9 March 2007

Almost home again.

I was lucky to sneak my mountain bike on board the flight to Australia, (new idea for not paying excess; pack all your clothes in the bike bag as well, then you only have one piece of luggage, they can’t bear to charge you extra) as there is some pretty good riding in, and close to Melbourne. Flying without a bike would just not be the same anyway. With my local host and fellow Singlespeed fanatic, Ugly, I managed to slide away from the team on a couple of occasions, remember this was a holiday, and what holiday would be complete without a riding a few trails. Riding in the city confines on my day of arrival was sweet, especially with all the trails that follow the Yarra river for many kilometers. They really know how to set up a city well for the commuter and cyclist in all of us.

Now just down this trail and through the rocks. Yu Yangs.

On the teams rest day, we headed towards the Yu Yangs, a small group of mountains just north of Melbourne. This is what I would call a classic iconic Aussie rocky ride. With trails scattered over a mountain or two, with something for everyone thrown in. We rode some pretty sweet freeride trails, with some awesome use of structures and the natural rock faces. Some of the trails were hard to read as they just seemed to go over some rocks then turn in the middle of them with out any warnings. I found myself scratching my head, on top of some of these rocks wondering where the trail left off. We walked up some of the Downhill runs, sorry too scary for me on my 29er rigid Singlespeed, and the last thing I need at the start of the season is some broken bones again.

The ground under tire was rather crunchy, no other way to describe it really almost like riding on some roasted muesli, that moved in strange ways underneath. The climbs were short and sweet, but the payoff was immense. There was some rather wicked trail design, from what I hear almost the work of one man, that just had you puckering up and hanging on while running over it. There was also some nice Cross-country action, with some very windy singletrack to hoot and holler about. I didn’t see any of the wild life, some lizards and kangaroos were on the same trails apparently, but my concentration took precedence. Every time I was looking in to the distance, sightseeing, the odd tree and rock just seemed to jump out at me.

Later on in the week, I left the team for Melbourne town, another night in the big city and another forest to checkout in the morning. Today we headed north again to the Wombat forest area. Again some well designed and extensive trail networks in here. With great use of terrain in this predominantly Eucalypt filled forest, the trails just flowed and flowed, the kind of singletrack I dream of. After traveling the world, it’s never fun riding in pine forest after pine forest. I am always seeking out the local look, that classic area that can only be found in this part of the world. Much the same as if we had guests in our town. A trip to Rotorua or the Hunua’s or up to Coromandel would be in order, with some nice natural native bush to immerse yourself into.

Bikes getting their breath back after hammering the trails for the last few hours. Waiting. Yu Yangs.

The Wombat forest area had some fantastic trails developed, some of them a few years old now, and multiple new ones as well. Many of them very nice, winding their way through the natural terrain and local fauna like I have never seen before in this country. A pat on the back, and a cold six of pack of VB (Victorian Bitter, for you non Australasian types) to the trail designers and diggers that had put all the hard work in. Just perfect for my new 29er Singlespeed, a little bit of riding and I was fully dialed in for some gut wrenching climbs, and some hairy, out of control descents. Again the ground under tire was a little bit more hard packed than the ride in the Ying Yang’s, but still a little crunchy. The crunchy stuff being the bark and branches from the eucalypts present, music to my ears. Many fallen trees made for some great trail obstacles, just when you thought the going was getting a little bit easy, a tricky corner with debris was just what you needed.

Sorry but no Wombats sighted, funny that, as I found out that they were nocturnal creatures. But there was many tell tail signs they were all around us, small piles of Wombat shit. What is funny is that they must back their asses up onto the top of little groups of rocks and logs, trying to get thier own turds the highest in the forest. Small mounds of rocks everywhere in places, corvered with little piles of Wombat stuff. Must be a funny sight while out night riding with a sight of them backing up to get it sitting just right.

After finishing a good long lap of the trails, we couldn’t help ourselves, so the best trail had to done again. After a bit more hooting and hollering (internally), a couple of kangaroos hearings (as opposed to sightings) we had had enough. The coffee from a fantastic cafĂ© called Rays, had just run out, so had the time, so a quick trip home, shower, then a quick fang to the airport, I was outta there. And the Aussie trip was done. Many thanks to my hosts, Ugly and ……., and to Vicky (Batgirl) for the ride, and the accommodation, and the generous use of his van for transport bikes and girls all over the Geelong countryside.

One word says a thousand pictures.

After a nice short flight back home from Melbourne to Auckland, I slept in my own bed (of at least the one I am borrowing for the summer), for a few hours. Then a trip in the car for the drive down to Wellington, to meet up with the team for the Trust house Tour of Wellington. A race tour in my own country, this is going to be great for a change.

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