Mount Stromlo in Canberra’s south-west is not much of a mountain to look at. Compared with the much higher peaks of the Brindabellas further out from Canberra that peak around 1900m, Stromlo with an elevation of 780m at its highest point and around 600m at the base of the MTB park is dwindled by comparison. What it lacks in elevation though it makes up for in the sheer variety of trails, from long and technical-in-parts XC loops through to gravity-fed trails taking a much more direct route down the mountain. It is these gravity trails that made up the course for the 3rd round of the 2018 Gravity Enduro Cup this weekend.

Reigning Elite Men’s series leader, Jordan Powell from Victoria was there ready to defend the series lead against the locals: many fast riders from around NSW and ACT including Canberra locals and DH specialists Tim Eaton, Tommy Crimmins and last year’s Elite Women’s winner Claire Whiteman. Many podium placers from last year weren’t around this time: Last year’s Elite Men’s winner Chris Panozzo and runner-up Dylan Cooper, 2017 Series winner David Ludenia, Junior Men’s winner Sam Walsh and runner-up Harrison Dobrowolski.

Open practice on Saturday did see a large number of competitors getting final lines dialed as there was no opportunity to practice on Sunday. With large clouds gathering, small rain spots and strong winds making some tracks a substitute for wind-tunnel aero testing everyone was hoping Sunday would be calmer.

Light rays filter through the Saturday weather.
Tim Eaton peers out, can the Canberra DH specialist put together a Enduro result?
The Brindabellas in the distance
Mount Stromlo Observatory
Young pinner Tobias Van Oeveren getting some practice on Up The Anti
Victoria’s Rachel Hore practicing lines through the rock gap on Up The Anti. Unfortunately she had a wrist fracture that afternoon on the DH course, ruling her out for Sunday.

Sunday morning arrived and with it, bluebird weather. An 8AM briefing with staggered starts from 8:30AM onwards for the youngest competitors through to around 10:45AM starts for the Elite Men… it was a long wait in the carpark for some competitors. Competitors would roll up the main singletrack ascent twice to reach the descent stages, with two rides up Casuarina climb to test out the legs between stages 3 and 4 before a final ascent up the fire trail back to the final stage down the World Cup downhill stage.

Early morning briefing.
Checking out the last of the stages and start lists. Live timing throughout the day kept made for some interesting trail banter.
The next generation of Enduro riders? Wollongong #endurodad Kezza and Spenno
If you dont have something taped or strapped to your bike do you even enduro?
Competitors snake up the singletrack ribbons.
Climbing this section twice wasn’t so bad with a view, the wattles opening for Spring and maybe a bit of banter if you were close in the order to a friend.

With the start of the stages being Up the Anti, competitors were thrown right into the thick of things, one of the most technically demanding tracks on the hill. But competitors who made it through that part of the first stage were rewarded with the flowing berms and new tabletop jumps of Luge & Old Duffy’s descent. Over to stage 2 and the flow of Pork Barrel before descending a new section of track that a Canberra local has been working on out on the back side of the hill.

Some timing issues reared their ugly head for a couple of stages, with the live timing showing a few missing times on stages for the Elite and Junior Men. The team worked to resolve those at the end of the race, but it made for some interesting banter as people watched the results feed.

Competitors dropping straight in from the climb on Stage 1 into the rocky chunder of Up The Anti had a few reasons to be nervous at the gate.
Starting the early race runs were young riders like U17 winner Luke Meier-Smith, showing plenty of speed down Up The Anti.
The drop on Up The Anti. Many line choices here but most taking the left most line and hopefully floating over the rocks on the other side.
The famous box bridge joining two of the stages today, Up the Anti into Luge in the morning, and World Cup Downhill in the afternoon.
Riders continued to climb the liaisons for stages 1 and 2 well into the morning with some competitors only starting at 1045 or later.
Junior Men’s series leader Roly Kyme, will he continue his domination of the series?
Emerging from the shadows of the box bridge.
One of the many sweeping berms on Stage 2’s Pork Barrel.

Jordan Powell finds the limits of traction on one of the dusty berms of Stage 2
Jack Hewish, stepping up the categories from last year with a 3rd place in Junior Men.
Jordan Powell. A missing time for a few riders on Stage 1 on the live timing kept everyone in Junior Men and Elites on their toes until the end, but keeping consistency in times just behind Crimmins and Eaton.
Tommy Crimmins, just another race day in his backyard trails, consistently fast across all stages.
Local podium threat Anthony Elliot suffered two punctures in as many stages before the end of Stage 2, ending his day and hopes.
The many rocks of Up The Anti just waiting to catch out the wrong line choice.
Sebastian Weber through the chunder, 2nd place Junior Men
Riley King (center, red helmet) stepped up with 2 stage wins in Junior Men’s before dropping out of contention on Stage 4 with flat tyres.
Roly Kyme on course, taking the Junior Men’s win from Sebastian Weber.
Tim Eaton, unstoppable on his home trails.
Claire Whiteman, battling hard for 2nd place, Elite Women.
Hamish Paine drops into G20 on Stage 5 – one of the big opportunities for air time.
Kezzadawg finds time for style on the G20 drop, taking the biggest airtime option over to the far left.
Crimmins powering it home on the finish line sprint of Stage 5. A hard ask when you’re already physically spent from 45+ kms on the bike.
Elite Women’s honours went to Em Parkes, nudging out Claire Whiteman
Eaton powers home to the win.

In the Junior Men’s category, the overall honours went to Roly Kyme of WA ahead of Sebastian Weber and Jack Hewish. Special mention to Ethan Corney, the Lithgow NSW rider racing his first enduro with a 5th place, 1min 23 seconds behind Roly’s blistering pace that would have seen him come 4th in Elite Men if he was racing that category!

The biggest challenge for me was trying to conserve energy when I could and try not to get caught out on all the slippery turns – Roly

Female Elite racing saw Em Parkes nudge out last year’s winner Claire Whiteman to the win by 17 seconds, with Ebony Tanzen in 3rd place.

In the Elite Men’s category, downhill specialists Tim Eaton and Tommy Crimmins battled it out for first place, with the amount of local experience between the pair it was going to be a tall order for series leader Jordan Powell and the remainder of the field to compete. Stage wins were shared between Tim and Tommy all day, Crimmins taking stages 1 and 2 and Tim taking 3,4 and 5. Jordan Powell rode consistently with 3rd and 4th places to finish up just 25 seconds behind Tim with Tommy just under 14 seconds behind Tim.

We got a few words in with Tim post-race…

GDU: A big day in the saddle for the day, how did you prepare?

Tim: I’ve been trying to ride more frequently to get my fitness up and also had a cruisy week leading into the weekend, I also made sure I had enough food/energy bars etc throughout the day so I didn’t bonk!

How did it feel to take the win?

It was awesome, my first time standing on top of a nationals box, I wasn’t sure id have the pace or fitness with the amount of pain I was in on the pedally sections but it just made it even sweeter knowing I did everything I could.

You’re known for your downhill racing, how do you approach Enduro differently?

Easing into it and staying consistent, downhill is 100% out of the gate for 3-5 mins, but knowing you have another 4 stages and up to 20+ mins of racing to go. playing it smart and conserving yourself a little bit.

What’s next for you?

Heading to Tassie for the Asia-Pacific continental race in Derby in November, Thredbo’s Cannonball Festival and National and Oceania champs are the major races for me this season before the EWS next year.

Full results here:

Pictures by Andrew Howieson and Ben Sykes

Words by Ben Sykes