Sunday, December 25, 2011

Cannondale Flash Carbon 29er Ultimate Review

You have the website picture....

That awkward moment when you pull it out of the box and you realise that you can't ride it for another half hour.

Bike lust shot. The bike always looks great when it is brand new and never ridden. If you can't look #PRO on this bike then nothing is going to help you.

ENVE wheelset. Bling.

Inches. Stated. Excellent use of white accents.

Canberra arboretum - great views of Lake Burley Griffin and a Flash 29er Ultimate.

Mad balance point for a 29er. Allows you do do monos and breathe through your nose. Fully #PRO.

I just did a 3 hour MTB ride and I am not even tired. Thankyou Flash Carbon Ultimate 29er.

Ultimate. The best. Really awesome. Top Quality. 
Big words. A big call also. There are a lot of really good bikes out there, so it takes a lot to lay claim to being 'ultimate'.

The Cannondale Flash Carbon 29er ultimate lays claim to that tag with its solid parts build and amazing ride quality. Keep reading if you have full control of your hand to wallet functions. Keep reading if you are a bit of a tech head. Keep reading if you need convincing that your bike is inadequate and you need something better. Keep reading if..... well you get the drift.

I picked up the box from Lonsdale Street Cyclery on friday. Al from Cannondale had expedited this for me from the last shipment. I have had my eye on this bike for quite a while. Most importantly from the get go, it looks bling. So your confidence whilst riding is going to be sky high. I had the bike put together that same night and took it for the obligatory driveway, gutter, and street test. All good.

Out of the box, we have a 8.5kg 29er. That is not too bad. Subtle understatement. That is with tubes still installed. You also get Sram XX, Enve 29er carbon XC wheelset and bars, Cannondale Hollowgram cranks, one piece integration stem, Cannondale Save seatpost, Fizik Tundra 2 carbon saddle. Superb parts spec that arguably, can not be beaten.

But, that counts for not a lot as what I am after is speed off road. The clock is the only metric that I am really interested in. The flash 29er ultimate does not disappoint. I like a bike to be light, agile, flickable and stable at speed. A few of these are often opposites in what is able to be engineered into a bike.In order to achieve these attributes there are a few key items that are required: Light weight components. Frame - light, fork - light, wheels - light, parts  - light. Absolutely dialled geometry. Ok we are fully sorted there.

What counts very importantly is the ride quality and stiffness. Stiffness is what I will discuss first. The wheels are amazingly stiff. You have the bulletproof ENVE rims. 380grams of carbon configured for strength. So much so that the Santa Cruz DH team use these rims. That's ultimate peace of mind right there. There is a high likelihood that these rims could be passed down through your family over time. They also have DT Swiss Aerolite spokes. You essentially have a spoke that has been cold forged to a wicked wind slicer. More importantly though, for a 29er it makes the wheels super stiff. The 3x lacing pattern allows for a little bit of give, plus ultimate strength with 32 spokes. The spokes are white also, which is pretty #PRO. The DT240 rear hub has legendary status employing the optimal Hugi ratchet mechanism.

If you have not had the opportunity to take a lefty for a spin, then do yourself a favour and try one out. They are as stiff as a 7 inch dual clamp downhill fork. I can attest to that. Point and shoot. They are also about 2-300 grams (at least) lighter than a standard fork. Light and stiff, why would you not want that? In a 29er it is even more apparent when these attributes are lacking. The fork also has the amazing rockshox hydraulic lockout. I rely on the lockout feature constantly on a ride or a race. Smooth fireroad, out of the saddle smashfests, efficient climbing. The remote lockout allows me to get at it a lot easier and quicker. It is small things like this that can save you vital energy. You can also set the 'floodgate' to temper the amount of force required to push through the lockout. This allows you to really fine tune the suspension feeling of the ride depending on the course requiremens. Sometimes it's the small things that enhance the experience.

The junction between the seat tube and the bottom bracket is fully optimised for stiffness. This is ovalized at the junction to create a huge amout of lateral rigidity. I do believe that this junction is more ovalised on the 29er than the 26er. With the standard BB30 bottom bracket that Cannondale pioneered, you have amazing power transfer. If that wasn't enough you have the ultimate lightweight stiff Hollowgram cranks. You get absolutely no loss of energy in your pedalling due to the entire package working in harmony. When you pedal this setup for the frist time, you realise how much flex is apparent in other systems.

Stiffness is all well and good but trails aren't smooth as freshly laid hotmix. Vertical compliance. Such an easy term to say, just rolls off the tongue! So how much VC do we have. In conjunction with the SAVE seatpost, and wickedly tuned seatstays and chainstays you get up to 3cm of vertical movement on a hardtail. When you push down on the seat with your hands, you can see the amount of flex that the seatpost offers. The chainstays and seatstays do the same sort of thing which assists to smooth out the trail. It is not a dual suspension bike, but for a hardtail it makes a 100km race bearable and allows you to continue putting out the power in the 4th hour.

I have been riding Cannondales exclusively for the last 2 years. The Flash Carbon 26er MTB and SuperSix road bike have been my tools of the trail and road. The geometry of the Cannondales is perfect, it is like the bike is an extension of the body. You do not have to think much in order to pilot the bike, again, this saves energy. I can take my hands off the bars on the road bike descending at 80km/hr down Mt Ainslie. No speed wobbles. The Flash MTB has dialled every A-line on any course that I have raced on - big call, but skills aside, I do believe that the bike has made a huge positive difference in my ability to ride tricky terrain. The geometry engineered by Cannondale inspires confidence. But why and how?

With the 29er you have the following numbers.
  • Head Angle - 71 degrees, 
  • Seat angle - 73.5 degrees,
  • Top Tube - 23.3 inches (medium)
  • Wheelbase 43.2 inches
  • BB height - 11.9 inches
  • Front Centre (BB to front hub) - 26.1 inches
  • Bottom Bracket drop - 2.6 inches
Ultimately, these are the numbers where the magic happens. A nice steeper head angle (ie higher number) allows you to actually use rider input to 'steer' the larger wheels more easily. This is evident in tight switchbacks. Steeper numbers allow for easier turning of the bars. This sort of number on a 26 would be considered 'twitchy', however, on a 29er, it offsets the larger wheels' inertia and resistance to turn easily and it feels sublime. You just don't think about it and that is the point.

The seat angle at 73.5 positions you nicely over the cranks and BB. A steeper number assists with climbing as it positions your weight more forward over the bike to weight the front wheel whilst climbing. Importantly for a 29er, it also places you 'in' the bike which is the sweet spot zone for this sort of bike.

The wheelbase is a product of the extra chainstay length required by the larger wheels as well as the longer top tube (23.3 vs 23 -- 29 to 26). What you get here is supreme stability on descents. The longer the bike, the more stable it is. The shorter the bike, the more twitchy it is (but easier to do tight radius turns). Normally you would expect a bike this long to steer like a tank. But this is where cannondale have it dialled. The BB height. I have ridden 26er hardtail frames with a higher BB drop than this! 11.9 is wickedly low for a 29er, and coupled with the BB drop of 2.6 inches, it means that the bike sits really low. Why is this good? Well, the lower you are the easy it is to 'lean' the bike over.Your centre of gravity is lower and if you lean a bike through turns you can go faster. Simple!

If you truly 'ride' the bike, you will be comfortable with leaning the bike and weighting the outside pedals to make the outer knobs of the tyres actually do what they are supposed to. The Cannondale Flash 29er facilitates this by placing the key points of the bottom bracket (ie, the bike's centre of gravity) as low as possible between the wheels. This translates into a riding feel where you can lean the bike from the hips down, keeping the upper body upright and in control of the bike in any corner or situation.

The front centre - distance from BB to front hub is the exact same measurement between 26er and 29er. If you stop and think about it, this is where you are making the bike 'do things'. All the rider input is pretty much happening in this zone. They say that cycling is a sport of numbers, and it all starts with the bike. You can have great unique numbers, but if you don't get the whole package right, then you're struggling with certain attributes of the ride. In addition, like with anything, geometry is a compromise. What is a great climbing bike is most likely pretty much a handful at descending and vice versa. Cannondale manages to combine sensational attributes that prioritise bike handling, but do not compromise other attributes such as climbing or descending.

OK, so words are great in theory, but how does it go in a 2 wheel drift? I can't answer that just yet, because, I have to admit, that I am back as the weakest link on this bike. I think also, that it will take a LOT to make this machine drift. I do pride myself on my technical ability and keen eye for a great line on the trail. The Cannondale Flash 26er is the most awesome bike with regard to bike handling, but the 29er ultimate version has just beaten it big time. I purposely went out on my first ride with the intent to ride it like I stole it with little regard for anything but the need for speed. (insert Goose and Maverick soundbite here!)

There is a bit of trail at Bruce Ridge that always puts a smile on my face. When you reach the corner of GDE and Barry Drive, (going anti-clockwise) there are just tonnes of switchbacks, of varying radii that are just a dream to ride. They get a bit of traffic and have some interesting grooves that change constantly. It is not a pure handful but pretty tricky to piece together a 'perfect' run where you just nail them all. So I went and nailed them all, first go on the bike. No way!! Back up round to the front. Yep, nailed it again. At this stage I was getting goosebumps - it wasn't cold and I wasn't dehydrated. I was just pretty excited as I started thinking ahead to all the trails that I could attack a lot faster now.

My next ride was out on the infamous World Cup course at Stromlo. Cardiac Climb, hammerhead, drops, rocks, turns. 7 minutes of verifying whether you can actually ride and pilot a bike over technical terrain. I was loving the bike climbing cardiac. This is a small brute of a climb. It is really hard to get traction. The racing ralph tyres worked with the 29er to get me up here. The next drop in was so easy. I reckon someone has fixed this runout. But maybe the bike made it a doddle. The switchbacks leading up to hammerhead are really tricky at the moment. To be fair, it has just rained, and the lines are just hard to get. I got through them, but need a couple more days to dial them in. They will get a bit of traffic over them in january and february in the lead up to the national round in february. 

Rolling over the boulders in the run in to hammerhead was probably as close to cheating as I could go on a bike. I thought this machine was a XC bike. It feels more like a DH bike. So stable,  I could nail my lines however I wanted to. This bit requires precision as you don't have much room to play with and rocks always like to throw you off line and bounce you into the bushes. When a bike is this stable over tech areas it inspires confidence. After rolling over the last rock lead in line, I trickled over and down hammerhead before rolling around to the triple drop. 1,2,3. drops in a row, way more easy than I have ever done these before, then up to the DH bridge for a gel. 

I haven't done this trail since early 2010 I think, so was a bit rusty technically, but I got through it all. When I get a few more runs through it, I will be attacking sections in a different way than I have done before. The bike inspires confidence and constantly assures you that you are in control and able to get it to go where you want it to. It does feel different through here than a 26er. You notice the extra length in the wheelbase through tight uphill rocky switchbacks, but you adjust the line to suit. It really comes into its own over the numerous rocks through this trail and helps you get over them a lot easier.

'Feel' is one thing, but what does the stopwatch think? I have a standard climb that I do from my front yard that climbs Mount Ainslie via a mixture of singletrack, steep fireroad and bitumen. I am happy if I get 25 minutes flat, with a tailwind the majority of the way. A 24:38 is my fastest time on the 26er. So when I get a 24:15, first go on the bike I've got to think that something is going well. So next day I get back on the 26er. Yep I am having a 'fast' week but still a good 20 seconds off. Why is this? The climb includes some open fast descents as well as tight singletrack climbing rough rocky trails. The fireroads are steep - you are down into the easiest gear in sections. The 29er just takes speed better through this particular track's entire attributes. Horses for courses. For reference, this track is what you would expect for a marathon type course. Tick that box if you are solely into these sorts of races.

Thinking back to the last 2 months of short track racing courses and I have come to the conclusion that this bike will also excel in these sorts of races. If you know how to take speed through corners (essential in short track) then you will be able to take advantage of the easy speed attainable and sustainable with the super stiff wheelset, frame, forks, and crank - essentially the Cannondale System Integration concept. 

For pure XC I still think that it will work. For XC you mainly need light weight. You are out of the saddle, pressing out of corners, up rises trying to eke out every second you can. The weight of the wheels will always be the limiter for a 29er. 1450grams for the ENVE 29er wheels is heavier than the 1250 grams of my stans 26er wheels. I could go for some Stans 29er wheels at 1350 grams, but I will lose stiffness there, no question. I will have to report back on this as it is just not known right now. I do think it will be swings and roundabouts and the good old compromise situation again.

So, can you buy legalised cheating? Drugs are bad mmkay, so your next option is to train hard, eat well and become a disciple of the sport. That is good and if you do that then I hope I am not racing against you. Do you crave for the best bike that will make you faster? Tick that box. I worked out that I spend up to 20 hours a week on the bike. That is more than I spend watching TV, driving a car, and just about anything else. So it makes sense to throw hard earned cash at a quality 'experience' that you spend so much time at. You have got to enjoy every minute of your 'activity' time. It is precious. Do you just wish you could get one bike that allowed you to stop craving after other bikes. Tick that box. I felt this way about my 26er when I first got it. I have had it now for 2 years. That is a world record for me. I have been racing since 1989 and have been through well over 30 bikes. You get the point. Cannondales have always been the ones that I have had the longest in my collection.

I have had the following Cannondales - SVDH4000 - wicked downhill bike that Myles Rockwell and Missy Giove piloted back in the mid 90s, Cannondale Six and Super Six road bikes, Flash Carbon 26er, Hardtail M1000 (1992). The ride qualities are always great and they push the boundaries with regard to engineering ability. You do pay more at the point of sale than other brands, however, you will not regret it once you are out on the trail or road. Bear in mind that this is where it really counts.
The Flash 29er ultimate is truly 'ultimate'. You will be the weakest link. But you will be faster! 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cannondale for 2012 - Flash 29er Ultimate

Great news for 2012. Cannondale Australia are on board as title sponsor for all my racing. I am really honoured to be a part of this professional team. The bikes for 2012 are just the ultimate in desirability and ride extremely well. Flash Carbon MTB and EVO road bike will be the 2 wheeled weapons of choice.

On friday I picked up my 2012 Flash 29er Ultimate. This is a lot of bike. I personally can't remember when I never had to swap parts out on a new bike. I am going to keep this thing absolute stock and not change a thing.

Sram XX, ENVE wheels and bars, Cannondale Hollowgram cranks, Cannondale OPI stem, Schwalbe Racing Ralph tyres - ultimate set up.

I will do up a review shortly as there is a lot happening with how this bike is put together and how it actually rides. I have been riding the Flash 26er for the last 2 years and have a lot of miles on it and a lot of understanding of how good that bike is.

First ride impressions. I purposely went out with the intent to hit my standard trails as hard and fast as I could. I then got that awkward feeling where I realiised that I was once again the weakest link and that the trails now have new benchmarks with regard to speed to be set.

Weight: 8.5kgs out of the box for a medium...... with tubes.

Obilgatory bike lust shot - brand new never ridden

Canberra Arboretum to take in the views of Lake Burley Griffin- between Black Mountain and Stromlo.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

perks of #PROness - McLaren SL4

This was at Lonsdale Street Cyclery yesterday.
Specialized SL4 McLaren. Not in production just yet.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Full week of training, racing and bike testing leading up to a 3 hour MTB race

Days riding: 5
Total races: 3
Total hours riding/racing: 16
Total distance: 450km
Total podiums: 2
Beaten by a singlespeeder: 1
Ok, so that is the executive summary of this week. Road Criterium Wednesday. MTB criterium Thursday, 3 hour MTB Sunday, plus training on the other days.
Tuesday morning I did 6 Strength Endurance Stromlo Hills. I was nicely energised by a massive BBQ on Sunday with the most awesome food, I mainly remember the lasagne and the sticky date pudding. I'm still thinking about this food now, it was that good.
Wednesday morning I rolled around the flat parts of Canberra for an easy 70km before work.
Wednesday night I raced the Canberra Road criterium at Stromlo forest park. The Australian Track team had the same idea and so did 51 riders for A grade. The pace was super high and the racing was really interesting with a couple of the track boys going off the front and holding it for the 1-2. The sprint for 3rd was down to those left in the bunch. I finished somewhere just outside the top ten.
Thursday night I raced the MTB dirt crits at Majura. Dry conditions made for fast racing. The course included one of the most lumpy uninspiring bits of singletrack that exists out there. We all battled through this bit then ramped it up to 40km/hr on the fireroad before hitting some superfast singletrack that featured two wheel drift corners to keep you sharp. Dylan Cooper turned up on his singlespeed and worked on some leg speed to take the win. I got 2nd followed by Mark Tupalski and Brad Morton.
Saturday I did the bakery bunch then rolled Cotter Uriarra with the Solo boys for a nice round figure of 150km in about 4 hours.
Sunday was the CORC 3 hour race at Majura. This ended up being a really tough little course. The heavens opened up early in the morning and made everything pretty greasy as Majura is a nice clay based soil, and has many roots and rocks to slip up an unexpecting rider. However, after the first lap the sun came out and in the pine forest sauna the track dried out.
For this race I was on the Cannondale Flash Carbon 29er. This is a 9kg weapon that can roll and roll as well as accelerate when need be. The beauty of this bike is that it is the exact same geometry as my 26er. So all you have to do is jump on and pedal. I had done a bit of testing with the bike in the last couple of months but had never actually raced it. This is really the true test of a bike as it will show you where any limitations are at.

The Cannondales are well known for having superb geometry that enhances the ride experience. The lower bottom bracket allows you to rail corners so much more easily, which saves energy down the track. Majura has lots of corners: tight, twisty, flowy, non flowy and you are constantly moving the bike around getting lines dialled then redialled. With 3 hours of a 98% singletrack course you get to hit up the corners a lot. So it does pay to have a bike that assists you. 

I did put a set of superwide bars on the night before. I think they are about 67cm wide. This allows me to throw the bigger wheels around a little more like the 26er. 

So, back to the 3 hour. Ed MCDonald, Brad Morton and Matt Rizutto were the hard men who weren't made of sugar and joined me on the start line! By this stage, it wasn't raining, bt it was really humid. Ed had shown me where the start went, so this was good. Ed had also checked the full course out the day before. Ed's a strong nugget and he had raced the Jet black 24 hour race the weekend before for 21 hours stopping early with Jason English as they had got 4 hours up on 3rd place. I expect that he mentally wanted to finish the 24 hours of racing by tacking on another 3 hours. This was the 3rd time this week that I had lined up against Brad in a bike race! It was his 4th race of the week. Matt has been racing on and off this year. Mostly off, with not too many days of racing under the belt.

The gun of Kris's voice went off and we clipped in and smashed it up the climb. This pretty much went up the fall line from the start and hooked up into auto alley which is a really cool little bit of singeltrack with roots, rocks and switchbacks. Loving it.

Ed had donned the skinsuit and was taking advantage of its aerodynamic qualities which was probably offset by his facial grooming choices. He was also on a singlespeed. This means that they pin it up the hills. As Ed was in mega race XC mode, he was also actually pinning it on the descents also. We were cruising around the forest in a pod of 4. I think this lasted like this for about 4 laps. After this Matt started to dangle off the back. 

Ed had belted out a pretty decent tempo on the front for 5 laps and we were enjoying the racing on the hero grip trails. Ed had even asked me if I would ever ride a singlespeed, and told me about a dude he rides with who always gets hit by kangaroos. Brad mentioned that this enduro caper was quite easy and was almost considering hitting up a 24 solo - this was at about 45 minutes in. 

I was doing the mental calculations based on lap times and expected duration and figured out how many laps I had to do. On the 3rd last lap, I got in front and put in a few testers to see how things were gong for everyone. A small gap opened up back to Ed and Brad and allowed a nice advantage going through the start finish chute and up the climb. Ed came back as i expected up the climb and attacked past me grinding the single gear as hard as he could. I responded immediately and sprinted around him and hammered the next slightly downhill section before carefully negotiating  the rooty and rocky singletrack. 

I was able to put a minute into Ed over the course of the lap. A minute seems like a lot, but I could see Ed through the trees where the course snaked back on itself. You could never be sure how long it was at any time. Plus you can never be sure what might happen to you or the other rider. So it kept me honest. As I went through the start finish line I came through at 2:58ish. This allowed me to go and enjoy the course one last time. And it rained. So all the roots, rocks and wooden bridges were super slippery and super slick. Good practice for the future!

So all up, the lap times were consistent, the racing was strong and the conditions were excellent for wet weather racing. I was pretty happy with how things went for the week and how it culminated in having enough energy to race a strong fast paced 3 hour race with some excellent competition.

Lonsdale Street Cyclery came through with $3000 worth of prizes, there was a tonne of SIS gels and electrolyte drink for people to try out, Osprey gear and heaps of Specialized spot prizes also. I am still sore today as I type this. Did I mention that the course was rough? Even on a 29er? Thanks to Kris and the crew from CORC for giving up their Sunday morning and the rest that is involved in putting on a race for those who love the bike and would race sticks down a drain in stormwater!!


Friday, November 25, 2011

2011 – The Year in Review: Numbers and ‘Best of’

I have been pretty happy with how 2011 has gone with regard to cycling. I have enjoyed the journey this year racing in South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales and the ACT. I have enjoyed the atmosphere of races that I have been to – especially the 100km races.

About this time of the year, as we roll into Summer and the best opportunity to ‘re-base’ , I will go through the ‘best-of’ moments as well as the statistics of the year. I enjoy doing this as it gives me a chance to reflect on the year as well as remember why I have made the choices to ride my bike every week.

Total races: So far it is 26. By the end of the calendar year it will be 37. Out of these, there were 6 individual races that were ‘A’ races. By this, I mean that I cared about the result more than normal. This included Australian Championships for XCO and XCM, and the 4 races in the Cyclenation Real Insurance XCM series. If I was being totally honest, then I would also secretly include the Back Yamma Bigfoot race. For some reason I really like this one!

Total kilometres ridden: As of today it is 19,296km for the year. Interestingly enough, as distance doesn’t always tell much of a story, I am also pushing over 650 hours. It’s a good thing I like riding the bike. You reap what you sow.

Holidays: I took 2 weeks off in June to go to Thailand just to chill out and recharge the batteries. Bangkok was fuelled by double shot espressos. Phuket was sponsored by 7pm happy hour cocktails.

Massages: 48 so far this year. In order to ride, race and recover, massage is one of those things that I incorporate into my weekly regime in order to get the most out of my legs.

Chiropractic Adjustments: Cycling is the most ‘wrong’ thing you could do to a body. 12 adjustments in the calendar year keep things straight(ish).

Results: 6 x 1st, 6 x 2nd, 8 x 3rd, 1 x 4th, 2 x 6th, 1 x 7th, 1 x 9th , 1 x 12th on the Mountain bike over Short track, Cross Country, and Enduro Events.

Total indoor trainer days: 3. I hate the trainer. Even if it is raining, windy and cold I would prefer to be outside! However, after 2 to 3 of these in a row, it is quite hard mentally. It can also be hard on the bike if you ride in the rain a bit!

Coldest day on the bike: Minus 6 degrees. 2 pairs of gloves, 2 sets of booties. 20 minutes in the hot shower afterwards.

Hottest day on the bike: 37 degrees. Yeah well, it was hot.

Hardest day on the bike: Australian XCM nationals. Mt Joyce course. This event was a multi lap affair covering 3 x 29km on an extremely hilly course. I think that the total vertical gain (climbing) was about 3000m. I managed to get a National Title out of this (Veteran Men) as well as 7th overall on the day. It was so hard that there were only about 18 finishers (ie those who made the last lap time cutoff).

Longest day on the bike: Not overly long by some of the 24-solo dudes, but 185km on a Saturday out with Andrew Arundel in the Brindabellas was the most I have ridden in one day this year.

Most enjoyable weekend of racing: Back Yamma Bigfoot 100km. A week of Twitter trash talking with the solo 24 crew leading up to this event set the scene. Caught up with my family. Took over a local restaurant on Sunday night with the Canberra Wolfpack crew cranking Phil Tucker’s Katy Perry CD!

Best blog: Apart from mine ( of course :), I would have to rate Ed McDonald for his writing style:

Best Eyewear for cycling: Oakley Radar Path. And a few spare for apres bike.

Best Grips: ESI Racer’s Edge. Perfect size, lightweight.

Best tweet: This was in response to the new GDE route on the Saturday Morning Bakery Bunch ride. This was Bear’s response to riders letting the wheels in front go. The new route was Jeremy Ross’s brainchild, which turns out to be a much better route than the old one down Horsepark Drive. On this particular morning, which was the first occurrence, Jeremy, Jason Chalker, Shaun Lewis, Andrew Arundel, Dave Rae and myself managed to ride off the front. The bunch is wiser now!

Best half wheeler: Without a doubt this has to be Andrew Hall. Whenever we do a turn on the front he is half wheeling me for the first 2 – 3 minutes of our mandatory 10 minute block. Kylie Webb is a mentionable runner up also. Since she got her new S-Works Amira she likes to rub it in that it is faster than my bike!

Best Event (overall): Again, the Back Yamma Bigfoot brought a smile to my face for the entire weekend. The Highland Fling definitely had the best atmosphere.

Most #PRO statement: Jason McAvoy stating that he doesn’t even get on the bike for less than two hours.

Most #PRO tan: Dylan Cooper.

Favourite Pasta Dish: as a cyclist, pasta is just one of those things that often tends to work pretty well as far as fuel goes. Pasta Carbonara is one that I regularly do up. Prosciutto, bacon, parmesan cheese, condensed milk and fettucine is what goes into this one!

Best bike: Once again this has to go to my Cannondale Carbon Flash. Apart from the occasional pilot error that pops up every now and then, it has been bullet proof, dependable, and most importantly, fast over the course of the year. The frame and forks are coming up to 2 years old and are not looking at wearing out anytime soon. This is a great testament to the bike and the value you gain by selecting a superb model such as this. I would definitely recommend this to anyone, (except my closest competitors!)

Cannondale Flash on Hammerhead at Stromlo

Best tyres: This one is always subjective, but for me this year I have relied on 2 sets. Specialized Renegade S-Works and Schwalbe Racing Ralph Snakeskin. Horses for courses as they say....

Best ‘closer’ of a race: Jason English without doubt. He can drill home the last 3rd of a race better than anyone.

Best wake up call: Adelaide National Champs in February. Riding into the X-Trail that Kylie had parked at the side of the road whilst looking down at my gears. The day before the XCO race.

Best waterbottle cages: King titanium. I have had a set (2) since 2006. They weigh 28grams each and never drop bottles. Priceless in any MTB event.

Best ‘I don’t belong here’ moment: Raceview Leagues Club, Ipswich. Door staff wouldn’t let me in with my white ‘Globe’ thongs, whilst locals with double pluggers and blue singlets just strolled through.

Fastest Postcode in Australia: 2602. I have gone through this before in a previous post. It does not look to be changing anytime soon. 4 out of the top 7 at the recent Highland Fling 100km, 2nd place in the 100mile version, and 3rd in the Half Fling (female) support this purely scientific fact!

Best mountain bike promotion: Cyclenation and Real Insurance hands down. Raised the profile of Marathon MTB events. It’s pretty cool when workmates mentioned that they saw me on TV!

Best ‘in-joke’: One of my ‘mates’ set up a fake twitter account @Fake_jdowning26 in response to another fake account @fake_Jeebus . Purely satirical content within and not to be taken seriously. Scarily close to reality at times though.

Best team mate: Will Bowron. Got me back up to the front bunch at the Fling after a ‘ground’ moment. Training partner for climbing in the mountains.

Best clueless moment: Will Bowron not realising that there was a half marathon XCM series with truckloads of prize-money for the winner. Which, he actually ended up being.

Best mis-interpretation of a request: I asked for 3 sugars in my espresso, but the barista though I said ‘three shots’. Needless to say, I was in a great mood that afternoon! Garden City Shopping Centre, Brisbane after XCM nationals.

Best race course: Capital Punishment. This event takes in all the best parts of Canberra and links them together in a true point to point race. It also happens to pass by my house during the untimed section. Fresh bottles, sunglasses, gloves are pure luxuries that I was happy to take advantage of.

Best socks: De Feet. Black. Appropriate height of course.

Best crew: Jason McAvoy, Andrew Hall, Brett Bellchambers, Ed McDonald, Kylie Webb, Brad Morton, Dylan Cooper, Greg Collis, Trent Smyth, Phil Tucker, Carmel and Michelle Ainsworth, Mark Tupalski, Lachlan Paton, William Bowron.

Monday, November 14, 2011

2011 Highland Fling - sort of a big deal

I have never done the Highland Fling Marathon race before. Conflicting events had conspired against me so that the timing was never aligned. I don't ever recall actually ever being to Bundanoon or Wingello either for that matter, for racing or other reasons.

I had however, heard all the stories from friends who had done this event. Fireroad, fast, rough, paddocks, creek crossings, yada yada yada! I think I might be the only person in the world who hasn't done this race. That might be a slight exaggeration, but I definitely had a lot to learn.

Two days before the race, Andy Blair posted on his blog - -  a bit of a preview of who would be in the mix. I also scoured previous year's results to get a feel for the length of the race, who had done the race and also get a feel of the times for the individual stages. In addition to these metrics, I also analysed course profiles posted by people on Garmin Connect to see how hilly the race was. I was essentially trying to arm myself with as much information as I could in order to negotiate the 110km that this event throws up.

The next item on my race prep agenda was bike choice. At my disposal I had identical Cannondale Flash Carbon bikes. One 26er and one 29er. My 26er is the ultimate bike. I have had this same frame and forks for almost 2 years. It is perfect. The 29er also is perfect, however I don't know it as well as the 26er and this is purely more mental than anything. Everyone I asked said 'definitely go the 29er'. It was good to get everyone's opinion, and it was greatly appreciated. I also discussed the bike choice with Dylan Cooper, and ultimately I said to him, 'the Fling has only been won on 26ers'. This pretty much says that 'it's down to the rider'. Footnote: next year I will definitely be on the 29er J

The Highland Fling has been running now for 7 years. This year it attracted over 2000 competitors making it the most popular ever. From rider analysis, there were at least 2 Olympians, one TDF rider (and holder of leader's jersey from every Grand Tour), multiple National XCO, XCC, 24 hour champions across every category (male, female, junior, veteran, masters), multiple world champions (24 hour), and just a bunch of fast dudes and dudettes. It appeared that this race is a big deal!

Arriving at event HQ on the Sunday morning, the anticipation was high, commentator already going off, people sorting bikes and getting their stuff together for the ensuing hours ahead. At about 7:45 we started getting into position. The Elite 100km riders were starting with the 55km riders, so the start chute was packed super-tight. It was quite comical. We could barely even sit on our bikes. When the gun went off hundreds of riders clipped in and the race was on.

My initial race plan was to ensure that I was with the lead bunch at the first transition. At about the 3km mark, I got chopped off and hit an erosion channel on a fireroad. Bam – hit the deck! As I was skating along the gravel, I copped a wheel in the back of the head, and I saw another rider ride over my back wheel. First thoughts were, I hope the bike is OK. 2nd thought was, crap, there goes the lead bunch. One good thing about crashing is that you get a wicked burst of adrenalin. I got back on the bike, amazingly nothing was bent or broken and basically chewed the stem as hard as I could for the next 10 minutes to try and reel back the front group.

At this stage, Will Bowron (Lonsdale Street Cyclery team member and Sunday training partner – half fling) saw what had happened and dangled off the back of the lead bunch until I was back on to his wheel. He then drilled it and dragged me back up to the lead bunch. This goes down in my book as fully PRO.

After that effort, which was probably higher than Thursday night World Championship dirt crits intensity, I hung on at the back and tried to recover a little. I knew I had used up a few matches and that I needed to get some fuel in so that I wouldn't hit the wall later on.

The first stage was reeled off at an average of 31km/hr for the first 52 minutes. This is off road. That is flying. The group of 12 crossed the first timing mat at the Wingello transition and picked up fresh bottles. At this stage, 4 of the 12 turned left and headed back as they were doing the half fling. The remaining 8 headed off to stage 2 in the full fling. Here we also had 5 minutes to cross the train line, and get to the start of the next timing mat. This was done at a pretty chilled pace, everyone thankful for the slight reprieve in the racing. At the start of the next section we all hammered through the slight downhill section before the right hander onto the smooth fireroad. Someone started the rush out of transition, and someone said 'I don't want to miss that train'. It was back on.

The pace was back up over 45km/hr over the slightly flat fireroad. We then entered the pines of Penrose State Forest, and the first singletrack of the day. Stage 2 contained a fair bit of singletrack, but to be honest, it is a bit of a blur. After about 15km in the 2nd stage or so, the lead bunch whittled down to 6 with Troy Glennan and myself going out the back. We rode for a while and managed to have Matt Fleming get back on. Matt was not having a great day, but was hanging tough. Troy and I swapped off on the fireroads and also took turns leading through the sinuous singletrack. We wanted to keep the pace high. Matt was unable to stay with us after a bit of climbing singletrack, so we kept going. Troy was riding really strong up the hills and I was feeling as though the elastic was stretching just that little bit too long. Probably something to do with going a little deep at the beginning.

Once we finished climbing out of the lowest point, the course opened up onto massive dirt roads. I could still see Troy up ahead occasionally, but he was at least 45 seconds in front, and I wasn't getting that back easily. I tucked in a Triathlon position and drilled the fireroads as hard as I could. At times it felt like I was flying, then as I rounded a bend and copped a block headwind, it felt as though I was dying and going backwards!

I couldn't wait to get to transition 2 so I could pick up some fresh bottles and food. I also had a nice cool 300ml bottle of Coca Cola with my name on it in my esky. The 500 metres to transition sign was heaven, and I drilled it to get every second I could.

At transition, I scoffed as much as I could trying to top up my fluids. I had seen goosebumps on my legs pretty early on, in the 25 degree heat, and know from experience, that this is a simple sign of dehydration. I downed a bottle of verofit, put 2 750ml bottles on my bike, got fresh gels and got out of there.

At the 80km mark in a Marathon, you do the sums and think 30km to go, piece of cake! It is actually the hardest 30km to ever do. You have so much fatigue in the body and are pretty much going on mental strength at this stage. I made the deal that at the 90km mark, I would empty the tank. The tank was pretty low so this emptying would have to be a finely dosed affair.

With 10km to go, I busted a spoke in the rear wheel. Delirious with fatigue I just let it dangle and clang around. It then started making more sounds. I should have just stopped and wrapped it around another spoke, but fear of being overtaken by a fresh opponent and also the fear that I might not get back on halted me from doing so. At this stage the noise was such that I thought that the rear wheel was imploding. Going down a hill the back brake started pumping up, then the loudest noise occurred and the brake lever went all the way to the handlebar. I had busted the rear brake housing with the spoke somehow snagging it and snapping it right through.

The brake cable then wrapped itself around the outer hub flange and flapped around wacking the brake calliper every time the wheel went around. Luckily I only had to endure this for 10 kilometres. What was more fortunate, was that the last 10 kilometres could be negotiated with just a front brake.

With 1 kilometre to go, team mate Ben Carmody was yelling encouragement as I rounded a farm dam. I looked over to the left to see where he was and almost veered off the edge of the trail into the dam. I could see the event centre over to the right and knew that I was almost home.

After crossing under the bridge, it was a slight rise and about 100 metres to the finish line. All over. 7th place Elite Men, 10 minutes behind the winner. 4 hours 22 minutes for the 110km. Absolutely spent.

I went and sat under a tree in the shade for what felt like half an hour. I was toasted. I had a coke, a bottle of water and some food. So slow to get back up on my feet.

It seems like the Highland Fling is a big deal.....

Random number items:

  • With the results being sorted with the transition taken into account, 1st 2nd and 3rd were within 0.5 seconds of each other.
  • Places 5th to 7th were within 17 seconds of each other.
  • 4 out of the top 7 were from the 2602 postcode.
  • Winner was on a 26er as was 4th, 7th, 8th, 10th
  • 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 9th were on 29ers


I also managed to take out 5th place in the inaugural Real Insurance XCM series. It was an absolute honour to be on the podium with riders of the calibre of Dylan Cooper, Ben Mather, Matt Fleming and Shaun Lewis. This was definitely one of the highlights of my cycling career.

The day after the Highland Fling, like most hilly marathons, I am smashed, feeling like every muscle has been used, I am still dehydrated and starting to understand the importance of this great event in the overall scheme of things. All I can say is, thank god it is not on for another 12 months! Just like any standard marathon really!


Monday, October 31, 2011

Road Crit racing

This summer I decided to race some road crits. Canberra has a pretty good road scene. Well, it has a pretty good cycling scene in general. At the moment you can race road crits Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as well as Dirt crits on Thursday. There is also different racing on the weekends also.
Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, I know the club handicapper, and he said that I would be fine in A grade. Therefore no sandbagging allowed!
I hit up the Wednesday afternoon road crits, splitting my day up into Endurance Hills (TM) in the morning and riding out to Stromlo in the PM to race the road crits then spinning home afterwards. This nets me about 120-130km onthe bike for a Wednesday. That is just awesome. It doesn't even feel as though I have been out, well sort of. I am creeping by Thursday morning that's for sure!

Friday, October 28, 2011

2011/12 CORC Dirt Crit 1 - Stromlo

The week started with the expectation and anticipation of the Thursday afternoon Dirt Crits being back on. I love these races. You have a good bunch of guys racing a brand new different course each week at sub-maximal output testing the higher abilities of both physiological and bike handling. This was my 86th short track event in the last 5 years. It is pretty easy to build up some good experience in a relatively short period of time with that pure volume of racing.
Tuesday was Stromlo SE repeats, Wednesday morning was pinned runs up Stromlo and Black Mountain, Wednesday afternoon was Road Criterium racing. By Thursday morning I was happy to be sleeping in and not having to get up and ride. Later in the day, Kylie and I rode over to Stromlo as a nice cruisy warmup taking in the fresh easterly tailwind for the 20km over to the western side of Canberra.
The course was the standard crit loop this week. This requires a fair amount of power output as well as technical ability, with log ledges, triples, drops, berms, off camber corners stimulating the rider whilst racing falt biscuit for the relatively short period of time.
On the line were Dylan Cooper, Brad Morton, Mark Tupalski, Ben Cory, Lachlan Paton, Michael Brice and a host of other local fast dudes making for a relatively large group of 15 for A grade. When Garreth fired the gun (metaphorically speaking) I got my patented quick clip in (actually worked this time!) and pinned it for the first straight. The sensations in the legs were letting me know that things were 'muy tranquillo' so I kept it wide open for the first lap and collected the highly sought after first lap prime. \
As I expected, Dylan came by down the start finish straight and I got on his wheel immediately. In the 2nd corner his front wheel started to drift, which was followed by his rear wheel and a tripod to foot drift occurred. As we had hit this corner at about 35km/hr this occurred over the course of abotu 10 metres. Luckily for Dylan, fate intervened and his bike righted and avoided the dreaded highside and he was able to clip back in and not lose too much speed. This obviosuly gave him some good adrenaline as he then took off and got a bit of a gap.
Meanwhile I had Ben Cory, Brad Morton and Mark Tupalski creating a Giant Onya Bike TTT behind me. These guys are talented on a bike so it was taking most of my ability to stay in front of them. By the 2nd last lap, the order had changed and Brad was doing his best to get around me. I can not count the amount of times that Brad and I have contested positions in the exact same circumstances. When the last lap came around, I drilled the start finish straight and kept the pace super high so that passing maneuvres were out of the question. Just as I have done in the past when the positions have been reversed, Brad made one last passing effort down the start finish straight. However, there is no way at all that a move can be made in this location as the finsih line comes up way too early and the sprint is only about 75% wound up.
Dylan managed to hold on with a comfortable 10 metre lead, I was second, Brad trailing me for 3rd. As expected, the crit was run at red-line for the entire duration. I did not see the HR drop below 180bpm which is fairly standard. As usual, the Cannondale Flash performed flawlessly allowing me to pilot it around the course whilst having the internals flushed with lactic acid.
One of the best things about the local dirt crits is the socialising afterwards. Everyone has a good story to tell about the race that just unfolded and everyone is always keen to see who has been training in the leadup and what other races are on your agenda. It was also really encouraging to see 3 of the top juniors step up and race A grade. this will definitely bode well for the future for them and the sport. Even more awesome, is the sheer number of young kids under the age of 5 racing in the Junior category. Some of tehse guys are on bikes that weigh more than they do, push pedal bikes, bikes too big etc, however, they are having the best time in the world and it is great to throw encouragement at them as they just lap it up and smile even more.
When it was almost too dark to see and just about everybody had left, Kylie and I cruised off away from the deep red sunset over to the other side of Canberra. The spin home always makes the body feel better the next day flushing out all the crap that the body has produced in the brief, but violent activity that has just unfolded.
Next race, next Thursday, Majura Pines. Got to be happy when a race is a 5 minute ride from your front door!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dirt crits are back

What a better way to enjoy Thursday afternoon than hitting up tthe Stromlo Dirt Crits.

Throat burning, lung searing, high intensity lactic acid bath.

It's a well known fact that by developing the higher abilities, you are making yourself faster for the future.

Looking forward to this one today at Stromlo

Monday, October 17, 2011

Race Photos

It might be a slightly narcissistic tendency, however it is a slightly satisfying feeling to find a picture of yourself racing or riding your bike on the interweb.
It's even better when you didn't know that it was being taken.
I am pretty sure that this is in the high speed berm at Stromlo just above the 4X track, but it could be in a few different places as there are no real reference areas.
It is in a fast location, I am in the 2nd hardest gear. I am already on the gas (pedalling) as evidenced by the right foot (technically the inside of this bend) being down, and actually pulling throughfor the left to begin the downstroke.
The keen eye will also note that my shoes, helmets and eyewear all match. That's not really an accident. However...... the gloves are not quite right. No amount of Napisan is getting these suckers back to the pristine condition that they require for smooth speed assaults.
So, as of Friday, I am rocking the new 2012 661 Raji gloves. These have been my glove of choice for about 6 years now. Light, ventilated, thin, they just get the job done.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.25 Snakeskin Review

For the Scott 24 hour race this year, Bike Box (Australian distributors of Schwalbe) were awesome enough to be able to supply me with my tyres of choice for the harsh conditions at Stromlo. I have ridden at Stromlo since it was constructed and know that Stromlo is incredibly tough on components, especially tyres. There are a lot of rocks. That is probably the understatement of the year. Whether you are pinning the Red lap or smashing the blue lap there are a lot of rocks set up strategically to test your ability as a true mountain bike rider. You need your equipment to be bulletproof as Stromlo will just wreck sub-standard bike gear. If you don't have good tyres, then you are at the side of the trail spending 3-5 minutes practising your tyre changing abilities.
A 24 hour race is a unique beast. As a teams rider you will hit each lap refreshed and wanting to punch out the laps as fast as you are able. Add into the mix up to 500 riders on the track at any time and your ability to pick the 'perfect' line is hugely diminished. When picking your way through traffic some people peel off into the bushes and give you the entire track, some people give you half the track and some people give you nothing! What this means is that your line choice is constantly compromised. We are all aware of the randomness that you encounter at the edge of a trail. The unseen rocks that grab at the sidewalls threatening to shred them and your forward momentum.
Add into the mix night riding where you can see even less, and fatigue where you are just pointing and shooting, and you start to realise how vital your tyres actually are. They are the contact between your bike and the ground.
With this in mind, the tyres of choice were the Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.25 Snakeskin. That is a bit of a mouthful so I will attempt to decode this below.

Schwalbe Racing Ralph - this is the brand and the model name of the tyre. The Racing Ralph is the standard tyre in the Schwalbe range for cross country, marathon and other sort of riding. It sits between the Furious Fred and Nobby Nic. It is a 'do everything' sort of tyre pretty much.
It has closely spaced lugs in the middle to allow for straight line speed. It also has strategically placed side knobs to allow for extreme lean angles. The soft rubber compound allows for speed and grip.
2.25 - this is the width in inches. I run a hardtail 26er. The 2.25 allows for a fair bit of float in the tyre and the extra width provides a very large footprint which equals grip. If you haven't looked into the benefit of wider tyres for reducing rolling resistance, it might be worthwhile doing some research on this. Tracks are only getting rougher these days, so the ability to run a bigger tyre at lower pressures is quite a benefit for straight line speed.
Snakeskin - this is the major reason I run these tyres at Stromlo. The sidewalls have a 'light and flexible woven layer on the sidewall which guards against abrasion damage' The picture below shows how this is (the grey component). These are bulletproof when it comes to sidewall protection. I can run these at Stromlo and ride as hard and fast as I want through rocky areas with maximum confidence. I am not going to lose 3 minutes fixing a flat tyre with these on my bike.

Now the 26 x 2.25 size tyre weighs in at a competitive 575grams. Not a superlight by any means, however, when you think about what the tyre is designed for and compare it to a true UST tyre at 650+grams, then you can appreciate that this is actually quite competitive in the weight stakes.

The rubber is Schwalbe's special compound which grips amazingly well in all of Stromlo's conditions. I won't go into the fine detail here about the actual compound. However, as a racer you want fast straight line ability as well as absolute confidence in corners when leaning at extreme angles both on smooth surfaces and uneven rocky surfaces. The Schalbe Racing Ralph has this in spades. They are my 'go-to' tyre for Stromlo when speed and grip is required. I never, ever lose grip at Stromlo with these tyres.

I have used a few different types of tyres in the past 5 years and have about 4 that are favorites. Kenda Small Block 8, Continental Race King, Specialized Renegade and the Schwalbe Racing Ralph. At Stromlo you need 2 things with tyres. Grip, and Sidewall protection. As a racer you need a couple of things also. Lightweight(ness), and Straightline speed. On these, the Racing Ralph Snakeskin scores 3 and a half out of 4. Pretty much th others only score 3. The Racing Ralphs are only reasonably light weight in the Snake Skin version. However, compared to riding Stromlo with 450 gram tyres, you can only really do this for special races where you are taking a big risk trying to avoid sidewall issues, OR you need to have the track to yourself to pick perfect lines.
For 24 hour racing at Stromlo and other locations that require speed as well as sidewall protection, I would not hesitate to recommend these tyres to anyone. They are extremely fast in a straight line, and inspire awesome amounts of confidence in the huge number of corners that Stromlo has. For standard courses where you don't have copious amount of rock, you could quite easily get away with the standard EVO tyre offering from Schwalbe.

This year at the Scott 24 hour race at Stromlo you had just about every condition that could be thrown up at you. Dry and Dusty, Wet and Slick, a bit of mud and hero grip. You can pretty much ride a slick tyre when there is hero grip. It's when it is dry and dusty or wet and slick that things can be highly modified by a good tyre choice. My lap times at Stromlo were pretty consistent, both day and night. Training and conditioning aside, I am getting as much out of the trail as I can. This is purely down to the tyre being run. People who race downhill know that it's in the corners where it counts. The Stromlo cross country tracks have more corners than you can count each lap. If you can take speed, or create speed into and out of every corner then you can go faster. It is pretty much as simple as that. If you are fighting for grip, then you are bleeding precious seconds from your race time. The side lugs on the Racing Ralph allow you to lean the bike harder and longer than you could on other tyres. This creates and keeps speed. Speed is good for fast laps.
A big thanks to the guys at Schwalbe for supplying me with tyres that allowed me to get the 10th fastest day lap and the fastest night lap of the Scott 24 hour race at Stromlo. Consider checking them out for the future. They may make a difference to your confidence, cornering ability and your results.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

2011 Scott 24hr wrap up

The Scott Australian Championships 24hr race. Stromlo. Red and Blue laps. T6PRO category. 533km. 37 laps. 22.21km/hr.

Well, that is the executive summary. Not since 2008 has Stromlo used the hourglass red and blue his format is highly popular with competitors as it allows for the extra track spacing on a track almost devoid of fireroad. To say that the traffic was low would be the understatement of the year. I would have been lucky to pass 20 riders on any of my laps that i did. This is close to perfection with regards to enjoyment of a 24 hour race.

Backtrack to friday and Trev and I went out to Stromlo to set up the tent. We were again sharing with the Specialized crew who were out there with their top end demo fleet. 2 Televisions, change room, 2 patio heaters, 20 chairs, 10 tables, carpet, bike racks, electricity, fluoro lights - this is absolute pure luxury for the handful of laps that we would each do. However, it also facilitates ideal recovery to allow for consistent fast laps day and night.

The team was made up of our core group of riders; myself, Trev Rix, Al Sieper, Ben Carmody, Doug McLean and Will Bowron. We had our plan and Will started us off with the run and the blue lap. The blue lap takes you around the mountain out to the western side of Stromlo. It is considered flatter, but more technical due to the rocky nature of the Western trails. Will handed off to me for the red lap. The red lap goes up and down the mountain. It is reasonably technical, but is also extremely fast. 

From this point on we rotated riders for the next 24 hours with some super fast times being pumped out for both laps. 25-27km/hr avg speed for the red lap and 20-22 km/hr avg speed for the blue lap. Experience and knowledge of one's ability is crucial in 24 hr racing even in 6 man teams. On a six man team you may only do 5-7 laps but each one of these is done at Short track pace. My first red lap was done pretty hard. My HRM was never showing less than 180bpm as I kept the intensity close to 95% max. Each consecutive lap was done just as deep with the accumulated fatigue. The whole team did exactly the same, with the lap times barely differing each time the individual went out.

The basic plan was warm up, stand in transition, smash out a lap, warm down, eat, clean up, rest ---- repeat. 

After my first 2 night laps I retired to the tent to attempt to get some sleep. That never really eventuated, and I spent the majority of the time lying still for 2 hours. At 5am after my graveyard shift lap, I again retreated to the tent after a nice warm shower and this time I managed to get the HGH boost that pure sleep can provide. 1 hour!!! However, when I woke up I felt awesome (all relative of course).

Trev was brewing coffee on his Moka stove top device. Espresso cups were produced and Ben, Trev and John (4 person mixed LSC team) each had a coffee. In the next 15 minutes the caffeine kicked in and they all started talking really quickly to each other. Hysterical scenes ensued. It is no wonder coffee is a commodity in the world.

So, back to the racing, which was actually being done in the 4 and 6 man team categories (as well as the pointy end of the solos) - the positions were moving around a fair bit as teams had their riders of different abilities hit up laps at different times. Around midnight though everything seemed to settle a little bit and we grabbed a hold of 2nd place in the 6 man team and 3rd overall. The young fast dudes of 'Nothing Specific' had set some really fast laps, but halfway through the evening we had predicted that they would fade during the early morning laps, and this did eventuate. The ONYA Bike Belconnen Blokes kept hitting up fast laps like our team and were able to pull consistent time out of us just about every lap, and were the well deserved winners of the 6 man category. GU Sram again topped the leader board in the 4 man team, and also took out the overall win.

Like every 24 hour race that is done, you feel jetlagged after it. The sleep is pure, and it might take a week to recover, however, it is a really satisfying feeling being consistent and achieving pre-race objectives. 

A big thanks to Lonsdale St Cyclery and Specialized for hooking us up with a luxurious corporate tent to chill out in between laps. Also a big thanks to Guy from Bike Box for hooking me up with a selection of Schwalbe tyres which were absolutely perfect for the course. Review to come in the next few days. Also a big thanks to my team mates, half of whom I have known for 20 years. It is extremely awesome racing with a bunch of motivated guys who are also good mates as well.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pictorial version of 2011 Scott 24 Hour Race

Empty Car before heading out to the Scott 24 hour race.

Car with enough things for 24 hours of existing at a MTB event centre.

Scott 24 hour event headquarters at Stromlo Forest Park, Canberra.

LSC team just chilling.

The traditional LeMans style start.

Trev and I checking out results online during the race.

The front of the Marquee that we shared with Specialized.

PRO - making the Sportograph highlights reel.

Kylie and Jayson - 2 of the best people in the LSC family.

Scott 24hr - bust out the podium shoes

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Testing between a 26er and a 29er

It is nice to have all bikes matching and a bike for all occasions, surfaces, trails etc.
29er added into the mix to determine suitability. Testing undertaken over course of the weekend. The Bear would be impressed.
26er and 29er set up identically. Same groupset, tyres, geometry and measurements.
29er Flash out on the secret testing trail on Mount Ainslie. Huge wheels take a bit of getting used to visually. Riding it was a no brainer though.
Fresh coffee (thanks to Trev) to assist with the analysis of data that came back from testing.