TAMWORTH’S first Ay-Up Dusk Till Dawn mountain bike race was an overwhelming success.
The predicted rain didn’t eventuate but the toughness of the course did.
More than 100 riders turned out in various categories to contest a race that started at 7pm Saturday and finished at 7am last Sunday at Tamworth Bike Park.
World champion Jason English rated it brutal.
Mountain bike racing novice Ray Griffin thought it “twisting and draining”.
“The Grafton to Inverell is the hardest race I have ever ridden in but the Tamworth Bike Park course’s technical difficulty and the intensity of the Dusk Till Dawn ranks way up there in terms of hard racing,” Griffin said.
He combined with Peter Welch and Peter Selkrig in the Baiocchi JT Fossey team for the teams event but ran into a talented Bike Shed Mortdale team of Guy Frail, Brett Holl and Stefan Merriman.
Welch blogged about the “tight and twisty pinch climbs with a plethora of rocks and hairpin turns, making the track a technical challenge for even some of the more experienced riders”.
“The adrenaline-charged downhills, with a scattering of jumps and steep-sided berms, surely tested tired riders later in the night,” Welch blogged.
“Drought-breaking rain had been forecast for the Tamworth area, and the expectation was for a mud-fest and a bike-breaking ordeal.
“It was therefore a delight to ride a practice lap on a tacky course with the sprinkling of rain almost completely eliminating the choking, bright red dust.
“It quickly became apparent that excursions off the main track should be avoided, with cactus, thorns and prickly pears abundant.
“The event organisers had attracted some of the biggest names of endurance mountain-biking to their inaugural event.
“Multiple world champion Jason English would be pushed all the way by an ever-improving Andrew Lloyd, while dual 24 hour under 30, WEMBO champion, Sean Bekkers, and Michael Crummy would be sure to set a lightning, quick pace from the outset.”
Meanwhile, teen talent Guy Frail, aged just 16, from the TBSM team, had assembled a formidable team consisting of Brett Holl and Stefan Merriman (former four time World Enduro Champion), both of whom would be much more accustomed to winning races on a Yamaha.
Welch said Frail set the early pace, posting the fastest lap from the gun.
“Our attempts to stay with them were clearly in vain,” he said.
“By the time I had finished the second lap, the night had closed in on the event centre and our hopes of beating TBSM had vanished with the setting sun.
“Ray returned from his first lap and admitted he had found the course troublesome.
“He had hit his arm on a tree, had struggled to negotiate a series of switchbacks and was voicing the fact that this would be a very long night.”
The trio of Baiocchi JT Fossey riders were delighted to finish second.
“It was difficult terrain,” Selkrig said.
“A lot tougher to ride at night too.”
Welch said 200m of climbing also made it difficult .
“There was no real respite anywhere,” Griffin added.
“It was physically demanding, no peloton to hide in and get a breather.”
Dave Harris was one of the race officials and he rated it a good race with “some very fast riders but still tough for world champions”.
His daughter, Holly, is preparing for some big races, including nationals in Echuca and World Cup and Oceania events as well.
He’s also the head coach of the newly set-up NIAS mountainbiking program and hopes to have six to eight riders in the first intake.
For race organiser Daniel Raffaele, the success of the inaugural race will only make it easier for him to build on for a second Dusk Till Dawn.
“We got some great feedback,” he said.
“It’s an incredible race, nothing like it.
“We had a real big turn out – I can’t believe the quality of rider we had.”