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  • Writer's pictureGary Moller

Carnage in Cairns!

Drama and Success at the Cairns 2024 UCI Masters Mountain Bike (MTB) World Championships!

(updated 2nd June, 2024)

Celebration
Yes, that's me on top of the podium!

It was near the end of lap one, on a flat, broad section of the trail of the race that I attempted yet again to get into the lead of the race, to be ahead of Marcello, the defending champion from Italy. I sprinted to pull up alongside Marcello, who also sprinted — that was expected, but he deliberately moved into my path, forcing me off the trail where at about 30 kilometres per hour — BOOM! I collided with a tree trunk!


You'll gather that mountain bike racing is not for the unfit, the unskilled, or for the faint-hearted!




Riders racing
From the left: Gary, Marcello, and Guy, leading out at the start!

Bike race
They may be over 70 but they're still fine specimens and incredibly talented - and determined to win!

Marcello disappeared into the distance. The race could have been over, but, fortunately, the bike was undamaged and apart from some cuts and abrasions I was okay. Still in second place, but a long way back, the chase restarted.


(I may come across as being harsh in this article, but I have no time for cherry-picking races, or for dirty race tactics that risk causing serious injuries and equipment damage. Its a game!)


Mountain biker
Jacob's Ladder - the photo and video do not do justice to the near-vertical upper sections.


The race consists of three intense laps filled with difficult and technical uphill and downhill sections, specifically designed to put the skills of mountain bikers to the test.


Mountain biker
The challenging rock climb - not for the faint-hearted, and more thrilling than bungy-jumping any day!

The race began with a furious sprint to get positioned before the gnarly technical stuff. I got off to a good start but made a slight error on the first obstacle and gifted Marcello the lead. That was no problem because there were many opportunities to pass later in the lap and, from the outset, I was clearly stronger than anyone else, including Marcello, who was going too slow for my liking. However, when the opportunities came to pass, Marcello not only sprinted, but also deliberately shifted across my path! This was most unsporting and dangerous. Several times, as the lap proceeded, I attempted, but he blocked me every time, with our wheels clashing twice. At one point, a marshal yelled at him to desist from the blocking tactics, but he kept doing them. Then I hit the tree. I was no longer the polite and patient Kwi!


A mountain biker
A rider negotiating a high-speed turn

So, lap two of three began and Marcello had a commanding lead, but I was hauling him back and I was angry, but I was also cool and confident. (Anger is sometimes a great emotion when combined with a rational head). Then I developed the stitch and trouble breathing, which was most unusual, because, for me, this is an extremely rare condition (it later turned out I'd bruised my ribs when I hit the tree). Anyway, despite the breathing problems, I was gaining on him and doing so quickly. After the first big obstacle, the rock wall climb, I was miraculously within metres of him (unlike most athletes my age, I was able to navigate all of the obstacles on the course with relative ease, thus gaining metres of advantage at a time). I then proceeded to abuse him for his behaviour, but he still refused to let me pass. Then, as we entered a rocky uphill hairpin bend, he stalled and I flashed past. That was the last I saw of him. Knowing I had the lead, I eased off and resolved not to take any unnecessary risks, with the goal being to be steady and, thus, to finish without any incidents. (MTB racing is one of those sports where anything can happen and a win is never assured until the finish line is passed over).


A mountain biker
Marcello, struggling to keep it together.

I completed the race unscathed and even thought about doing another lap just for the fun of it. My dominant win with a significant time difference, despite the race being shorter than usual and my slow first lap, was a clear triumph. Being one minute and 41 seconds ahead of Marcello was the perfect retaliation for his unsportsmanlike behaviour.


Posing
Post-race pictures with fellow Kiwi and race commissaire, Jeremy Christmas

Posing for a photo
Post-race pictures with fellow Kiwi and race commissaire, Lisa Morgan


Result: Male 70–74


1.

Gary MOLLER (NZ)


50:19


2.

Marcello BARTOLOZZI (IT)


+1:41


3.

Guy FALLA (AU)


+4:49


As a matter of interest, if I'd kept the same pace per lap for a fourth lap, which would have been quite easy to do, I'd have come 3rd in the 65-plus age group and 5th in the 60–65. Bear in mind that my first lap of three was slow and, once I had the lead after the first lap, I eased off, to ensure no mistakes were made and less risk of a catastrophe such as a flat tyre.


When he crossed the line, Marcello was downcast and I thought he might even cry. He apologised profusely for his behaviour, and, although I was still fuming, I grumpily accepted his apologies. I interpreted that he was deeply ashamed of his brain spasm during the race (He's a really nice and friendly guy!). The emphatic win was always going to be the best response.





Mountain bikes
The masters female races were breath-taking contests!
Celebrations
We met the most amazing people from around the world!

Then, later in the day, the celebrations began by way of the medal ceremonies. What I love about these events is meeting strong, healthy older people from around the world. Gosh, they're awesome people and so positive, friendly, and so full of beans! These people are the most positive role models we could ever have. They reset the stereotyped concepts of what old age is.


People celebrating
World champion for the umpteenth time - Bev Anderson with her son, Brooke

To excel in mountain biking, and to survive it, you need the following qualities to be at their peak:


  • Strength

  • Stamina

  • Speed

  • Power

  • Balance

  • Eyesight

  • Quick reflexes

  • Decision-making (cognition)

  • Recovery

  • Healing


When you come to think of it, these are qualities that we all need, regardless of age, gender, or whether for Olympic glory or merely negotiating the steps or the shower.


People on bikes
Resetting the age bar to a much higher level for all to aspire to
Pills vs Lifestyle cartoon


If governments and their clueless advisors and officials were serious about promoting population health, including healthy ageing, they'd back these amazing older specimens of humanity as the kind of role models for people to aspire to be. We must reset the bar far higher than it is, and to understand that enduring health never comes from the tip of a hypodermic.





People celebrating
The Brazilian winner here "monstered" her race - awesome!

On a final and positive note, Marcello and I departed on a positive note. Despite his dodgy race tactics, he was gracious in defeat, and I appreciated that. I'd cooled down enough by evening's end to offer him a genuine, forgiving hand and a hug of farewell.














People celebrating
Alofa and I soaking up the success and warmth of the occasion!

Masters Cyclists — Start preparing now for next year!


The UCI Masters MTB will take place once more in Cairns next year. While there were a few New Zealanders participating in the downhill competition, I was the sole representative in the cross-country event, which is disappointing. Let's aim to have a strong Kiwi presence next year, considering we're just a hop away! Our goal should be to have a minimum of 50 Kiwis competing in both the downhill and cross-country races.


One crucial point to note is that winning isn't necessary. Simply join in and take part to experience the lively atmosphere and enthusiasm of interacting with fit, energetic older athletes and their supporters from all around the world.


If you are a member of a cycling club, please read this article and discuss the concerns regarding licensing and insurance expenses. It's important that we find ways to reduce these costs, and this article offers potential solutions:



Thank you!


Alofa and I want to express our sincerest appreciation and congratulations to Bob, Jo, Lisa, Jeremy, Gary (the other one in Oz!), and their dedicated team of volunteers who made this year's masters worlds the fab success they were. We also want to acknowledge and thank all of the athletes and their supporters from around the globe for creating an unforgettable and flawless celebration of enduring athleticism and well-being. Thank you!


A big thank you goes out to Marco and the dedicated volunteers at Wellington's PNP cycling club, which I've been a member of since 1977, as well as the Hutt-Cross Cyclocross team and event organiser, Michael Jacques. Without their unwavering support and well-organised events, developing the necessary skills, resilience, and race experience to succeed at the UCI Masters level wouldn't have been possible.


A big thank you, Simon Gilbert from Biketech, for your friendship and support in building and maintaining bikes — and Jason from Flow Tyres for your valuable advice and guidance on choosing, finding, and providing tyres.


Lastly, thank you, Anton Cooper, for your assistance with selecting the victorious bike, namely the Trek Supercaliber. It's a reliable rocket of a bike!


Please check out their websites and support them, thank you.








More:



Here's more or less the course we raced over:






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5 Comments


Roger Cull
Roger Cull
Jun 01

Gary, whilst I congratulate you on your win, I am far less impressed with your assumption that I had "done a runner". The implication being that I was afraid to race you again. The fact of the matter is that I crashed whilst training on the course a few days before race day. It was a simple error but it resulted in a visit to hospital where xrays revealed three broken ribs.

I was devastated that I could not compete. I had spent a lot of time preparing for the race and was a far better rider than in Dwellingup, where I was only a few months back on a mtb after many years on the road.

I was confiden…

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Paca Sad
Paca Sad
May 24

No surprises mate you are really the epitome of MTBing fitness and a positive mindset, congratulations on another Rainbow Jersey, well deserved, well earned and Kia Kaha

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Gary Moller
Gary Moller
May 23

Thank you for your comments. I guess sport can sometimes become too serious for some people, especially in the heat of the moment. I keep reminding myself that it is just a game and never to be taken too seriously. Its not war, but a sport like MTB carries huge risks of injury if you get things wrong, so unsafe behaviour must never be tolerated. However, in the end, the point was made, and undoubtedly taken on board, so I'm prepared to make up and move on.

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Rob Snep
Rob Snep
May 23

Congratulations ,this is fantastic news ,kiwis can fly even after hitting trees,I am still getting over your incredible Karapoti sub 3 hour time ,you are the proof in the pudding that with the correct attitude with food and health incredible things are possible

Well done with resolving with the dirty tastic guy ,lesser men would have decked him ,you swallowed your pride and were the bigger person even in the heat of the battle ,keep the inspiration coming ,it helps

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jacushen
May 23

What a great story Gary.....love the passion and how you find that little extra that separates you form the "also rans."

While many of us will not reach your heights, I for one find so much that motivates me and I hope that when representing NZ in the Over 70s World Cricket Cup in England in July/August, I too can find that little extra to lift my performance.......thanks for sharing this story with us Gary.

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