UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships – WOW!
(Posted - 09 Sep 2009)
I’d built the UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships up in my mind to be the biggest mountain bike event to ever happen in Australia... of bling riders riding bling bikes at bling bling speeds up and down hill and they did not disappoint – these riders are super human.
My wife Kate, plus a couple of buddies called Nathan and Cords and I made the pilgrimage to Canberra for the UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships and despite being a long road trip in the car it was worth every second.
If you’re reading this on the Rapid Ascent website it probably means that you have an interest in off road sport, you probably even ride mountain bikes and if you are anything like me you have probably even thought you were a bit of alright on the bike on the odd occasion when you’re tearing down hill with the trail rushing beneath you. Well, in our own little worlds that might be the case, but in comparison to the greats of mountain biking who gathered in our nation’s capital, we might as well still have the training wheels on.
Rather than recount every race with a blow by blow account of who won and lost, I thought I’d make a little video with my phone to try and capture what was happening and some of the atmosphere out on the hill, and list a few of the highlights and memorable moments from our trip to the Worlds:
XC – under 23, elite women and elite mens finals
- I managed to position myself right on the start line for the start of each of these races and it left a truly lasting impression: that these athletes are nearer your thoroughbred race horses lapping around Flemington than the baggy mountain bikers you normally see on the trails. These men and women were perfect pictures of all that a human can be: lean, sleek, fast and on a mission. In the seconds leading up to the gun going off the tension in the air made my hair stand on end.
- Smooth... oh my goodness, how smooth they were on the trails, never a skid of a wheel, an unnecessary pedal stroke or an awkward moment on the bike as they tore around what is reputed to be one of the most technical XC courses anywhere.
- Fast – up and down. Stromlo is not the easiest riding with many a steep pinch or obstructing rock standing in your way but these folk stormed their way around the course with the consistency of a metronome (check Julian Absalon’s lap times – all 7 lap are within seconds of each other)
4X finals – Friday night
- Now this was a buzz - imagine a BMX course on steroids and progressively going down hill so there is plenty of speed. Add in 4 riders racing down it all at once – with elbows out and a do or die attitude, and finally add in about 7000 spectators, a DJ, some racing under lights and some red hot Aussie riders to steal the show and you have one awesome event.
- If you have ever played around on a BMX or a 4X course then you know that you need speed to make it work, and lots of it, so you can clear the doubles and makes the berms really work. Well the speed of these riders was faster than fast, and Jared Graves our new Aussie male 4X world champion blasts out of the start gate like a bullet from a barrel.
DH finals – Sunday
- I had always wanted to see an international level downhill event, just to see how quick and nimble these riders are over seemingly impossible terrain and now that I’ve seen the best in the business, my respect has only grown. They have big skills.
- Having said that though, the top 6 riders in the 70 strong field took it to another level by combining swiftness with what could almost be called grace. When Mick Hannah flowed his way down the course (to take the hot seat) he seemed like an effortless blur rolling over incomprehensible terrain. Very, very smooth.
- The other thing is that these guys pedal... like there is no tomorrow. OMG, you and I would be squeezing the brakes and rock dropping the bike down the hill, but these guys just could not go fast enough. Respect.
- It was great to see so many people there just to watch our sport of mountain biking – yes cycling is a growing sport but we’re talking thousands and thousands of people and many from overseas. The other thing was that there was no animosity and a friendly, albeit competitive spirit amongst the crowd that was truly encouraging. From the Swiss, with their massive flags and even bigger cow bells, to the 16yr old louts with their loud hailers and wit, there was a great sense of camaraderie and unity that we all ride bikes and love doing so.
- Number one would have to be seeing Steve Peat winning the DH. This guy has been a pro downhiller for decades winning something like 15 World Cups but had never won the World Champs. To see him don the rainbow jersey, give it a rub of disbelief and then nearly tear up was very memorable.
- The 4X finals, go Aussie. The atmosphere and noise as both Caroline Buchanan and Jared Graves crossed the line to win the mens and womens was huge.
- Finally, the XC men and women.How sleek fit and fast they were. I honestly think they are more like race horses than homo sapien mountain bikers.
I am encouraged, enthusiastic and inspired to ride... congratulations to all the riders from all corners of the globe (there were something line 40 different countries represented, but our Aussies did us proud) and congratulations to the organisers who appeared to pull off a massive job without a hitch.
Anyone for a ride?