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Race Report - Highland Fling 2012

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Steve Rugendyke drifting through the Highland Fling
An exclusive report on the 2012 Highland Fling by Steve Rugendyke... weekday Divorce Lawyer... weekend Warrior: "Over the weekend of 10th & 11th November, with the support of DRIFT BIKES and Sparkling Beige Racing, I made the run down to the Southern Highlands to ride the 2012 edition of the Highland Fling. To be precise, my own particular edition was the Half-fling, middle aged non-entity division, but we don’t need to dwell on that for too much longer. The good guys at DRIFT BIKES had provided a 2013 Specialized Camber Comp Carbon 29 less said about the particular support from Sparkling Beige Racing, the better, really. Persons such as myself who tend to populate the blunt end of any race field have been enlightened to the fact that a sparkly new piece of the latest high-tech gee-whizzery is SO much to be preferred than confronting the reality of lack of fitness and declining skills (those of you who have ridden with me will appreciate that I use the last particular word loosely). The Highland Fling now trumpets itself as Australia’s biggest MTB event. It is indeed an event, with activities spread across the full weekend. Saturday features the now traditional Highland Dash as well as, for the first time this year, the World Roll-off Championships - an event tailored to the particular strengths of those of us who gain the most assistance from gravity and who also have a natural inclination towards the avoidance of pedalling. Without intending any disrespect, these and various other activities seem to have as a particular focus the entertainment of those spouses and family members who have been dragged along or who have insisted on being present as a condition of granting a leave pass to the family Flinger (For professional reasons I am prevented from considering the possibility that such families are actually enjoying a weekend away together!) Sunday morning dawned clear and cool – ideal Flinging conditions. As a lowly “halfer”, my start wasn’t until well after 8 o’clock, so I was able to enjoy a leisurely breakfast at 7am before making my way out to the Event Centre. Despite being the last of several thousand to arrive, I was pleased to secure a park only one postcode district away from where the thing actually started and after checking my nutrition supplies for the journey, set off in the general direction of the inflatable arches on the horizon. After last minute tactical considerations ("I think the start is actually in this direction?")... and the start of some of the more highly (self) seeded waves, we were off! The first stage was mostly fast and open and the Camber was fairly humming along. As those of you who have Flung know, much of the course is mown open paddocks over a choppy, tussocky, energy-sucky kind of surface. The Camber fairly shone over this stuff. While I won’t go so far as to say that it was a magic carpet ride, it was so much easier going than a 26” bike (such as I normally ride), to the point that I allowed my upper lip to form into a subtle curl of contempt. I was pleasantly surprised by the sign announcing that we were only 5 km from the first transition. I had strapped on my own wireless computer for the race, which told me that I rolled across the timing mat at Wingello in 1 hr 18 min. Naturally, I began calculating possible finishing times – in the most delusional moments that followed I saw myself stopping the clock in under 2 ½ hours. Sadly, I was possessed of the notion that the first stage was 32 km and second only 27, whereas in fact it was the other way around (I blame the free Gu that came with the rego showbag – must have been a factory second!) The second stage was much tougher than the first. It featured almost all of the technical single-track and the toughest of the climbs. Ridden fresh, the single-track would have been an absolute blast, but with fading energy reserves and already questionable co-ordination further compromised by fatigue, some of it left my knuckles just a bit too white for fun. Added to that, in my brain-addle, I had toggled past the computer Odo screen that I had zeroed at the start, to the overall Odo, which included the 7km I had clocked on Saturday between rego and the event centre. I was left disoriented and disheartened when I came across the “10Km to Go” sign with the computer showing me I was at 56 km. Much of the rest of the race, including the crawl up Brokeback Mountain, was spent harbouring dark suspicions about the calibration competence of all things Cateye and questioning the parentage of Huw Kingston. This despair was relieved by hitting the last water-crossing at about 60 kph, decelerating to about 10 kph in about 10 metres while staying on as the bow wave went above head height and then riding away while one of the portage exponents was heard to say “See – it can be done.” And do you think there was a photographer on hand to capture my glory? Not likely. Soon enough the smoothly declining run home arrived just as the first nibbles of cramp played at my quads and the Camber spooled up to a steady 45. One last mongrel pinch of singletrack and we were done. 3hrs 21 overall and 40th out of 113 finishers in Super-Masters. Reasonably satisfied. The Camber didn’t miss a beat – on every open descent it was a blast, on fast off-camber turns it really shone, on the techy stuff it was highly reassuring and everywhere else it flattered. As I staggered around in the finish chute, I was struck by the number of happy tired riders sporting racoon faces from caked on dust and pale circles round their eyes from their sunglasses. Somewhere between this sight & my general delirium, I was inspired to take a selfie – to capture that sense of exhausted triumph and the overall impression of rugged, chisel-jawed, solo male adventure. I think I exceeded even my wildest expectations."

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