Yesterday’s backyard event in Canberra, Australia saw big names, tight racing and tons of excitement! (Did we mention the free beer?)
As promised, here’s the report from Aussie Chris.
By Aussie Chris
Taking advantage of the who’s who of international riders converging on Australia’s Capital for the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, a local bike shop owner hosted the 2009 Pump Track World Championships in his back yard in front of 250 MTB industry honches, photogs and local riders. Word got out about this underground event, and in the preceding days fans were ready to trade their grandmothers for the blue rubber wrist bands without which there was no entry. And it wasn’t just the free beer!
The crowd came to witness the world’s fastest riders literally on the line in what had to be one of the most intimate races ever held. The format was for all riders to lay down a qualifying time over six laps (reduced from ten at the request of the pros, each of whom was hoping to be wearing a Rainbow Jersey a few days later). The top fifteen qualifiers go to the finals and ride another six laps to see who would take home the $2500 and a custom surf board, the latter rumored to be more coveted by the riders than the cash!
As expected, nearly all the big names made the finals, but a few locals wanted to keep the money in Australia and perhaps dazzle some of the industry heavyweights in the audience.
Rider after rider wowed the crowd with gorgeous style and hard cornering. Chris Kovarik on a dually, Greg Minaar and Brian Lopes on borrowed bikes, it didn’t matter; the style, the technique, the speed — inhuman. Wyn Masters gave a lesson in how to ride a bike … in flip-flops.
Impressive too were a couple of Americans like Kyle Strait and Mike Haderer who rocked up late and rolled down the start ramp without so much as a single practice lap but still slaughtered the track like it was in their own backyard — Haderer ripped straight into a right-hand 180 berm only to be greeted by a set of rollers that he never knew existed. He qualified. Strait also qualified blind, but gave his finals spot to Dave McMillan, a local fifteen-year-old who had a little bad luck after lighting the track on fire in his first few laps in qualifying. Perhaps Strait recognized a child prodigy, just as he himself was.
For a “fun” event, the competition was Rainbow-Jersey fierce. These guys were all born to race and, well, they raced. And they pushed hard. One by one, racers with years of experience like Lopes, Jared Rando and Steve Peat went off their line by inches and paid in seconds. Well, actually Steve Peat was off by a few feet and ended up entangled in some of the scenery. Did I mention the free beer?
So with one rider left to compete, Mick Hannah was in the hot seat followed by local berm blaster Tim Eaton. In third was the prodigy McMillan. But fastest qualifier and Jill Kintner’s hot tip Brendan Fairclough was on the starting block. And then he wasn’t. He’s flying. Flying! The crowd goes nuts! He looks he’s riding faster than anyone else. He’s just got to be the fastest! He’s so fast over the finishing roller that he airs halfway into the next berm and almost crashes. The crowd goes ballistic and then, in unison, they all turn to the huge timing clock on top of the garden shed just to see how much he had won by …
… and the clock shows nothing. Fairclough didn’t get a race time! And the crowd starts yelling at the timing officials: “Give it to him!” “Re-run!” “Check the video cameras!” “We’ve run out of beer!”
The timing officials check the equipment and discover that when Fairclough rolled down the start ramp his pedal caught one of the cables of the starting mechanism and pulled it out of its socket and everyone was too busy cheering to notice that the timer wasn’t running. Fairclough gets another run after far too little rest to recover from what was a supreme effort but, despite the even louder cheering, his time doesn’t get him on the podium, so there’s no change to the top three.
After much passionate debate (that I’m guessing will carry on for some time, especially when the video footage is released), Fairclough is given the surfboard (signed by every finalist) and Mick Hannah takes the cash and the title of 2009 Pump Track World Champion.
Video posted on YouTube by KramerRiotACT.
Great story — and what an awesome scene. Thanks Chris!