Lowlands Gravel Bash – Impulse Cycles Dirty Thirty – 5 August 2023

Lowlands Gravel Bash: Impulse Cycles Dirty Thirty race – Aug 5 2023
(3 min read)
Back in the day, there was a colonial longface known as Hanrahan who had an unusually pessimistic outlook on life. ‘We’ll all be rooned,’ he was said to intone at remarkably frequent intervals, and oddly enough, recent competitors at SeVeN seemed to be channelling Hanrahan on the finish, intoning in ‘accents most forlorn’, my lovely bike, it’s rooned when surveying their steeds and the on-trend, mud stucco frame finish. What has this to do with the Albany Cycle Club’s Lowland’s Gravel Bash you may ask? A solid downpour during the week had the Hanrahans of the world in a fair tizzy. The anticipation of gravel roads turned into viscous, gritty soup, audibly grinding componentry into paste, and the prospect of an extensive and expensive rebuild, especially for those who had also been at SeVeN, was a trifle daunting.
Except that it wasn’t. Hanrahan was wrong. After the midweek deluge that had people flooding the hardware stores for screws, nails, timber, and waterproof glue, and scouring the Internet for blueprints of arks, the road conditions were exceptional. Slightly tacky, smooth, brilliant gravel that no one could have any cause to complain about. All the squealing about bikes and grit and whatever evaporated away as competitors flooded to participate in an awesome event on the roads around Lowlands Beach.
Quite simply, it was a spectacular day to be on the gravel bike in the countryside, racing around, maxing out heart rates, maxing out wattages.
Featuring a mass start at the carpark overlooking Lowlands Beach, racers descended on the gravel before hitting the short bitumen climb that lead to Francis Road, through the Munda Biddi single track back to Thompson Road, and another left turn to complete the square – a smidge over 10km per lap, of which there were three.
This year’s start had the feel of the pro-peloton’s neutral zone, a measured pace before the commissaire waved the red flag and it was pedals to the metal. At this point, the front of the race split into distinct groups, dominated by gravel bikes. The front five, Brett Dal Pozzo, Greg Newton, Mike Staude, Brent Schoof and Matt Bascombe opened up a gap on the following group of Jimmy Watmore, David Beckwith, Marius Coetzer, Steven Lee and Brendan Holmes. Brett Turbill dallied with the second group for a while before finding a more comfortable pace with following riders including Alex Poulton and Dave Warren.
Behind the sea of gravel bikes, the mountain bikes of club sponsor, Brad Smithson, Liz Cooper, Keith Symes, Jill Bascombe and Ted Lord battled for fat tyre supremacy. Smithson took the honours at an average speed of 25.5kmh, with Cooper claiming second in that category and was also the fastest female on a mountain bike. Shirley Thurston was the fastest woman on a gravel bike.
Having established a healthy gap on the second group, the front five held together for most of the three laps before Dal Pozzo, eased his way off the front with about four kilometres to go to take the win at an average speed of 31.2kmh. Schoof and Bascombe, both of whom had been ‘bounced’ in recent sprints kept their wits about them and stayed up-sun to take second and third respectively, and relegate their erstwhile foes to podium onlookers.
The only minor drama of the day came in the second group on lap two when Jimmy Watmore lost his front wheel in a sandy section, but fortunately made a soft landing and was able to carry on and finish, taking out the super-veteran category, albeit at a slightly reduced pace.
The competition on the roads was, however, nothing compared to the ferocious post-race bake off. In the most hotly contested battle of the day, Simon Barrett’s Afghan biscuits were pitted against the rhubarb slice of Liz Cooper, Mike Staude’s ‘famous’ orange and poppyseed cake and Shirley Thurston’s Slovenian protein balls … While the Afghans garnered much praise, the addition of toppings attracted the attention of the commissaires, before the VAR allowed them to stand. Your correspondent, wielding the mighty pen so to speak, was quite taken with the rhubarb crumble, but in the end, the consensus was simply one of appreciation for those who had done the hard yards in the kitchen prior to the race.
Thanks to Impulse Cycles for the sponsorship of this event. Thanks also to the marshalls; Keith Symes, Simon Barrett, John Manson, Vince Bascombe, Jim Lie, Tammy Stone (and hound) who set out and collected the signs, manned the start/finish and ensured that all racers stayed on course.