Highland Fling 2015, well half anyway

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For the past 10 years there has been a gathering of the clans in the southern highlands. The small town of Bundanoon gets overrun with mountain bikers preparing to undertake the Camelbak highland fling. This epic mountain bike rise has comprised of a 110km and 55km cross country race. These 2 races are known as the full fling and the half fling. Recent additions have included the insane 100 mile race, the shorter 23km (Some fling) and the flinging threesomes (team race).

I have some friends that have done the full fling and half flings in the past had informed of just how hard the ride actually was. Honestly how hard could it really be right? We had planned to go down the morning of but some last minutes changes meant that we went the night before. In a hastened rush to get packed I discovered that my Scott Spark had lost all the air from its rear shock. Rapidly running out of time I grabbed my CX bike (Avanti Giro AR2) and put it on the bike rack. That was plan B (or plan CX if you wanted to give it a cool code name)

#highlandfling #mtb #soocold #odie #mtb#cycling
#highlandfling #mtb #soocold #odie #mtb#cycling

We arrived on dusk to Bundanoon to what was a very busy little town full of people, bikes and a giant blue box. I went to find the shimano mechanics to regas my shock whilst Mick (who had come down with me) went to find the registration building. After 3 pumps (actual pumps, 2 were broken) the Shimano guys had my shock back and working again. Heres to hoping it would hold. We got rego done then in the falling light raced over to the pony club to setup camp. This actually proved to be quick and painless exercise. We got the bikes packed away and luggage stowed before heading back to town for something to eat. However by this stage the town had shut down. I swore I had seen a club on the way in but it turned out that the only place we could find was a small little Chinese restaurant. Quaint is the best way I can explain it, right down to the thick plastic on the table cloths. This however turned out to be in the favor of the staff as Mick and I seemed to get the bulk of the rice all over the table. We returned to camp and were asleep before long.

Camp: I hope that branch doesn't fall
Camp: I hope that branch doesn’t fall

05:42am My phone starts to go off. I see a big picture of Will on the screen. “Hello” is the sleep induced response I give him. “Were you asleep?”, “What the $^% do you think”, “HAHAHAHA, where do I register?”. Will had gotten up at some stupid hour and had just arrived. He headed to find the rego location whilst i lay there trying to come to grips with th reality of sleeping on yoga mat all night. Suddenly I hear a strange noise like a cat preparing to to die before the roar of “Scotland the Brave” being blasted through the valley by a bagpiper. Yes there was a guy in a kilt, in a paddock playing the bag pipes. Really don’t know why I bothered to set the alarm…

Don't know why I bothered setting my alarm this morning. #highlandfling #mtb
Don’t know why I bothered setting my alarm this morning. #highlandfling #mtb

We regrouped, got prepped, ok I got coffee, before getting the race plate on the bikes. We had a brief time before the start of my race, the “Half Fling” 55k. Mick and Will had entered the “Some Fling” 23k race. We wandered the exhibitions including the specialized truck and getting my free GU energy gel (pineapple for those playing at home) and rock and roll lube. The “Full Fling” and “100 Milers” set off as we were wandering around the start. Insane to think there were people out to ride 161k! Not just dirt but single track!

People you find lurking in the highlands. @april_pn
People you find lurking in the highlands. @april_pn

By this stage we had gotten into our riding gear and I was cold. Around me everyone had started to do some warmup rides and I elected to follow suit. A lazy wander ended at the back of the starting grid before I found the most awesome April, looking well tired and cold. We had a quick chat, selfie and wished each luck before the half fling field set off. The field for this even was huge. 503 riders set off and all tried to channel into a small chute. Yeah that was slow, but the moment we were onto the dirt it was all on. I had lost April in the mix but just set about finding a good tempo as we had a long way to go. My goal was to finish the race in 3 hours and finish high up in my age group. Mind you I had no idea at the time how many were in my age group.

#highlandfling start line for the half
#highlandfling start line for the half

We round the corner and found some riders of similar pace to mine. As we work our way forward through the group I found April and did my best to say hello and get a picture. The road started to drop away and I realized that I had not put my glasses on. At this point I also remembered I had forgotten to get more food and just had the GU gel squished into the bottom of my pocket under an inner tube. No more time to think, glasses on and up the first short hill that went through a dairy farm. This was the first slowing of the group as some rider struggled even here on the first climb. I followed another rider on the right before cresting the hill to a rapid set of grassy undulations and just as quick a second climb.

Go! @april_pn #highlandfling #mtb #cycling
Go! @april_pn #highlandfling #mtb #cycling

Now I had overheard Will say that if there was water he was not going to ride through it. At the time I thought really? I mean how much water could there be. This was answered quite quickly as about 2 km into the race I discovered what was the first of several deep creek crossing. Even if you wanted I don’t think many would have attempted to ride across it, I just didn’t want to get me feet wet but I’m precious like that. The next few kilometres was mostly fire trail and the pace was high. Heading down one of the hills i noticed that my front wheel appeared to be wobbling! Some quick onboard diagnostics revealed that the quick release had come open and I was forced to pull over and reset it. This was quick but getting back in the train of riders cost me precious seconds.

Yup that's water. #highlandfling #mtb #cycling
Yup that’s water. #highlandfling #mtb #cycling

For now the road remained basically fire road, winding up and down. We weaved through the pine forests and took on some fast descents, one of which proved to be really sketchy towards the bottom as it was all loose gravel. Our first and somewhat brief experience of single track and then on to what appeared to be a very long flat road with the most amazing views. I pulled my phone out to get a shot before realizing that the road dropped away, fast! I stuffed the phone back in to my pocket just in time to start the descent. The road ramped quickly up before turning left and into some think under growth. We were only about 15k by this stage and we hit the first of an insanely steep short climb and rough terrain. Most of the riders dismounted and I was forced to do the same, hunkering my way up the hill with my bike. Over the crest and down through some thick bush before an insane of camber left hander brought us to the bottom of a gully. Thick deep black mud awaited there and no matter which line you took it was tough. Bikes were going everywhere and you just had to keep peddling. The tires became heavy and full, the only thing left was to pick a rut and hope for the best. Thankfully I did not come off but others around me where not so lucky. Luckily for all involved we were met by another creek crossing. You would think that riders may want to get some mud off their bikes but hey…

Early days, not cactus yet
Early days, not cactus yet

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At this point we entered a paddock and followed a trail winding up the left towards a farm house. This met up with some hard pack road were I was overtaken by a rider trying to catch up with his friends. I felt it best if i was to stay with him for company. By this I mean slipstream and get a tow. This work for a k or so before he caught his friends. I went around trying to make up some more time. We turned back off the road to some simple single track which wound on for a short period before arriving in the first transition area. This was a relief as in my head it was the half way point. It wasn’t really turned out I was not good at math and riding at the same time.

Hills. Lots of hills#halffling #cycling #mtb #highlandfling
Hills. Lots of hills#halffling #cycling #mtb #highlandfling

The road he was slightly down high and hard packed. I got down as low as I could, put hands in close to the bars and went into my best impression of a TT rider. What I neglected to realize was that I picked up a couple of passengers as i kept pace at 42kph. When i finally rolled off they came through and we took turns till the road turned back to the left and rolled down through a vineyard. More quick fast hills ensured before all of a sudden in the middle of a paddock everyone has stopped. It turned out a heard of cows had strayed across the course and we where being held until it was safe. I took the opportunity to go to the toilet and take a picture (Of the line and other people going to the toilet). It was a few minutes before they started letting us go again and we headed down another hill. And yet another creek crossing.

Had a break in the race. Cows. Yup cows. So pro. #tdf2015 #cowswithguns #highlandfling #mtb #cycling #halffling
Had a break in the race. Cows. Yup cows. So pro. #tdf2015 #cowswithguns #highlandfling #mtb #cycling #halffling

Coming up the other side we had about 4k of winding uphill single track. This is where it started to hurt, I could here all the people around sucking in the air as the climb just kept going. When cover finally broke we were back in the pine plantations we had visited about an hour before. The road headed up a few hills before doubling back to some long negative inclines. I was following the group here in the picture including the girl in pink, holly crap can she bunny hop! The road became tighter again before hitting single track that wound its way along the creeks. Man there must be some big wombats around here, the burrow entrances were huge. The trail run up slightly before the longest but shallowest of the river crossings. After this it was a looong climb that worked its up an too the left. I think this is were the entire field came to a grinding halt. Little did I know that this is where the hard stuff really started!

#halffling #cycling #mtb #highlandfling steeper then what it looks.
#halffling #cycling #mtb #highlandfling steeper then what it looks.

The moment we crested the hill and went past the carolers (yeah I’m confused too. If anybody knows what was going on please let me know) the trail dropped fast before a tight right. The rider in front of me hit the deck hard as his back wheel caught a root. It wound around rooty and rutted before a quick opening saw us enter a field with some rock drops, had a picture taken and then onto brokeback mountain. This climb just kept going and going. I was just about out of energy now but I couldn’t get my only energy gel out to use. Trying on the climb provided to be impossible. As I got to the top the guy in front let me past and I headed down the descent. Halfway down my back well hit something and bounced the bike in the air. No idea of how i did not crash but I became unclipped and landed on the top tube. Owwwww.

image

The track became really tight, the ups were steep and so where the downs. By this stage a lot of people were getting of their bikes to get off. Often you would not have the choice either due to the line that would form or if a creek crossing was evident. The track got tighter and more mud. This time I did fall off. Getting back up, one shoe undone i pushed on, doing ti up as i went. We crossed back through the original water crossing, dinosaur still in attendance. The final single-track beckoned on a few kms to go. By this stage everyone was exhausted, just kept pushing, over rocks, logs and bridges. People coming off, footing being lost and genitals being cupped. Finally it came out on to fire road, i don’t think I have ever been so relived riding. I pulled out the tube from my pocket, slung it over my head and enjoyed the best energy gel that has ever been created. the GU energy pineapple! With about 7 to go I pushed for what i could but with the slowing for fuel and the exhaustion a number of people passed me.

Wombat holes
Wombat holes

The trail ran past the 5k to go sign as two riders fought for the line on some fire road before coming off in the wet. I swerved to the right and got past as they started to argue with each other. We pushed on down a long hard packed road. I was pushing as hard as I could but could still not catch the rides in front. We turned and went through another vineyard before headed up a hill, 500m to go! At this point there was a free beer tent, I resisted and pushed on, under the road bridge before pushing as hard as I could with what was left up the hill and under the final banner.

Done and #cactus beer assistant? #halffling #cycling #mtb #highlandfling #odie
Done and #cactus beer assistant? #halffling #cycling #mtb #highlandfling #odie

I rolled over to find Will who took a pic before rolling slowly back to the tent for beer. The went and found my burger and cookie, then more beer. Finally we packed up and went home, the soundtrack of which was mostly me complaining about have sore quads and relegating each other with stories of how awesome we were. The real questions, would we go back. Yeah for sure, the others are already planning how many days they want to camp for next time.

Finish Time: 03:06:08.1
Overall: 135 / 503
Gender: 131 / 458 (Male)
Categ: 35 / 93 (Veteren Male)