Mountain Bike Magazine SANI - Autumn 2018 - Page 111

“I tried all sorts of variations, but every time I ended up with a face full of the fluffy white stuff.” up to speed with the anomalies of the place, like the dodgy key to the two-foot thick nuclear, blast-resistant door which actually did malfunction while we were there, but luckily a local villager managed to open. SLUSH FEST Day 1 involved a prologue in the afternoon, so we had the morning to get registered and sort out the bikes. It didn’t take long to realise that all the bikes had these big fat tyres on and even competitors with normal bikes had much larger than normal tyres. A couple of conversations confirmed my quickly growing suspicions, that my normal MTB race tyres just weren’t going to cut it. It turns out that, like so many other sports, the optimal equipment is condition dependent. The previous year had super cold, clear conditions which meant the fast boys and girls could use standard, wide race XC knobblies, but we had just had a fresh dump of snow and conditions were slushy as hell. Luckily the local bike shop, and tech genius Fredy, had some snow bikes to rent and even though these were not really “performance race models”, they had the massive puffy tyres required if one hoped to get any grip on the mushy snow which was covering the entire area. Time to get ready for my time slot for the opening 8.1km time trial which started on a proper ramp-launch style chute into a hard left hander and then straight into a 10-15% gradient climb. I took it easy into the turn trying to learn the characteristics of these bikes under race conditions. The first climb got serious pretty quickly, the air is cold and thin and the back wheel wants to slip out if you apply too much torque so a super smooth steady stroke is required along with concentrating on the least mushy line which doesn’t leave much room for thinking about the burning lungs. Luckily we were on an ice covered road on this first climb so the grip was a bit better than it could have been. The first descent was pure mayhem! I must have come off about 10 times trying to learn the knack of keeping the back wheel behind the front one. I tried dragging my feet behind, putting the seat right down and lying on it, all sorts of variations, but ended up with a face full of the fluffy white stuff which at least doesn’t hurt and have the consequences of a normal dry conditions spill. And so it went on. This was a race, so I was trying my best to minimise the time making snow angels off the sides of the “racing line”, but I found this extremely difficult in these conditions. It must be a learnable skill though, as the racing snakes were charging around on skinnier tyres than my fatties. After about 20 unplanned dismounts into the slush I started swearing pretty loudly in frustration but this was only Day 1 and I hadn’t yet paid my dues to becoming a true snow biker. Race entry includes really good, hot food at the finish cooked up by the prestigious Huus hotels’ kitchen, and this is most welcomed after an afternoon in the cold. We sat down to enjoy this with Australian Mountain Bike editor “smiley” Mike Blewitt and exchanged war stories of the afternoon’s escapades, while the organisers showed some choice pictures of some of the more dramatic and hilarious come- offs, including one of a rider getting massive air, completely upside down with his bike still clipped in above him! snow day | MTB | 111