Extreme biking: Air Force come back to earth

March 14, 2001

For the third year running the call went out for extreme bikers in the MONT 24-hour Australian Mountain Bike Race - and more than ever riders responded.

When the mountain bike event first ran in 1999, it attracted 180 competitors, with 650 riders turning up.

However, October 2001 saw 960 competitors return to Deeks Forest, Canberra to ride in a number of categories ranging from solo, to competing in teams of 10.

Course length is approximately 21 kms of forest trails and tracks, with approximately 900 feet of climbing in each lap, 65 per cent of the course is single track, which makes for quite a technical course.

The MONT 24hr is a competitive event, but the underlying theme and purpose of the event is to encourage teamwork, mateship and sportsmanship.

Last year saw RAAF Richmond field three teams comprising of a 10-person corporate team, Black Ops, and two six-person teams, Air Force One (male) and RAAF Red (mixed).

Corporal Rob Plant led Black Ops out on the first lap, with the strengths as a sprinter and a strong bunch rider. Standouts also included Leading Aircraftman Karl Petrovic, Corporal Paul Gallaway and Corporal Geoff Sanders.

Leading Aircraftman Reynaldo Maume dug deep and put in a scorching lap, apparently never changing gear down from his big ring.

Team tactics became critical and SGT Anthony Core answered the call with a fantastic effort on the finishing lap.

RAAF Red Team was headed into battle by Flight Sergeant Mark 'Destroyer' Bland with a scorching run and first lap.

Sergeant Mick Calleja pulled out a sizzler, passing the baton to Leading Aircraftwoman Stacey Cook and Corporal Kylie Knowles for a couple of outstanding laps.

Corporal Mick 'Hammer' Van der vlist bought the team home in quick time for the team's fist round.

'I returned from a lap and had a chance to see everyone's face at the camp, either people too awake to sleep or too asleep to be awake. Anyway, there were many blank stares,' said FSGT Bland.

Team Air Force One was lead out by Flight Officer Tim Floyd. Leading Aircraftman Tom Blackburn, followed with Leading Aircraftman Andrew Meadows next, who maintained the team's consistent times.

Leading Aircraftman Nathan Leins was then given the chance to prove that age can be an advantage, with the fastest lap across the three teams.

At the end of the event all members agreed that their goals had been reached and they'll be back next year.

All teams would like to thank the support and sponsorship they received from the RAAF Richmond Welfare Committee, Blackman's Cycles Penrith, 386ECSS Transport, Warehouse Camp Store, Defcredit and No. 1 Combat Communications Squadron.

Story by Mick Calleja