Grav­ity Check –

Australian Mountain Bike - - Contents - WORDS: CHRIS PANOZZO PHOTO: ROBERT CONROY

It has been an ex­cit­ing year for Aus­tralia on the in­ter­na­tional stage. The resur­gence in the DH scene has been great to see, not for­get­ting the ex­ploits of Troy and Con­nor the last couple of years, while the com­pe­ti­tion at World Cups is back to the pin­na­cle it once was. And to see so many Aussie faces on the full-time cir­cuit will no doubt only fuel the next gen­er­a­tion com­ing through.

Down­hill is one of those rare sports where 99 per cent of the time a win­ner-takes-all ap­proach is re­quired to be suc­cess­ful. But you also have to re­mem­ber that seven week­ends a year (eight if you in­clude World Champs) we only see one win­ner and also 200 odd losers. The build up from the last qual­i­fier to the first is elec­tric, and you only have to lis­ten the re­ac­tions of the crowd (or your mates in front of the TV!) to know that you’re see­ing some­thing spe­cial that can only be done by the best in the busi­ness.

The same can be said for the En­duro World Se­ries - while the se­ries it­self is push­ing through grow­ing pains like a pre­pubescent teen, it’s not hold­ing the com­pe­ti­tion back from ever-in­creas­ing speeds and amaz­ing amounts of ter­rain that can be cov­ered in just one day of rac­ing. The re­search and de­vel­op­ment of equip­ment seems to be mov­ing so quickly that we are nearly reach­ing a point of cus­tom race ma­chines, nor­mally re­served for the wealth of mo­tor­sport com­pe­ti­tion. With DH build­ing up speed over a three-day week­end, it is be­com­ing very rare on the EWS cir­cuit that you will get more than two prac­tice runs of each track, with rid­ers then hav­ing to bal­ance the risks over a much longer dis­tance and time, with less knowl­edge of the ter­rain.

Head­ing into the ‘off sea­son’ from the world cir­cuit means it’s the time of year when Aus­tralia is start­ing to kick into gear for its na­tional sea­son - al­though to call it a sea­son is an over­state­ment. Sure, the sea­sons have changed from win­ter into sum­mer, but these days it’s a mix of more one­off events that draw in the num­bers - and noth­ing draws in num­bers like get­ting the chance to race against those same guys you get to watch on TV. It must be said, we are very lucky in Aus­tralia as most of the top guys don’t stay at home and shy away from rac­ing the lo­cal events. Of course, ev­ery­one needs a break, but it’s great to see guys like Dean Lu­cas still turn­ing up to all the Vic DH Rounds, the same events where he learnt the skills that got him to the po­si­tion he is in now.

One more thing to add while I write this here in Italy on the eve of the fi­nal world round... if you thought rac­ing En­duro in Aus­tralia is too ped­ally, or that there is too much up­hill, it is noth­ing com­pared to Europe. So you best be dust­ing that road bike off, or the ‘only used once’ XC rig in the back of the shed, and start get­ting some pre-sea­son miles un­der you belt. One more thing to add be­fore I go: Death to all Mag­pies.

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