Australian Mountain Bike - - Gravity Check - WORDS: CHRIS PANOZZO PHOTO:TIM BARDSLEY-SMITH

The phrase “Morn­ing Flow­ers” might seem an odd way to in­tro­duce you to my lat­est ram­blings, but it seems ap­pro­pri­ate given that this is what Sam­sung uses to kick start my day ev­ery morn­ing at 5.47am - then again at 5.55, 6.00, 6.05 and fi­nally 6.10.

Win­ter seems to be sap­ping ev­ery ounce of en­ergy out of what once was an en­er­getic morn­ing rou­tine. Where lazi­ness was pre­vi­ously squashed by the fear of be­ing stuck out in the op­pres­sive sum­mer heat, the bit­ing cold of a Vic­to­rian win­ter morn­ing breeds com­pla­cency. Morn­ing tem­per­a­tures last through till late af­ter­noon, then the day is over as quickly as it started, all be­fore I would even dare head out dur­ing the sum­mer for a late arvo spin.

When­ever I’m try­ing to avoid some­thing - in this in­stance the sea­son of win­ter - I usu­ally find my­self ex­pe­ri­enc­ing more of it than ide­ally I would

like (whether through divine in­ter­ven­tion or sheer co­in­ci­dence). This man­i­fested it­self more than ever this past week­end in what must be one of the stranger events you can do on two wheels: cy­clocross.

If you thought weird cats turned up to moun­tain bike races, I’d rate them as a 4/10 on the strangeo-me­tre when com­par­ing them to cy­clocross reg­u­lars. Don’t get me wrong, though, there’s noth­ing bad about be­ing a lit­tle strange - and one thing is for sure, cy­clocross is a f***ing hard sport. What I found out is that apart from the odd In­sta­gram fake wannabe, of which there were only a cou­ple, the ma­jor­ity are proper rac­ers. Ev­ery­one put them­selves deep into the hurt locker.

Strangely enough, I felt more at home rac­ing side by side on the Stig­mata against the cy­clocross crew than I have at some in­ter­na­tional races on my moun­tain bike - rid­ing a bike that, even

though it was de­signed for this type of rid­ing, hasn’t evolved much since the dawn of moun­tain bik­ing it­self. It was a re­fresh­ingly tough bat­tle, one that was re­ju­ve­nat­ing at a time when win­ter can start to suck away some of that mo­ti­va­tion. It made me smile, re­mem­ber­ing that on any Sun­day, no mat­ter what dis­ci­pline, if you’re get­ting to race your bike it’s a good day - ir­re­spec­tive of the weather.

This brings to me to the World Cup DH cir­cus! You might be think­ing that it’s a strange segue I’m try­ing to make here from cy­clocross to World Cup DH, but the stark dif­fer­ences in at­ti­tude could be seen all the way across the globe from Aus­tria to Aus­tralia. Ad­mit­tedly some of the track in Aus­tria seemed a touch po­lit­i­cally cor­rect, the tech­ni­cal sec­tions all smoothed out, but the snide re­marks and whin­ing that ev­ery­one was mak­ing through so­cial me­dia only proved how young the sport still is in some re­spects. I ap­plaud those who look to push the sport in the right di­rec­tion, but com­plain­ing like five-year-olds on so­cial me­dia be­cause some­one took your bot­tle isn’t go­ing to solve the prob­lem.

There are those that are putting all the dis­cus­sions to one side, though, and fo­cus­ing on rac­ing fast on a Sun­day af­ter­noon. A bunch of Aussies are head­ing that list, and at the top is Jack Moir. Jack’s had a rough cou­ple of years com­ing off the back of mul­ti­ple col­lar bone in­juries, but his time is com­ing. I re­mem­ber see­ing Jack at Whistler 2016 for Crankworx - there was a large Aussie and Kiwi con­tin­gent tak­ing a break and hav­ing a loose time dur­ing the event, but you could see he was there to build on a sea­son that started off ear­lier in the year with an­other bro­ken col­lar­bone dur­ing team camp. He took him­self out of the party scene and into staff ac­com, and later threw down a very im­pres­sive sec­ond place in the Cana­dian Open DH - and he hasn’t looked back since. Good work mate!

I, too, am about to head across to the north­ern sum­mer, fur­ther adding to your In­sta­gram de­pres­sion dur­ing the win­ter! But be­fore I go, one thing I’ll fin­ish on, and some­thing I didn’t think I would be say­ing… af­ter all the Sun­day af­ter­noon rac­ing I’ve done this sum­mer, the tough­est was lin­ing up next to ly­cra-clad, skinny-tyred hip­sters. Go fig­ure!

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