TEAM 4SHAW Race Report: Wildside 2014
By Nick Miller.
Twas the night before Wildside and all was quiet, just the sound of foam rollers at work after a four hour drive. Tommy was onto his fourth bowl of food, while the rest of us were feeling quite relax in our mood. Our bikes had been readied, we were all set to go, and Tommy really wanted his photo in Flow.
That’s enough that….
Every edition of Wildside is a special race, 4 days of racing and cruising from Cradle Mountain in Tasmania’s highlands through to Strahan on the State’s rouged and remote West Coast. The 2014 race was especially significant for the 4Shaw-Giant Mountain Bike Team, as it was the first edition since the formal inception of the team in 2012. The team for the race included Scott Bowden and Tom Goddard both racing in the Under 23 category and in the race itself for the first time. I had raced Wildside in 2010 and was looking forward to riding it again, knowing something of what was coming in each stage.
Each of us had packed our Giant XTC Advanced SL 29er’s, loaded with SRAM XX1 which we hoped would give us the ideal setup and versatility for the varying of stages during the race.
This year’s start list gave Tom and Scott a great opportunity to race alongside Wildside veterans and former winners, Sid Taberlay and Adrian Jackson, as well as surrounding themselves in a deep field of more senior riders. The boys had just come off the recent National Series round in Adelaide and their form was gaining momentum. Unsure of what to expect over the coming days both appeared calm and relaxed, each with a very real aim of a top 10 finish and a spot on the Under 23 podium. I was aiming for a top 40 position for the first time, and after 3 weeks off the bike in late December, I knew that would be enough of a challenge. The weather forecasts were checked dozens of times in the week leading up, and dozens more on the Friday night before the start. We were looking good, but (there’s always a “but” in Tasmanian forecasts) there was some questionable weather activity for day 1’s racing. Fingers crossed!!
Day 1 at Cradle Mountain greeted us with the usual cool temperatures and showers that the highland area is known for. We were lucky that the initial cruise stage was completed under overcast, but otherwise dry skies. All three of us started in the “A” Group for the Cradle Stage. The pace was on from the start, thanks in part to the nervous energy just to get Wildside underway. The fast and dry (thank god!) first stage across the alpine landscape saw Tom finish in 6th overall (2nd Under 23) and Scott cross the line in 11th (3rd Under 23). A great start for the boys, both of which looked now looked relaxed in their element and confident of their position at the front of the 398 strong field.
The real Tasmanian weather had to show its true colours at some point, unfortunately the cruise stage from the Cradle finish to the Que River stage start was the ultimate post-race ice bath.
Rain, wind, hilly terrain and 5 degrees made the cruise in possibly the toughest stage of the whole race!
The Que River stage on afternoon of Day 1 is an interval lover’s delight. The sun was finally starting to return just in time for the rolling hills, mine leases and transmission line trails that were to come.
After a reallocation of groups, I quickly left the boys where they belonged and headed back to the “B” Group for Stage 2. The close racing at the front of the race saw Tom and Scott maintain contact with the leaders Tupalski (Tupac), Mather, Taberlay and Jackson for much of the first half of the stage. Tom finishing in 7th place and Scott close behind in 8th, while maintaining their positions in the Under 23’s category.
Day 1 was a solid start for the boys, both sitting in the top ten, where they would stay for the rest of the race. I was just outside the top 40, but pleased with how I was feeling.
Tom was definitely ready to get in the mix on Day 2, if only the result was based on the sheer volume of pasta he had put down the night before we would have had a winner. Day 2 takes on the Sterling Valley near Tullah, straight up a long climb, before the fun, but rough descent back down to the finish in Rosebery. The afternoon Stage to Montezuma Falls is historically the longest and the wettest stage of the race. This year the afternoon stage was trimmed by 8km, much to the relief of many riders, as I’m sure over the 28km stage there is 22km of solid climbing and painful power sapping false flats, not to mention the mud and giant puddles. I am always just happy to survive Day 2, and this year was no exception.
Day 2 started with a cracking sun soaked Australia Day morning in Tullah as we rolled out. The stage hopefully played to the technical strength of Tom and Scott. There was a 3 way tussle front of the field with Taberlay, Mather and Tupalski, alternating the top 3 positions. Tom and Scott again impressed finishing in 5th and 7th places respectively. The big news however occurred in the Under 23 category, with leader Ben Bradley having an unfortunate mechanical during the stage that resulted in Tom moving into the lead and Scott into 2nd place in the overall standings. My stage didn’t quite go to plan, as an early crash after an unusually good start, put me back into traffic on both the climb and the descent.
After a relaxing couple of hours in the sun in Rosebery, the boys no doubt working on their tans, while I enjoyed my time in medical tent, we were ready to go again up the long road to Montezuma Falls and beyond.
The sun had a bit of kick to it as we hit the road climb to Montezuma Falls. The front group maintained their unwritten rule and kept things polite until after the infamous bridge crossing. Tom and Scott were right on the heels leaders and sitting comfortably ready for things to kick off. The boys stuck together and maintained their solid consistency finishing 5th (Tom) and 6th (Scott), around 3 minutes behind the stage winner Sid. By the time I arrived back in Zeehan the lads were looking their usual rock-star selves and clearly pleased with the way they were travelling. I was pleased to get Day 2 out of the way and looking forward to riding much more to my strengths on days 3 and 4.
Day 3 was set to be an awesome day of racing, a bit of a sleep in before the Spray Tunnel Time Trial was the perfect way to start, followed by the beautiful ride into Trial Harbour and then the mass start afternoon stage from Trial Harbour to Granville Harbour. The afternoon stage was bound to be full of action at the front, as the top 3, Tupalski, Mather, Taberlay use the climbs and rocky descents to try to put time into each other ahead of the final day’s flat and fast stage.
The 6km time trial starting from the center of the mining town of Zeehan, heads across every possible surface available, bitumen, fireroads, golf course, single track and then the iconic spray tunnel of darkness and back into sunlight. The blue skies and sunshine meant that the course was in great condition with minimal mud ready for some fast times. The short stage suited me, finishing in 25th place. Tom and Scott were both in very close proximity to riders on GC and saw this stage as an opportunity to sneak a precise few seconds. Watching from the finish the top 10 came thundering through, both lads heads down chewing stem and not leaving anything out there. Tom finishing 5th overall, Scott 8th and importantly grabbing the handful of seconds they both set themselves at the start.
The cruise stage from the end of the time trial to Trial Harbour takes the race out to the west coast for the first time. The view over the dunes and out to sea is one of the most spectacular sights in Tasmania, especially on a near perfect day as we had. Then there is the descent down into the small shack town of Trial Harbour for lunch, and the realisation that… “oh that’s the start climb out of here”…
Trial Harbour is one of the most welcoming communities that the race heads through over the 4 days. Setting up for lunch in someone’s backyard is just the “done thing” on this one day every 2 years.
This year some keen locals had set up and enormous white bicycle on a nearby hill, “Tour de France Style” as a welcome, and well as the addition of a cherry picker to ensure they had the best possible view of the mass start.
Each stage of Wildside has something unique and the day 3 afternoon stage north to Granville Harbour along the coast is no exception. The start dusty climb out of Trial Harbour is around 5 minutes long for the pointy end, and is given the royal treatment complete with media helicopter. The mass start makes it even more important to get a good start. I could see Tom and Scott up the road and in good position, while I even found myself in a reasonable spot before we finished the climb and headed off on to the coastal rough and undulating four-wheel drive track with minimal traffic ahead of us.
The attack that had to come from one of the top three came from Tupac, who put the hammer down, and went on to win the stage, gaining a critical 1:30 minute lead over the next placed Mather. Tom had a blinder of a ride coming in in 4th place, the morning time trial clearly did his legs some good. Scott followed shortly after in 9th and I managed to find some legs pushing through to 36th for the stage.
I was now exactly 41st on GC and knew that final stage suited me and couple of spots would be up for grabs if I rode well. Tom and Scott were fairly settled in their GC positions of 5th and 7th, a mechanical would change things, but everything was well prepared for the final stage in Strahan along Ocean Beach to Hells Gates and back to Strahan. None of our bikes or running gear had missed a trick the entire race and we’d certainly given it a hard time so far!
The big move on the final stage had to come from Mather, who was had lost time the day before to Tupalski, and was the only other rider who stood a chance of taking the overall win.
We woke up on day 4 to a warm morning with a strong northerly breeze blowing. A tail wind down Ocean Beach! This would be perfect until we had to turn back along the road for home. Tom and Scott both sat again in the front group as the inevitable happened. Mather attacked, getting just the gap he needed, riding back into the headwind home, while managing to keep his lead coming home with seconds to spare. Mather had done enough to take the overall win from Tupalski by just 6 seconds. Tupac one of the nicest guys in mountain biking was obviously disappointed in losing his lead he’d fought so hard to get the day before and tried to defend. It was an absolute credit to Tupac and his Torq Australia Team for the manner in which he carried himself in that final stage. This was a terrific example of what makes a real champion for our young up and coming legends Tom and Scott.
Tom and Scott finished the final stage in Strahan in their GC positions of 5th and 7th overall and 1st and 2nd in Under 23’s. The 4 days of fantastic consistency from both Tom and Scott was my highlight of the race, every stage they enjoyed and I sure they reminded everyone why we love mountain biking, because it’s ridiculously good fun on and off the bike.
I was stoked with my last stage, riding off the front of the “B” Group down Ocean Beach on the hard packed sand with a tailwind was about as perfect at my riding gets! I was finally caught by a group of four on the road back in to Strahan, luckily providing me with some much needed help into the headwind home. Finishing the stage in 29th meant I jump the couple of spots to finish in 39th overall, mission accomplished.
The 2014 edition of Wildside lived up to all our expectations. The team couldn’t have put together a better race, achieving all the goals that we went into it with at the start, 2 riders in the top 10, 1st and 2nd in the Under 23 category and 18th in the veteran’s category. The learning experience for Tom and Scott was invaluable and I’m sure they impressed many, riders and spectators alike. Not only do they look like rockstars they ride like pros.
Wildside should be a bucket list race for all mountain bikers, regardless of which end of the field you prefer. Nic Dekka and his team run an amazing race, through some unique and beautiful areas of Tasmania and the World. The race comes with its own atmosphere which needs to be experienced, if only once (but you’ll be back if you ride it, trust me). For more information on the race, results, photos and media coverage check out www.wildsidemtb.com
There are numerous people we need to thank, as the preparation for and efforts that go into a race like Wildside is a massive team effort.
To Dion Shaw, senior 4Shaw rockstar, none of us, Tom, Scott nor I would be in the position we are today, without the incredible passion that you have for this sport and support of juniors within it.
To our coaches, Jenni King (Scott and I) and Phil Leslie (Tom), the time, planning and support that you guys provide to us, is the reason we have much of the confidence we do, as well as the legs we do. Congratulations to Jenni on taking 3rd place female overall, while still having the energy to check in with Scott and I.
A huge thank you needs to go to our support crew for our week of racing Gaye Bowden, Rob Goddard and Pete Crocker. An absolutely pro team of supporters, we were very lucky to barely have to think about what was next as so much was taken care of for us.
Finally, we are incredibly grateful to all of our sponsors, without whom much of what we do and love would not be possible. Thank you to 4Shaw, Giant Bicycles Australia, SRAM, Monza Imports, Adidas Eyewear, Torq Nutrition, Ironhouse Brewery, Kincrome, Aussie Butt Cream, Louis Garneau, Creux Velowear, Pulchrum Shoes, Tas Endurance and COBRA9.