Race Report: Rocky Trail Superflow Rollercoaster Round 4, Killingworth 10th July 2016
Enduro…what is it?
Well don’t get it mixed up with the XC type of enduro, i,e endurance racing, which has been around for a long time. This fairly new format of racing of the same name has it’s origins in France way back in 2003. Yes, 2003! I know some of you readers were only a twinkle in daddies eyes, but some of us were out there riding hard and still being able to party hard (without the need for a week’s recovery) and chin wagging about the 2003 World Champs in Lugano when Fabien Barel was still racing DH and where Sam Hill won the Junior title….ahh to be young… anyway, where was I, yes ENDURO!!!
The format is loosely based on the rally car format of timed stages. The most basic definition is timed downhill and untimed uphill. The course is primarily downhill with some cross country pedally and pinch sections thrown in for good measure. There are untimed liaison stages between each race start point, which you need to get to and usually with a cut off. So no popping off down to the local for a swift pint in between races.
Australia got onboard with this format of racing several years ago and there are some truly great events set around the country. This current NSW series is organized by RockyTrail Entertainment who are also responsible for organizing a myriad of other fantastic mountain bike races throughout the year.
This year, RockyTrail have changed the name from Gravity Enduro to Superflow, but don’t let that confuse you, at the heart of this race is still climbing (untimed) to the start points and then thrashing it down (timed) hill to the finish.
This round (round 4 of 5) saw us up at Killingworth, riding the local club trails there. The area had a fair bit of rain over the last few days making it very slippery during practice on the Saturday. The drive into the trail head was also a fun experience if you fancied yourself as rally car racer or a 4WD enthusiast. But, after a couple of hundred riders had gone through the trails, it started to get nice and tacky, looking promising for race day.
Race day consisted of four trails, with one trail being raced twice. This was to add some extra racing to the day as the valley trail on the other side of the creek was flooded, and off limits.
The FOX trail was the longest of the three and the trail we had to race twice. Myles was short and sweet and over before you knew it. Camelbak was a little longer and had a deceptive uphill start with a steep pinch climb blowing out the lungs before throwing you into it’s downhill section, ensuring you really had to be dialed in and focused. This aspect of Enduro racing is what makes it so exciting.
The FOX trail had a great flat start that gave you time to get some power down and set you up for the trail ahead. It had some nice flowy sections though fern forest at the top and a couple of rough small rock gardens to keep you on your toes. The main obstacle however, was a rock drop, which could be rolled or hucked for some extra style points. This of course was where most of the crowd hung out, for obvious reasons, all eager to see some style and of course some fails. We are a nasty bunch deep down.
After the rock drop, you then had a sharp left and a wide off camber right, which if you took the best line saw you go high and cut through a gap in the trees and off like greased lightening down to a rock garden and the rest of the trail and on to victory, for some people anyway. The final section was a series of fast and flowy flat turns through a recently burnt forest, quite beautiful really, if you had the time to take it in. Apart for the burnt out cars, that wasn’t beautiful, unless you’re into that sort of thing.
The beauty of this format of racing, at this level, is that it’s so social it doesn’t even feel like a race. You can all ride to the start points, all categories mixed together. Elites riding with juniors, all chatting and having a laugh on the way up. Of course, you need to self-seed which is an art in itself, but you soon get a feel of who’s faster than you and just come to a mutual agreement to leave a bit extra time for each other. Nobody wants to have to pull over, so this is just something you work out amongst yourselves.
I found riding with my mates was the best thing to do, as you all know each other’s abilities and it sorts itself out as it does on any social ride. This is what tends to happen on the day as you see groups of mates all riding together. Which is the real attraction of this race format.
Saturday – Practice
Saturday was the unofficial practice day, this meant the trails were quite empty which allowed us to get a lot of runs in albeit pretty wet and muddy, which always makes for an entertaining day. Coming from Wales, I had completely forgotten about how much fun riding in mud can be.
It’s always tough making the call to stop practicing, since you’re having so much fun but don’t want to totally burn out the legs for the race day. So we made the call and headed back to our digs for the night to stock up on carbs. Beer, lots of it! In hindsight…©be too much.
Sunday – Race Day
I decided to ride the kilometer or so of trail head into the race centre on the day, leaving the car at the road. By the time I got to the riders briefing it looked like I was donning a new type of slick fat tyre made out of clay. Yes, the trail head was still pretty messy from the day before.
With the riders briefing over, coffee number 1 down and as much of the clay scrubbed off my tyres and cleats, we all headed up to begin our official practice runs. Practice runs don’t count towards any sort of seeding, and are untimed. It’s just an opportunity for people to get a few quick runs in and session some of the trickier lines. It’s also a good way for any latecomers or those who work on a Saturday to get a few practice runs in before the race. See! Such a nice format.
The queue on each start line saw the usual banter between friends and it was great to see so many familiar faces from this series and last years. I think every round I attend, I come away with a new mountain bike buddy. I mean come on, there’s not many situations where that happens. We certainly are a social bunch.
OK, race is on, it’s serious now! The usual mantra of keeping calm and breathing goes straight out the window. Hang on tight and get to the bottom as fast and as smooth as you can, “must stay rubber side up, must stay rubber side up, remember to break..oh sh&*T!!! How did I just get through that, pedal, pedal, pedal to the finish, hold that tag thing over the bleeper………….BLEEEP….end.
Lungs wheezing, adrenaline coursing through your system and a feeling of total satisfaction with a shit eating grin from cheek to cheek…collapse, smiling.
A really interesting part of this has been witnessing all the riders progress over the past year. I think racing for me, focuses the mind and provides a sense of urgency to improve skills throughout the year. I find myself pushing a little extra on those social rides, trying to squeeze a bit more out of the trails, find that flow, huck that rock garden, braappp that turn. In the end, it definitely helps on race day and your bike skills in general, and that can’t be a bad thing.
All the categories have some seriously fast riders and each category is highly competitive. So much so, that the fastest time on the day was from the Junior category under 17 rider Harrison Dobrowolski for a total time of 08:55! Beating the Elite riders. So as the not so famous saying goes “respect your youngers!”. Keep an eye out for Harrison, he’s on the up.
Racing is racing and shit happens. I only managed an 11th in my category (Masters 40+), due to some slips on the off camber turns near the end of the trails but hey, that’s my excuse. What’s yours? Where were you? Get on it and experience the fun of racing an Enduro event near you.
If any of this has wetted your appetite for some adrenaline fuelled fun, then head over to the RockyTrail Entertainment website to find out how to get involved. Hopefully I’ll see you at the next race.
For full race results, click here.
Words by: Jason Lorch
Pics: ©Ben Sykes & ©Ian Cairney