Australian Mountain Bike



- Words: JAck Viney Photos : GiBson & rAVen eye

By reworking their race, the Trans Rockies has become Singletrac­k 6 – the newest MTB Stage Race in Canada. Jack Viney surfs brown dirt to see what the fuss is about.

the cAnAdiAn rockies Are hoMe to soMe of the Best sinGletrAc­k in north AMericA. coMBine this With the Purcells, coluMBiA riVer VAlley And reVelstoke, And you hAVe A Wicked BreW of Mind-BloWinG ridinG. throW A rAce PlAte on the hAndleBArs And you Get sinGletrAc­k 6. singletrac­k 6 was born from a desire to give racers the ultimate singletrac­k experience. taking the iconic transrocki­es format and giving it a make-over, the new event offers six world-class days of trail riding in Western canada. in what could be described as an all-mountain stage race, the launch of st6 this summer did not disappoint, with riders flocking from 20 countries to race in an event set to give other big name multi-day stage races like Bc Bike race a run for their money. With the passion for pure Xc racing dwindling and bike technology advancing, the new breed of rider is looking for fun yet challengin­g trails to test their skills and endurance, without slogging it out on mindless fire roads or repetitive short course loops. if it’s a flat out race or a day riding with your best mates, the course selection for 2014 wasn’t going to be easy, with a mix of terrain to keep everyone satisfied and on their toes. throw in the incentive of some timed descents and the big boys come out to play. slogging slower, more aggressive rubber on the way up made for some lightning-fast and at times, hair-raising overtaking manoeuvers on the downs, as enduro riders pushed the limits to make up some critical seconds. it wasn’t uncommon to see lycra-clad racers slowly picking their way down steep rock gardens while a racer in trail shorts and tee shirt aired the entry and blew past fellow riders, leaving a dust cloud in their wake. But who doesn’t like diversity? that’s what makes mountain biking so great. you can squeeze into lycra on your hardtail one day and then tackle some technical descents on an all-mountain rig the next. Giving riders options

creates an eclectic mix of mountain bike crazy riders and ensures the six days of racing is far short of boring. don’t get me wrong, this is still a race and the Gc podium racers managed to ride the timed descents like they were at the Whistler Bike Park – yet did it all on traditiona­l Xc bikes. to all fast riders in this year’s st6, we salute you! cory Wallace is one of those speedster madmen – growing up in Jasper, Alberta means he is no stranger to big mountains and technical singletrac­k. As canadian national 24 hour champion, a past winner of the Mongolia Bike race, transrocki­es and numerous podium Gc finishes in the Bc Bike race, crocodile trophy and the World 24 hour championsh­ips, he’s no slouch when it comes to racing. cory’s take on the new st6 format is what he likes to call more of a ‘bike holiday’ due to the awesome trails and the extra time to enjoy the cool mountain towns. the new race format gives riders time to relax and see what these towns in western canada are all about. With huge community support, trail-building crews, mountain bike clubs and bike enthusiast­s, each stage had its own local flavor. it was obvious the communitie­s were excited to showcase what their slice of mountain biking paradise had to offer. Although some may disagree, the six days of riding did feel like a holiday, just a really active one. Golden served up the longest day, with a last minute extension making the already planned 50 kilometre stage a pinch less than 60 kilometres. not short by any stretch of the imaginatio­n but for many, the 60 clicks ridden on the Moonraker trail systems passed quickly with fast, flowy and wellmanicu­red trails. the general vibe from riders was that day 4 and 5 in Golden offered some of the best riding and racing out of the six stages, even with temperatur­es soaring into the early 40s.

As another everyday rider told me before stage 5, it could be worse! “We could be trying to read trail maps, getting lost and riding in circles,” he said. “At least we can ride stress-free and enjoy it, i know what i would rather be doing if it hits 40 degrees.” the race crew takes course marking, flagging and pre-course previews seriously so all you have to do is turn up and ride. A bit of monkey business on stage 3 from a disconcert­ed local woman threw some bush-bashing in the mix for the lead pack but was quickly resolved by the time everyone else reached her re-route. it was great to see some Australian representa­tions amongst the internatio­nal field. one Aussie racer flying the flag proudly was none other than team liv/Giant rider and MtBA Vice President, Jodie Willet. Jodie, coming back from a broken wrist suffered in a course preview before the cairns World cup Xco race in April, showed great form and grit to be fighting it out for podium spots. As stan’s no tubes rider Mical dyck put crucial time into the women’s field when the going got tough, Jodie and uk’s catherine Williamson traded second and third bragging rights day to day.

Post-injury cobwebs didn’t stop Jodie ripping up st6. “the best ever” was a phrase reluctantl­y used to describe six days of singletrac­k riding, purely because it was hard to describe everything and to do it justice. “think of every postcard picture of canada you have ever marvelled at,” Jodie told me. “White cliffs of nipika, lush greens of a British columbia forest and the surreal pastel blue of rivers – this is classic Bc singletrac­k, lined with loam, strewn with conifer needles and snaking tree roots.” Jodie soon learned that the canadian term ‘that’s all the climbing done’ has absolutely no shred of truth to it. she also found that when assessing stage profiles, a canadian kilometre converts to approximat­ely 1.5 Australian kilometres and nutrition needs to be planned accordingl­y. hunger-flatting during an epic descent certainly added to the excitement. “this year’s race really showcased the rocky Mountains in their full grandeur and i’d consider them equal to any i have seen of the european cols,” Jodie said. “As a red-blooded mountain biker it would be difficult to consider living anywhere else in the world due to the quality of trails here and the way the small communitie­s like Golden and revelstoke have embraced the sport. it’s impossible to describe how good the singletrac­k is here, it just has to be experience­d.” Jodie held onto third in the end, showing resilience when it was needed, although she admitted being a little underprepa­red due to the injury. riding for Pivot cycles, Matthew Page made the journey from the uk to race st6. “i probably rode more singletrac­k during the week than a whole year back home,” he said. “i made the mistake of taking a hardtail though, you really need a dually! the roots were insane all the way through the week. the highlight had to be the stages at Golden. fast, flowing and technical.” racing for Gc places or just pedalling for the pure love of singletrac­k, everyone embraced the new race format with open arms and had one hell of a fun time doing it. Brazilian girls Adriana Boccia and luli cox may have not have been bothered about their overall time but one thing was for certain, they were here to have fun! fully-clad in pink rocky Mountain Bikes racing kit, including cape and handle bar streamers, it was impossible to miss the girls as they rolled over the finish line each day. their orchestrat­ed finish line dance moves were also a highlight for many, finishing every stage with a smile and high five, showing us that riding mountain bikes is for everyone and racing doesn’t have to revolve around seconds, grams and pass or be passed attitudes. When it was all said and done, team kona dominated the open men solo results with chris sneddon and cory Wallace taking out the top two spots, closely followed by Xprezo rider Matt hadley. canadian kate Ardal outclassed the solo open women’s field taking the honours followed by Mical dyck and Jodie Willet as single track 6 wrapped up in revelstoke for 2014. from an Australian’s perspectiv­e, travelling to canada to ride is a nobrainer. With no language barriers other than some accent oddities from our commonweal­th compatriot­s and getting familiar with driving on the wrong side of the road, canada is easy to negotiate for an ultimate mountain biking trip. the new st6 race format is a legitimate alternativ­e to the popular Bc Bike race and the transrocki­es event crew are working hard to prove their logistics, organisati­on and atmosphere is as good as the days of riding they offer. With countless ‘how good was that?’ moments, stunning western canadian landscapes, mind-numbing amounts of singletrac­k and a down-to-earth, passionate race crew, singletrac­k 6 should be considered a northern hemisphere bike trip of a lifetime.

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