Here are my last photos of the Coolatai Pony Express. I’ve been travelling so have had to juggle (slow) uploading with access and chatting. For me, interesting discussions ALWAYS manage to win over grappling with frustrating technology!! But here’s the last of 3 posts about the Coolatai Pony Express.
Below I describe my spectator’s point of view of the start of the Coolatai Pony Express day.
Most of the riders turned up somewhere between 7am and 8am. I spoke to people who had driven up from Casino and Port Macquarie as well as more locally. Some leaving at 2am. Some stayed overnight at or camped at The Wallaroo (our great local Coolatai pub where you can sleep and get great food. Di (the lovely hostess at the Wallaroo) easily even caters for alternative diets like mine when I give her notice – gluten free vegetarian.). It was frosty overnight but the sun rose and it was warm.
The race starts around 10am. This may seem a long time to be hanging around but by the time everyone gets their bikes into the official area, brings over the spare fuel and tools and chairs and goggles and boots and helmets and….. an endless ant trail from the cars to the bike area of gear – its 10am.
Plus in the ant trail there are endless personal connections and conversations happening. LOTS of conversations about bikes and races and thrills and spills but there are even conversations to be had for novices like me. Everyone is so friendly and pumped for action. See this post for photos of waiting for the start.
It’s a day about bikes but overriding that is it’s a social day where people who are passionate about motorcross get to be together to “be” bikes all day. I didn’t come away smelling of petrol but it made me smile seeing everyone excited about the day and sharing their stories with their fellow enthusiasts.
Here’s some photos of the support systems!!
After the stories and getting bikes ready (and some strong words when someone realised they have forgotten something or something doesn’t work – but quickly solved as support from the next bike steps in to share their supplies), the officials read the riders the rules and regulations. They are quite bluntly told if they are not willing to comply with all these rules (which are basically to ensure a fair and safe ride for all) they should go home now! No one leaves. The gladiators are ready for a fair “battle”!! I like it when things are straightforward.
Everyone acknowledges with great appreciation Joan and Allan Campbell’s willingness to allow them ride on their property.
All the riders then go off on a, I think it was called a site lap. A lap where everyone rides around once getting to know the track and see the 3 tricky corners they need to watch out for and other signs which are up indicating conditions and cautions.
The track is about 17kms long and takes on average between 19 and 26 minutes to complete (according to my knowledgeable officials Melita and Wendy who checked up last years times when I asked this question).
It made me smile seeing the enjoyment of all these riders revving their bikes, waiting for the moment when their desire to release their power is allowed to go, go, go. The bike area became a concentration of these aliens astride colourful machines – huge helmet heads, breast plates, gloves, boots, neck supports, goggles, colourful tops and pants. Are these really people??
What a fun sight in the sun!!
Everyone zooms around this first lap. From a spectators view you see these colourful, noisy ants following each other around a known trial you can’t see. They weave in and out the trees and up and down contours and gullies. Finally making it back to the channelling lane to restart another lap or go for a pit stop. After this first lap everyone has to go back to “El Centro”.
There were 7 categories of riders which I think are (for memory so this might not be quite right) – and in order of starting – A Grade (100 numbers), B Grade (200 numbers), Ironman (300’s), Over 35 (400’s), Over 45 (500’s), C Grade (600’s) and Women (701).
I think it was Women and over 45s who ride continuously (with refuelling breaks etc) for 2 hours. The rest ride for 4 hours – straight.
A Grade Start:
B Grade Start:
Grades A, B and C and over 35s are made up of two people team (there was one mixed team as well so women are welcomed). One rider rides one lap then tags their team mate at El Centro after this lap, then the second rider goes off for a lap. And this continues for the 4 hours. Rider 1, tag, rider 2, tag, rider 1, tag, rider 2, tag, rider…………
Ironmen are crazy. Opps I mean suckers for punishment or all testosterone or something. I can’t quite categorise fanatics who are willing to do the 4 hours by themselves!! Seeing all the sweat and dirt after the site lap, I just can’t imagine how gruelling it is to direct a heavy bike around the track for 4 hours. BUT…. Its all self “inflicted” so not sympathy from me!! It’s nice to endure the pain vicariously!!
Ironman Start – these are the REALLY crazy guys – I mean tough guys!!:
I’m sure I miss the exhilaration though of managing to do a wheelie (oh – a bit nervous about using these terms as they are not part of my vocab!!) or doing a jump – suspended for a moment in air – or managing to save the bike as it drifts into (and nearly out of) a corner or just the speed. I love riding the quad bike flying down the farm track and over contours and bumping over rocks but somehow I don’t think it compares to the adrenaline pump of that I see on all the riders’ faces.
Over 45’s Start”
C Grade – the biggest number of entrants:
And the lone woman start – the other woman was in a C Grade team. Great to see everyone enjoying this:
Once everyone is back from their site lap, everyone refuels (a tank of fuel lasts about 2 of these 17 kms laps apparently so everyone refuels to start the competition a fresh). Then people get into their category groups ready to start.
I was amused at the start. When you are observing something for the first time, some things just don’t seem to make sense. WHY do the riders have to stand in front of their bikes facing them, holding the handle bars and when the starter says “GO”, race to the side of the bike whilst starting the bike and climbing on?? But, that’s what happens. It’s actually surprising the difference in time it takes the starters. Some people seem to be like Avatars and are speeding off on their “steed” in a seamless movement. Others are not so fluid.
Last year apparently there was a guy whose bike wouldn’t start. There were some strong words and some help from officials and kicking tyres – he finally got off. People help to create the Coolatai Pony Express history in all ways on the day!!
Each category starts 2 minutes apart. Then its off and racing for 2 or 4 hours.
Farm chores called me so I didn’t see the rest of the day but I knew there would be at least 80 people going to bed that night exhausted and spent and VERY happy. Another legendary day at the Coolatai Pony Express completed!!!
Hasta el próximo año……….. Until next year..………