When you see the articles in Magazines for Wildside, it is usually depicted through pictures of riding on a beach and the suspension bridge at Montezuma falls…. Oh yes and mud!!
So when preparing to head to the Apple Isle, I packed plenty of bike gear and chain lube.
With fellow Kaos rider Thomas and our support and all round nice guy Dave, we boarded the Spirit Of Tasmania II in our Bib Stillwell sponsored BMW X5 (Yes, they provided us with the Primo Sports pack X5), BMC’s mounted proudly on top.
After a restless nights sleep, we spent half a day driving through the rugged, yet scenic West Coast range which would test our fitness and skills, had us arrive at the quaint coastal town of Strahan. Then back to Registration and briefing at Cradle Mountain chateau.
After a short cruise leg, my nerves where not helped by a spontaneous puncture that hissed as I stood in my starting group. The rocky creek crossing being the obvious culprit. Luckily Andy had redone my tubeless tyres and a quick rotation saw the hole sealed. Stage 1 (Cradle) started with an 18km blast through Grassy plains and Rocky and dusty 4wd trails. I felt a little lethargic especially on the hills but put in a respectable time.
Cruise leg 2 was on the main hwy and had a couple of decent climbs but worth it for the 80+ kHz descent on the other side!
The 18 km Stage 2 (Que River) got under way in the heat of the day and sent us into some single track and through a mine lease of rocky gravelly roads before an endless undulating track of rocky skatey climbs and descents along powerlines. I like most was feeling the heat but felt stronger than the morning’s stage and finished the stage strongly.
Another Cruise of 15km on the hwy into the lakeside village of Tullah capped of a hot and tough 70km first day.
The temperature was rising already for this 57km day. A controlled start for Stage 3 (Sterling Valley) led to a fast gravel track that narrowed to single track and headed up into the rainforest. The steady climb became harder after I broke a seat post and as riders formed a bit of a procession at times in the slippery and tree rooted track. Over the top and the slippery conditions degenerated into a gnarly and rutted single track descent before a flat blast through to the oval in Rosebery. Felt okay, but a side tilting seat and the limited opportunities to pass walking riders made it frustrating as you lost momentum on climbs and flow on the descent.
The break was good to clean and repair the bike and rest, but the unexpected Tasmanian heat, even in the shade was tough. By the time my start group was on the line for the 35 Km Stage 4 (Montezuma Falls), Someone’s Garmin was reading 44 degrees! The Stage started with a tough exposed 7km bitumen climb. Despite pacing myself in the heat I started to cramp and battled my way up the old disused tramway. As the track became sheltered and enclosed by the beautiful tree ferns. I started to reel in some riders on the steady climb. Upon reaching the suspension Bridge at Montezuma falls I was lining up to cross with most of the group. Crossing the bridge, led to the highpoint with which we pretty much started the big ring blast down the mountain. The track was a blast. Mud, rocks, dust, sweeping bends, tight bends, it had it all. Up and around the edge of Mt Razorback and into Dundas. Everyone had spent their petrol tickets but had a smile on their face.
From stifling heat to typhoon like conditions in less than 24 hours! Day 3 greeted riders with wet windy conditions for the 5th Stage (Spray Tunnel) time trial. In soaking conditions riders left in pairs out of Zeehan through the berms and jumps of the MX track, around the golf course, up through slushy tee treed single track through the 200m long spray tunnel and onto a sodden 4wd road. 6 km of wet and soggy hurt!
The 20km of undulations on the cruise into Trial Harbour was a lot more fun than the lunchtime stop in Trial Harbour. The wind was straight off the ocean chilling the sodden riders as they cowered and huddled wherever they could shelter. The ever trusty Dave was present with the BMW X5 and we found ourselves huddled in side with heater on to get some warmth. 24 hours earlier I was feeling the pinch from the heat now I was staving off hypothermia.
Stage 6 (Granville Harbour) started as a mass start due to the cold. The riders were soon spaced sufficiently as we rode up the steep climb out of Trial Harbour.
The 22km stage traversed the cliffs above the Southern Ocean. Largely bed rock, the 4wd trail is littered with creek crossings, rocky descents with drops and washouts making this arguably the most technical stage. I was feeling warm from my numerous layers and feeling enjoying the fast technical riding. Unfortunately, this would be short lived as a chain break, and subsequent unravelling of the chain and repair cost me time, back on the bike I started to reel in those who had passed me only to burp a front tyre as I went into a rocky creek crossing. Too flat to continue I had to pump her up and finish the remaining 5 kms grumbling to myself about was looking like a strong stage for me.
The final day arrived in Strahan, our town of accommodation. The riders gathered on the Esplanade, awaiting the iconic beach stage start. The organisers were greeted with cheers and applause on informing the riders that the 36 km Hells Gates stage would be run in reverse to avoid the gusting southerly wind on the beach leg. This was a fitting way to end the race. A fast and sandy track out of town, lead to the entrance of Macquarie Harbour and onto ocean beach. Packs of riders formed and motored along the sand, some riders doing the bulk of the work while others just hung on. Myself and a fellow Victorian Courtney did the bulk of the pace setting for our group, spraying up wet sand no those hanging onto our wheels. Back over the dunes and a down into town to the finish of what was a big couple of days.
Wildside is a very appropriately named race. I have never experienced such diverse riding terrain in one race and even diverse conditions and temperatures. It is a great test of riders and their bikes.
Overall I was happy with my race. The riding was not what I was expecting and I went in with limited preparation. The chain break and tyre burp were time costly, but that’s mountain biking.
I must say acknowledge a few people. Leigh Barratt wish you were there, 2014 is calling! To Jason at 2XU for the custom Kaos jerseys, To Oakley for the best glasses out there, transition lenses are a must, To Bib Stillwell BMW for the head turning BMW X5 they generously allowed us to use. David couldn’t wipe the smile off his face whenever he was behind the wheel. To David himself, a no more dependable gentleman you will find, made a tough few days so much easier. And finally to Andy at Kaos Custom Bikes. 2014 is also calling you. Thanks for your support and help to get me out there. Thank god you put a spare post in!!