Fat Bikes might have been crafted for the snowfields of the northern hemisphere, but they’re as equally at home on loose trails, muddy tracks, and sandy beaches……….and that’s where they’ve captured the attention of Aussie riders ‘cause we’ve got plenty of incredible beaches surrounding our Great Southern Land.
Arguably one of our best beaches is Cable Beach, in the far north Kimberley town of Broome, Western Australia. Boasting impossibly white sands, azure waters, a warm tropical climate, and stunning Indian Ocean sunsets, it spellbinds visitors from across Australia and around the world.
While the iconic sunset camel trains have dominated holiday selfies, in May this year there was an entirely different form of transport capturing the attention of beachgoers with the 2019 MTBA Fat Bike National Championships.
Presented as a special prologue stage to The Gibb Challenge, the MTBA Fat Bike National Championships was a challenging 22-kilometer course incorporating hard-packed tidal beach sands, Minyirr walk trails, sand dunes and the ancient Lurujarri song-lines of the Yawuru people.
Racers were set off in two waves with the juniors sent away first, picking their race lines through the pindan sandstone formed 135 million years ago in the Cretaceous Period that now forms ‘The Rocks’. Rather than prehistoric sauropod footprints or the carefree bare footprints of beachgoers, competitors left the tell-tale blocky tracks of fat bikes in the sand as they raced out towards Gantheaume Point.
Once past ‘The Rocks’, it was a simple case of choosing the best line from the hundreds of meters of beach left by the outgoing monster nine-meter tide. Spring Tides can provide as much as a ten-meter tidal variation in Broome, creating hard-packed sands that promise flat, fast-rolling beaches………or at least they would have, if not for the 20-knot sea breeze that created a savage headwind and took riders into their red zone.
A few savvy riders formed small pelotons and took turns at the front, like their skinny tire road riding brothers and sisters to shelter from the wind and keep their energy levels high. There was even a couple of fat bikes equipped with aero-bars, with their riders crouched low over the handlebars like time trialists.
Competitors found relief from the wind once they left the beach and climbed the red pindan cliffs of Gantheaume Point, before entering the maze of trails within the Yawuru Minyirr Buru Conservation Park. Thanks to the generous consideration of the traditional owners, the usual walking trails were transformed temporarily into tightly contested single track that offered a unique race experience through the living cultural landscape of the Yawuru people.
The course brought riders back towards the beach with a heavily rutted stairway leading over the sand-dunes. It forced all the riders off their bikes before rewarding the hike-a-bike section with a thrilling downhill on the other side.
At the base of the sand dune, junior competitors were invited to turn north with the stiff sea breeze at their backs making the final dash for the finishing line and championship honors, a fast and furious stage. Senior competitors were sent south, back to face the relentless headwinds and another lung-busting lap through the Yawuru Minyirr Buru Conservation Park.
The MTBA Fat Bike National Championships are sanctioned by Mountain Bike Australia, our sport’s peak governing body. National Championship medals and the coveted green and gold jerseys were awarded to;
Under 15 Junior Boy – Cayden Sullivan
Under 15 Junior Girl – Scarlett Griffin
Under 19 Junior Boy – Jesse Evans
Under 19 Junior Girls – Chloe Fahey
Elite Men – Richard Vollebregt
Elite Women – Jude Millard
Expert Men – Jayden Humphries
Expert Women – not contested
Masters 1/2 Men – Richard Harraway
Masters 1/2 Women – not contested
Masters 3/4 Men – Dave Power
Masters 3/4 Women – Fiona Yard
Masters 5/6 Men – Shane Hughes
Masters 5/6 Women – Louise Yeaman
Masters 7/8 Men – Steve Ware
Masters 7/8 Women – Annie Malone
Competitors and spectators were then treated to the Cable Beach Sundowner; a relaxed afternoon and evening of live music, local food and drink vendors, event merchandise and a licensed area.
Next year’s MTBA Fat Bike National Championship will be held on Friday the May 8th, 2020.