While the annual Thredbo training camp was held the TSS took a break and headed down to Evandale, Tasmania for the 2013 edition of the Evandale Village Fair and National Penny Farthing Championships. This year was the 31st running of the championships at Evandale. The town itself is located 5km from Launceston airport and 20km from Launcestion city centre. The event is held within the Evandale Village fair and is the main drawcard once you visit the car show, steam engine show, vintage motorcycle show, bands, food stalls, markets, more bands, art show, cat show, dog show, rabbit show etc, much like the Royal Easter Show except there are around 60 penny farthings racing around. Now before you ask, no I don’t own a penny farthing, I borrow one off a collector and manager of the NSW team.
We arrived on Friday after flying in with ‘Delaystar’ from Sydney. The bikes were transported down over a week earlier via standby airfreight. Once we collected the hire car and strapped in the youngsters we headed to Evandale to register and go for a training ride. It had been 5 years since I rode a penny farthing (PF) and 5 years since I had been to Tasmania, nothing much had changed. We met the organiser, signed on and collected the ride pack. Strapped on a helmet and did 30 mins on the PF around the streets of Evandale, down the hill out of town, back up the hill and finished off the training session with 2 sprints at 80% before cooling down, all felt fine for race day. Reading the race pack (form guide on the competition) there were 61 riders entered from the ages of 8 to 83yrs old. Most riders are aged between 20 and 60.
Race Day: The kids didn’t sleep in so I took advantage of arriving early to do some more hot laps of the actual race course before we got down to business. I borrowed Dragons and Danny Boys helmet cams (thanks to you both) and took some footage of the warm up for you all to enjoy. I couldn’t wear the cameras during racing unfortunately as this footage would have been even better. The day presented some very close racing with plenty of action. There were two crashes during the day with one broken bike and one member of the crowd being taken out by a flying rider who happened to run over a mouse in the middle of the corner in front of the pub (refer footage), this shot him across the road and into the crowd. The mouse who had been residing in one of the workcover approved hay bales died instantly.
The race day is a series of different races as follows:
- The Slow race, riders must move forward at all times within a 2m wide lane, the course is 10m long. The slowest rider of each heat progresses to the next round until 4 riders remain. These 4 then ‘ride off’ for gold, silver, bronze and 4th. I managed to win my first heat then missed the second round cut by about 10cm. Final ride off placed me in 6th.
- The Slalom race, riders ride around 10 witches hats over a 50m course from a standing start. The top 8 fastest ride off for medals. I qualified in 5th at 11.35 seconds. Unfortunately I didn’t get a good start which is paramount in this event and lost the next round by about 30cms at the finish line. Final ride off placed me 5th.
- The sprint. A standing start 200m straight line sprint race. The top placed rider of 8 heats progress to the final round. I qualified in a time of 15.56 seconds to make the final round. The final round was slighly quicker and I was just pipped for third place and ended up 4th in the photo finish for 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th.
- The Relay. This is a hotly contested event and is based by state and/or country. NSW fielded 2 teams of 4 riders per team, however we were a little light on horsepower so we adopted the approach to have our slowest rider go first and we would then chase. This worked reasonably well however our slowest rider wasn’t as confident on the corners as the rest of us so we had to make up time and positions as the race went on. Another 5th place in the end.
- The Obstacle race. This is the PF version of cyclocross. The course is 100m long in one direction. The race consists of running the first 100m, carry your PF back to the start line 100m, then run with the PF wheels on the ground, then ride the last 100m to the finish. A big field started the race with the usual chaos of flying bikes and bodies. 5th place in the end.
- The national championship heats, I was scheduled to ride the last heat with the top 2 to progress to the final round. The second and fourth heats contained high speed crashes which took out one of the previous winners of the national championship. My heat was reasonably quick. I stayed up the front of the group of 12 out of harm’s way which worked well. A little sneaky breakaway in the last lap secured a spot in the final with me placing second in the heat to local sensation rider much to the crowds delight.
- The National Championship. The open category now had the top 8 riders of which contained 4 previous winners. We were introduced to the crowd and completed a parade lap. Tension was high as the gun went. Immediately James Fowler (NSW) went to the front and set a pace so high that after 1.5 laps of the 500m course we had dropped three riders, now down to 5. At this stage I was finding the pace tough but was sitting pretty in 4th position with the local sensation in 2nd position, Sean Hennesy in 3rd (VIC) and Heath Blair (Tas) in 5th position. The pace eased in the 3rd lap and that’s when the tactical battle started. There were a few close calls in the corners but somehow I managed to get myself into 3rd position as we entered the 4th and last lap. The last lap pace was even quicker and into the 2nd corner I felt the bike sliding slightly. I kept the power on as I started to set myself up for an inside manoeuvre on the last corner as practiced earlier in the morning. Sean launched his move in the corner and I was ready for it, unfortunately he had more horsepower than me as I chased hard up the final straight, passing James half way up the final straight to take 2nd place, James took third.
- Over 50’s National Championship: 2 laps of the course. Won by a New Zealand rider this year.
- Over 60’s National Championship: 2 laps of the course. Won by Peter Jones, local rider (the guy riding the motorbike in the film clip)
- Over 70’s National Championship: 2 laps of the course. Won by local rider.
- Women’s National Championship: 2 laps of the course. Won by English rider.
- Elimination Race: The last rider past the finish line each lap is removed from the race until the final 4 sprint for the placings. 3rd place in this one.
- Handicap race: Run in reverse direction, the 4 top riders were off scratch with 40 seconds delay on the slower riders. The race is 4 laps and we managed to make the top 10, 6th overall.
The photo is about 30m+ from the actual finish line of the national championship. Sean (the winner) was about 3 bike lengths or so in front of me (in red with white helmet). I was slowly catching him but not fast enough. Sean was the fastest rider of the meet.
So a fun day with one silver and one bronze medal brought home. The kids loved it and my wife seemed to have a good time too. Hopefully I will get a leave pass to ride in the event again next year.