Light snowfall puts no damper on the start of the week as the Cannonball Festival falls once again on the Thredbo mountain biking park. Nick Waygood is our media man on the ground.
Thredbo once again play host to their Cannonball Festival, bringing nearly a thousand riders on to the ski slopes for 4 days of gravity-fueled fun, with a wide supply of spectacting extravagance as Australia's best take their bikes down the hill. After-parties are guaranteed of course.
With five events over four days, competitors and spectators alike are flat out racing and watching, with a huge turnout providing constant good times. If you've seen the likes of the Crankworx tour, this is definitely one to check out.
Thredbo kick off the long weekend with the Osprey All-Mountain Assault, a 13-minute race run through some of the Alpine's finest environments with a mix of rocky tech and bermed flow to spice up 13 minutes of flat out racing.
With the sun shining down, the only thing that threatened to bring the day to a grinding halt was the strong winds. The Kosciuszko chairlift didn't spin for the Thursday, however Gunbarrel was full pelt as competitors went up for their race runs, thankfully protected from the harsh winds thanks to the tall Eucalyptus trees.
We caught up with Sian A'hern as she was heading up for her first race run of the weekend, to chat game plans for a third Queen Of Cannonball title.
"It's awesome that there's still heaps of girls in Elite Womens, and it's cool to see girls from different disciplines .... I'm keen to get racing underway and see where we all end up." Sian says,
"I think my strategy for this year is to just go hard and try get queen again for the third year in a row, and yeah, just have a good time while doing that!"
Trail conditions were well and truly dried up by the time U19 and Elite riders dropped in, with the notorious Thredbo dust making its grande return.
It would end up being Sian who would bring home the gold in elite womens with a time of INSERT TIME, ahead of Zoe Cuthbert and Lucy Mackie in third. In the mens, it would be Enduro Lord Josh Carlson who would hop, pop, and slide his way down and across the line in INSERT TIME. We caught up with Carlson shortly after podiums to talk about why this event is different to most.
"It's always awesome to come back and race one of these ones ... everyone kind of hangs out here and has a good time on top of racing bikes and enjoying the hill. It's the vibe, it's the racing, and a lot of the international Australian [competitors] enjoy coming back and racing here as well, and then you get the international ring-in's like Mitch Ropelato, or all the Santa-Cruz guys who come out to race, and it just adds a whole new element." He said,
"It's just fun, I enjoy the end of the races where we get to have a beer with everyone and it's just a relaxed atmosphere."
As the sun set and the cold Alpine took over the night, Friday would see even more racing, with group B Flow, Downhill seeding, and a huge pumptrack challenge to enter us into the weekend.
Thredbo's new pumptrack takes inspiration from a new pumptrack layout that can be found at some newer venues, with competitors racing on the exact same course, only separated by their desire to not be taken out.
In this new layout, two competitors line up alongside each other and race into the first corner, where the competitor on the right takes the inside berm, and the competitor on the left the outside. As they come back around, they switch to complete two full loops of the track, finishing on the middle tabletop.
Huge crowds braved Thredbo's cold for a fast-paced show, as competitors tackled the short course. The new layout proved effective, with competitors having to stay on their toes for the entire race, pushing for that final beam.
As the sun dropped below the horizon, flood-lights were switched on for a party under lights. The DJ kept the decks spinning, and Thredbo providing the food.
Lap times moved down in numbers as competitors fought for finals, with Harriet Burbidge-Smith taking third, and out of the final round with Zoe Cuthbert and Ellie Smith battling for the top step. It would be Ellie taking the win, with Cuthbert sliding to the ground in the final corner.
In Elite Mens, it was a tight semi-final with Jackson Frew against Remy Morton. Frew came out on top, claiming third on the podium. The final was a huge and brief show, with Connor Fearon coming up against young gun Luke Meier-Smith and ultimately taking the win from Meier-Smith due to a DQ.
We caught up with Fearon following his win, to ask how his first pumptrack challenge went.
"The whole night I was thinking, I'm not going to risk crashing in pumptrack, but when the time's ticking, I couldn't help myself. I went down but he hit a flag so got DQ'd, so I got the win." he says.
Stay tuned for plenty more content from Thredbo's Cannonball Festival!