Full race report Round 2: Dan MacMunn and Vanessa Thompson take over elite series leads

Australian Gravity Enduro Series brings Europe to Bright

The new Australian Gravity Enduro Series founded by Alpine Gravity and Rocky Trail Entertainment saw its second round get a bit Euro, with Alpine Gravity taking the Italian Super Enduro format for shorter multi-stage racing each morning of the two day event, and then change to the North American-style Gravity Enduro longer stage format for each afternoon. Dan MacMunn from Bendigo takes over the series lead, winning Round 2 in the Elite Men’s ahead of Canberra’s Ben Cory and Victorian Chris Panozzo. Vanessa Thompson from Yanderra (NSW) is the new Elite Women’s series leader after a victory in Bright ahead of Alyssa Lyons (VIC) and Rosemary Barnes (ACT).

The amazing trails of Bright situated amongst the huge mountains in Victoria’s High Country provided riders with many challenges, for what turned out to be a battle of man versus mother nature in a never before seen twenty stage gravity based event right here in Australia.

Challenging event format attracts high-profile racers
Nine competitive racing stages and eleven neutral stages between them was the format for this event, with the truly European style of riding to the top of the mountain each morning for the start of racing and a smaller climb after lunch each day for the longer individual afternoon stages. All up 32 kilometres of riding, seventeen different trails linked together by ten kilometres of bunting and the most varied terrain of any mountain bike race held in the region, setting the tone for a truly unique event.

Ben Watkins from Alpine Gravity had set out the two days of riding with a very adventurous event, saying, “It takes place in three different valleys across the whole mountain, and as much varied terrain as possible.” This included the lush pine forest Bright is known for, but also rocky sections, black loamy dirt, fast flowy bright green sycamore forest, super steep technical trails, mine diggings, tree roots, natural Aussie bush, and loose shale sections. Oh, and after the rain, mud. LOTS OF MUD.

The start list was filled with many big names including ex World Cup champ Ben Cory, European Trans Savoie 4th placed rider Dan MacMunn, ex World Cup dominator Michael Ronning, Victorian series podium pounder Ben Randal, Chris Panozzo, Kaine Cannan, Jon Odams, Ryan Connell, Vanessa Thompson, Alyssa Lyons, and the who’s who of Australian gravity enduro racing.

Event day one – Saturday
Saturday started with rider briefing outlining the long battle that lay ahead in riding to the very top of Mystic Mountain, and then working your way down the mountain over the course of the multi stage event. Some riders topped up their water, food and tools and then headed off for the summit. Stage 1 was the Elevation trail used at the Bright Mountain Bike Festival, and this set the tone for the weekend as riders used skill and flow to navigate their way down the tough and technical trail.

After four short race stages that included the trails Elevation, Missing Link, Corkscrew/Caro’s Track, Fly By Night/Tree Hugger/Rhys Track, riders were back in the pits at lunch time to re fuel, fix bikes, and then off again pedalling to face longer stage five in Bakers Gully which was Upper Forest/Sycamore. After five very different stages including steep, narrow and technical terrain, mixed with high speed flowing trails and wide open forest, the day gave riders a dose of everything. Looking at the results it was interesting to see who was riding reserved but smooth, and who was laying it all on the line to sample the local Bright soil.

Sat night brought with it heavy rain, which continued right through until early Sunday morning. Many riders waking up to the sound of the rain falling and looking for motivation while adjusting bike set up for maximum control.

Event day two – Sunday
Motivation came pretty quickly once riders had climbed to the peak and saw what lie in store for stage 6, the first race stage Sunday morning. Using sections of both World Cup Downhill and Elevation trails, Ben from Alpine Gravity had created the steepest and most technical stage of the whole weekend. Throw into the mix a ton of rain and it was foot out flat out for most riders. Being a multi stage event, riding at 95% was the smarter choice for most, while many riders struggled with the wet conditions on such a steep start to the day. Some managed to stay upright in the slippery conditions to gain good time on their competitors, others laughed and slid their way down entertaining all the spectators lining the course.

Stage 7 was a trail called Missing Link from day 1, and this was repeated again for day 2 but with a twist. Stage 7 and stage 8 were joined together at the request of the riders to limit waiting between stages. So after one of the two timing systems were moved, bunting was changed and course marshals were delivered to where they needed to be, riders attacked the steep technical and flowing stage 7 (Missing Link), but then hit the fire road linking the two and dropped the hammer along this section, keeping the racing going while dropping into stage 8 being Lower World Cup Downhill. Eyes popped and jaws dropped as riders dropped into yet another technical section. This continued down to Off the Wall, then Infarct Hill and then Whodunnit, finishing down into Dark Gully Trail. This was the most liked stage of the weekend, being longer in time but also having a climb to break it up between the super muddy steep tech sections.

Stage 9 was the final stage for the weekend and featured natural Aussie bush with rocky sections, mine shafts and diggings, and then crossing the fire break straight back into the pine forest and some more deep mud. The shail infested Huggins Downhill trail, into the mud of Mine Shaft, and then the hard pack high speed clay base of Coffee Challenge rounded out the last and final stage of the weekend and a well earned finish line.

Dan MacMunn increases Elite Men’s series lead
Plenty of stories and adventures we’re exchanged at the finish line and riders re-lived their race runs, crashes and triumphs, while others shed kilo’s of mud from their bikes before heading back to the pits. Winner of Elite Men round 1 Dan MacMunn went into round 2 Sunday with a healthy lead and managed to hold on to take the win from pinner Ben Cory in second, Chris Panozzo in third, Jon Odams in fourth and Ben Randal in fifth.  Elite Woman was taken out by Vanessa Thompson, followed in second by Alyssa Lyons, Rosemary Barnes in third,  and Katherin O’Shea in fourth.

Full results from round two at Bright can be found at www.alpinegravity.net/race-results.html

In the overall Australian Gravity Enduro Series standings, Dan MacMunn (VIC) leads ahead of Ryan De La Rue (VIC) and Simon Buzacott (SA) in the Elite Men’s. Vanessa Thompson is the new series leader in the Elite Women ahead of Rosemary Barnes (ACT) and Katherine O’Shea (VIC). Detailed Series Results after round two can be found on the Rocky Trail website:

Dan MacMunn exiting the rock garden at Glenworth Valley. - Photo: Outerimage.com.au
Dan MacMunn increases his Elite Men’s series lead. – Photo: Outerimage.com.au
Vanessa Thompson is the new Elite Women's series leader after round 2. Photo: Jaime Black
Vanessa Thompson is the new Elite Women’s series leader after round 2. Photo: Jaime Black

Coming up in the series
Even for a very new format of racing to Australia it was a very well received event by the riders, and ran pretty well considering having two timing systems and two timing teams to cover so much of the mountain and so many stages. When asked how he thought the weekend went for their first multi-stage enduro, Ben from Alpine Gravity said, “It’s a great racing format, so if we can tweak it to have two LONGER stages each morning instead of four short ones, then while riders are riding back up for stages three and four THEN move the timing just ONCE, then run the other two longer stages each afternoon, I think it will work much better, have less waiting, more riding, and a big future.”

Round 3 of the series will see riders head over to South Australia to see Inside Line Mountain Bike Club holding the event at Fox Creek on 24th and 25th  of May. Event info can be found at www.insideline.com.au