Friday night we prepare the mountain bikes and backpacks, I spend a little bit of time cutting some KMART fake flowers for a fascinator that will hopefully be easy to fix onto the helmet. Race 7 for the Burrup Mountain Club is one like no other, actually all rounds so far have been like no other with a touch of Pilbara uniqueness. This one though, is ladies day at the races, incorporating a point to point ride. Beginning at the local BMX club and ending at the Karratha Bowls club where a BBQ feast and drinks will replenish hungry mtbers.
We leave home on the bikes on a sunny Saturday afternoon to the BMX club, greeted by a fanfare of pink mtbers chatting and warming up. All lined up, we listen to a quick briefing including the call of the emergency number in case of any mishaps. The route will entail a few technical sections for the collective riding group of juniors, intro, sport, expert and elite. It’s a superb day to be riding in the Pilbara and everyone is in high spirits.
Start times are staggered with juniors first and elite last. Derek and I are in sport together and he’s lined up in front of me, I wasn’t intending being so close to the front but when formation happened, that’s where I ended up. I’ll roll with it. I would need to keep the pace through the tight single track section at the beginning of the race. Off we go and Derek disappears, as it turns out, I don’t see him until the finish line.
Within the first 12 minutes my front tyre slides on a downhill sloping corner and I fall over the handle bars and into surprisingly a soft patch of spinifex grass, counting myself lucky for dodging any rocks, I jump up fast and attempt to move out of the way but seem to be tangled in with the bike. Riders stop to see that I’m okay. I give the thumbs up, signifying to push on. One of the ladies stands with me, her voice so calming as she says to me, slow down and breath, you good. Within five minutes we’re both riding, I’m slowly moving, mind racing over the turn of events and with at least 15 km to cover before reaching the finish line. I realise my fail was lack of concentration on the trail ahead due to focusing on riders and noises behind. Relatively new to social riding, it was an important lesson learnt. Everything is a blur until a hill climb normalises the ride for me. The bike tyres spin on patches of loose rock as I climb, then some cycling along the side of rocky hills on a single ledge wide enough for one bike. I nail a technical rock drop and the confidence returns ever so slightly in time for quick downhill and a turn into a sandy corner.
The race route utilises rough fire track connecting several of the popular single trail areas like kangaroo track and the uber fun hidden valley through a dried up watercourse. No Kangaroos in hidden valley this afternoon. It’s a thrilling ride over a variety of terrain from rocks to sand to hard washed away rutted sections. Despite now pedalling with a tight right leg, I have a smile and I’m doing my best at completing the race. I’ll be chuffed to make it to the finish line in time for dinner.
A long descent on an old track with grass closing in both sides has numerous patches of loose sliding rocks, bike stability is balanced with speed in this section and I go for it.
The race crosses underneath the main road, adding a touch of excitement cycling through a large storm water drain. It’s not an everyday activity and definitely not recommended in rainfall during the summer wet season. Today, in the dry season, it is safe and a bit of country fun. Storm water drains are everywhere in Karratha and indicates how much rain can fall in a single event.
On the other side of the road there’s no more single track, new territory lays ahead as I cycle past a horse stable, along corrugated 4 x 4 tracks and down through dried up creeks.
The home stretch crests towards the glaring sun and on mostly sandy (boggy) track. I lack the speed here which results in fatigue because the tyres lose momentum persistently turning and the arms burn at the effort of maintaining the steering straight. Elite riders who detoured on a difficult section have caught up and they show good form through the sandy section. It’s great riding alongside this calibre of riders in a race, they inspire a renewed vigor on the long stretch. Riding with a group has it’s benefits especially for skill development.
Rolling over the finish line was a personal sweet victory met with a lovely chilled glass of pink bubbles. Following two hours of cycling, it’s almost impossible to sip sparkling, in fact its gone within 2 mouthfuls. It quenches the thirst. Post race I chat with other riders and we all talk about the course, especially the disliked sandy sections which results in many laughs during conversation. We move to Karratha Bowls where a BBQ is underway, we eat and drink cold beer. We make some new friends over dinner and are invited on the road rides. We might give that a go though we’re still building what I call the Pilbara riding resilience!
The results are called, we both made 3rd place for male and female in sports, the icing on the cake, the chicken skewer on the BBQ! Once we’re done for the evening, we set up the bike lights and cycle home looking forward to a comfy bed!