Located 3-ish hours north east of Melbourne, Victoria in the heart of the alpine region, Bright is a beautiful little place and a mecca for cyclists, runners and the odd paraglider.
It also recently played host to the first round of the National Gravity Enduro Series for 2016. There aren’t too many places where you can roll off into a long, dusty, rutted out descent alongside other humans running of the mountain and sailing into the air, but this is what awaits you at the Mystic MTB Park in Bright.
Mountains for days, streams full of fish, a lovely little community and a Brewery with 12 odd different boutique Beers gives a pretty apt description of the town of Bright.
Pros and amateurs alike came out to play, most notably big names like Jared Graves, Curtis Keene and Cedric Gracia. Graves and Keene had spent the last few weeks making their way down from QLD and racing along the way, after a punishing weekend racing the National DH round at Thredbo some slightly less brutal trails were welcome.
Gracia was in town to host some ride camps via Santa Cruz and Lusty Industries. It was a unique and rare opportunity to spend a day learning from one of the best on some of Australia’s more techy trails. Two little local pinners were about as excited as you could get without bursting, and a promising thing to see for the future of riding here. Gracia proved he is king of the kids big and small, and what a character he is and why he is looked up to by so many.
The hill was open to shuttles on the Thursday and Friday; it was hot, dusty and steep. All the characteristics that Bright has become well know for.
The shuttle road itself is a logging track so apart from opening up to a view that went on for kilometers, it also kept you pretty alert with the steep drop just off the edge. Nevertheless the lure of being driven up before having to suffer the climb a couple of times on race day was too much to pass up.
Word on the hill was that Graves and Keene were out to see just how many laps they could get in, and many a rider saw both guys sprinting into the start of World Cup DH like men possessed.
The race would be over five stages, with two longer steep and technical stages leaving from the peak and three on the lower hill requiring more pedaling fitness and stamina. As is generally the way in Australia, a mountain bike race can turn into a dance of torrential rain and/or extreme heat. This time was no different and by 4pm on Friday afternoon riders were informed that the park would be closed entirely due to a Total Fire Ban. This is a pretty common occurrence, just unfortunately timed. Ian Harwood from EMS Australia (the event company hosting the race) handled the hiccup as best he could and sent everyone who was interested up to the next highest hill, Falls Creek to get some riding in.
[PI=13166856 size=h align=c]Gracia making the most of the Fire Ban and boosting up at Falls Creek.PI]
The fire ban also meant the race would be contracted somewhat. Saturdays Prologue was cancelled and Stage 3 was removed from the schedule.
What would have normally been a pretty casual Friday eve turned into a ‘race’ to get that last look at the trails before Sunday. It also inevitably created a pretty good excuse to rehydrate at the Bright Brewery that night without too many ramifications.
Party on Wayne.Race Day.
EMS had scheduled shuttles from 6am to allow for those who didn’t get the opportunity to practice on Saturday. That’s a pretty Queensland time to start activities but for anyone else in the country it’s bloody early. That aside the troop carriers were full and the trails were out for a beating.
After the briefing and a nice announcement that there would be oranges and icey poles scattered around the course riders were sent off in pairs from Bright Brewery. Four hours was the timeframe to complete the four stages, in any order riders wished and whilst it didn’t sound like much, riding at 1pm up an exposed fire road in the heat was going to sap much needed energy for the descents.
The rest of the Elite Men’s field were no slouches either. As much is it’s important to recognize Graves, Keene and Gracia, locals Chris Panozzo, Graeme Mudd, Ben Cory and Kaine Cannon were just some of the riders that were out to throw down a challenge.
The Elite women’s field just managed to fill a podium, which will hopefully improve for future rounds. Enduro and DH rider Philippa Rostan was going to be a strong challenge for Jaclyn Schapel and Dora Bettridge.
After a days racing the top ten men where only separated by 1:40secs, pretty close for near on 18 minutes of racing. Panozzo, Mudd and Cory took 3rd, 4th and 5th place respectively behind eventual winner Jared Graves with Curtis Keene just off the pace in second. Eliminator World Champ and local Paul Van Der Ploeg also proved he’s no slouch in a full face slotting into tenth place. ELITE MEN
1. Jared Graves 17:45.2
2. Curtis Keene 18:16.7
3. Chris Panozzo 18:25.6
4. Graeme Mudd 18:28.4
5. Ben Cory 18:58.9
Philippa took the win comfortably in Elite Women from Jaclyn Schapel with Dora rolling in for third. ELITE WOMEN
1. Philippa Rostan 24:41.5
2. Jaclyn Schapel 25:17.5
3. Dora Bettridge 49:49.0
The junior categories were hotly contested and with some times that will be sure to keep the pros on notice. U19
1. Ben Mcilroy 19:50.9
2. Tom Snowdon 19:52.8
3. Loic Fery 19:52.9 U17
1. Harrison Dobrowolski 14:36.9
2. Mickele Tulipano 15:50.7
3. Matt Car 16:09.2
So with the rest of the series announced it will be May before the riders meet again in Adelaide.
To view full results from the weekend visit www.emsaustralia.net.au