Jason English and Kaydee Raths: the old hand and a rookie racer take the 2020 Jetblack 24 Hour Solo Victories
The Jetblack 24 Hour race was the “Grand Finale” of the 2020 Rocky Trail Racing Season in Lithgow with 350 mountain bikers from all over NSW and the ACT who raced at Rydal in the Lidsdale State Forest. In the ultra-discipline of the 24 Hour Solo competition, the seven-time World Champion Jason English from Newcastle took out his 10th victory in the 12-year history of the event. In the women’s it was US American Kaydee Raths from Sydney who won her very first 24 Hour event. Race organisers from Rocky Trail Entertainment had offered a 6+6 hour classification and the Men’s Solo title was claimed by Bathurst’s Craig Hutton with Samantha Morley from Canberra winning the female solo general classification. The line-honours go to a four-man team from Bathurst and a men’s Pair team from Dubbo took out the 6+6 race outright win.
This is the event report by Rocky Trail’s Juliane Wisata:
Not only has 24-hour racing had a longstanding history in Australia with many top ultra-endurance athletes racing this format and being incredibly successful also on a World stage, the Jetblack 24 Hour is also a very special race on the Rocky Trail calendar. We established this event in 2009 and held it twice in 2014 – race #funfact – we only paused it in 2015 for the birth of our son. Since 218 the race has found its home in Lithgow at Rydal’s Showground and we have been racing on the home trails of the Central Tablelands MTB Club in Lidsdale State Forest.
Martin and I have always been passionate about 24-hour racing and as race organisers we found this perfect spot – with the wide open grounds of the showgrounds at Rydal, our racers can set up right to their cars and every year again and again it is fascinating to watch the “Rocky Trail Event Village” come together. We love the mellow Saturday morning when we get a chance to catch up with our racers and their supporters and then there’s that thrill of the build up to the 12pm race start with DJ Mista Nige absolutely rocking the place.
24 Hour Solo Sensations
The 24 Hour Solo competitions are – if you will – the ultimate in mountain bike racing. This year we once again saw Jason English, Australia’s and the World’s leading male athlete in this discipline. With seven 24 Hour Solo World Championship titles under his belt he lined up at Rydal for his 10th Jetblack 24 Hour – and was expected to take out his 10th title.
However, can I just admit right here and now, that we all gasped and watched on in awe and amazement as the afternoon progressed. Alwyn Miller from Walcha in Northern NSW was right on his wheel, in fact, until the early morning hours of the Sunday and not even a major mechanical issue could hold him back. Dropping back by over 10 minutes during the night, he clawed his way back to Jason’s back wheel and by 8am after 35 laps the two were coming through the event centre together again.
Ahead of the race the 40-year old Jason English had mentioned three major elements of 24 hour racing in his race preparations – pain management (“It’s gonna hurt, so find a way to deal with it”), nutrition (“Make sure you have a variety of foods”) and simply staying awake (“Keep your mind occupied, sing, do sprints – at 175 bpm it’s hard to fall asleep”).
After the race English admitted that the latter had been the biggest challenge for him in this race.
“It was really rocky out there and I tried to preserve my strength as much as I could. My strategy early on was to simply stay with him [Alwyn Miller]. There were a few instances where he rode away and I chased him back. As soon as I was able to get to the front I tried to back off and ride a more comfortable pace. During the last 4-5 hours it was all about saving time in the pits to get out in front. When you do 45 laps, winning or loosing even just 10 seconds in pit lane makes a difference in a 24 hour race.”Jason English
In the early morning hours English, racing for Jetblack and Pivot Cycles, said that he had become very aware of Miller chasing him back from the mechanical with everyone in the event centre preparing for a race to the line. One indication of the level of competition and the incredibly high race pace in this year’s event is the amount of laps completed by English: in 2019 he completed 41 laps in 23h20:30 vs. his 2020 final tally of 45 laps in 23h45:41 – on the exact same course. Compared to this year, the 41 laps was the fifth place getters’ result.
The 45 year old Infitit Nutrition racer Alwyn Miller looked exhausted in the finish, however, was applauded for his amazing display of strength and determination, which he himself was proud of.
“It’s just sunk in that i actually finished a 24hr race. I feel like i have been hit by a bus but man that was sooo worth it. Don’t think i have ever had so much fun at a race. I found a level of grit and determination I never tapped into before. […] Lots of lessons learnt but really happy with my first ever 24.”Alwyn Miller
In third overall, another first-time 24 hour racer: at only 21 years of age Owen Gordon from Springwood claimed his first podium position with 43 laps completed in just over 24 hours racing for Jetblack.
“I was going very consistent at the start, but during the night I was sort of dozing off a bit. This was my first 24 Hour race and it has been a challenge training for this with full-time apprentice job.”
Asked if his uncle, the 2006 24-hour World Champion Craig Gordon had given him any pointers he said, “He told me to just ride hard.” Mission complete. Gordon placed 10 min ahead of Dave Ellis from Sydney’s Northern Beaches in fourth and Grant Webster from Medowie was fifth on 41 laps.
Kaydee Raths: how to sweep spectators off their feet
In an amazing display of determination and skill, the Sydney-based US American Kaydee Raths completed 34 laps in 22h11:24 for the 2020 Solo 24 Hour female victory ahead of old hand and Jetblack Racer Catherine Woods from the Blue Mountains. The 34-year old had raced the cross-country circuit with Rocky Trail Entertainment throughout 2020 and seemed in her element on the 10km course at Rydal. Michelle Newstead from Grafton placed in third (28 laps in 20h49:38) ahead of Gwynn McLeoad from Canberra (24 laps in 15h32:36) and Melissa Bates from The Branch (23 laps in 19h49:44).
“Unbelievable. Words cannot describe this unreal experience. SO increditably stoked to race my 1st ever 24 hour MTBrace at the JetBlack 24 with Rocky Trail Entertainment and so many Aussie legends.”Kaydee Raths
Raths admitted that as she passed 10 hours she was venturing into uncharted territory and didn’t know how she would fair.
“Turns out it feels just like home getting lost in the flow in the darkness of the woods with your best mates… at dawn the birds sing and the struggle begins…”Kaydee Raths about 24 hour racing
Winning the hearts of the entire pit lane, the emotional first-time 24 hour racer and winner received a special “Rocky Trail People’s Choice Award” after the race for her performance throughout the season.
First Solo win for ex-Road pro Craig Hutton
The event offered a 6+6 Hour competition that allowed its athletes to rest overnight. Craig Hutton from Bathurst took out the Solo Men’s title with 25 laps 24h13:46. Racing for the new “Renshaw Pedal Project” from Bathurst the recently retired road pro-cyclist said that he had taken full advantage of knowing his home track so well.
“I am racing here almost every Tuesday and I know exactly where I can rest my legs and where I could protect my energy – it’s easy to get caught up in the hype of the racing action so I knew I had to keep my head on straight.”Craig Hutton
After 10 years of racing on the professional national and international road racing circuits, Hutton said that he had enjoyed being embraced by the local mountain biking community. This race had proven again that mountain bike racing was a whole body exercise and that he had really enjoye the 24 hour atmosphere at Rydal. He said that the 6+6 hour racing classification had been a thrill.
In second in the men’s by less than 7 minutes was Aaron Farlow from Palmerson in the ACT and Hutton said that his race truly started in the early Sunday morning hours. The 6+6 hour racers were started exactly 12 hours after their race finish on the Saturday.
“I started about 4.5 minutes ahead of Aaron and I tried to preserve my energy, knowing that at some point he would catch up to me, I could feel him closing in on me, but I enjoyed that racing feeling – he did with three laps to go and that’s when my race really started.”Craig Hutton
Grantley Butterfield from Canberra came in third in the men’s 6+6 hour solo with 23 laps in 24hy02:54 ahead of Grant Hodgins from Grafton (23 laps in 24h06:05) and Rocky Trail newcomer Luke Cromer from Rose Bay came in fifth outright with 22 laps in 24h33:19.
In the women’s the Canberran Samantha Morley won the 6+6 hour competition with 19 laps in 24h08:50 ahead of Kerry Muir (+21:27min) in second and Blue Mountains rider Therese Van Gurp (11 laps). The line honours go to the Pairs Men’s Team of Simon Heppell and Justin Roberts from Dubbo with 28 laps.
What a challenging and yet rewarding year 2020 has been. We would like to thank all our Rocky Trail racers, sponsors and supporters for standing by us during some truly challenging times. We’d like to thank our amazing crew who helped deliver 30 races across NSW, the ACT and QLD this year and we can’t wait to meet our new VIC racers in 2021!
We are happy to confirm that the Jetblack 24 Hour will return to Lithgow on the weekend of 4+5 December 2021. For detailed results and race information, visit www.rockytrailentertainment.com
Rider photos: OuterImage.com.au
Downloading your race pics to share them with the social world? #rockytrailracer
Remember, they are included in your entry thanks to our race sponsors JetBlack Products Australia, Lithgow City Council, Visit Lithgow and Bacci’s Fresh.