What’s Wildside really like? The real stories of adventure are back in the pack, where riders of all abilities and fitness chase their own goal or look for that rush and experience that an event like this offers. This years event article has been covered by two riders in stark contrast of experience and what they were wanting out of the event. Phill Murfett has been riding for around 9 years and has just finished his second Wildside. The experience came in handy, but there are things that this race will throw up at you, becoming a battle of mental strength. In stark contrast is Angelique Sanders, who has recently discovered mountain biking and is hooked. It is here first time to this event, with nervous energy playing a part in the unknown adventure unravelling over the 4 days. Follow a day by day diary as the fortunes, challenges unravel.
Saturday Stage 1 – Cradle Mountain
Phill – Saturday morning was cold and windy not a temperature I have been used to competing in Wildside in recent years, it was 4.5 degrees but the apparent temp was -1.5 Brrr.
Phill – I started in group ‘J’, with my mate Turbo in group ‘I’. With the short intervals between groups I was really hoping to catch him, with this being my goal for this stage. The starter counted down from 30 secs and the whistle blew. We were off at a rate of knots straight in to a downhill and left hand turn. The epic had begun! It wasn’t long before I came across Turbo, literally 500 metres into the race and there he was on the side of the trail with a flat, so here was my chance to get some time on him. I yelled “you ok mate?” and he said “gotta flat” plus a few other choice words! I replied “See you at the finish” and clicked up a gear, thinking to myself to power on and don’t let him catch you.
The track was fast early, then we came to the creek crossing where people were clambering over each other to get through the cold mountain water and back on the bike and away again. It wasn’t long until we turned left, up the long rocky hill. With the rain starting and the wind in your face made it tough going, mixed with spongy grass and single track it looked like it was a long way to the finish.
As we headed up over a climb and down a short road, I was not paying attention, missing the left turn and went straight on for another 200 metres before I realised I was not going in the right direction. A few choice words to one’s self about time and stupidity and I was back on track, really having to motor over a gravel road before hitting the single track the finish. All in all I beat my previous time but was disappointed because I cost myself, but I still beat Turbo home.
Ange – The cruise stage was nothing like I’d expected. Yes we ‘cruised’, but you still have that urge to go a little faster. It was nice to have a rest, refuel and have a coffee, along with meeting some great people. Thanks to the Clayton Brothers for being my wind breaker for the cruise stage.
Saturday Stage 2 – Que River
Phill – Wow here comes the stage I hated the most last time around. It riddled me with cramp and pain that I was never sure I wanted to ride a mountain bike again so what to do different? Hoping I was stronger and fitter this time I think was the key. I moved up to group H after my time from the first stage, so I had the chance to really have a go. It was furious at the start, so being experienced and knowing the single track was coming up, I was keen to get up there with the front riders so I wasn’t held up. The plan worked and I had a clear track. We headed towards the dam track which is normally a fairly fast bit of road, but straight into the head wind soon put the idea out of your head that you were going get an easy ride, and best to save yourself for the climbing to come. Soon we were at the creek crossing where you carried your bike on your shoulders and waded through cold mountain water up to your waist, which was so relieving on screaming legs. After exiting the water and a short jog through boggy grass and deep mud piles, we reached the gravel track where the real undulating riding began. This is where it was make or break for me. I got myself into a good rhythm and mind set, with it paying off. Soon I came across Nathan ‘FXy’ Fellows from our group, which surprised me, but was glad to see him as for years he has been a great motivation to me and my riding. We had a quick chat and he said “Mate, leave me and go”. I knew I must have been feeling great, and off I went climbing better than I ever had before on the mountain bike. Soon I was on the fast track towards the rocky downhill before the finish. I was going hard to try and take some more time off, smashing it down the hill then hitting the squealing brakes hard, into the left hander towards the single track for a few metres and over the finish line. Wow what a ride! A Cruise in to Tullah village and Day 1 was complete
Ange – Well if I thought the scenery was good Race 1 it just got better and better, especially around the Lake – Que River. I totally smashed Roadie Delight, and tried to hang on to the train for as long as a could, riding along, it was super fast! Hills, hills and more hills, they were never ending. I was up one and down before another appeared, not before a creek crossing (the best one of the ride). I jumped into the river,with it coming up to my hip thinking “Please don’t fall in!” It was crazy stuff but awesome !!
Sunday Stage 3 – Sterling Valley
Phill – Day two didn’t start so well for me. I woke with a swollen knee and was in a fair amount of pain. I got ready for the cruise to the start of Sterling Valley stage by taking a couple of pain killers and hoping for the best. As we were heading to the start I said to Turbo “Mate, take my bike. I don’t think my knee can handle the climb”. He suggested I harden up and just cruise through. I thought ok, I’ll try. As we started the stage I was in pain, but after a while on the most awesome bit of single track it came right. The track was damp under the canopy, but wasn’t boggy that you lost control or traction. A group of us were climbing well together and about two thirds of the way up we came across a group of spectators cheering us on. One guy said “awesome we must be at the top?” A spectator replied “No a fair bit to go yet”. Fair to say, this guy dropped his bundle and we didn’t see him for the rest of the stage! Once over the top of the climb, we hit the 4wd track with a steep pinch before heading towards the school grounds, followed by competitive single track to the Rec Ground. Here you had an option of taking the high or low road to gain a position close to cheering spectators which kicked in the adrenalin up, pushing me to a faster time and position at the finish line. Sore knee and all I enjoyed Sterling. It was a vast improvement on my previous experience.
Ange – I was feeling nervous now that we are placed into our Age Groups for timing. This group included 4 of the top 5 ladies. This stage had everything that I love: single track, rocks and roots. It was challenging and kept you honest. Excilarating climbs and scenery once again featured, with my running practice very handy when having to jump off to get over the Big Rocks.
Saturday Stage 4 – Montezuma Falls
Phill – With Sterling behind us and a hot afternoon upon us it was time for the challenging Motezuma stage. This is by far my favourite stage of the race, even with the knowledge of knowing its 30 km distance, starting with a steep 7 km climb on exposed roads in the 30 plus heat before hitting the downhill track towards the bridge. I was moving along fast, wanting to get to the bridge for a quick refuel before the long haul to top of Montezuma. Along the journey I was following two other riders at close range and we came to a deep boggy mud patch which was the width of the track. The only way was straight through. The guy at the front got bogged half way leaving me to smash in to the back of him, laying it over into a face plant in the mud. More fortunate riders passed me looking and laughing as I wallowed in the mud trying to get back up and moving. Once I composed myself by swearing repeatedly, I got to the bridge with everyone having a good laugh at my expense at how filthy and smelly I had become. I have been told the view from the bridge is spectacular, but having a fear of heights, I have never been game enough to look. I shuffled across just focussing on getting off the damn thing. A rider crossing with me found it amusing to give the bridge a little bounce. I was far from impressed, stopping dead in my tracks waiting for it to stop, before I shuffling faster to the far end and off. The next section was a focused climb to the top, why? Because the best part was to come in the form of a superfast decent where the track flows and the gears are big. The lines are so incredible, you just need to navigate the big puddles and holes in the road, with this decent a total rush. I was so pumped riding fast taking risks and loving the ride if I could go back tomorrow and do it I would. This stage is so picturesque, great scenery challenging and fun.
Ange – What a great experience, actually the best! The combination of mud, tree roots, climbs, a bridge crossing at the Falls made for nothing like I have ever ridden before. The unreal 4WD tracks were totally ripped up, trying all the time to navigate huge clay puddles of depth unknown. Today was adventurous, fun and challenging, even when I face planted into a huge clay puddle, coming out looking like a clay man!
Monday Stage 5 – Spray Tunnel
Phill – The Zeehan Time Trial was a real buzz and a test of strength, going up against the clock and your partner and chase down the riders ahead. I loved this stage as it was a real road riders paradise, with big gear fast start over some jumps in to some tight undulating single track followed by the dark spray tunnel which is even darker if you have your sunnies on! Heading up the big gravel road climb and then a gradual but fast climb on a forestry road to the finish. I gave my all and beat my partner by a few minutes and my old time considerably, so fair to say I was a happy rider. And now the cruise to Trial Harbour where the cool ocean water waited to sooth sore muscles before the hardest stage of Wildside in the afternoon.
Ange – I’m freaking out as I was not a roadie. I kept thinking that it was going to be super fast and riders will be fly past, but I surprised myself, after going for it and ending up second in my age group. Phew! What was I worried about. Best thing was the Spray Tunnel. Being lit up and halfway through, it felt like the darkness was eating me up. It was scary, but made me go faster!!
Monday stage 6 Granville Harbour
Phill – In a nut shell I cooked. I was out there far too long, nearly 2 hours and suffered the whole time. It was hot it was rough and rugged big rocky climbs, dangerous descents and after the first two crashes in the first 10 km I was clearly over it. There was a solid head wind, I couldn’t climb and with all the self-doubt creeping into my head I was literally on the road going nowhere. It wasn’t until a mate Peter came up behind me suffering just as badly as I. This was the lift I needed, just seeing a friendly face increased my spirits. I think it worked for him as well, as we got on with it until the last 3 km’s when Peter dropped off. The difference between us in the final part of the stage was I made it up a climb with Peter having to unclip and walk up.
I had forgot there was a nasty pinch up to the finish as I tried to drive it to the line. I came around the corner and saw the climb and my heart sank. I was out of legs, was beyond caring and just wanted it over. I literally crawled over the finish where Fxy and Cade, tipped six or so drink bottles over me to cool me down. Soon Peter came across the line. It was the most spent I have ever seen him. Fxy had to help him off the bike and they proceeded to pour water over him as well. Granville was the most mentally challenging part of the whole race. I was so glad to get a cold beer later that night and put the nightmare behind me.
Ange – The hill out of Trial Harbour was great riding down when cruising in, but then I remembered that I had to climb it for Stage 6. I finally got back to the top and hit the granite trail. It was slippery and my legs were killing. The climbs so steep that only goats would get up. I felt like one of those goat’s when I actually was able to climb it. There were creek crossings that not everyone liked, judging by their comments as they got to the other side. Sand hill climbs and flying down the boulders to sandy tracks made for amazing views. If it wasn’t for my great support crew, I would have passed out at the end of that one. It was tough!
Tuesday Race 7 – Hells Gates
Phill – It was the last day. The internal banter was high in the group about the little competitions that were going on. I was two minutes behind Peter and had to go hard to catch him. We were starting in the same group and with a strong tail wind down the beach towards Hells Gates I thought I was a chance to get this time back. We headed off and hit the beach. I saw Peter on my left take off, so I got back past him and went to top gear. It felt like a Sunday cruise. The tail wind was so good. I needed to get away here because Peter was technically better in the bush. I reached the end of the beach ahead and into the trails which were layered with thick soft deep sand. There was lots of getting off and running. Peter caught up to me with around 7 km’s to the finish as we headed along the gravel road towards the finish. Turbo, Peter and I took turns on the front into the wind, with the km’s ticking away. I was ready to call the race with Peter off but there was this hissing sound. Peter had a puncture with around 3 km’s to go. I took the chance and went for it taking off to the finish line tucking in behind any one I could that could give me a tow to the road. As I hit the road I took the front and clicked into top smashing myself to the finish. Waiting for the final result in our own little race, it was concluded Peter beat me by a few seconds. The result didn’t matter, as I had achieved nearly everything I set out to do this time around at Wildside. I beat all my previous times. I rode faster and stronger and really overall enjoyed every part of the event from race stages to our nightly discussions about the days racing. The overall camaraderie of our group, and to have been with such great friends made the event totally memorable. (except for Granville. I’m still scarred!)
Ange – I was extremely nervous about having to ride sand trails and dunes. My legs were okay, but my arms were aching from hanging on the day before. There were 10kms on beach. A free ride hopefully, but head wind somewhere. My coach and crew always say ‘Go Hard or Go Home” I kept saying to myself on last day. We hit the beach and I was witness to an amazing view for the next 10 km. Flying at over 50km hour was truly a rush. The rest of the stage had everything with a pine plantation very tough, with black sand making it difficult to stay on the bike. Heading to the finish, I was battling the head wind on my own. I was thinking “How much longer? Don’t be soft – finish it off. Toughen up Ange !” I reached the 3 km to go sign, felt super pumped and gave everything, hitting the road, followed by gravel and had to finish in the soft sand.
Ange – The feeling when finished was unexplainable. I felt like I could do it all again due to the adrenaline, joy and excitement. I am happy for everyone single person that had completed Wildside, wether only some stages or all, it was a life time experience. Seeing Ben and Rowe from Launceston at the end after their wins, I could not have been happier They put so much time and energy into helping others to improve and be a part of this wonderful sport is inspirational. A big thank you to my support crew and roomies. Mark Connelley from EFM Fitness Launceston and Roomies Pete Rogers and Clint Dean for all their advice and support.
Phill – In finishing I’d like to mention how happy I was for Ben Mather. He has helped me with my riding, my bikes and I’m lucky to be able to call him a mate. He totally deserved his win and I spoke with him that morning and he knew exactly what he was going to do and executed it perfectly. Well done Ben. I was happy for you too Row, and to Ange Sanders. What a machine 3rd in Masters Women at her first hit out. What a sensational effort!
If I don’t mention my travelling crew I’ll be castrated so here you go guys… Support Crew Louise and Robyn along with riders, Single Speeder Cade Richardson from Queensland, Nathan Jackson, Brian Heazlewood, Peter Muller, Clive Tilsey, Zane, Chris Jackson, Keith Turbo Murfet, Nathan FXy Fellows, Wayne Chapman. Thanks Guys, lets look forward to our next adventure and thank you Wildside.