Why do we ride bikes? Mountain bikers are a diverse bunch and their motivations are like to be more diverse than the riders themselves. It may be the personal challenges faced on the bike, the sense of adventure, the comradery found in a group of like-minded people or the buzz fuelled by competition on race day that sees gets them excited to pick up the steed. Perhaps most commonly, it’s the sheer enjoyment of it all. Whatever the motivations, in reality, it’s usually only a handful of these motivations which are present at one time. A big race at a well explored venue is bound to have the comradery and competition present but will likely be low on the sense of adventure. Likewise, an epic trip away with your best mates on new trails will be high on adventure and comradery but will likely lack the buzz of competition and high rider numbers found on race day. What happens then, when an event is planned where nearly all of the boxes are ticked? The perfect storm?
It was always going to be a great weekend. All the elements began taking shape as rumours of amazing trails on private land began to spread. Rumours became reality with the publication of the 2015 WAGE calendar; “Round 6: Balingup” and the collective excitement grew as the year progressed when riders were teased with images and snippets of go-pro footage, drip-fed over social media. Rolling into the valley on Saturday morning, the 20 minute gravel drive from South West Hwy helped to further the sense of adventure as the hills began growing on either side of the narrow road. At a point where two valleys meet, the 700 acres of private property opened out in front of the travelling riders, signs funnelling them into the weekend’s basecamp; a campground and race village established on the strip of land between the race hill and impressively large dam.
The anticipation finally came to an end as shuttles began to roll, a sense of awe and admiration taking hold of the riders (200+) as they worked their way down each of the trails. With 270°+ of usable faces and a collection of previous land uses, the hill offered a great variety of terrain for the builders to work with and they sure didn’t disappoint. Paul Neve’s A-Line-esk, master piece (Boxer’s Blast) took centre stage, snaking its way down the front face, while a couple of tight and tech Nannup/valley style trails dropped in down the steeper, more vegetated side of the property (Edge of the World and Huggies B). Off the back ran two (elongated) old school west Aussie downhill tracks, full of flat turns, fast sections and stall points; very much characteristic of the loose-dry-tech style synonymous with our part of the world (Mr Enduro and Valley of Dreams).
With Nostalgia running deep through the veins of much of the trail work, it’s no wonder that the final results of the weekend fell to the favour of those who cut their teeth on this style of riding. West Aussie downhillers rounded out the elite men’s podium with Miikael Kinnunen in 3rd, Jordy Prochyra in 2nd and Myself ; Deon Baker in 1st. Young Blake Pearce took out first spot in u19s, pipping Sam Rubery in 2nd who had an eventful day out and Aaron Leagas in 3rd. Special mention to Sam for his overall stage win on boxers’ blast (beating everybody on the hill by 7 seconds). Unbelievably pinned!
In elite women Holly Baarspul took home the win with Claire Garcia-Webb in second and Kate Sheehan in 3rd. Kevin Stafford beat Paul Neve into the top spot in masters 50+ in what could be coined a battle of the trail builders (an outstanding feat for the man that deserves his own 60+ race class) while Merv Joyce was in 3rd. The other main Man behind the event; Devin Stafford took home the masters 40+ category in a time that would have seen him in 5th in the elite class while Dr Dean Davies, a legend from the highway’s cup events of the past, took 2nd. Graeme Hall rounded things out for the 40+ in 3rd.
Results for the remaining classes included:
Sport Men: Chayse Pengilly in 1st , Garry Wellman 2nd, Dave Stephens took 3rd.
Sport Women: Sarah French 1st, Kiera Wellman2nd, Kamila Ambrozewicz 3rd.
Masters Women 40+: Penny Holmberg 1st, Carolyn Ryan 2nd, Kelly Doye 3rd.
U15’s Women: Nerys Eddy 1st.
U15’s Men: Riley Jenkinson 1st, Jesse Morgan 2nd, Roly Kyme 3rd.
Well done to all.
This weekend was so much more than the racing. It was a chance to rip some really well built trails, with good mates, in prime country and share high tales over the camp fire afterwards. It was a brief taste of adventure and time to put yourself to the test both physically and mentally before chilling out with a swim in the dam when you were spent. It was an all-time-Perfect-storm-kind-of-a-weekend, and I can’t wait for the next one!
Extra special thanks:
To Steve Janiec, Phil Wilson their families and the rest of the WAGE crew, thanks for another great event and amazing season… From strength to strength! To Devin Stafford, Kevin Stafford, Paul Neve their families and the extended crew of builders and mates, Thanks for what you built and shared and for putting on a weekend to remember. To Boxer and his family, thank you for sharing your patch of paradise with the west Australian MTB community.