Had a blast at Race 1 of the summer season of the Bendigo Mountain Bike Club this last Tuesday. But first, as I am wont to do, a short historical detour…

I used to mountain bike a fair bit when I was a teenager – Dad probably has some photos of me circa 1993 toiling away on my cool Repco Kakadu. This beast was bought with insurance payout on dodgy racer thankfully nicked by a kind thief at Nunawading Train Station. I bought some cheap SPDs and with the Schijf boys, would take any opportunity to take the train to the Dandenongs or ride the 15kms to the The 100 Acres Reserve where I’d have a whale of time skidding, dropping off, crashing etc etc etc. But, as most fitness activities tended as I got older, I stopped doing it. I’ve tipped my toe in every now and then with a duathlon at the You Yangs MTB Inc. and a race in Bendigo a couple of years ago thanks to club stalwart Jason Carter.

Recently, in my quest to complete the TreX Goldfields in late November, I bought a relatively cheap secondhand Specialized Carve 29″ (cheap when you consider that mountain bike’s can go for up to and over $10K), and signed up for the Summer Season of Racing with Bendigo Mountain Bike Club to actually get myself out there. Last Tuesday was the first race.
I was in the “Sport” group: which means I kinda know what I’m doing on a mountain bike, but not too fast and not too technical thank you very much. It also means, “I value unbroken skin and bones and do not enjoy hospital visits”. I put myself in the slow cohort and gingerly got going. The Sprint group was doing 45 minutes on the Green loop – which seriously, guys, is an unfair name…it kinda lulls you into a fall sense of security…luscious grass, softness, slow summer evenings…that kind of thing.

The Green loop is 4.5KM circuit which starts from the great shelter opposite sponsor’s One Tree Hill Hotel, in Spring Gully. The track starts with a relatively flat section, and then starts separating the fit from the not with a series of uphill switchbacks with just enough technical features to keep you concentrating. With no rain for a long time, the track is rocky in parts and several riders were seen dejectedly changing tubes mid-race. I managed getting up this hill without being totally exhausted – I reckon my calves had gotten some tone from my adventures 2 weeks before on the Southern Cross Trail at Mt Taylor Mountain Bike Park near Bairnsdale, which has a similar but more punishing structure. And like Mt Taylor, the Spring Gully track rewards your effort with an exhilarating downhill for 2km all the way to the finish – it’s singletrack all the way, and not too steep so you don’t feel like you are riding off a cliff. Perfect for the post-beginner rider, as I like to call myself. I managed 3 laps of the course, and loved it :).

(I had one nasty surprise. When the 45 minutes was up, I was halfway through a lap. I dismounted and started to walk back, only for a marshal to tell me that I needed to complete the lap in order to officially finish. Aargh!)

So thanks to the organisers who did a fantastic job catering for a very wide range of abilities! I’ll be back.