Mt Taylor Race Review



Saturday morning began with a bacon and egg roll and a fresh coffee thanks to the fantastic Kanooka Tree Cafe and Stuart Derham’s Main Hotel catering that was available at the event. Everyone had their eye on Mt Beauty Shredder Liam Panozzo’s new bike, the Melbourne manufactured JezKen, which is the only bike of its kind. Practice was off to a slow start as most riders were quite surprised with the level of difficulty of the course. Some of the features drew the attention of the Official MTBA Commasaires, Rider Representative and Race Director who all decided to eventually bunt off the ‘Monster’ 11.3 metre double at the bottom of the course however the 5metre and 8metre long jumps were still available for riders to get there huck on! The technical rock sections had many a rider talking at the bottom of the course. The now infamous ‘Cabbage Patch’ section claimed untold riders over the weekend with many having to link a blind corner into a drop and then into a step down all in the middle of a 40m rock garden (once again proving that eating vegetables can has its consequences).

As Saturdays practice unfolded the track began to show increased signs of wear and tear. As the course has not been ridden very often there were a lot of areas that blew out. This made the steeper top half of the course one long continuous technical section which required complete concentration to maintain control of your bike. This is where I spent a lot of time on the side of the course watching how different riders approached the sections and it appeared that the majority of riders were finding it difficult to maintain a consistent pace. The top 7 meter double caught a few riders out and claimed a number of rear wheels including one new Dee Max wheel from iRide sponsored rider Ben Davies. At 12 years old local rider Louis Armitage was hitting the big jumps, looking fast and was even showing up riders who were twice his age, but unfortunately a heavy crash at the end of Saturdays practice at the bottom of the ‘Rock n Roller’ would see him airlifted from Bairnsdale to the Royal Children’s Hospital with a severely broken wrist. We’ll see Louis make a return to riding with a noticeable flair we’re sure. Thank you to our professional medics – Life Aid for looking after our downed riders.

The overall organisation of the event was outstanding. Where would this sport be without the volunteers that provide the many services from registration, uplift shuttles, timing and course marshalling? Special mention goes to Gippsland MTB who hosted their first ever major event and the Department of Sustainability and Environment for providing this fantastic venue to race. Nick King, who is one of the VDHS Coordinators has spent months gaining support from the local community to setup the event. The commitment and dedication that he has given to this sport showed with the facilities that were available to the riders. A road racing cyclist from NSW was at the event as a spectator and he was amazed at how friendly the riders were with each other. He explained that at the road and track events that he competes in all the riders are out to kill each other, not offering support or advice to anyone. We are all so lucky to be involved in such a sport and to have the respect from each and every rider makes it so much more amazing.


I was excited to ride on Sunday. The track was extremely blown out in sections and the technicality had been raised. This is the way Australian downhill mountain bike courses should be. We don’t have the large mountains and damp loamy soil that our northern hemisphere tracks can offer, so the more blown out the course, the more at home I feel. Some riders were now looking closely at the track and were able to find lines away from the large dusty ruts that formed throughout the weekend. This was to be a big advantage for most as it smoothed out the course and made braking and cornering a lot easier. However riding the main rut was the only option at times and this allowed for some wild drifting and on the edge moments. The shuttle transport was running smoothly and all the riders were able to get more than enough early practice runs. I took some time to study the ‘Cabbage Patch’ rock garden and unfortunately I saw some of the worst crashes of the season occur. Thankfully no one was seriously injured but it did reinforce the fact that mistakes in this sport can be costly.

After having a break and watching the crashes in the rock gardens I was beginning to feel a little nervous about my race run. There were quite a few riders now wearing body armour. Like most riders I just wanted to have a great weekend riding with my friends and hopefully being able to end it with a good result in my category. It took quite a large amount of confidence and skill to hit the A lines fast as riders in each category would later demonstrate these in front of the spectators. The iRide Under 17’s class has been very exciting this season and for good reason. These boys are always riding on the limit and seem to be quite competitive with each other. iRide sponsored downhiller James Carter has been dominating the season so far but he found the track challenging, coming in third which opened the door for Trent Piribauer (second) and Dean Lucas who would take first place by 2 seconds with a 4:22.2. The crowd was then ready or the TeKin Suspension Under 19’s class. This too is a class full of riders pushing the limits. Many have risen like phoenix’s from the younger age categories and have now learned great techniques for racing DH. Yarra Valley Cycles sponsored Michael Bourne has been spending more time on the motorbike than his DH bike but was able to still take third place for the weekend, but the real contest in this category is between two other riders. KONA/Mavic/Adidas sponsored Ben ‘Manimal’ Barrett and TeKin Suspension/Fox Racing Shox/Swift Strength and Conditioning/Berettas Bike Hub sponsored Aden ‘Mandrake’ Wyber have been so close all season. This has lead to some exciting racing in this category and has created a somewhat ‘friendly’ revelry between the two. Ben lives locally and has helped with the track planning leading up to the event but local knowledge counted for little after the track blew out more and more. Ben was able to get a highly respectable time of 4:03.0 but the freakish talent of Aden would see this time tested as Aden crossed under the finish arch with a 4:02.4 to amazingly take the win by six tenths of a second.

The KONA Elite Men and Women were up next and they are always most exciting to watch. Some of the riders in this class would be quite at home on the International circuit and others are just plain crazy. In the women’s class it is impossible to not notice Yarra Valley Cycle rider Leonie ‘Rabbit’ Picton. Rabbit is the current Victorian Downhill Champion and will take out the overall with enough points left to hand out to other riders! Rabbit is amazing to watch and usually takes most of the A-lines where her nearest rivals dare not go. She qualified with a time of 5:00 but unfortunately crashed in her race run coming across the line with a 5:26, handing the win to Shelley Kamevaar who posted a deserving 5:22.9.

The top dog category in the series is the KONA Elite Men class and with 25 registered riders at Mt Taylor it was set to be another exciting afternoon of racing. Unfortunately by the time the racing come around, this dropped to 16 riders after some injuries and broken bikes. The course was beat up and very blown out by this stage as the last riders came down the hill. Liam ‘Laidback’ Panozzo qualified first with a fast 4:16 on the new JezKen downhill race machine and the competition would be fierce in an attempt to better this time to take the KONA Hot Seat. Local favourite and partner to Leonie Picton, Michael “Mega” Watt was looking great all weekend. Mega had a few lines in some areas that no one else was riding and was desperate for a good race run. He sometimes lives in the shadow of his girlfriend but managed to bust out a fantastic time of 4:17 which would finally see him beat his girlfriend at an event and take 5th place on the KONA Elite podium. ‘Sticky’ Ricky Clarke was also looking on form for the entire weekend and was looking fast as he crossed the line… much so that he rode all the way to his car and left the event without checking his result which was 4th overall! Yarra Valley Cycles rider Alex ‘Slasher’ Swann has been in form lately with a 2nd at the Victorian Downhill Championships and he was looking to go one better now that KONA sponsored rider Josh ‘AWOL’ Button was missing in action. Also looking equally strong throughout the weekend was Jesse Beare on his new Norco Team DH. Jesse is now riding for Norco and is finally on a decent ride and coming from Cairns he was at home in the dry and dusty conditions. Jesse was also able to beat Alex Swann with the new bike with a quick time of 4:08.9. With Jesse in the KONA Hot Seat and comfortably beating Liam Panozzo’s qualifying time, would he be able to stay on the top position? Liam was looking great all weekend and his new bike is working well for him. The project engineered JezKen really performs well with his style of riding and his blistering sub 4 minute final time of 3:58.7 proved it. It was amazing to see someone get less then 4:00 minutes on a course which was so difficult.

After the results were announced and the champagne sprayed it was great to see another very successful event in the season calendar. Congratulations go to all of the category winners and all of the riders who showed up to the event. Thanks once again to all the volunteers and the support teams behind the event. Thank you to the event sponsors KONA, TeKin Suspension, Yarra Valley Cycles, iRide Bikes, Gravity Sports, Mallard Cycles, Trailmix, YVC/Evo Cycles, Mountain Bike Pics Online and Swearwords. With Round 5 of the KONA Victorian Downhill Mountain Bike Series at Mt Beauty just around the corner we should have enough time to repair our bikes and let the bruises and cuts heal.

See you all at the ‘Big Hill’ – Mt Beauty on the 9th and 10th of April! For more information visit