Hi, I’m Juliane and I’m a promoter. I promote mountain bike events. And I love it. It’s because I get to travel and ride my bike, pick race tracks, mark them, invite riders to race it and get to see their huge smiles and sometimes a face that says “thank heavens, I’ve finished” across the finish line.
So, I’ve had a bit of a history with Stromlo Forest Park.
I came to Australia straight out of uni for a job with my then-boyfriend Martin and pretty much the first thing we did was get some mountain bikes to get around, because we couldn’t afford a car… mind you, nowadays, our bikes are probably worth more than our car, but that’s another story 😉
So anyway, our first rides where in the NSW Blue Mountains and around Sydney’s Manly Dam. That’s where we broke our first spokes, scratched our knees, fixed our flat tires and met our dearest friends and cycling buddies. One of our first group getaways together was to Stromlo Forest Park. It must have been sometime in the winter of 2007, because I remember it was freezing cold and I fell in love with that place right away. It was then that I knew that I had found my sport. Single-trails up and down the mountain, views of the spectacular Brindabellas on the one side and pretty Canberra on the other and you can pick from multiple trail options pretty much wherever you are in the park.
So, fast-forward 10 years and by now that then-boyfriend is my husband. Another reason why Stromlo Forest Park is a very special place for us is that he proposed there, right on the crit-track, after an adventure race.
Since 2008 we’ve been running Rocky Trail Entertainment together and have organised more than 120 mountain bike races. Martin has finished five Crocodile Trophy stage races, is completely nuts when it comes to training and racing and I love rocky and fast trails, hooking into berms, pumping into descents and sometimes getting a bit of cheeky air.
His and Hers… How the AMB100 idea was born
Anything on two wheels pretty much runs our lives and to anyone on two wheels we instantly connect. And we run races and still ride at Stromlo. A lot. We both have our favourite sections and what I love most there now is that I feel comfortable spending hours on end out there even by myself when Martin’s off on a hill-climb frenzy. I cruise around and link all those favourites together. The Stromlo crew is absolutely amazing and the facilities they provide and maintain are incredible. Finish your ride and have a shower? Go on then. It’s a hot one too!
I can’t remember when, but it must have been after one of those long days out at Stromlo that we set ourselves a challenge to connect “his” and “my” favourite trails together to one huge loop – and born was the now AMB100 Marathon! This year we linked up a 28km monster circuit and a good 300 racers followed our lead and took on the classic marathon distance (3 laps), sniffed the vibe with a two-lap race or teased their legs with one lap.
Right from the get-go there were a couple of Canberra-local riders, headed up by Brett Bellchambers and Ed McDonalds who said, “Pfft, 3 laps, let us do 5, will ya?” And so we launched the category of a 100-miler for the ueber-crazies. At the inaugural event there were 18 riders at the start in 2010 and with its 5am start this year’s AMB100 Miler had 29 on the line, rolling out for 140km of Stromlo goodness in the pitch-black of a crisp Sunday morning, rewarded by a sun-rise lap that’s a real treat.
Almost all of the rocky Stromlo MTB Park singletrails were looped up, but it wasn’t all hard work with heaps of fun descents – Skyline, Luge, Double Dissolution and Party Line all in one race track?!? Say whaaaat?!? Not to mention that Little Seymore treat that we discovered. It was like little Stromlo puzzle pieces coming together in your head as you pedalled along – first up, than down the back, then back up on the side, down the front – but not all the way, back up, along the traverse – Party Line next – and home… and for two thirds of the field again. And again. And then some more.
The right mix… and a proper challenge
In its sixth year, the AMB100 Marathon has established itself as the first big mountain bike marathon of the season each year early in February and as one of our major cross-country endurance racing events. With its high proportion of single-trails, and Stromlo-ones at that, it has been hailed as one of the toughest ones on the Australian racing calendar. As race organisers we are able to have a tight control on the racing circuit as it is relatively contained – several fixed marshal stations and roaming marshals on bikes allow us to react to riders that are in trouble very quickly. We like it that way. For riders it is a blast coming through a pumping event centre several times during their race. They tell us it’s motivating, they get a bit of a feel where they’re at and they can grab water and supplies for another lap.
At 8am there was a mass start of the main racing field. Some of the most well-known and talented endurance racers from all over Australia were at the start line – amongst them National Champions, Commonwealth Games racers and Crocodile Trophy finishers. A sea of colourful lycra and very excitingly as well, so many familiar faces or Rocky Trail racers who had come again, because they love the format and many of them deciding to do one more lap than the year before. And quite a few juniors in the 33km classification who crossed the line about an hour and a half later with huge smiles on their faces. Many first-timers in that one-lap challenge caught the racing bug and said they would be back for more next year, loving the relaxed atmosphere and vibe of the race – and that’s what it makes it all so rewarding for us.
Drawing on unlimited trail resources and leg power
Many riders, especially local ones, have helped shape the annual AMB100 Marathon loops in the past, including our buddies Chris and Nigel Jefferys from the Canberran Pedal4Pierce charity. They keep us up to date with trail conditions throughout the year.
For the 2015 edition of the race, we promised to shake it up. We had one steep climb about half-way through the loop – the Casuarina climb was a new addition to the mix, thanks to the combined scheming powers of us and one of our local riders, Grantley Butterfield. He knows every corner and every rock on his home track and proposed some bold track combinations, which we linked in with our and the crowd’s favourites. It blew the minds (and quietly, legs) even of some of Grantley’s fellow Canberrans.
Unfortunately he fell ill in the week before the event and wasn’t fit to race, but insisted to still come and be part of our marshalling crew on “his track”. What a legend. His initiative and the fact that he approached us (“Wanna have some ideas for the AMB100?”), shows us that we’re able to do what our company has been all about from the beginning. We’re not precious about our events and love it when our riders give us feedback and entrust us with their ideas. It makes us proud that our riders take such initiatives. We want to provide a platform where riders are inspired to explore trails with us, are motivated to ride as hard and as long as they set their mind to and all that in an exciting, safe and professional racing environment. Our company and events are constantly evolving, being shaped by our experiences and the strong influences by our crew and riders like Grantley. We like that. And we’ll keep it that way.
A whole year of Rocky Trail cross-country, enduro and downhill racing has almost flown by and it’s only a couple of months to go until the next AMB100 Marathon with support again by our headline sponsor, the Australian Mountain Bike Magazine… mmmhh, what Stromlo-combo will we come up next? – Stromlo Forest Park, 14 February 2015. You’re on!
Photos: OuterImage.com.au / Sportograf / Rocky Trail
More rider photos 2015:
Detailed race results 2015:
About the author:
Juliane Wisata is the co-founder and Marketing Director of Rocky Trail Entertainment. She lives with her husband Martin on the NSW Central Coast. Whilst travelling across NSW and to Canberra throughout the year for the Rocky Trail races, she is also the Press Officer and Marketing Manager for the Crocodile Trophy, a nine-day stage race in Tropical North Queensland. Juliane and Martin also hold guest-lecturer positions at the IMC University of Applied Sciences near Vienna in Austria and one of its partner universities in Baku/Azerbaijan, teaching Entrepreneurship at the Tourism and Leisure Management Faculty.