Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dirt Works 100km Race report

It is always a tough call to make when you get the flu. Do I stay off the bike and recover, but lose fitness. Or do I keep on the bike, go low and maintain (marginally if at all) any fitness already had......
After the Mt Joyce Marathon champs I managed to come down with a flu that I was probably fighting before I even got up there.
Basically the snot fest and oyster producing crap that threatens to get into the chest and produce bronchitis.
I finally made the call on Friday at lunchtime to actually head up to Sydney and race the Dirt Works 100.
The expectations were really low. I had been sick over the 5 day holiday block and also had the next week off work trying to recover.
I was finding the weather totally interesting on the drive up to St Albans. Dark clouds, heavy rain every 10 minutes or so. All very inspiring stuff.
We managed to book the smallest cabin ever built at Del Rio resort at Wiseman's ferry. It was hilarious at times trying to move around with just one other person in the close proximity. Seriously if you swung a cat around, its head would whack the wall each revolution!
The morning of the race we woke at 4:30am to get out of the cabin and to the race course 30 minutes up the road.
At exactly 6am, the announcer was going mental on the microphone, and the portaloos were in high demand, the hive of activity was amazing at race headquarters.
At about 7:05am the Elite riders were off and so began the race. With a relatively flat 12 km before the first climb it was a relatively mellow affiar, with a few faux attacks happening, and people basically just warming up the legs on the way to the wall. The wall was a super low gearing affair with some awesome 22% grades with sticky clay is some spots makign traction a challenge. I managed to get to the top of the climb with the wheezing in my chest and throat kept to a minimum. Here I was in about the top 8.
I settled in for the next 25km or so with Hamish Elliot and Justin Morris. I was sort of questioning my tyre choice today. The Specialized renegade, whilst adequate for the course, was not ideal for the course. The clay sections were made just a little bit harder, and the rocky sections were just an absolute handful.
After the 50km feedzone, I grabbed a new bottle and put some good pace down after Justin had rolled a tyre and I think hamish had pretty much sat up and waited for him. I was joined by Olli who knew the trails and was filling me in on some of the details of what was ahead. Around the 55km mark, I hit a bit of offcamber sandstone a bit skewiff and face planted my nose directly into the huge slab of rock. The blood was flowing nicely out of the my nose as evidenced by the contrasting claret on my PRO confidence white gloves!
I did a quick body and bike check and everything was complete and working. I had bent my derailleur hanger pretty badly and was struggling with some gears, but could still go along. The next 10km of rocky technical trail was a bit of a handful as I had dealt the confidence and steadiness a bit of a blow. I just got back onto Olli's wheel and attempted to minimise the damage to the time.
At the 70km mark, I refuelled and rode across the canoe bridge, a nice novelty component of the race. As per many of us, it was the thick sand at the end that caused a bit of a washout! Up through a paddock and onto the bitumen road, I drove it pretty hard with Olli sitting in and starting to cramp up. I told him to just hang on until we got to the bottom of the climb and towed him along. At the climb though he had to back off and I just set about emptying the tank over the next 70 minutes or so.
The climb was a little neverending affair with little pinches that sapped the legs pretty hard after 80km of racing. Here the course pretty much meandered around the ridge line with a lot of false flat for a while with energy sapping soft sand to contend with at times.
Once at about the 85-90km mark, the firetrail felt like it was heading down. I knew then that we would need to have a fall line sort of descent to lose all of the altitude gained. I wasn't disappointed and a super steep descent coated in times with concrete came up. The run to the finish was then a flat rolling affair and was just a matter of putting the hammer down and finishing it off.
After crossing the water (ie through it) it was a turn onto a well travelled gravel road with some of the 50km racers finishing off also. It was now just flat roads, big gears and mashing it along to the finish line.
I crossed the line with a 6th place in Elite with a time of 4:24.
After the post race analysis was done, I feel as though this can be improved on quite a bit. The knowledge of the trails in this region will be invaluable for next year, and this should really allow a good 15 minutes to be knocked off the overall time. Also not being sick would also be beneficial for being able to go a bit deeper.
I am in two minds about the course. Some of it was pretty good, but some of it was a bit ordinary. That is how MTB goes sometimes I guess. I do think a different set of tyres and even (heaven forbid) a 29er could be an advantage here. Not having a clear head, due to having the flu also could cloud my judgement a bit here. 
Attached is also a rundown of the overall Cyclenation Real Insurance XCM series. I am extremely happy to be sitting in 4th place overall now. Consistent results are all considered when going for an overall result.
I will try and find some photos of the weekend and get them posted up on the blog in the next few days or so.

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