Mt. Buller, in north-east Victoria, is home to the Rapid Ascent GT Bike Buller Festival, a three-day event encapsulating everything that is great about mountain biking in one of Australia's premier mountain biking locations. Mt. Buller boasts four of the twelve 'Dirty Dozen' trails - 12 trails ranked as some of the best in Australia - so it's little wonder riders have been flocking there in huge numbers since the inaugural event back in 2009.
For 2017, the GT Bike Buller Festival schedule has been consolidated into 11 main MTB events over three days to maximize racing opportunities for riders, and provide a coordinated schedule that suits everyone. The event takes place over the long weekend in March from Saturday 11th to Monday 13th March. There is a broad range of events riders can sign up to including downhill, enduro, cross country and even kids events. Off the bike is just as entertaining with movies, a huge expo, kids rides and the renowned 'Picnic in the Park' food, wine and music festival that takes place on Sunday afternoon.
Here's a sample of what to expect.
With 11 events on offer across the three days, there's no shortage of options regardless of your age, riding experience or even choice of bike. Below is a brief description of each event.
Outlaw All-mountain Trophy: Taking place on Saturday between 10am - 3pm, riders complete as many descents of the Outlaw All-Mtn Trail as possible with your three fastest descents added together to make up total race time. The intermediate 'Outlaw Trail' features a variety of terrain from fast open sections to rocky switchbacks and drop-offs to a height of 0.5m.
ABOM Down Hill: Described as a ‘proper downhill race, down a proper DH track', Sunday's ABOM downhill race promises to be super fast. The trail is an intermediate level, 2.2km descent that includes fast, open straights with sweeping corners, berms and numerous switchbacks, there's also a few rock gardens, drop offs and jumps thrown in to keep things interesting. Riders will conduct a timed seeding run and then a final timed run with the fastest descender in the final run crowned the winner.
Gravity Enduro: The final and crowning gravity race takes place on Monday the 13th, comprising of laps of a single loop course with five timed descents. With five untimed climbs and transit sections, the rider with the lowest cumulative time on all five timed descents is crowned the winner. The trail is mostly flowing single track with some rocky sections, berms and jumps.
Cross country races
Stonefly Circuit 40km: The first cross country race of the weekend (Saturday) is raced on the famous Stonefly trail and is considered one of the best trails in Australia. The race kicks off early with a mass start around the single Stonefly loop, with the first across the line being the winner. The trail is mostly flowing single track and 4WD track with a solid climb over Mt. Stirling before the 'mindbending' single track descent down Stonefly.
Buller Blitz 20km: For newcomers and intermediate riders that aren't quite ready for the Stonefly Circuit, the 'Buller Blitz' is calling. This event is slightly easier than the 40km route, not only because it is half the distance, but because the descents are more manageable and the climbs shorter with gentler grades. Riders will complete two 10km loops and the first rider to cross the line is the winner.
Brake Burner: The Brake Burner is described as the 'queen stage, the jewel in the crown' for many riders and an event that will test the body, mind, and bike! Riders will complete as many laps of a 7km circuit as possible in three hours and 45 minutes, before throwing themselves down the final 12km Super-D descent to the Picnic in the Park festival at the base of the mountain. The winner is the rider with the most number of laps in the shortest time, combined with the descent time from top to bottom.
Corn Hill XC 22km: The final cross country event has a little bit of everything; flowing single track, rocky sections, berms, jumps, solid climbs and fun, fast descents. The 22km course is a single loop, mass start event with the first across the line crowned the winner.
16in Dual Slalom: This event may well take the cake as the most fun you can have at the Bike Buller festival, if not for the riders, certainly for the crowd. Raced on 16in kids bikes, riders go head to head in a dual slalom elimination format down a grass track with tight turns, jumps and fast downhill sections. The event is held between 5pm - 6pm on Saturday with a BBQ and event bar set up trackside so riders and spectators can get in the spirit of things!
Pump Track Pursuit: Immediately following the 16in dual slalom is the Pump Track Pursuit, a pursuit style race conducted on a purpose built pump track. Riders go head to head with the winner progressing to the next round. The event is open to anyone aged 13 years and over, with categories in place to ensure fun, and fair racing. And the BBQ and event bar will still be set-up to either drown your sorrows or celebrate in style.
Picnic in the Park: Take a break from the bike on Sunday afternoon when the Picnic in the Park opens its doors. The food, wine and music festival has been part of the Bike Buller festival for five years, featuring local food providers, local beer, wine and cider producers, plus kids activities and plenty of live music. The 'picnic' runs from 11am - 5pm, entry is $15 for adults (kids under 18yrs are free) and includes a complimentary glass and a free beer or wine.
Village Ride: If the older kids are keen to get involved in the action, then the Village ride is perfect. The course consists of a 5km loop around the Mt. Buller village and nearby trails that are a great introduction to mountain biking for kids aged between 7 - 13.
Picnic in the Park Bike Fun: Not forgetting the little kids, the Picnic in the Park has organised a children's ride, catering to 4 - 8-year-olds. The course is approximately 300m in length and is gentle enough to be ridden on either a balance or pedal bike.
There really is something for everyone at the GT Bike Buller Festival. Entries are open now and filling up fast as many events are capped, so get in quick and secure your spot at one of the best mountain bike events in Australia.
Here's a little more mountain biking action along the superb trails of Mt. Buller.
BikeExchange is a media partner of Rapid Ascent, the events company running the Bike Buller mountain bike festival. All images supplied by Rapid Ascent.