odd occasion. A great trip all round…and I came away almost a full MTBO convert!
By Tane Cambridge