Dirtfest 2011 was at a new track, after being relocated from Slickers at the property owners request. The new location was Ewen Maddock Dam, Landsborough....or as I noticed when leaving, the aptly named Ewen Maddock Wetlands. As is nature of MTB riding in South East Queensland of late, it was another muddy race. Possibly my wettest race ever. Certainly on par with Karingal 4hr 2010, and worse than the Super Series 4hr of a few weeks ago.
With a the expectation of such conditions, I'd put a Continental Mountain King on the rear and was thankful that I did. Up front was a Continental Race King, which at times left me pretty much a passenger at the will of the mud gods. I was thankful for my long fingered gloves, because I must have smashed my hands on trees a dozen times because I drifted off to the left or right.
The format for this race was 50K or 7 laps. Race start was at 8:30, with the Elites off first, then the single speeders and then the rest of the field. Across all categories there were nearly 100 riders start the race. For once I started up the front, and settled in to 3rd or 4th for the first quarter of the lap, then we started having to pass the slower of the elite riders, which made it difficult to maintain the rhythm and Freddo broke away. For a while, I was riding with Peter Winfield and just sitting on his wheel. I made the move past Peter at exactly the wrong time. Since I was in the lead of a small bunch when we came to a branch in the course and the marshal who was supposed to be directing us was daydreaming and I rode past the turn, but I woke the marshal enough for him to point the riders behind me in the right direction, leaving me to back track and tag on the back of the bunch. This was also where the real mud started, with some fairly steep downhill single track and 20-30cm deep mud that developed in to wheel guiding grooves as the race progressed.
The course would have been great in the dry, and I would have been well under geared if it was. I did not much like the fire roads with 2 way traffic, although it did provide opportunity to see friends and opponents heading in the opposite direction. Passing in this section was tricky as you needed to pass riders by crossing in to the other lane when there were no riders heading toward you(much like overtaking in a car on the highway). There were some quite technical parts, with some ramps, a particularly technical climb and a very tricky narrow bridge that must have been chaos on the first lap with the bigger groups.
By lap 4 my front brake pads were gone, but I had to just push on. Eating and drinking were tough due to the mud, and I definitely neglected my nutrition and hydration, but that had little to no effect when compared to my lack of steering ability and lack of brakes. On lap 5 there was a heavy downpour of rain, and the course was transformed . In many ways it was for the better. The mud was softer and easier to ride and steer through, but conversely there was more mud in the face and with my glasses off, it did cause me some problems. I put my glasses back on, but they were so muddy, I couldn't see. I got some new glasses next time through transition and it was a lot better until the glasses fogged up. I then had a stick flick up and derail my chain, causing me a significant stop to get it back on. Other than that, the Superfly was perfect.
Race finish was less than perfect, with once again messing up the alternate ending. This time mostly because I thought I had 1 more lap to do. My GPS was only reading 42K, exactly 6 laps I thought. Especially since when I asked on my previous lap I was told 2 to go. As I headed out to do another lap I was told I was finished. Then not realising I still had to do the extra loop around to the real finish I got tangled in the bunting trying to make my way back to my gear, fell over and looked a right gumby I am sure. Needless to say that whole episode cost me close to a minute, but thankfully no positions.
In the end I came home 4th in SS category and 8th overall. Congrats to Andy Fellows who smashed the 50k 1st in 2 1/2 hours and Simon "Freddo" Fredericksenwho was crowned "Qld Single Speed Champion" and 3rd overall only 20 minutes behind Andy. All up the single speeders filled 5 of the first 9 spots. The full results can be viewed here.
For me the low light was losing front brakes, but it was a lesson learned. The highlight was the support through transition, and call out from MC Coach Jeff each lap, and I tried to oblige him with the requested wave.
With the next race only a week away, Sunday afternoon was spent demuding the Superfly and giving it some much needed TLC. With rain forecast for the week, it might be more of the same, but I have a feeling Murenbong will hold up somewhat better in the wet.