THE BATTLEGROUND FOR THIS YEAR’S KONA 24 is once again in the magnificent Forrest MTB Park. A slice of mountain bike heaven carved out by none other than Australian MTB legend Glen Jacobs. It featured miles of twisting single track in an otherwise pretty isolated piece of Victorian bush land. Sweepers, berms, rollers and hip jumps are all signature Glen Jacob affair but for the reason of safety, the race organisers have opted for tracks without too many technical features. I find it a bit of shame because in my opinion, rider’s skill and bikes are progressing every year, therefore so should the track that we compete on. Cross country tracks needs to get more technical, not just to sort out road bike riders from true mountain bikers, but if Aussie riders are to take it to the international level and compete on par against riders around the world, we need more technical stuff to ride in.
IN A CONTINUATION OF PAST YEAR’S FORMAT, the race was divided into 3 segments. First 6 hours will be on a circuit loop, to be followed by 12 hours of night racing on a separate circuit, then finally round up by another 6 hours of racing on a 3rd loop. The justification of this was to ensure that technically dangerous circuit are eliminated from the night laps. This I can’t argue, crashing hard in the middle of the night isn’t much fun. So at 1 minute past midday on 29th November, 2008, hundreds of riders set off into the single track to commence their event that would end in 23 hours and 59 minutes.
THE SECOND LAP after a round of rider rotation meant that by the time I headed out again, I would be tackling the night loop just before the sun set. There’s nothing like riding in a sunset in Australian outback. Wildlife stirs while air cooled. It was pure magic riding conditions. The lights I was carrying wasn’t necessary as there was still enough daylight to see where I was going, and this gave me a huge advantage over others who will have to track the same course in the darkness. Poor Kath, a total novice to night racing, had the unfortunate draw of tackling her first ever night lap unseen in total darkness and to no surprise she didn’t like it. By then Caleb also did his back in and had called an end to his race campaign, so after a quick conference Brenton and I would take turns to soldier on and see how far we could push.
GOOD AFTERNOON, Good Evening, Good Night and Good Morning- all of which probably mean the same to a lot of us over the last 24 hours. The sleep didn’t seem to reduce my swollen knee but the daylight did brighten all our spirit. Kath then Brenton went out first only to return complaining the new lap format being more difficult than it needed to be. But I was determined to give the 3rd circuit a go, despite going against sound advice from Caleb that I should sit out. You only live once and I was happy with my decision to head out as I got to ride the fabled Mariners Run, a technical track best described as being similar to the “Karate Monkey” track in Whistler, albeit without the steep gradient. The technical bits were immensely enjoyable despite the hill climbs doing my knee in again. A big wild slide while burning through a berm kept me awake for rest of my lap for otherwise a steady progress to the end. As I completed my lap I noticed no one but Kath was present. No doubt that everyone’s had enough of riding and gone somewhere for a cold beer. Content with finishing my stint and ready feet up, I had not noticed that Kath headed out for another lap so she can beat her XC racing nemesis Megan Lawson. For Meagan to be ahead of Kath in a race it was like waving a red rag to a raging bull – no way was she going to take this sitting down. An hour and twenty minutes later, Kath sprinted past the finish line and returned grinning like she’s just won lottery.