Mountain high for rider rivals
Grafton Cycle Club’s running of the fifth round of the Mid North Coast GNaTPACK mountain bike series last Sunday was an unqualified success.
Seventy-six senior and junior competitors raced across 12.5km of fast, enjoyable single track, with many visiting riders hailing the Grafton course as among the best in the region.
The GNaTPACK series began last year as the Mid North Coast series and has expanded from five to seven participating clubs in 2011. Riders range from 11 to 60 years old, as well as the younger ‘Dirtmasters’, who race their own, shorter course.
The 14 age and gender-based classes raced at Grafton have been used throughout the series to give riders a more level-playing field on which to compete.
The hottest competition on Sunday was, as always, the Elite Men’s race.
Series leader and Grafton City Cycles-sponsored rider Geoff Gilchrist took the win in a four-lap race, after a very tight three-lap scrap with Kempsey’s Tim Wynan, who faded a little towards the finish.
Next home was Grafton’s Ryan Hunter, who is revelling in a new found passion for mountain bike racing after cutting his teeth in BMX.
Craig Evers scored an impressive win, and another great Grafton result, in the always tight 19-29 Men’s event. Evers swapped his more familiar road bike for the dirt and made it one from one in his first mountain bike race.
Second and third went to Josh Rose and Coffs Harbour’s Aaron Newman, and fourth to local rider Ben Johnson, finishing on the same minute as Newman and Rose, with Ben Smith a whisker back in fifth and Jamie Stone another spot back.
With her competition away, Jo Benham was the sole competitor in the Elite Women’s field and so was matched up on the day with the three fiercely competitive under 19 female riders, Emily Parkes (Coffs Harbour), Fiona Brunckhorst and Holly Harris (New England MTB). While Benham took Elite points it was actually the young guns who got up.
After nearly 38km of tight terrain only one minute 38 seconds separated the three, with Harris 24 seconds clear of Brunckhorst and Parkes just another minute or so back.
These three young women, each only 15, have given us some of the closest racing of the year and the Bom Bom duel was among the standouts of the day.
Nigel Blake also made a fine debut in the GNaTPACK series with a solid fifth placing in the hotly contested 40-49 Men’s field. Nick Stevens, Scott Smith and Trevor Smith also featured in this, the biggest field of the series.
Other Grafton riders out enjoying themselves were Rick Winters and Mick Powell, finishing fifth and sixth respectively in the Veterans Men’s (30-39) event.
There was plenty of praise for the course and the efforts of its makers on the weekend but probably none so satisfying as that from Bill Platts, down for the race from Armidale.
As he remarked, the exceptional mountain bike tracks at Bom Bom are not simply a racing or riding venue, but a “community asset”.
And that was brought home clearly through the performance of Jai Brown, having his first ever race in the under 15s.
Brown rode well to finish seventh, Bom Bom being the “training ground” that he and his mates are often spotted enjoying on weekends and school holidays.