Words: Kevin Wynne-Smythe

The last time I was awake at 2.15am was 30 years ago as I was just finishing off a night on the tiles with my mates! 

Not the case this time, as it was ‘go’ time to pick up fellow Single Speed compatriot, George Grieg, for the 3hr haul from the burbs of Sydney down to Stromlo in the nation’s capital for one of our sponsor races…The annual AMB100

Despite knowing the course from previous attempts, and knowing exactly how gnarly it can be on the back end 'All-Mountain' sections, we adopted Rule 5 and entered the 100km SS Category.

Arriving in plenty of time, we hooked up with fellow Jet Black Racing team members, Dalene Pretorious, Nardeen Hayden, David Leckie, Lucas Bendt and just as we were greeting each other, the Super Masters diesel engine, Peter Rohr, came through for the first of 4 transitions in the 100miler category. He was smiling, so that was a good sign!

Race prep done and bike and rider ready to go, it was race brief time by race director, Martin Wisata and wheels were a ‘Go!’ shortly after.

It soon became obvious who actually ‘Self Seeded’ by the time the first fire trail pinch hits. (I swear some people have a reverse gear haha) The usual bottle neck ensued as we hit the single track, but as always, the kind and generous MTB community allowed everyone to sort it out amongst themselves, without too much bother, as politeness was the order of the day. (You wouldn’t get that in the skinny wheeled tarmac race. Just quietly sayin’ ;) )

Once the climbing order was sorted, it was time to get in to some sort of climbing rhythm.

I personally love this section of climbing at Stromlo. If your gear ratio is spot on, then this climb is just a single speeders dream. (One of the main reasons I kept coming back for the Scott 24hr SS Nationals!)

Once the rhythm was set, the climb seemed to flow beautifully. You soon come crashing down to the reality of this particular course when you reach Western Wedgetail and realise that you’re not even half way through the lap yet!

With a bit of climbing relief and some froth action of the ‘tail and Pork Barrel, it was time to hit those All-Mountain’ sections of the course. It sucked big time to be honest, but a necessary evil if you wanted to finish the race. The section is hard enough on a hard tail whip, but even worse on a single speed. “Suck it up princess” are the words I recall telling myself over and over again, as it’s me, and only me, who made the decision to enter the SS cat. No sympathy was coming from anywhere or anyone, including myself.

Once through the gnarly, rocky section of Shady’s it was ‘That Climb’! Yep. Anyone who knows Stromlo, knows “That climb”.  For those not familiar, Casuarina Climb is ‘only’ a fire road. But a heavily inclined fire road that only has one slightly worn ‘line’ up it, and masses of kitty litter everywhere else. Deviate off this line and that’s it. It’s walkies time.

Knowing what the climb was like, I opted not to gear my steed for this climb, as I’d be spinning like a hamster on 10 cans of energy drink everywhere else. So I pedalled for as long as I could until the inclination became too much, the power was fading in the pins and gravity was starting to take over.

One advantage of walking, is that you can take on some food and fluids and keep your heart rate to a reasonable level. It’s one of the things of single speeding I’ve discovered over the last couple of years, to be a bit smarter about your riding strategy. No point having your eyeballs rattle around in your head, your heart rate through the roof, and your hip joints popping in all directions, only to find you’re not quite ready for the descent that always comes up on you (Quite rapidly I may add) and you’re all over the place and risk a high speed crash.

I also took solace in the fact that I witnessed several ‘gearies’ taking on the walk of shame also, despite having massive dish plates on the rear end of their whips. (I had an excuse, they didn't! haha)

One disadvantage of walking (other than some time lost)…..calf burn, baby!...in spade fulls, too!

Once over the top, the smile soon returns though, as the flow of Skyline and Luge await. This section is just magical, even on a HT. It’s sections like this that make you want to go round again and again.

The smile doesn’t last long though, as ‘Heartbreak’ hits you like a freight train and you find yourself back within arms reach of Skyline! Once through this and the (I’ll keep the language PG) ‘Beautiful, rocky, gnarly All Mountain section of Little Seymour’ it’s a sweet traverse across Willows and back to the course that we all know and love for the swift and swishy run home via Party line, Breakout and Old Duffy.

Swift transition and it was time to repeat the pain and froth.

The weather was getting toasty (Thankyou ACT weather gods!) so the riding conditions were perfect.

A minor crash on the not-so-spongy rocks of Wombat Junction on the 2nd lap put a small dent in my time and a dent in my helmet (#helmetsstopyourheadfrombleeding)

That, combined with massive cramps in every muscle possible on lap 3, put me 15mins over the 5hr mark for the race. I was happy to take the bridesmaid spot to Australian Defence Force’s John Battle though, considering the recent time off the bike whilst riding a bike of the motor variety, across Vietnam. (Ponder: Do you think he chose his profession because of his name?!)

Our very own Porridgewog, George, stepped up and finished well for his 1st attempt at this one. Taking the next step of the podium for Jet Black Racing.

The ever thoughtful, Nardeen stopped to assist with a downed young rider on the whoops section of Pork Barrel. (Who is now looking OK despite it looking a bit nasty at the time) She still managed to get a lap of  2hr 12mins to take the top step on the Female Masters.

Dalene put in yet another stellar performance to take 2nd for the 2 lap Super Masters race. (I am constantly in awe of how she races with one prosthetic limb!  #stopwhingingpeople!)

David ‘Posty’ Leckie rocked it to 5th in the Super Masters 2 lapper, with Jet Black Racing newcomer, Lucas taking a 2nd in the Elite 1 lapper.

And last, but not least..Peter ‘Diesel’ Rohr clocked a whopping 9hr 39mins in the saddle to finish on the top step of the Super Masters in the 5 lapper. Take note, All of Peter’s lap times were within 3 minutes of each other. That’s good going on a course such as this, so an extremely big hat tip goes to Pete for pulling that off. (24hr next stop then, Pete?!)

In conclusion;

I'd aliken this race to having the cane generously applied to your rear squishy bits by your old school, handlebar moustache wearing headmaster...then being served the best dinner you've ever had....by the same guy!

It's a course that throws everything at you, and a whole lot more. The AMB100 course has a reputation as being one of the toughest out there….and I can quite categorically concur!

If you’ve had it on your bucket list to do, but have been procrastinating about it. Stop that nonsense immediately and just go ahead and mark it in your calendar to enter next year.. go on...Just Do It! (Permission from Nike sought..kinda ;) )

I'd possibly urge you to consider some spring action in the rear end of your steed, if you value your 'bits and bobs'.

Thanks to Rockytrail Entertainment and AMB for putting on one tough event. But awesomely organised as usual.

Our sponsors, whom without, we would not be able to do what we love: Jet Black Products

A full gallery from the day, along with results, can be found here.