Beginning with Bluetts – 1999 Cyclegaine

12 September 1999

Stromlo Forest, Canberra.

Vital Statistics:

Team 62 - Roy Meuronen, Tony Core

1720 points - 25th outright

Control order: 45, 69, 78, 77, 59, 37, 82, 67, 58, 68, 49, 102, 48, 50, 92, 60, 71, 80, 100, 40, 41, 74, 43, 52, 51, 42, 90, 44, 33, 32.

38km in 2.5 hours of riding on the bike.

Total time 5:41

Sunday the 12 of September turned out to be a brilliant sunny day. This was to be my third Cyclegaine. After last year’s torrents, the clear sky had to be an indication of good things to come. My partner for this event was Tony Core, my regular Polaris companion. Things couldn’t go much worse after this year’s challenge, so things were also looking good on that front.

Preparation was pretty lack lustre. Training was pretty much non-existent, with just a couple of MTB Orienteering events to work on my fitness and navigation. The most recent of those events, just two weeks before the Cyclegaine, saw me pretty much knackered after 100 minutes of cycling, and my bike chain in a sorry state after coming apart on me at number 8. Not exactly a good lead up for six hours of fun in the bush. Finances dictated that I perform the remedial maintenance myself, so I cobbled the chain back together and randomly sprinkled a little tri-flow over the bike. A 30 minute ride the night before the Cyclegaine showed no obvious weaknesses. So it was with fingers crossed, and spirits high that we headed down to Deeks forest reserve for the start of this year’s event.

Registration went off without a hitch. We assembled all our gear and supplies, and headed up to the bunch of eager cyclists and runners at the start area. At 9:30 we were to head off, with 6 hours to collect as many controls as possible. The event area covered Mt Stromlo, Bluetts, and Greenhills forests. With neither of us being in fantastic shape, we decided to give the mountain a miss, despite the temptations of Pizzetta and coffee for lunch at the top. Oh well, power bars and jelly babies will have to do for the day. The plan was to do Bluetts, and then come back with selected highlights of Greenhills, depending on the time remaining.

The countdown completed, and 84 control cards were swept away in a rush of legs, maps, helmets and mountain bikes. First stop for us was the nearby 45, and then we cruised up the main road and into Bluetts pines, which would keep us occupied for the next couple of hours.

Bluetts, started off well, with some nice single-track through the trees to pick up 69 and 78. Our first navigational anomaly had us spending about 5 minutes trying to find our bikes again after picking up 77. We came back to the main road too high, and our practice of discretely positioning our bikes away from the tracks, made it difficult for us to regain our steeds. Just a wee bit embarrassed, we continued on to cash in on 59, 37, and 82 along Uriarra Road.

Our route choice to 67 uncharacteristically saw us climbing up the steep ridge. After seriously considering getting off to walk, I decided to persist, and surprisingly found myself at the top. This being early in the day, it was important to realise that there was only a limited (and low) number of climbs like that in the bag. We ducked off the road, down the steep slope to the control. I took the conservative approach and walked, while Tony chose to ride down on his duallie. Once punched, we found the single-track and followed it out around the ridge, to pop out at the top of the back straight. Good time to stop for a feed and water.

The Bluetts back straight sees top rally cars approaching 220 kph down the hill. We took it a little easier than that, picking off 58, 68 and 49 on the way down to the river. Unusual livestock sighting of the day occurred as we encountered a couple of deer across the road. Something you would not like to see as your WRX leaps off the humps at high speed.

The graders had been through this area recently, which had a couple of side effects. Firstly it made the high speed ride down the hill a bit skitchy through the loose stuff, but it had also concealed the entrance to the small track loop that was the location for 102. We spent a more than a few minutes here locating the marker to take our 100 points.

Three more controls, 48, 50, and 92 had the list completed for Bluetts. We took a few minutes down at Coppins Crossing to take a rest, have a feed, and plan the rest of our day. We had completed this area in a little less than 2 hours 40 minutes. Things were going pretty well, so we had lots of time to pick up some points on the other side of the river.

As we rested, there were an awful lot of riders coming the other way. We had seen very few people during the morning, and obviously everyone else had been over the river in Greenhills. Now they were all heading west while we were travelling the opposite way. This transition was the most riders we would see all day.

We crossed the river and climbed up and headed east along Pipeline Road, another classic piece of rally track. Another climb over the fence then up the hill found us at 60. Our ride into 71 was easier than expected, with a virtual super highway that had been ridden through the grass by the crowds that had preceded us.

From there it was a long haul up the hill to our furthest point from home for the day at point 80. Then it was back south towards 100 on Dairy Farmer’s Hill. The trick here was to score the 100 points without busting our respective guts. We chose to skirt around the bottom of the hill and approach the control from below. We walked up the steep and slippery single-track and made our way to the control at the edge of the pines. We didn’t stop to enjoy the view, and our quads began showing the first signs of strain as we walked back down to the bikes. Thankfully we had a very short and fast coast down to 40 by the Parkway. Then it was a short ride on roads and single-track up to 41 which was our next designated decision point.

Unfortunately our direction of attack to the control was not quite optimum. We walked in directly from the track junction. Making our way through the young pollen filled pines, visibility was less than 5 metres. The only way we would find the control is if we stumbled upon it. We spent about 7 or 8 minutes fighting our way through in all directions. It was not until we decided to bail back to the main track that we accidentally came across our 40 points, only to find that you could just about see the control from the road. Oh well bad luck.

Decision time. Do we head back up the hill to pick up 70, 63, and 30, or across to the aquarium. A quick sum of the available points, and an evaluation of the state of our legs found us heading down the single-track and under the Parkway to pick up 74, 43 and 52 to make another decision from there. We still had a little more than an hour to go from there, so we popped back up to 51 and then back down to 42 in the recently thinned pines. As we negotiated the fallen logs and branches back from the control, the first twinges of cramps began to show. Fun, fun, fun.

The climb up to the top of the hill at 90 proved painful. After a slow granny grind up the bottom part of the slope, I hopped off the bike to walk, only to find quad muscles in both my legs cramping simultaneously. I could barely walk, but with no other way to get home I had to continue. By the time we reached the top of the hill, the pain had settled down. Nevertheless, I was happy that this was the last big climb for the day.

From here it was straight down the hill and across the river again to pick up 44 then 33. With 35 minutes to go, we had plenty of time to pick up 32 on the way to the finish. While our bodies were weary, our spirits were high, so we chose to ride up the road to the east of the control and take the single-track in towards the control. Unfortunately we were sucked in by a piece of mock track and hung a premature right. The track disappeared within about 20 metres, but it was not until a few minutes of bush-bashing later that we realised we had turned off too soon. In the end, we cut right across to the western road and rode the 200 metres up the road to where we could see the control.

Kerching! The last 30 points of the day were a relief. It was but a short and very slow ride back up toward the finish. While I was grimacing my way through another painful cramp, Tony was getting caught in the soft stuff around the last gate. It wasn’t easy, but we made it to the finish with almost 20 minutes to spare.

While we could barely walk, we felt really good. We were very happy with how the day went. Apart from a few minor navigational anomalies, our overall plan for the day came together nicely. The route choice was pretty good, and our decision points worked well. No mechanicals, and only a couple of moments, it was just nice to have a day go by without something major happening to stuff up the master plan.

Thanks must go to the organisers and sponsors of the Cyclegaine. Once again we were faced with a unique challenge with excellent organisation. Well done. And well done to the scouts that fed the hungry hoards after the event.

…Roy Meuronen