The Super Jambo Grom Pre 2020: Event Recap
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The Super Jambo Grom Pre is a self-supported 200km gravel ride through Monaro Region and Kosciuszko National Park, Australia. With help from organizer Jorja Creighton, we put together a unique reflection from first-place finisher Zoe Cuthbert. Check it out here…
Saturday evening. The start-of-summer sun was lowering, it still beat down, mind you, with the force of a thousand mallets. Onto the group of Grommets sitting in the Murrumbidgee River. Beers in hand, Grom Flap Hats on, electric good vibes shot straight to the veins.
As the organiser, I was peaking – watching the best of the Australian alternative cycling scene together, sitting, laughing, being present. This group, sitting in the shallows of the river, had done the smaller offerings of the day, 60km or 100km. This group prioritised joy. While the rest of the riders opted for the violence of the 200km (3431m climbing) main event.
At 6 p.m., my co-organiser Ashleigh yelled, “Ohhh, it’s Zoe!” and the river/swamp people burst into cheers. Clapping, wolf whistling and in awe of the 19-year-old girl from Canberra storming over the bridge of the river, looking as fresh as if she had just popped to the shops for some eggs. She was the first back to camp with the time of 11 hours and 20 min. Two hours before the next person. And she had accidentally done an additional 20km.
My jaw dropped to the bottom of the Murrumbidgee. Excited to have a woman breeze through first at the event that aimed for 50/50 diversity. It was a glacial cherry on top. We got a race report from her, and I must say I was thrilled to hear that it wasn’t as easy as she made it look. Enjoy the words of Zoe, my new personal hero.
Words by Zoe Cuthbert (@flyingraccoononabike)
If you sit on a bike long enough, there will be a point where it feels more natural to be on the bike than off it. You might also vow to yourself never to ride a bike again. This has happened to me on many occasions; whilst racing the XCO world championships, whilst freezing to death on bikepacking routes with my dad, and most recently; whilst riding 220 km as part of the Super Jambo Grom Pre.
A few days before this event, I was under the (false) impression that it was a weekend of riding with 100 km each day. When the wonderful Lucy informed me that it was actually 200+ km in one day, I wasn’t very certain that I would be able to complete the whole distance. However, being too stubborn to drop down to the shorter rides, I said f**k it, what’s the worse that can happen?
Side note: I am predominantly a cross-country rider and my history with bikepacking began one day last year when out of the blue Dad said to me, “I think we should do this ride next year.” The ride in question is the Tour Divide, a 4,418 km bikepacking route from Canada to the US/Mexico border. It sounded like great base training and an amazing adventure. We entered, but unfortunately, due to COVID-19, we were unable to do the ride. However, we still did a few training rides beforehand, such as part of the Cloud Ride loop (which sadly was a DNF due to injury, see the video here).
Fast forward a few days, Lucy and I were standing in the driveway of a few amazing new friends I was about to make, using as many straps as we could to attach our bikes to the back of a car in one giant mess (complete with a handkerchief as a bow). Our resourcefulness continued when we arrived at camp and I realised I had forgotten a sleeping bag. Luckily, we had a picnic rug and a dog blanket. Unluckily, it was a cold night and I require more warmth than your average dog.
It was all okay though, because when I woke up at 5:14 (exactly a minute before my alarm) I was greeted with delicious homemade, gluten-free food from the organisers, and a freshly ground cup of coffee from Lucy. When I was convinced I would not freeze to death like last time (more on that later), I set off into the sunshine to begin what would become the longest I have ever ridden a bike.
At about 60 km, I started to talk to myself. This was unfortunate timing for the very confused guy standing around the corner. At 80 km, I stopped to fill up my water bottle in a creek and ended up falling in. This was nice as the day was only getting hotter (my shoes still smell terrible, though). At 100 km, I came upon a surprise drink station. This was amazing and I got to try my first Dr. Pepper (review: far too sweet but made up for it by being icy cold).
At 110 km, I passed Jorja, who was manically waving flags and cheering me on. This was a great motivation to keep going fast. At 112 km, I partook in my first-ever interview from a moving car. This was very awkward and I do not wish to see the footage.
At 120 km, there was a very large hill. This was rough but the good views made up for it. I took advantage of the slower speed and ate lunch one-handed while I rode.
At 140 km, the detour to take us around a flooded section of the course began. This is challenging as I did not actually have directions on my GPS. I’d just memorised the route the day before. Miraculously, I did not get lost.
At 155 km, I ran into Ally, who was acting as a trail fairy and rode with me for the next five kilometres until another surprise drink/food station. This was fabulous. I grabbed handfuls of gummy bears and a cold Coke to take with me, my chain got a much-needed lube, and all my water bottles were filled up. At this point, I realised the course may be a little longer than the 200 km I had anticipated.
At 165 km, things started to get harder. This is to expected after 165 km when you specialise in 20-kilometre XC races. I put on a podcast (something I have never tried before while riding) and plodded along through some spectacular scenery at Blue Water Holes.
At 180 km, I came across a bunch of people who had stopped to help someone with an injury. They were all very encouraging and told me to continue on as they had the situation under control (the guy ended up getting airlifted out, shout out to everyone who helped him and didn’t end up finishing until late that night).
At 195 km, I began the bike-push towards Oldfields Hut, where I ran into Jack, who was supporting and taking photos of the event. This was helpful as he informed me that while I may not have a long way to go in terms of kilometres, there was a hell of a lot of hills between me and the finish. He then rode with me to the top of Lone Pine (a big hill with far too many false summits) and took many of these beautiful photos!
At 200 km, I realised my tyre was going flat. I put in some C02 and it stayed up the rest of the ride, thankfully.
At 201 km, I had a single-person party as this was officially the furthest I’d ridden! For some backstory: early in the year, I rode to Cowra with Dad. The first 60 kilometres to Yass were the coldest I have ever been and I wasn’t sure I could go on. After two hot chocolates (each), we decided to continue and by the time we were 150 kilometres in I said to Dad, “I know this ride is only supposed to be 180 kilometres, but it’s still early in the day so maybe we should just make it a round 200?” And that is how I did my first (and before this only) 200-kilometre ride.
At 209 km, I was at the top of Lone Pine Gap. This was a pretty good feeling. I then tore down the descent and began trying and recall the last time I changed my brake pads.
At 211 km, I saw a figure waving in the distance. This figure was Lucy, who had ridden to meet me, but at the time I could have sworn it was God. Lucy informed me of the bad news, that I still had nine kilometres to go, and the good news, that it was all downhill or flat. Neither of us remembers the next nine kilometres, but I vaguely recall us pointing and saying “cows!” along the way.
At 220 km, I could see the finish! I rode over a bridge next to camp and in it were many sweaty and slightly drunken bikepackers cheering me on. I didn’t really know what to do so I awkwardly waved like the queen and rode past to camp.
Here, I collapsed on the ground until Lucy dragged me up to join everyone in the river where they had chips and a cold drink waiting for me. It was heaven, except for the fact that I was struggling to walk after being in the saddle for so long.
In total, the ride was 219.45 km with 3,773m elevation gain over 11:20 hours, and one of the most amazing experiences of my life! Despite being absolutely exhausted (I’m still recovering), it reminded me of how much I love riding and adventures, that big fuzzy idea in your brain that comes from a dream of what could be possible.
Thank you to Jorja, Lucy, Jack, Ally, and all of my new friends for the incredible experience. You are an inspiring bunch of people and I can’t wait for next year!
Wrap-up by Jorja Creighton (@jambi_jambi)
So, there you have it. This is the thought process of a 19-year-old who obviously has a healthy dose of recklessness and perseverance. The Grom Pre was a great success and we were able to get a ratio of 40% WTF/BIPOC participants. We offered three Grom Grants to riders who had financial barriers to attend. We have currently raised $3,000 through a $25 raffle for the local area to help with recouping after the Black Summer in Australia.
This event is aiming to move around in the same fashion as a Grand Prix. We have already the next location in Northern NSW for April. Follow @jambi_jambi and @superjambogrompre for more info! Or get in touch by email at email@example.com if you want to play a part.