GALLERY: ‘Dialed in’ for first Grand Prix race | PHOTOS

MOUNTAIN bike riding is seen by many as a tough and unforgiving sport for young men.  It isn’t.

Last Saturday, 270 competitors turned out for Round One in the 2015 Shimano MTB Grand Prix series.

Forty women took part in the events, a 4-hour ride or a 7-hour ride, and about a dozen local mountain bike riders pitted themselves against some of the best in the sport.

Paula Gresham, from Newcastle, was there wearing her “race face”.

“I think if I’ve got my pink lipstick and pink fingernails, I’m good to go.

“It can be frightening but it’s growing for women and it’s my passion to get more women into the sport,” she said.

Kids were there, too, admiring pieces of machinery that were truly a thing of engineering beauty, valued between $3000 and $10,000 each.

Teams raced for charity, among them the Pedal 4 Pierce trio of Jamie Ingram, Belinda Wren and Nigel Jefferys, from Canberra.

“We’re raising awareness for the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation and we’re riding for kids who can’t,” Belinda said.

The serious riders, and there were a lot of them, were dressed for success in fluorescent lycra as bright as the sun as it rose over the sandstone hills of Baerami.

Graeme Scott, general manager and senior wine maker at James Estate Winery, designed the trail.

“I couldn’t find anywhere to ride,” he said, “so I designed and built this one.”

“It’s a fantastic turnout and I hope the riders enjoy it because I think it’s a good track, the trails are raw and rough but it’s still got a lot of flow and it will keep everyone on their toes,” Mr Scott said.

Ron Gorbould, 63, travelled from St Clare near Penrith with Peter Robinson to take part in the ride.

“I think it’s the camaraderie here, you know, because you’ve got professional teams that are riding really quick, but no one forces you off the track.

“The professionals respect you, they say, ‘Coming through, let us pass when you can,’ so it’s a really nice ride, everyone’s good,” Mr Gorbould said.

Speed, endurance and defensive riding are the hallmarks of top mountain bike riders.

In the 4-hour ride, Tom Patten riding in the Solo 24-29 Male category, recorded the fastest lap time of 22 minutes and 41 seconds and completed his 10 laps in 4 hours 10 minutes and 39 seconds.

In the 7-hour Solo ride, Andrew Finlayson, completed 16 laps in 7 hours 14 minutes 37 seconds.

In the minutes leading up to the 9am start Martin Wisata, director of race organiser Rocky Trail Entertainment, and Michael Tomalaris, SBS sports presenter, joked with the teams before letting them go.

The colour and crash helmets that disappeared down the James Estate gravel road were remarkable to watch.

Christine Scott, wife of trail builder Graeme Scott, watched them go and prepared herself for the long day ahead.

“All the out-of-towners can’t believe the stars at night and they can’t believe how beautiful it is being surrounded by the Wollemi National Park and riding through the vineyards.

“Mountain biking is a growing sport but it’s also a growing part of the tourism industry and the local economies of Denman and Sandy Hollow are benefitting from them being here,” Ms Scott said.