Race Report - Round 1
CONNOR FEARON WINS GRAVITY ENDURO RACE ON A HONZO.
Yes, you read that correctly, a hardtail.
Written by Darren Mallard of Beyond The Tape Podcast
The Gravity Enduro SA season opener was a record breaker in more than one respect. It was the biggest race in the club’s history but what was much more impressive was that Connor Fearon took the win by 4.6 seconds on a hardtail. And he wasn’t without serious competition either with Troy Brosnan also racing as well as some seriously fast SA crew.
5 stages, 25 kilometres, and a metric shit tonne of hero dirt made up the first round at Fox Creek. Dirty Little Secrets followed by classic dh tracks like Bowl and Fast made it a course that would reward true all-rounders. The steep liaisons were tough and made sure the legs were working before each stage. With stages not being released until a few days before there were 252 nervous faces lined up at 9:30 am to take off.
Stage 1 was a smooth flow trail designed to hurt the legs and fry the lungs. With times between the top 2 finishers in every class being only 2 seconds apart on average, we knew this was going to be a tight race. In elites it was a difference of .04, giving Troy the lead over Connor. Elite Women's was close with Shelly putting a 1.4 second lead into Amy Schwarz, however Emily Hill drove another .5 second lead over Shelly with her seat slammed thanks to a dodgy dropper post.
Stage 2 was a polar opposite of stage 1. Open Wheeler is a raked out track with no support in the corners and sacred spirits that want to pull your front wheel off the track. Rewarding people who can read the terrain and catch every backside on track, it was a physically tiring stage. This was the pivotal stage for the elite field, Connor Fearon put 5 seconds into the field on this stage (remember that number) and this is where Gebert lost 10-15 seconds on his closest competitors. Sam Walsh clawed some time back after a slow start on stage one. In the Elite Women's field, Shelly also rode a solid run and put another 6 seconds into the rest of the Elite Women's field.
Stage 3 was a classic DH track with a blend of fast jumps, tight rooty hairpins, and a long gruelling flat pedal back to the race village. Again, another stage that will reward those who can flow and pump through natural terrain while reserving the legs for the pedal out. The top 3 Elite Men have probably ridden this track at least 9000 times throughout their riding career and the times reflected that. Gebert put in hard and got redemption after stage 2 with a 3rd place on Bowl. Connor took 1st again after putting 1.5 seconds more into his time bank over Troy. The Elite Women’s field was similar with Shelly taking the win by 1.5 seconds over Amy.
The classic Fox Fast start linked into the newest track at Fox, the Ducks Guts made up Stage 4. The start is like sprinting into an octagon with Connor McGregor ready to pummel you with hit after hit. Braking bumps into every corner, drops to flat, and long hucks, people's forearms resembled Popeye’s as they entered the uphill sprint. The Ducks Guts is a smooth roller coaster with sneaky hucks and corners that love to be pushed through. With limited line choice up top and fairly regulated speed down the bottom Connor only managed to put a .8 second lead over Troy. Gebert was 6 seconds behind the 2 leaders, while 4th place Walshy clung on 2.3 seconds behind him. Shelly took the W again by 3 seconds over Amy.
It was stage 5 that ended Fearon’s clean streak as Troy pulled back a massive 4 seconds, almost zeroing out the lead Connor had gained in the previous 3 out of 4 stages. With the roughest top third of the whole race the track beat up everyone before they entered a pedal fest with small pump jumps back to race village. Originally, I thought the Hardtail (no that's not a typo) would have been the difference that hindered Connor at the top but, there is no way it was 4 seconds worth. Having the pleasure of watching Troy through the top of Duck and Weave there was a solid glow of fire in his eyes as he blew the track apart. The women's field remained fairly unchanged as Shelly took 1st 4.6 seconds ahead of Amy.
Stage 6 was for Elite classes only, starting from the same position as Stage 2 but, this time it headed down the opposite side of the ridge. Starting with raw forest loam, racers had to maintain speed as they hit the wide open jumps. After sending it like Auspost, riders ducked back into the forest and linked into “boob shaker” AKA. “Muppets”. Aptly named Boob Shaker because the harsh bumps and rough transitions are enough to make my man boobs move so much they could get a spot on Dancing with the Stars. Finishing on a high-speed slalom this track tested riders skills to the max. Finishing 2 seconds behind Connor, Troy wasn't able to pull back the huge five second cushion Connor got on stage 2. For Connor to pull 2 seconds riding a hardtail on a track that would shatter a mere mortal’s ankles, is a true testament to his riding ability and calf strength. Shelly stood out from the crowd to finish a MASSIVE 12 seconds in front of Amy. Solidifying her win for the day.
Now for some random race stats (excluding stage 6 for elite). This was the biggest race in G.E.S.A. history. The youngest rider was 12 years old and the oldest was 68. The time of the rider who finished 126th (dead middle) was 19:35.7. The average final time was
19:59.8 and 44.04% were faster than this. There were 0 injuries and sweep rider saw the grim reaper chasing him down on his final climb of the day. 100% of participants are excited for round two.