Darling Brew Extreme MTB Challenge Race Report
The second year running, the second time I’d be attending the Darling Brew Extreme MTB Challenge. If it was anything like last year’s event I knew I was in for an awesome day out on my trusty steed. 5am alarm sounded, I gingerly arose and got to it. There was a frigid bite in the morning air, winter was certainly looming, best I pack my gilet.
I met up with my fellow dirt lovers on the N2 and we gunned it to Darling, destination, +- 80km’s away, let’s commence. Driving at this time is far from favourable. The roads are littered with trucks, their bloodshot eyed pilots and a low hazy mist. There was the odd occasion I tightly clenched the steering wheel as I passed slower moving vehicles.
We were pressed for time to make it to the race village however I wasn’t too stressed as I had already registered and collected my number board, I feared the worse for my companions who still had to register and collect their boards. Upon arriving at the race village there was talk of the start being delayed for the 62km race, I could see the relief run over my mates faces when they heard the news of the delay.
Having done the same race last year I was calm and collected at the start line, I knew two short intense climbs were waiting in the last 15km’s of the race. “save your matches” I reminded myself. The gun sounded, off we went. As per usual the pace was abnormally high at the beginning of the race, I weaved my way to the front of the field and rode some tempo, and slowly a paceline line began to form as we cruised along of the farm roads. There was a damp haze in the air as we approached the first singletrack climb. I was aware that getting caught behind a slower rider from another batch on the singletrack climb could horribly kill ones rhythm, low and behold I got stuck behind two slower riders ascending the climb. I stated numerous times “passing right”, however they made no effort at all to move. I trundled up the climb, patience wearing thin I decided to take a risk by passing on the right, riding through the bush. I was at the mercy of getting ‘bitten’ by thorns, the risk however paid off. Time to ride up at my own pace and make up for time lost in the descent. Summiting the top of the singletrack it was time for pure bliss. The descent began, the memories flowed back from last year, beautiful sweeping flowing singletrack, perfection. Descending does nothing but put a smile on ones face, pure joy.
After descending as well as climbing more singletrack I was greeted by more fast rolling jeep track, time to get those 29ers rolling. I knew I was reaching the tail end of the race and with that came the two climbs that everyone was not looking forward to. Passing WP2 I knew the first big climb was close. Cue the first climb, cue the screaming legs, this was why I didn’t go ‘in the red’ for the first half of the race. I slowly ascended the first climb, keeping in the back of my mind that the second was even tougher. Descending the first climb I was quickly greeted by the second climb, the last big hurdle before rolling on the the finish line. As I hit the last climb a light drizzle greeted us, looking back it was probably rather poetic and apt that I should tackle the last climb in morbid conditions. Almost ten minutes later the 12% average gradient sufferfest was over. Time to roll on to the finish line, upon the summit of the climb I knew towards the horizon the finish line and a tasty craft beer awaited me. The final 10km’s was nothing but negative gradients and free flowing roads. The jeep track towards the end of the race seemed particularly bad in terms of mud, I could hear my poor rear hub taking strain as I bombarded my way through the muddy roads. I guess this is mountain biking, so no need to cry over spilt milk. I began to hear the P.A. system then slowly made out through the drizzle what was the race village. The finish line and my beer were awaiting me.
Another successful outing in Darling. This race is a sure must for all who have not yet tackled this race. With races ranging from 15–62km distances its one for everyone, no matter what level you’re on. I will certainly be back in Darling this time next year to tackle it again. I trust I’ll see you there too.
See you on the outside — urban rouleur