Last weekend, vast hordes of Armidale cyclists descended on Walcha for a double dose of two-wheeled fun – The 2015 Walcha Mountain Festival. On the Saturday, the main event was the Road Ride Challenge, a 75 kilometre anti-clockwise loop via Kentucky and Walcha Road with a nice big climb towards the end just when the legs are getting weary. A whole bunch of Armidale Cycling Club members were in attendance and the tall tales of daring do have already been filtering through. For a more factual account though, check out Tandem Armidale’s post of the day from the perspective of the stoker – blind para-cyclist Andrew Devenish-Meares – who sat behind ACC’s Keg Legs as they reached warp-speeds on some of the downhill sections.
For those who prefer getting off-road, on Sunday the 6-hour Mountain Bike Teams Challenge got underway at just after 8:30am in the grounds of Langford Homestead as a fundraiser for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service. Around 130 riders competed with the usual excellent mix of male and female competitors being dominated by the younger riders. Holly Harris took out the female Fastest Lap with a 40:52 and brother Mick destroyed the previous lap record in the Mens competition with an outrageous 33:32 for the 14k circuit. Mick was part of a lethal trio along with Jack Feltham (who’d also impressed on the road the previous day) and Dave Harris who between them managed to punch out 9 laps in the allotted time. Other notable ACC rides came from Katherine Hosking, Emily Wooster and Isabella Hosking who were in the top 5 fastest lap times and won the Senior Three Category with ease.
A number of other local roadies were present with Mitch Carrington winning the solo Open Male category with 7 laps in a time of 5:05:53 around 7 minutes ahead of Mick Hoynes and Peter Horwood who were just 10s apart on elapsed time at the end and were using the event as ‘a bit of fun’ ahead of the 228k Grafton to Inverell final NRS round this weekend.
But perhaps the most impressive ride of the day came from Armidale’s Andrew Kirk who clearly never having ridden off-road before in his life, managed to stay upright for just about all of his 3 high-speed laps. Heartbreak Hill got the better of him but he more than made up for that by roaring past Rob Hale (who’d popped trying to keep up with much fitter and younger riders) on the first lap. He offered the usual helpful comments and suggestions about riding technique and then tore off to terrorise the local wildlife. Not known for his mechanical prowess, he then had a terrifying end to that first flying lap when his chain came off on the rapid downhill section with just around a kilometre to go. Starting to panic as he realised Rob was closing in on him, he flagged down another rider, grabbed their bike and rode that to the finish line leaving the bemused rider left to fix his chain*.
It was a great way to spend a Sunday in the Walcha countryside and well worth putting in your diaries for 2016 – just watch out for Kirky and don’t even bother trying to keep up with Jack Feltham!
* Not entirely true – but close…
Full results in infinite detail, courtesy of an excellent electronic timing system, are available online here. A huge thank you to everyone involved in organising and putting on the event and of course well done to all riders, especially Armidale Cycling Club members.