When I got back into cycling in 2011 I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I was recovering from a torn Achilles and had to battle injury much of the first year. My family had bought bikes and equipment from the HASA store in Dandenong. I chanced upon an advertisement on the Website looking for riders to represent them in a 6 hour Enduro Victorian State XC series up in Woodonga. You needed to have a HASA bike. And they offered you free merchandise in the way of reimbursement and paid for your entry fee. I could borrow my brother in laws bike, and applied. Pinching myself thinking this was too good to be true. My first (and last) sponsorship!
Here’s the thing. I loved riding, and had some fitness to go fast for short periods. But I was no Mountain Biker, and had no idea what exactly they did on an XC series. I trained hard for it, but when I drove up to Woodonga and got to the course. Straight away I thought “you’re fucked!”.
I looked at all the rocks that you had to ride over. Technical turns, jumps, and the crazy climbs. I was blown away. Having never done anything apart from ride the fire trails at Lysterfield Lake on a Mountain bike. I didn’t even own a pair of cleats back then and rode with runners. My attempt to ride the circuit was nothing short of embarrassing. I was constantly getting off the bike to walk over obstacles, and was struggling to breath. The course was broken into 3 sections. First up was a mega technical and I had no hope of riding large parts of it. The second part was a ridiculously steep climb. I would haphazard close to 15%, and I wasn’t a hill climber back then and had to get off it and walk it.
This followed a mad capped descent through this tiny single trail that was bumpy as all bat shit. My bike didn’t have any suspension. It felt like I was being ripped apart and in pain on the descent. The last section wasn’t so technical. About the only part that I could ride a bit before getting to walk several technical section. I was concerned in this section as there were 4 jumps about a meter high close to one another. As you landed, you hit the next, and this caused you to pick up speed and so on. I was pretty nervous going through these.
Ultimately one lap destroyed me. I had signed myself up for a 6 hour Enduro racing for the HASA team. There was only one other member of my team Daniel Wayenberg, and we were to take alternating turns. Unfortunately as I was in a team I had nowhere to hide.
On the day I was a fish out of water. Everyone looked so strong and had such great bikes & kits. I just sucked. My first lap I spent the whole time getting off and walking my bike over rock gardens. Technical corners and steep hills. I was looking over my shoulder and getting off the path a lot of times whenever someone came up behind. My fitness was lacking for something this intense and really struggled. I was embarrassed with how bad I was riding. Constantly riding into bushes and trees and had a lot of skin ripped off on the first lap. You could guess that I really wasn’t having the best time of it.
Losing another life
When I hit the 4 jumps in the last section, the first 2 went well. Unfortunately I got a little overconfident on the third jump. This tiny voice whisper something negative in my ear which caused me to crap myself. I accidentally pulled on the front brake as I hit the last jump. This caused my rear wheel to flip over my head. I realized pretty quickly what I had done. And knew that if I couldn’t right the bike I’d brake a lot of bones. My first thought was that I was going to destroy the bike and would be apologizing majorly to Chris for destroying my bike. Figured if I broke my neck may not even be able to do that.
I instinctively leaned the bike to my right. I was now in a position where I was going to drop the bike flat on its side. A horrible image of my collarbone snapping again popped into my mind. I pulled the bike back under me and as I was heading towards the ground I was expecting a major crash. How I didn’t kill myself, and had to pinch myself when I landed squarely on both wheels and kept going. I don’t know how I stopped the bike from flipping over my head. Thankfully no one was around to see that I had almost killed myself. This was a total nightmare.
I got back to the start and sent Daniel off. Having about 40 minutes to wait for him to get back and went and did a lot of soul searching. I wanted to throw in the towel. This was a humiliation, but ceded that I put a fair bit into this and needed to do at least another lap.
Lap 2 came, and the field had slowed down. I wasn’t passed as many times which meant I rode longer sections. And was able to get a little bit more confidence. I was out of my depth, and exhausted but no one seemed to care that I was going so slow. As I was so courteous to get the hell out of everyone’s way.
Lap 3 came, and hardly anyone was moving. I enjoyed this lap the most, and felt I was getting it. But at the same time was completely wrecked. On the third section I heard some riders fly up behind me. This was a narrow section where it was impossible to overtake. I saw a tiny section I could pull off and did so, planting my left foot to the ground. Which gave way under me and slid a couple of meters down an embankment. I copped only a few bruises. But knew the rider who was flying past me which added to my embarrassment for the day. I got back on and finished the lap. My last for the Enduro.
Well I learned that I was not a Mountain Biker. Amazingly I didn’t have the slowest lap for the day. There were quite a few riders below me. All I can say is they must really suck at Mountain biking. I came out covered in scrapes and bruises. And majorly relieved not to have a major injury. I guess I’ve never ever had the confidence on a Mountain bike to hit the single trails since this event. Maybe I could become a decent Mountain biker if I put the effort in, but it was not for me. Thankfully I discovered the Road bike a few months later, and my destiny followed a different path.
I wish I could forget this ride. It was truly regrettable. I believe that you can get some good out of bad, and I did move on and find my niche thankfully.
Special note: Fortunately HASA wasn’t there to see what an embarrassment I was.