Fields of Joy CX Round 3 – The Memory Twister
Posted by auscxmag
Posted in News
words: Nik Cee photography: FoJ CX
What’s the saying? Sun’s out, guns out? Well the third round of the inaugural Fields of Joy CX series didn’t disappoint with shots being fired around the course all day. It looked like #peakrace in Melbourne over the weekend with enduro and gravity events, gravel grinders, multiple audaxes and a bunch of prettily dressed large animals racing in circles (and that was just SKCC crits, it was also Oak’s Day) but the faithful communed out at Essendon Fields for the much hyped double points finale.
The course designer Pete McInulty had once again made new use of the space and had thrown something of a curve ball by running some of the regular features in reverse. The fast berms and sand pit were now uphill and the pinch climbs were now slingshots into to the off camber sections. Yep, those fast lines you had figured out over the past few races were now coming at you in reverse. An element of the fun of CX is working out to get the most out of the track and the recent hot weather had also baked some sections rock hard and created a loose surface in others. Showing some of his roots the designer had also added a motocross style start which began 15-16 riders wide and slowly narrowed after a long sweeping turn into a tight half-spiral corner. Even with the decreased racer numbers this added excitement to the starts of the races.
C grade and Open launched the day’s proceedings and Ben Vaughan set off quickly to demonstrate his XC skills on his hardtail. His approach to ‘the bomb drop’ to the postie gate set the tone for the day in more than one way with skids and an attacking ride. The real battle was behind him on the ‘real’ cx bikes (sorry, not sorry MTBers). After “posties corner” claimed a couple of the front runners on the first lap Alex Drabble from Croydon Cycles made his way back to the front and set up a classic battle of youth vs experience with Hamade Fayad from Red Mist. Although youth may have triumphed eventually, it made for some great viewing whilst in progress. Meanwhile throughout the rest of the field there were some highly entertaining races going on. The best of which IMO was the race for DFL with several long time VicCX campaigners waging war on that ‘coveted’ last place, suffering through exhaustion, wildly innovative line choices (and then discovering that some bushes are harder to ride through than others) and sometimes simply just taking the racing lying down. Gil, Brad and others – Death Before DFL!
B grade featured what seemed to be the most nervous racer of the day… MyMountain’s Blake Griffiths came into the round in the hot seat for B grade series overall, but with double points on the line and a history of erratic racing (See round 1 when he decided to lay on the ground several times for no real reason mid-race – repeatedly ruining his good position) plus the pressure of a very vocal cheer squad he was showing it. Albeit slightly, the guy is always really friendly. Also doing battle in a sea of regulars were a good part of the engine room behind FOJCX (Col Bell and Peter McInulty). Now racing your own races/course comes with some pressure (I speak from experience). Combine this with the work required to get everyone to the start line and put on a great event so I was very glad to see them get a chance to rip into their hard work. Col didn’t disappoint with a great start and some wonderful examples of what he generously terms ‘racecraft’. He then settled back into the field to share his dirt skills knowledge via demonstration with those who might benefit more (or that’s what I assumed he was doing when I saw he had plummeted backwards by the 2nd lap). In the midst of some spectacular spills on the loosening off camber sections and some ever-slowing runs through the sand pit the front of the race slowly formed into order. One of half of the Brazilian Bros(TM) Felix Emmenegger had taken a flyer and was holding grimly onto a 10-15sec lead, while Blake had shaken off the nerves and was calmly placed 2nd (and was also leading the all-important Greenmountain-vs-Bluemountain internal shop battle). The next few places shifted repeatedly in the race and again there were some great mid-pack battles as skills and strength varied with the heat and efforts. The lack of wind was definitely appreciated, but not nearly as much as the Team Zeitgeist handups and supersoaker sprays. B grade has definitely been the most entertaining grade at FOJ over the season with some awesome racing and this one finished it off well. Feliz was triumphant (and destroyed) and Blake scooped a comfortable 2nd and with that the series win. 3rd was Jeremy Hindle.
The kids racing was the usual level of hijinx and fun even before you consider the pink-attired, double numbered Dave Morgan’s efforts terrorising the course on his entirely UCI-illegal steed.
While Womens A/B/Open may have been an open and shut race with LJ quickly showing her skills, it was again notable the number of new faces seen toeing the line. FOJ have done repeated Womens Skills sessions and the alumni of these are out racing and having fun. This in itself is a great achievement. In Open, Annalise Gehling triumphed over Jo Southwell and Allison Watt, in B St Cloud’s Carina Newman showed off her new bike with a dominating win (which also added to her runaway series win) over Kirra McDonald and her last lap flat and Gayle Ilievski. In A LJ took first (and more handups than anyone I think), 2nd was Sarah Grove and 3rd was Claire Michel.
Going into this final race Paul Redenbach and Allan Iaucone were tied in overall series points. With both of them having had a number of quality battles over the course of the season it was anyone’s guess (and many of us did) as to who would triumph today and capture the overall category. Turning up at the last moment were John ‘I’ll just borrow Lisa’s bike’ Groves and Lewis ‘I thought it would be an easy day’ Rattray to keep the other hitters like Mat Gray and Russ Collett honest. This race also featured the welcome return of Jeremy ‘CrossBoss’ Sawyer who had been on scooter-modding sojourn to China for all of the Australian CX season. With a field that just fit into the wide start line the whistle signified a mad dash for the best line into the first corner. Someone who opted out of this dash pretty quick was David Ransom who can normally be relied on to use his Chris Froome-esque legs to torment the front of the field. For this race I think lining up next to his coach Alby psyched him out and he took several quality dirt naps on the first lap, leaving him repeatedly tailing Brad Eastick. The field then quickly fragmented into smaller races each whipping dust up around the corners of the well-ridden course… but up the front Paul and Alby took turns driving the pace and eyeing each other off. The announcers were excitedly calling the various digs each took and none seemed to stick until a lap to go when Paul snuck away and was able to do enough to get the W. Both are excellent sportsmen and deferred to each other’s differing strengths in post-race conversations and interviews. Mat Gray stomped home in 3rd, and CrossBoss signalled his return to CX with an impressive finish line wheelie and then a lofty speed hump bunnyhop. Could this be a sign of obstacles to come for SpookyCX? If the author has spent as much time focusing on his racing as he did on his megaphone heckling he might not have DFL’d, though the mid-race #instagram stops and slowing for the supersoaker attacks hardly helped either.
The presentations afterwards were spirited and included many thanks to all who participated, supported, volunteered over the course of the four races. Series winners were also awarded framed FOJ race plates.
And as the sun went down and everyone filtered off to ride and drive home, people were left to reflect on the birth of another great CX race series.