Tathra’s bushland was the scene of celebration, not devastation, as record numbers of riders raced in the annual Tathra MTB Enduro on Sunday.
Bagpipes, drummers and the ‘whoops’ and ‘hoots’ of riders could be heard throughout the forest, the scene of devastating bushfires three months ago.
Organisers had feared competitors would be put off by riding in a blackened charred forest.
However, their fears were unfounded, with almost 500 riders voting with their feet.
Officials said with a laugh they had forgotten to take some of the Saturday afternoon rides into account when doing the initial count.
“It was a huge relief to have such an incredible turnout of riders and spectators,” said Enduro co-ordinator Stacey George. “Straight after the fires, we were not sure what to expect – but everyone has certainly got behind the event.
Ms George said the weekend’s success was a morale booster for the town. “I think it shows, what can be achieved by a community working together.”
She said some of the event highlights included a field of 80 enthusiastic children in the Bega Cheese Children’s Chase events, and the incredible sight of seeing so many riders weave their way through the burnt Bundadung trails.
“From Thompsons Road the riders looked like an industrious trail of ants criss-crossing their way across the hills and gullies.
“You could also hear all this happy banter, and cheers coming from riders as they went around the course. It was a contrast to sounds of sirens and helicopters.”
Riders were also full of praise for the event, and the work done by volunteers to restore the trails.
“Despite the devastation of the fires, the tracks were the best ever,” said King Nelba 75km champion Andy Blair.
“They’ve not just been cleaned up, they’ve been put on steroids. Thanks for hosting this terrific race.”
Mitas 50km winner Cory Smith also paid tribute to all those who had worked to rebuild the tracks.
“The trails were incredible. Super smooth and grippy. You could see all the work that has gone into them,” says Smith.
Other riders reflected on the atmosphere.
“What a fantastic event all round,” says Jindabyne’s Vanessa Knee. “Loved the drums, the bagpipes and the gorillas handing out bananas. So much fun.”
Full race results from this year’s Tathra Beach & Bike Enduro can be found on the event website at www.tathramtbclub.com.
Organisers thanked the hundreds of volunteers to helped prepare the course in time and said it was incredible to see the community rally together.