Review of 2012: The author’s highlights

It’s still January, so I feel I should be partaking of the retrospective fever that grips so many people around this time of year. Sure, we’re two weeks in, but hey, I’ve been busy.

More importantly, it’s roughly a year since I myself got back on the bike, after a very long leave of absence. So here’s what I did in 2012. (Don’t worry, I’ll cover 2012 in pro racing in the next day or two). Feel free to click away if the cycling tales of nearly-middle-aged blokes bore you to tears.

In January 2012, I started pottering around on my local bike path, as a means of knocking a kilo or two off my ample frame. I was an unhealthy 107.3kg when I first weighed in and decided enough was enough. My ancient AlpineStars hardtail – which I used to race when in my fit and fast years – was sitting in the carport gathering dust, and I was fat. Obvious solution is obvious.

For the first few days I popped laps round the local dog park and trundled up and down the local bike path. Then on the 21st of Jan, I packed the bike in the car and went to the Mountains.

The result was unspectacular, in terms of riding speed. Strava makes it look better than it actually was. It was also in the midst of a big fuck-off thunderstorm.  However, the day re-ignited a fire in my belly that had been banked and smouldering for years. I was soaked to the skin, muddy, tired and sore, but I suddenly remembered what this whole mountain biking thing was all about.

That was highlight number one.

Pretty soon, I’d worn out the old bike’s drivetrain, and lost enough weight for a reward. Enter full suspension.

My BMC Speedfox SF03, bought at sale price, made longer trail distances attainable, and I started pushing myself harder and harder and further and further, and even coughed up the entry fee for a couple of races.

The 2012 Oaks Classic race was a bust in terms of performance. I’d been off work with the flu in the leadup, and wasn’t actually healthy enough to ride, though ride I did. 35th in Veterans, coughing my lungs up the whole way. Not superb. But October was coming and the Kanangra Classic loomed.

The story of Kanangra is well told, and it forms my second highlight of my riding year, though the SF03 was dead by then, snapped and sent to the bike graveyard.

Smashing the Kanangra Burn prologue was fun, coming home first was kinda nice, but meaningless given the nature of the event. Coming 4th in age group in the race itself, though? Validation for a year of gut-slogging. It’s actually my best ever race result, numerically speaking – since back in my youth I raced like crazy but never really grazed the top ten.

Merely finishing my first Polaris Challenge may still stand as best story of survival, though. But I have time to beat that.

Still, if you’d asked me back in November to name my best day on the bike ever, I’d still cite the day I rode four English counties – Avon, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire – in a 175km+ loop around the Ridgeway.

That changed in December 2012 when I headed off to Bright in Victoria to visit a friend of mine and, coincidentally, ride down some firetrails.

As it turns out, I augmented the original plan – which was to minibus to the top and ride down – with a ride up the Hors Categorie Mount Hotham, meeting the minibus at the top. Then riding back down. Again, the story has been told.

And there it is. My three highlights. First trail out of retirement, first 100km race weekend and a mildly insane 24 hours chasing an HC climb and accompanying descent.

Not a bad year, for the first year back.


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