I often wondered if this day would ever come if I ever had kids... And now here I am, on a boat heading to Tasmania, on my way to my first ever Australian Junior Motocross Championships as a Mini Dad!
I guess it was inevitable, both my kids have been around bikes from day dot, and while my daughter has never had the slightest interest in riding, my son is as obsessed with the sport as much as I am, maybe even a little more which is scary, and luckily for him, he has a lot more natural talent on a bike than I will ever have.
While we are certainly not heading over with any expectations to be close to winning, or even in the first half of the field in his first year of racing, we are both excited for the adventure that lies ahead and the experience of racing this event, and for myself it ticks the off final state in Australia to cover a dirt bike event at. After ten years of covering racing and 40 years on this planet, I have finally made it to Tasmania.
For Jayden, after only turning seven in March this year, this year's event is all about having fun and getting to see what racing at the national level is all about. He will race both the 50cc and 65cc 7-u9 year classes, with a goal of finishing every race on the lead lap. Its only early days for him on the Yamaha YZ65, but he is keen to see how he goes on the bigger bike.
Each day we will give a brief rundown of our adventure, with a single photo that best represents the day we have had. And yes ill put the IphoneX away tomorrow and start shooting with a pair of Canon camera's.
We will have a fair bit of additional coverage from the event, with a daily rundown of results, a daily image article for something different along with trying to keep the Fullnoise.com.au_ Instagram account ticking over with nightly images and updates to our story along the way.
Read below our daily adventures, the latest post will posted up the top each day to try and keep things fresh. 2018 AJMX here we come!
DAY 1: The Journey Starts Here
Well, more so day Zero and one... Things have gone pretty simply so far and not overly exciting as of yet.
After a few weeks of preparation, getting in some good ride time aboard the Yamaha YZ65 and his 50 we spent the week leading up to the trip packing, before loading up the trusty Nissan D22 after his yearly school concert on Wednesday night and headed out of Adelaide at 5 am on Thursday morning for the big trip across to Melbourne.
Meeting up with the Carpenter and Barton families, our small convoy reached the Port in Melbourne at 3.30pm on Thursday afternoon, before boarding the Spirit of Tasmania an hour later, along with plenty of other racing families ready for the voyage to the Isle below the mainland.
With a 7.30pm departure time, there certainly was not a great deal to see, so we made the most of a trip (or maybe two) to the buffet for dinner, then wound down with a quiet drink or two before getting a good nights sleep and waking up as we were about to disembark on Friday morning.
Today was all about getting set up, both at the house we have rented for the next ten days, along with our “Home” at the track, which is really where we will be spending the most time over the next week and a half.
Accommodation wise, after spending many a night scouring the internet looking for something affordable, but still nice, we decided on a three-bedroom B&B just outside of Burnie, about a 15-minute drive from the track.
It turned out to be a great choice, the place is a little secluded, but is situated at the top of some rolling hills and surrounded by farmland in every direction, with a great view of the ocean, its certainly going to be a picturesque place to come back to each afternoon to relax and prepare for the following day.
By mid-morning, we made our way back to the track to set up. We have a decent size crew we are pitting with and spent a few hours forming up our own little “Tent City” to get us through the week, complete with a dedicated cooking area and lounge area for the 10 or so kids who are riding.
At the base of our set up, we have the full Western Australian contingent all set up out of the single semi truck that came across. You have to give it up to the W.A riders who travel vast distances each year to make it to these events and even more so this year.
The track itself looks fantastic, the club has done a great job with the venue, and it will undoubtedly be one of the most picturesque junior nationals on record, and as a photographer, I am as keen as anything to get out there and shoot this event.
Just after we finished setting up, Matthew Phillips ( You know the guy, world Enduro champ and one heck of a motocross rider in his own right) cut a couple of laps around the track after the team from ProTraxx Australia had finished reshaping jumps and some corners, instantly I wished I had my camera’s on hand. A track surrounded by forest with rock cliff faces in the backdrop and one of the worlds best throwing a bike sideways, it was pretty cool to witness.
With the pit tent set up, we retreated to base camp for the night. It is all pretty calm right now. We have sign on tomorrow, with the only real stressful thing to get done with, being drilling some holes in some engine bolts so we can seal the motors tomorrow!
Well, my short blog ended up being a little long on day one! Time for some sleep and see what day two brings!
Day Two: The Stress is Over
It’s funny, but for the most part, the stress of our first Australian Junior Motocross Championship is over.
Today was another day of finalising everything and making sure we were good to go when the actual riding starts tomorrow.
We started the day early, heading out to the track at 9 am, well before we were due to sign on at 12 pm or before track walk commenced at 11.30am.
Being our first, the racing results are not significant, it is more about the experience and learning the ropes and at the end of the day my number one concern for the past few weeks have just been getting everything organised, so we are ready to head out on track.
By this morning we still had one final thing to do, that was actually stressing me out quite a bit. We had still not drilled the holes to fit the tag to seal shut the moto as required this year.
With some friends from SA arriving at the track who were signing on at 9 am (sign on this year was done in time slots by the last name and worked a treat) who also had not drilled out their nuts, we decided to head back with them and have a crack.
In the end, it turned out to be a pretty simple job, well for myself anyway, as I held the bike still while Peter Rossi from Paint Tech SA drilled out the holes. Within a few minutes and around ten 1.5mm drill bits, he had 11 or 12 bikes ready for tagging, and a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.
With the bikes now set, we headed back to the Coastal Park Motocross club to sign in. The first thing to check off the list was to check to see if we had been randomly selected to have the bike physically checked over as this year all bikes were self-scrutineered, with random bikes being checked.
We were lucky enough not to get the call-up, so it was a quick trip into the clubrooms where we were greeted by a lovely young lady who had us signed in and on our way in just a couple of minutes.
With a little rain starting to fall, it was an excellent chance to work out what was coming back to the house and what was staying at the track, before heading out to walk the track.
There is nothing quite like walking a track with your child, especially when they are seven and are quite happy to tell you precisely what jumps they think the will clear and how the older fast boys will be scrubbing this jump, and whipping that jump, railing the inside rut on this corner or holding it wide around the berm on the next turn.
The track is self still looks fantastic, it was a little hard to walk as it has been ripped deep and soaked, to help get some moisture in. But we managed to get around and check out the entire layout.
It is a neat layout, with a good mixture of sweeping and tight corners, some good elevation change, and some cool looking jumps and drop-offs. I am actually a little jealous, looks like a fun track to ride.
With track walk over, we measured out some Yamalube 2R two stroke oil ready to head into town and fill up the jerry cans.
With the bikes sorted, sign-on complete we are all set to start the number one reason we have made this journey, to go ride and race. The preparation is undoubtedly a lot more stressful than the riding, the hard part is over, and it is time for Jayden to join the other 250 odd riders out on track enjoying what the enjoy most, riding a dirt bike.
Jayden is out on track 4th tomorrow on the 50, then again in the 8th session of the day on the Yamaha YZ65, with a single 10-minute practice session on both bikes. In all, each class will have a single ten-minute practice session to kick the week-long event off tomorrow.
The fun starts now.
Day Three: The Stress Was Not Over But Atleast We Are On Track
Well, day three certainly did not go entirely to plan. I ended up spending half the night up with Jayden as a sore throat took hold along with a painful ear-ache that had him in tears in the early hours of the morning.
The good news was, a little Nurophen fixed the situation, unfortunately, not until the next morning and with a 5 am wake up call to grab some medicine before heading to the track, the little man was all but spent before the day even kicked off.
The little trooper kept on going, and while he was a long way from his usual self on track, he was able to complete both practice sessions on the Yamaha YZ65 and KTM 50.
Looking at the lap times especially in the 50 class, I am confident he will improve his time quite a bit, but maybe not his position. The young kids in that class are fast that is for sure, it's crazy watching the 50s jumping nearly every jump on the track that the bigger bikes are hitting, some super talented kids out there for sure.
The good news is, Jayden was back to his usual buoyant self after a quick nap on the way home and was back running around with his mate Ryder after he dropped in this arvo. With an early night and a full nights rest, he should be good to go tomorrow.
As for the event itself, today was pretty cool in a lot of ways. The opening ceremony was pretty neat with local Tasmanian politicians and officials on hand. But the biggest guest of all was multi-time World Enduro champion Matthew Phillips, who was back at his home club and has been for a few weeks now, helping the club in the lead up to this event. Great to see a true champion of the sport giving back at this level.
Today was all about practice, with each class, getting a single sighting lap, before returning to the shoot, waiting for the class ahead of them to complete their practice, then head out themselves.
The format had me a little confused at first, but after being told that this is also how racing will run, with riders having a sight lap while the class on track before them lines up on the gate for their race, it made perfect sense and is quite a good idea.
The format did make for a long practice day, however, especially for the kids riding one class, who had to sit around all day waiting to ride just once. But that is just part of racing the Australian championship, many a champion has done the same before this group of youngsters, and from what I have seen there is plenty of potential to see more Aussie riders on the international stage for many years to come.
For myself, the first half of the day was spent juggling trying to take photos while also getting Jayden prepared and to the line for practice.
Since getting home, it has been a little cleaning, dinner duty and photo editing!
I have just finished uploading our favourite ten photos from today on the website along with another small gallery on the Fullnoise.com.au facebook page.
Tomorrow ill be shooting a little less as qualifying gets underway. Over the next few days, I'll pick a few different classes to shoot per day to mix things up a little.
For now, it is 10 pm and time for some sleep, a lot more big days ahead of us!
Day 4: Qualifying Day
Day three was all about qualifying for all classes, and for both Jayden and myself it was a bit of an eye opener of just how much of a step up in pace it is from State level racing to the nationals.
Sure being in Tasmania this year has probably made a number of people decide the cost was a little high to come over from the mainland, but what it has meant is, that those who have shown up, for the most part, are here because they can either win, have a chance to win or podium or a realistic goal of a top ten result.
Our own SA title winner Ryder Woodrow qualified 5th fastest and is in with a chance to win for sure, so it is not like we have not seen this type of speed in the 50 class before, but now instead of one or two riders at that pace, there is 10 or so at the pace and another 10 not much further behind. The goal for us remains the same, stay on the lead lap and hopefully find someone near the rear of the field to battle, and most of all enjoy the event and the experience.
Being fourth up for the day was always going to be a bit of a challenge for the 50 class on a heavily watered track, not that the track prep should change in any way, it is all part of the learning experience, but for Jay the addition of another element but him a lot further behind the lead riders than yesterday's dry practice session, nearly twice as far per lap on the 50!
He looked better on the 65 today, however stalling in the deep ruts on the start straight left him with no clean lap in for the qualifying session. I am 99% sure he would have posted a faster time on the 65 over the 50 today, if not for that. We are still undecided at this point if he will race the 65. He is still tiny for that bike, but it was a good chance for some extra bike time and to help learn the track. He is riding it well and loves riding the YZ65, but with another five years after this year where he can still race a 65, there really is no rush.
While Jay was where we expected him to be down the back of the field in both his classes, the fast boys and girls came out to play and spent the day ripping apart the Coastal Motocross track, check the main news section for overall qualifying results.
As for the track, the preparation of the track for day two was undoubtedly better than the opening day, a lot more water was put on, and while it did make it a little harder on the smaller bikes, it allowed the track to say moist for the majority of the day and formed up some super deep ruts. The track looked terrific and will certainly test Australia's best juniors.
And on a positive note, the 50cc class that was due to ride first tomorrow has been pushed back to later in the day, a great decision that allows the track to still get the water it needs overnight, and saves us mini dads from fried clutches!
While most of the day was focused on Qualifying some racing got underway with heats in the 85cc classes.
While the track has been great, the first turn, well the slight first right-hand turn leading into the second turn has me a little concerned. The corner is also part of the lap to lap race track and has some deep nasty ruts. There have been some decent crashes with riders going through the one at a time, and I hate to think of what it would be like to send 40 bikes into the turn at once.
With the way the racing is set up with, riders getting a sight lap prior to the race that they will follow, hopefully, there is enough time to quickly smooth over the first turn before each race or every few races. There were crashes in both the opening races today, hopefully, it is not the norm over the coming week.
Day 5: Drop The Gate
A lot of mixed feelings and emotions today!
The day did not get off to the best of starts. Before Jayden through a leg over a bike he went down hard and it sort of set the tone for the morning. Walking back to the pit to get his YZ65 for his final practice session on the bike he tripped on a rock and fell over onto a star dropper holding up part of our pit set up. Luckily the dropper had a cover over it, and while it still left him in a little pain, he was back on his feet and ready to ride.
To make matters worse, I then managed to squish his finger between his starting block and his handlebars! Yep going for dad of the year haha.
With the 50 final practice pushed back until just before lunch, it meant he was out on the 65 first and also meant that class was bumped up one spot in the day's proceedings, putting them out fourth on what was still a heavy track with deep ruts already forming.
After another stall on the start straight in the same rut he stalled in yesterday, he put in a clean lap came past me and I watched on as he cleared through the first straight standing on the pegs through the ruts and out of sight. I was pumped he made it through clean and was looking good, but then he did not come out of turn two. I took a couple of steps around and seen him laying on the ground. He later told me he just turned a little too sharp coming out of the rut and the front end dug into the soft dirt and sent him over the bars.
As he does, he got up and continued one, before another off on a step up which in turn caused a bit of a pile-up. Again I did not see the crash, it was at the opposite end of the venue, but after not seeing him come through for a bit and then looking up and seeing the medical flag on a jump, my heart skipped a few beats. I realised he was one of the riders down, but then see him get back up. Unfortunately one of the other boys was down for a while.
At the end of practice, I was pretty concerned for the other kid; Jay was back and apart from the two mishaps was looking smooth on the 65. Matthew Phillips who is here helping out the club came over; he was there helping pick the kids up, he let me know all three boys were fine and would be good to race which was great news.
At the end of practice, we decided we would skip the racing on the 65 this year. Jayden is only 7, and with classes for the 65 running from 7-U9, then 9-U11 and an 11yr class we still have another five years of 65cc racing ahead of us after this year. The kid loves riding his 65 and the addition of changing gears, but racing the nationals at this point is a little beyond him. We will be back next year on the 65.
Next up was the final free practice on the 50. For us it went smoothly, Jay was the slowest on track by about 6 seconds but had gone from being a minute and 8 seconds a lap down off the fastest riders to being around 50 seconds a lap slower, but would still need to find a few more seconds when racing started to stay on the lead lap.
Late this afternoon, we lined up for his first final, I have never been so nervous in my life; I'm not sure why, though he only started racing in March this year and has been racing and battling bar to bar with riders all year, and I knew today he would pretty much be riding on his own at the back of the field, I was more nervous for him than ever.
He was smart at the start, seen the riders bunch up and fall in the middle of the track in the dreaded first turn as we knew that would happen and rode around the outside (even though he started on the very inside!) and stayed upright.
Though his lap times only improved by one second from his final practice, the front of the field had slowed by 4-6 seconds and by his last lap in the 7 minutes plus one lap race it was going to be a tight race to the line to stay on the lead lap.
I was literally counting the seconds to the riders approaching him to lap him; it was going to come all the way down to the line, Benny Veale and Aden Oakland were in a heated battle for first, they were pushing hard and closing rapidly on Jay.
Jayden hit the finish line near the top of the jump as the two rides behind hit the base of the jump, the crowd were cheering on the fence for the race leaders who at the line were separated by just .3 of a second, I was cheering for the kid who was .2 of a second in front of them, but had another whole lap to run. He had achieved his first goal of this week.
Overall it turned out to be a great day at the end, there were some lows for sure during the day, I got a first-hand look at the crazy amount scrutiny the 7-9yr 50 class is under, it really was an eye-opener that had me quite pissed off and half wanting to pack up and go home! I won't get into it now, as I could easily type out a good 3000 - 4000 words after today, but I'll save that for an email at the end of this week.
There needs to be a 50 class at this event; already we have experienced so much in just our first year, both good and bad.
There are 28 50s on the line, which is a good chunk of both entry money for the event and more people who are spending money in the local community over here. I would say if the event this year were on the mainland there would easily be over 40 riders in that class, so to hear or see anyone post that there should not be a 50 class is a concept I can't grasp and not because that is the class we are racing. We will be in the class for another year, we can do another two but will probably just do one more, and I hope to see this class around for many years after that, but something needs to be fixed.
While I was ready to pack it all up before the 50 first race (not that I would have, just was pretty bummed on some stuff) What I got to experience after the day ended made up for it. We washed and packed up the Yamaha YZ65; then I went to work to freshen up the 50.
I needed to take a link out the chain, but mucked that up and took out two! Luckily it was still long enough and again with the helping hands of Peter Rossi; we had that sorted. Jayden then joined me as we changed the clutch oil, checked the clutch settings, unbolted the bars to tighten up the bar mounts and then had a quick chat with the W.A crew as we finished up. There was some great quality time with my son, working and talking about bikes, the main reason we are here.
It topped off a great day.
Oh, and if anyone wants more details on Jay's crash on the step up or how he went over the bars, just ask him, it is a pretty funny and crazy story when told by an excited seven-year-old :)
Now for some sleep and to do it all again tomorrow. I'll be back swinging off a camera tomorrow capturing the action, so check back for more images.
Jay has a single race on the 50, which is the second to last event for the day, looking forward to him just getting out on the line and staying clear of the off-track shenanigans.
Day 6: Frustration With the Sport You Love
Day six, it has taken a couple of day's to write this one! There was no way I was going to type what I was feeling at the conclusion of day six; there were a few things that both frustrated and disappointed me on the day.
We learned a lot on day six, unfortunately, more so about the off the track dealings than on track. The nationals is certainly a different level of event, and the scrutiny on the bikes is a lot different than anything I have seen at a state level, or even a national senior level for that matter.
I have no issues with the rules; we took a chance coming over to this event with aftermarket radiators on Jayden's bike. A couple of months out from the nationals we had a radiator let go on his 50, at the time the bank account was tight and I had to make a decision, buy a set of $230 radiators online, get the bike running so he could race the upcoming race or spend over $700 and miss a couple of weeks of racing. A lot of riders run the aftermarket radiators, it is something that I have never seen picked up at a club or state level, and my personal feelings are that it shouldn't be an issue, I would rather see any kid on track than off it, and to see a kid miss any type of riding or racing due to a decision to buy a cheaper part that works over a more expensive part that does the exact same thing is something I can not comprehend.
So for me the decision was easy, I went the cheaper route and we continued racing. Now I knew it could become a problem come junior Aussie time, and the plan was originally to buy another set of genuine radiators just in case it was an issue when we arrived in Tasmania, unfortunately some extra costs popped up in the lead up to the event and it was not possible, so we went with it, I threw the old radiators in the ute before we left, I knew one side was still good and the other was split but could not remember which side was which, so took them both.
For us it was not an actual issue to a degree during practice, Qualifying, Free practice, race one or race two, but at the conclusion of race two all the 50's were notified that every bike would be checked over on Wednesday morning, I knew modification wise there was no issue with the bike, everything on the bike is stock, even when the muffler snapped on our bike not long after we got it, I could not bring myself to buy an aftermarket pipe and we have been running a stock one that a friend had sitting in his shed, (Cheers Ryder)
There were two issues we could have possibly had on Wednesday morning, the radiators and also the front sprocket cover. We actually rode practice with the sprocket cover on, being a thick clay based track it got clogged up and when Jayden came in I could barely spin the back wheel by hand, I looked at all the other bikes and I could not see one other bike with one on, so I took mine off.
Then a few riders/parents got warnings about the sprockets, no one was forced to run one, but it became clear that if someone protested that a bike was not running one, the protest would have to be upheld at the bike we rode comes with a sprocket cover, it is a OEM standard part, so not only can it not be replaced with an aftermarket product, it can also not be removed. There was a bit of a panic in the field for riders of two brands of bike (KTM< Husqvarna), for the other brand of bike (Cobra) they were fine, there bikes did not come wish sprocket covers standard, they were fine.
KTM had three at the track to sell, which got snapped up quickly, there was another family that did not have one, so I gave them Jayden's. The rider we gave it two was hopeful of a top ten result, so if for some unlikely reason they were protested it was a risk, my thinking was, it did not matter if Jayden was protested, I knew he would be running last, if someone wanted to protest a kid in last, well good on them, I very much doubt it was ever going to happen.
With all this going down Jayden headed out for race two, it was not his day, he avoided the crashes in the first turn but got caught up and stalled in turn two. He could not get the bike started. He was moved to the side of the track and he kicked and kicked and kicked with no luck, its the only time so far this week he has not been able to start the 50 himself.
The rules state no outside assistance, so no one else could start it for him. Again they are the rules and I had no issue with that. I was on track taking photos and knew full well I could not help him. I felt bad for him but it was what it was. After going a full lap down an official started his bike for him and he pulled in behind the field a full lap down. For that I am thankful, they did not have to do that, but it gave him two laps of track time.
At the conclusion of that race the 50s came in, with all the kids on their bikes still, riders and parents were handed paperwork letting them know their bikes were to be pulled down, from the sounds of it, it was the top ten, the remaining riders and parents were told they would have to present their bikes to the scrutineer in the morning before riding commenced.
I have no issue with the top bikes being pulled down, or any bike for that matter, I have no issue with every bike being checked over (though by the end of the second race that followed two practice and one qualifying sessions, its probably a little late) I have no issue being pulled up for not following the rules, whether I think they are wrong or right, but seeing kids visually upset and asking their parents what is wrong with their bike, why is this happening, I actually got quite upset and a little angry. It was not the first time I had seen this during the week.
Now again nothing had happened to us directly, no questions at this point in time had been asked of Jayden's bike, but I was not happy with how things were happening.
What annoyed me more was why was it just this class it was happening to, to this extent, we were entered in the same age bracket in the 65 class with none of this going on, same parents, same age kids, but none of these issues, how could that be?
I also now actually had to think about the whole radiator and sprocket situation I was in, so I headed to the KTM set up, KTM are at the event for the duration and anyone on KTM machinery can have their bikes looked at, worked on and be assisted by KTM.
I checked in with them to see if they had a set of 50 radiators, which they did. I didn't really have the cash to make it happen but would have found a way if needed, another great family I am here with offered to pay for them. Luckily we had another option. I am still thankful to KTM for having a set there and I am sure the other parents that bought the sprocket covers were also happy, along with the many riders who were assisted or had their bikes fixed by the crew from KTM Australia during the event.
That evening we headed back to an apartment where some fellow South Aussie families were staying, and we went to work on making a couple of 50's completely stock ready for race three. I had my split radiators, Peter one of my fellow 50 dads from SA had 2 sets which he had patched up and between them we were able to salvage two full sets to keep our kids going. Three other SA families where there helping, with the Carpenters and Gears along with my housemate for the week JB all pitching in to work on the bikes along with Shane Metcalfe who has coached Jayden at a few schools lending a helping hand.
It turned out to be a great evening and reminded me why we love this sport and was the start of some big moments on this trip that have made a big difference in how I see quite a number of things.
It was not the only cool thing I witnessed on day six. I also witnessed one of the coolest things I have ever seen at a dirt bike track and it involved the 50 class.
Two riders were called up to go and pick their gates, the first rider who had the 23rd pick or so walked out to pick his gate, he was looking around when the rider next in line also started heading out, they both ended up at the same gate at the same time. Now the kid who had was called out first by the rules had the right to pick that gate, but instead of getting angry or throwing a fit, this 7 year old, looked up at his fellow competitor and what I watched next I will never forget.
The two boys started to rock off, the old Rock, Paper, Scissors game broke loose, they both matched each other the first four goes, then on the fifth attempt Paper won over Rock, leaving the rider who rightfully could have claimed the gate as the loser of the contest. Again a seven-year-old boy took the loss in his stride, turned and walked away to find another gate, effectively giving himself the last pick of the gates. No fuss, he just went about life and his racing. And the best part was, he pulled a great start.
Reflecting on the day a good 48 hours after everything unfolded, while I did get caught up in the moment of some negative things, after talking to some people who have been involved in the sport and the junior side of things for a lot longer than I have (Thanks Tracey Butler and Mark Hancock both your words and posts helped me look at things from a different perspective) which really come about by posting a hasty post on Facebook, I was able to take a lot of positives away from the whole situation and hopefully going forward it will help everyone involved to do things a little differently, including myself.
There is no one person to blame, no one parent, no one official, and again I really must thank all those who commented, called me, and the official that let me vent and gave me some good advice at a point where I was quite annoyed.
I will be doing ever I can to submit a couple of small rule requests for the 50 class, it is a class that has had the same fundamental rules for at least the past seven years from what I am told, maybe longer, yet the class and bikes in the class have changed in that time, the rules as a whole don't need to change, but could do with a little tweaking to help keep the cost down for parents, which is from my understanding why the basis of these rules come from.
I would not change anything about day six, but I can only say that 48 hours after the fact, at the time well the whole universe needed to be flipped lol.
Day 7: Things Really Get Emotional
With day six behind us, we headed into day seven, I still had a bit of an issue with the whole front sprocket cover, I was hoping it would not put me in a situation where I had to go and get mine back from the family we lent it to and put an end to their week or let them keep it and put an end to our week.
Luckily smarted heads prevailed, and it would not come to that, I never had to ask for it back. Then in a twist of fortunes, I walked back to my bike after being on track to take a few photos and bam there was a sprocket cover back on our bike.
It's funny how things work out and great to see the whole MX community pull together. There are some fantastic families we have met doing this event, and despite the ups and downs, I will be forever grateful for this week. It really would have sucked if the 50s were not at this event and I never came. I have already learned so much this week, and 90% of it has nothing to do with the racing or riding side of life!
I spent most of the day taking photos, Jay as he had done most days this week, played with his mates, watched some racing and we met up ready for his race.
Day seven was his third final; he was due up first race after lunch. He lined up, raced, rode very steady, but did not look like the kid on the bike I have been watching the past two or so months. I fully expected him to be last; sure we were hoping he might have a couple of riders to battle with at the back of the field, but that did not pan out, the kids here are all quick. He managed not to get lapped in two days earlier in the week, only just but he has done what he set out to achieve that day.
On day seven he was not close, he got lapped with about a quarter of a lap to go, and was lapped by four other riders, his lap times were some ten seconds slower than day one of racing. I knew something was up, but I had no idea what was bothering him and really had no idea of working out how to find out from him and I was about to learn a couple more big life lessons, from a seven-year-old.
After he came in, I talked to him about the race and how he was feeling. Like we do with his other sports or anything in life from things at school or home when he is not quite himself I tried to speak to him to get to the bottom of it, I tried everything but no matter what I said it was upsetting him. So I had to leave it, I knew something was up but trying to get to the bottom of it was not happening and only making him sad.
Jayden got changed and went and played with his mates; I jumped back behind the camera.
We could not leave the track straigt after racing as all the rider that made the finals were being awarded their medallions. So we decided to walk the track, and I let him talk and explain to me what he was doing on track, the lines he was taking, where he was breaking and accelerating.
The track was gnarly, some of the rusts were half as deep as he is tall, but he explained to me what he was doing and he let me talk to him about where I thought he was not doing what he had over the past couple of months, it was great and we were having a lot of fun talking, being silly and walking the track.
We got three straights in and reached the jump he crashed on during the final free practice session on his 65. It is a blind step up, where you can't see the down ramp until you are up and over the top of the second jump / down ramp.
He had crashed and finished up on the top of the downside during the final practice session, while he was able to quickly get out of the way, with no flaggy on that jump there was no warning for the other kids behind him, one jumped and landed on his bike, the next one then piled in. Luckily no one was hurt.
I asked him if he was jumping the jump, he said no. I asked him if he thought he could clear it, he said yes. I asked if he was going to jump it tomorrow, he said ill jump to the top of it.
So I asked why not over it; he looked at me and said, but dad what if someone is laying on the other side and I jump into them and hurt them! Yep, my seven-year-old son was not worried about the jump or crashing and injuring himself; he was worried that he might jump the jump and someone could be crashed on the down-ramp and he would hurt them, he is a great kid.
I turned to him and was about to say you don't have to worry about that; you will see the yellow flag before that happens. That is when I actually realised it was not a jump with a flag point; I looked up to the drop off before it, that also did not have a flag point, the nearest flag point was on the prior straight on a table top directly in line with this step up. I let him know that it was very unlikely that anyone would be there and if he wanted to jump it he should (He never ended up jumping during the week.)
I asked him if that is why he was not jumping like he had the past few weeks, he looked at me and said yes. It all made sense; I assured him that it was okay to jump like he knows he can and we moved on and continued to walk the track and had a great time. We made it three-quarters of the way around the track before the medallion presentation started.
The medallion presnentation was great, with every single rider receiving their award from none other than world Enduro champion Matthew Phillips. I can't explain how good it is, to have one of the world best riders who is still an active rider put in the work and effort that Phillips has put in this week. He has been there every day helping out on track. Picking up kids after crashes, having his photo taken with them, flagging. A true champion both on and off the track.
Now the day was not over and again I was not sure if I was going to put the below in this blog, but my plan was to document our travels and what a father and son go through in their first national event, and it just happened that a moment that could have happened on any father and son or father and daughter, or mother/son or Mother/daughter occurred on day seven of our trip to Tasmania.
As we were driving from the track heading back to our country farmhouse, Jayden looked at me through the rear view mirror and said, "I miss Millie" Millie is our dog that passed away just over 12 months ago, he then said I also miss Spice (our cat), I looked at him, and we spoke a bit about life and how animals die and how its part of life.
He was tired, it had been a long week so far, he then asked about his friends and if he would see them again when they go to a different school next year. I am always as honest as I can be with my kids and talked to him about how some friends he will stay in contact with, some he might not and some he might not see for years and year, but you may run into them again one day, and they will still be your friend.
It was quiet for a bit, he looked at me again and said: "Dad you know how when you look up at the clouds sometimes you see shapes and animals, I saw a cloud that looked like Millie, that is what made me sad."
I looked at him, he was still upset, and told him its ok to be sad, when your pets die. He said he missed Millie again and then started crying, looked at me again and said, dad one day you are going to die.
I won't lie, and I can't lie to my kids, I teared up, yep one day buddy, not for a long time, but one day. We talked some more and talked about this being the reason why we take these types of trips, why we have fun and why it is important to spend time with family and the people you love. We do the things we enjoy doing to create these memories while we can.
At this point we were close to the property we are stying at, I tried to lighten the mood, there were some sheep and cows on the two properties at the base of the hill that we pass every day. We either sing the Shaun the Sheep song every time we see sheep or after his school concert that was held on the Wednesday before we left, we carry on with a bit of "Beep Beep like a Sheep and Meow Meow like a Cow" seriously google the song you won't regret it :)
We pulled up at the house, grabbed him out from the back seat of the car and gave him the biggest hug. It had been an emotional 24 hours and a very emotional drive home from the track. Some of the best moments myself and Jayden have had are on the way home from a day of riding, and this was no different but one a much different level.
We headed inside, had a shower and headed out for the evening to have dinner with some friends at the pub, Jay had a ball, playing with the rest of the kids and his riding buddies. I watched on as a mate ate a $50 burger! A full steak, a chicken snitzel and bacon all in one burger then covered in mushroom gravy haha, it looked great.
Day 8: The Amazing Journey Continues
We are over a week deep into this trip, it has been an emotional rollercoaster, with most of the ups and downs coming off and away from the track, it is already a trip I will never forget.
It was a bit of a later start for us today. Jayden was not due to race until just before lunch, he had one race and the plan was to not shoot any photos today, spend the day with my boy, have his race and leave the track and spend the afternoon together. And after seven days we were out of clothes, I had no choice, I was going to have to do some washing!
We got to the track, he geared up, headed to the line for his sight lap and we talked about the things we had chatted about during the track walk the day prior. It was a little eariler in the day, so the track was a little slicker than the past two days, but all the ruts were still there, it was going to be interesting to see how he went.
From the moment he left the start line for the slight lap I knew it was going to be a different day on track. He held the throttle open all the way into the first turn; he jumped further on the first jump on the sighting lap than he had since the second day during qualifying.
With the slight lap nearly complete he headed up the final hill, there were some shin deep ruts like there have been all week long, he hit the outside line, his favoured line for the week. It was deep; it ripped his right leg clean off the pegs, it wrapped right around to the point where he was doing a full nac nac. He did not back off, kept the throttle open, gathered himself back up as his continued uphill and finished the lap. I was so pumped with what I had just seen, that was a save and a half.
He came back from his sight lap, we gave each other the thumbs up as he sat in the holding area, then as soon as we were allowed in, I went over told him what a great job he had done, we talked about a few spots on the track, about the save, which he was also pumped on. We then sat in the staging area while the race before his along with the next races sight lap all went down.
It was the first time this week I did not leave his side during that staging period to duck out and get some photos. I would generally run to the top of the jump next to the staging area, get the photos I needed for some work I am doing this weekend then head back. Today was different; I left the camera in the car, the day was just about us.
He got called up to pick his gate and went about prepping it himself, another thing that is different at a national compared to racing at home, its cool a thing. I walked his bike out handed to him, told him to remember what we had spoken about, fist bumped and told him good luck and bolted from the start line to the top of the hill near the final corner.
I watched the start from halfway up the hill, he was second to last into the first turn, and then quickly relegated to last.
But things were different, the boy in front of him was not getting away so quick, Jayden jumped to flat on the first little single, jumped further than he has all week on the second table top, sure he was still rolling into corners standing on his pegs, but that was fine, he was doing two of the three things we had talked about that could help him improve.
It still was not having a crack at the step up that he crashed on earlier in the week, again that was fine, but for the rest of the first lap he looked close to his usual self.
He rode passed me at the top of the hill as I cheered him on, he hit the finish line tabletop and launched, it was the hardest he hit it all week, the front end dropped as he three quarter jumped it, I thought he was going down but nope he had it covered and headed to the outside of the next turn.
I had been telling him to use that line all week, but he hadn't today was probably not the time to start listening to me lol, the outside line it was wet clay and was like ice! His front wheel headed up towards the top of the berm; his back wheel was sliding in the opposite direction, he looked as though he was turning hard right in a left-hand turn. Again he pulled it all together, jumped the final jump and held it pinned down the start straight.
I looked at the live timing, he was 50 seconds down on the leader at the end of lap one, and 16 seconds down on the rider in second to last, but was riding very well. Not all but the majority of the kids in front of him are 12 - 18 months older, some were the same age, either way, he was doing a great job.
He continued to ride well; I was watching him and then watching the race leader Cooper Downing, trying to gauge if Jayden was going to get lapped. As Jayden neared the end of the second straight, I got the stopwatch out and starting timing the gap back to the leader who was coming fast. I knew he would need about 50 seconds from the start line, so if he had at least 40 seconds from where he was, he should be safe.
The lead rider got to the same point on track as I started timing at the 50 second mark, Jayden should be safe, he was going to stay on the lead lap, but it was still getting close, it was like day one all over again, there were parents at the bottom of the hill near the finish line cheering on their child as they were heading for the win, while I was at the top probably just as excited to see that Jay was going to stay on the lead lap.
I would say the majority of the parents were doing the same all cheering on their rider as they pushed towards their goal, or were charging through the field after a crash or bad start.
In the end, Jayden made it with a good 15 seconds to spare, while his lap times were not any better than his first race three days ago, he had made up 15 seconds to the lead, which was a big improvement.
He came in from the track, it was the first time since early in the week he came in sweating and looking like he was a little spent, he was back to being himself on track, and I could not have been more proud of the effort he had put in.
We were not walking away with a win, in fact we were walking away in last place, but that did not matter, from the outset this trip has been about the experience, sure we had goals, and he had hit some of them, but the effort he put in today was great, the self-satisfaction on his face when he pulled off his helmet was great to witness.
As we planned we left the track straight after his race, we needed some time away from the track after a long week, we still have one final big day tomorrow where ill spend all day on track shooting the final races, and he will line up to see if he can once again stay on the lead lap and get just that little bit closer to the next rider in the field.
We had another fantastic afternoon, getting some washing done, watching some Danger Boy Deegan youtube video's then a quick Brian Deegan feature ( I thought he should know just how good Dangerboy's dad was as well) played a little table tennis.
When our housemates arrived home, Jayden, Chole and Dale headed across the road to the dairy farm. We had run into the local farmer earlier in the week, and he took us on a bit of a tour, and we watched the cows cross from one paddock to another. He had invited us to check out the cows being milked this arvo. The lady who works for him was great, showing us how things worked, Dale had a go at putting the milking apparatus on the cow. Jayden was just missed getting covered from head to toe in cow urine by half a step lol. It was a close call that had us all laughing way too hard.
The kids then got to pat a couple of calves that have been born very recently, followed by tasting some real organic fresh milk from the Vat. We were then lucky enough to head further down the farm to meet Dusty the dog and seven cool little piglets.
Chatting to the lovely lady running the farm, we got talking about bikes, turns out she used to race when she was younger and was planning on bringing the grandkids out to watch some racing on the final day. Having a bit of a chat was cool. She then gave us some fresh carrots from the garden bed and drove us back in the UTV to our house where the carrots got added to our dinner plans.
It has been an amazing couple of days, with so much going on. Bring on day 9; lets see where this adventure takes us next :)
Day 9: Its All Over
The final day of what has been a long but enjoyable week. Getting Jayden out of bed this morning was not easy, to be honest, I could have easily laid in bed all day, but with one race left it was time to get up.
Jay was not keen to ride, it has been a long week, the ride yesterday was great, but he is just not used to rocking up to a track, riding once for a total of ten minutes then packing up for the day. He is the type of kid that will rock up to a track on a practice day, ride until he is called in, fuel up and go again. It is not unusual for him to clock up over two hours of ride time on a practice day.
We headed to the track, he was still not keen to ride, we unpacked I was hoping he would change his mind, but he was still not keen. I sat him on my lap and told him I would not force him to ride, but this might be the last time he gets to ride this track, at the same time his little buddy from SA, Levi pulled up to the pit tent. Jay looked at me and said I want to ride.
He has really enjoyed the track here at Penguin, and I know he would have regretted not riding the final race and finishing off the week, so I was more than happy when he changed his mind.
I told him to go out and have some fun, don't worry about anything but enjoying the track if you get lapped you get lapped.
So that is what he did, he went out and raced the final race, he finished last by a fair margin, got lapped early in his third lap, but he finished what he started and for that I could not be more proud.
With racing over we watched on as a few fellow South Aussies tried their hardest to land on the podium or take a championship win.
Alex Larwood was able to win both his 125cc and Junior Lites classes, so it meant a quick photo shoot with his number 1 plated Yamaha machines. It was kind of a fitting end to the year of racing, Jayden was with me before the season started with a pre-season photo shoot with the SA Junior Yamaha line up, and here we were shooting a championship winning photo for the same team.
With everything done and dusted we headed down to the Trophy presentation, it was a great way to round out the full experience of our first Junior National Championships.
Overall it was an experience we will never forget.
It was a busy week looking after Jayden and his racing and shooting the event for Fullnoise, Yamaha and capturing some on-track action for my fellow South Aussie families that helped me to no end across the course of the event.
We learned a heck of a lot both on and off the track, and we can't wait for the 2019 event.
Next years event will be a completely different experience. There will be no travel involved with the Gillman track situated just ten minutes from home, we will sleep in our own beds each night, will know the track, and I will reduce the number of images I take.
To everyone, we have met, crossed paths with or just gave us a reassuring nod as we passed by thank you. To the club, the helpers and all the officials thank you.
While the event is over, and this blog is about to come to an end, We still have three big days of cleaning up and travel ahead of us before one day to recover and back to the full-time job.
Its been a blast and I would not change one thing about the experience, bring on the 2019 AJMX in both the 50cc and 65cc 7-U9yr classes.
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