We’ve been running the JetBlack 12 Hour event since 2009 – the very first race took place at Yellomundee National Park on the foothills of the Blue Mountains and after a few years at Dargle Farm near Windsor the event has moved to James Estate Winery in the Upper Hunter Valley. Supported by headline sponsor JetBlack Cycling since day one, it’s one of those races that attracts a lot of regular Rocky Trail racers and always many new faces to the start line. With it’s date in the middle of Australian winter it represents some very unique challenges for riders – and us as organisers. This is the account of the 2015 edition of this iconic event that was almost in the bag when it reared up once more, having a winter thunder storm rip through the event centre during the riders’ last lap.
A good crowd
With 300 people at the start line, the JetBlack 12 Hour has also a record-number of spectators and visitors. Riders, their families and friends make it a camping weekend out. It’s held in school holidays, which brings along many kids too – for them the open meadows of James Estate are the ideal playground: off the grid with limited phone reception, our mobile Rocky Trail Kids Club keeps them entertained “old-school”: treasure hunts, hide-and-seek games, colouring-in and face painting and for the first time, in 2015 we held a computer-timed 12-minute kids race on a 360m circuit. What a hoo-haa with lots of smiles and sweaty faces – and tired kids (you’re welcome, mums and dads). – JetBlack 12 Minute Kids Trophy results can be found here.
Accompanying supporters and partners of racers were tasting and buying delicious wines and enjoying cheeses, olives and flavoured oils from the Upper Hunter region; the pizza oven was blazing all day and well into the night – quite the social affair, really.
You’d be forgiven to think it was a food festival with a DJ pumping out funky tunes all day, if it wasn’t for the determined faces of the racers that came through the huge JetBlack arch in regular intervals and the excited MC’s that commented on lap times and race leaders’ gaps and who chatted to the colourful crowd in the transition area with riders waiting for their turn to head out on to the unique network of mountain bike trails right in the heart of the James Estate vineyards.
An awesome track
This year especially we had an overwhelmingly positive set of feedback about the race track. It’s tough with lots of tight singletrails in the bush, fast corners, rocky descents and technical bits and pieces. The final descent to the event centre is rewarding and for the upcoming JetBlack 24 Hour event in January at James Estate, we’re thinking to include a few more open sections so that riders can recover a bit more, especially across that much longer time span.
Jump on board with Jason English, six-time JetBlack 12 Hour Champion for the first two laps of his race to victory in 2015:
An exciting race
Right from the start the “three bearded – a.k.a. wise – men” took over the overall lead on the 9.5km circuit in the strong solo field. Title defender Jason English from Port Macquarie and Sam Moffitt from Canberra in the Elite Men’s and Brett “Jeebus” Bellchambers in the Singlespeed category. Jason English managed to ride consistently to create a comfy gap, eventually claiming his sixth consecutive JetBlack 12 Hour title in 25 laps (12:19:15 hours). Sam Moffitt finished on 24 laps and Simon de Pomeroy from Hornsby on 21 laps, completing the top three podium in the Elite Men.
Brett Bellchambers defended his long-standing JetBlack 12 Hour Singlespeed Bike title, finishing as third solo racer overall with fellow singlespeeder Michael Timp from the Central Coast in overall fourth and a very strong U23 winner with Michael Schmitt from Canberra in fifth.
The women’s field was dominated by experienced endurance racer, Wendy Stevenson, from Sydney, who won the Master 40+ division and the Women’s overall race with 19 laps in just under 12 hours. Second overall was Catherine Wood from the Blue Mountains and in third was the Elite Women’s winner, Charlie McCabe from Wamberal.
The overall line honours went to the Newcastle Cycos United Team, which included some of Australia’s most talented National-scene racers: Commonwealth Games racer Cameron Ivory, who also clocked in the fastest male lap time in 23:01 minutes, Trenton and Jaydn Day as well as the team manager Andrew Gresham. In second was another team of four with the Quantum Racing Team from Sydney and in third the team of “Four Random Blokes” with riders from Dubbo, Winmalee and Sydney.
The event offered participants to race solo or in teams of up to six riders as well as age classifications such as master (40+), super master (50+) as well as junior divisions (U23 solo and U18 teams).
Detailed results and individual rider and team certificates can be downloaded from the Rocky Trail results portal.
An unforgettable finish
I don’t know what it is with our Rocky Trail race ceremonies, but I could tell you of several instances when the weather would turn on us right at the very end of a race. I remember the JetBlack 24 Hour race at Mount Annan in Sydney four years ago, where a downpour delayed presentations by half an hour, or just last year at the very same race, when we rushed through the ceremony with thunder and lightning all around us in the Campbelltown basin.
So of course, all Martin’s and my alarm bells went off, when at shortly after 8pm on the Saturday night the slightest of wind gusts swept through the event centre. “Slight chance of showers from 9pm”, the weather forecast had said and after a brilliantly sunny day with riders racing in short sleeves and summer outfits this was but a distant memory from the crew and marshall briefing in the morning. All prizes lined up, final riders coming across the finish line, sure enough the wind picked up and lightning could be seen all around the valley. Just before nine with some riders checking on their standings and deciding to call it a day, the rain started and Martin’s job as Race Director brought a final challenge of the day: with prizes tumbling off the tables, the rain getting heavier, camp fires violently flickering in the wind and withstanding the pounding rain it was decision time – ceremony or not? “Give it ten minutes”, he said after analysing local radars and weather maps over the course of half an hour, “The storm is passing over, we’ll do this.” So it was about counting down the riders still out on track as they came across the line, marshalls were doing checks out on track and declared it clear and after a brief hail dump (“What next??!?!?!”) the skies cleared up and the ceremonies were all go.
Kudos to all the racers who hung around for it – many of them were set up to camp for the night anyway and were huddled around the fires in thick rain coats and jackets with umbrellas, which disappeared as quickly as the clouds. Under a brilliantly starry sky with the milky way spanning from one horizon to the other the 2015 JetBlack 12 Hour podium getters were honoured and as all the prizes, beers and wines were handed out many settled back around the camp fires, recounting stories of their race day.
It’s these moments that Martin and I cherish – when we’ve delivered a successful event, defying all weather conditions and keeping our riders safe. When we see the huge smiles across the finish line, the high-fives and hugs among team members, when we hear the “until next time”, “what a brilliant track” and the “can’t wait to be back” assurances among the riders. It’s a huge challenge and a lot of work goes in behind the scenes, but it’s what we love doing and we hope to tempt many more riders to come back with us to James Estate in January 2016 for our JetBlack 24 Hour event.
About the author:
Juliane Wisata is Marketing and Events Director at Rocky Trail Entertainment. Together with her husband Martin, Managing and Race Director, she has established the business as one of the leading mountain bike events promoters in Australia since 2008.