once a year thredbo stages the nsw mountain bike interschool championships. it means two days off for those kids brave enough to compete in one or more of five events: flow, downhill, pump, xc relay and xc.

nat did get the two days off (actually two and a half) and chose to compete in her two favourite disciplines: flow and downhill. the flow was pretty much the same race nat rode at the cannonball festival but she had never raced the downhill (also called cannonball) before – she is always up for a new challenge.

i also had a job to do: i volunteered as marshal during the flow and the downhill races.

they actually gave all kids who rode the downhill a choice: to ride the entire cannonball track or avoid the gnarlier bits of the downhill run via the flow trail (for those who know: switch to the flow just above ‘snakes & ladders’ and get back on the downhill at the scaffold bridge, right before ‘bunny walk’).

thursday was a day of free practice which nat and i used to ride flow and downhill; we actually also took a friend of nat’s, chloe, down bunny walk for the first time.

friday morning was flow practice and friday afternoon the race. more than 600 kids from year 5 to year 12 (10 to 18) lined up: i’ve never seen so much traffic on the mountain. training was bad, the race was ok, with 30 second gaps between the racers.

nat did pretty well, coming in 9th out of 21 girls in her division (for some context, in the same division 200 boys raced). she ran almost the same time as during the cannonball but she said she caught up to another girl and couldn’t get past her … a few lost seconds but that’s all part of racing.

saturday we woke up to the sound of raindrops. it wasn’t too bad, though, and when we got up the mountain it was just a little drizzle. the trail was still wet and the rocks slippery enough to catch the less experienced people out. my place as marshal was just above a rock garden called ‘bunny walk’ and it was carnage in there during practice: as soon as just one rider ran into trouble in that section and had to walk the result was a massive traffic jam and the risk of racers taking each other out.

as the previous day the race was not too bad, particularly since many people opted not to run in the tougher conditions; only 10 out of 21 girls in nat’s division started and nat came 7th – another great result she can be really proud of.

but most importantly: nat had great fun and enjoyed the race, even though she had a crash in flow practice (check the photo above in the background) – right in front of me, too! at least i could give her a hug before i sent her on her way. dads are evil …

btw: unsurprisingly nat was the only girl from her school. i hope she can inspire a few more girls to join her next year. and maybe we have time to practice ‘snakes & ladders’ for next year, that would shave a minute or two off her downhill time.

and add a bit of excitement, too.