Thursday, September 29, 2011

Andrew Hall - Interview with an endurance specialist

Andrew Hall is a rising star in the Enduro scene in Australia. He is an extremely talented cyclist and you can also tell that he has an analytical mind, which is always a benefit in the cycling world. I've ridden a fair bit with Andrew training on the road, and one thing that stands out is his ability to hold a very high sustainable pace for a very long time. You just know that there is a pretty good engine there inside.

He also resides in the 2602 postcode, so you know just by default, he must be pretty handy!

Sit back, relax and read about a rider you will be hearing a lot more of in the next few years to come.

For the tape, please state your name, age, race category, website, and
current sponsors:

Andrew Hall
Elite men
ACT Bike Superstore, M5 Networks

How long have you been racing \ riding bikes for?

I first rode Majura in the early 90’s … racing mtb for the last 2 years

OK, so you’re into the enduro scene in a big way, I take it that Solo
24 hour is your major focus?

The 24 Solos are major races in my year. You have to prepare your race
calendar around the solos, as they take so much preparation and take
so much out of you.

Outside of the 24s, I tend to focus on the longer multi-day events and
6 - 8 hr races.

I really enjoy the 8 hour races. They are long enough to be an enduro,
but short enough that you can push a solid pace all day and recovery
is only a few days.

Do you do any other sorts of racing during the year? If so, what sort
of events do you hit up, and are these just training events for you,
or are you targeting any specific events for different reasons?

I hit up a range of races throughout the year. Often I just
incorporate these into my training schedule. They give me something
different to try and usually require different skills then the

I end up doing a bunch of XCO, 100km and 6 - 12 hr races. The shorter
races are good for working on top end performance, and bike skills. I
will often go into these races after a full training week, and it is
certainly good practice to be pushing it on less then fresh legs.

How many races in total would you do in a 12 month period?

Not including local club races, this year I will tally up;

* 2 x 24 hr solos
* 1 x 24hr pair
* 1 x 7 day stage race
* 1 x 6 x 6
* 8 x 7-8 hr
* 1 x 12 hr
* 4 x 50-100km

As an enduro specialist, you’d be racking up some hours on the bike.
What’s your standard week look like, with regard to duration, km,
climbing, specific workouts etc?

I don’t really pay too much attention to distance and climbing
metrics. I’m a power junkie so I’m more interested in Chronic Training
Load (CTL).

So, in training for a big event, I’ll peak my CTL to just below 130.

What this means is that on average, I am riding 130 TSS (Training
Stress Score) per day.

To put that in context, a 1 hr time trial is 100 TSS.

Looking at my log, before a big event I will do over 1600 km / 70 hr in a month.

My weekdays are usually 2 - 3 hours of specific training. VO2s, hill
repeats, long tempo etc.

My weekends are usually about long hours.

Saturday is usually Bakery Bunch on the roadie with a cotter +
tidbinbilla + corin.

Sunday is often up into the Brindies with the boys for big climbs and
big distances.

Are you into quality or quantity when it comes to time on the bike?

Quality - what’s the point in doing junk miles?

You’ve tried to convert me over to the Powermeter world many times. I
can see the benefits of this sort of technology for training purposes,
but what does it do for you?

The powermeter and associated software gives you an objective measure
of the intensity of your ride and a measure of how you are performing.

Doing long hours it important to track your build and more importantly
your recovery. If you use the power numbers correctly you can plan
your pre-race taper and recoveries. You can be confident that you are
going into a race at your peak form.

I also find I am pushed harder when sticking to a power number then to
heart rate alone. Heart rate is slow to react and slow to recover -
whereas the power numbers are instantaneous. You can’t hide a 30
second reset in the power data!

What sort of numbers can you put out?

FTP 340w @ 70kg

I have seen Jason English’s Heart Rate Monitor files for a couple of
solo 24 hour races. From my analysis, he is pretty much racing a
standard XCO race for 2 hours then riding at sustainable tempo (it’s
all relative) for the following 22 hours. Is this how you race a 24
hour event?

Generally speaking you race a solo at 70% of your capacity. The first
few hours can be pretty hot. But it becomes a fine balance, as to when
you back off and hope the guys up front blow.

You can’t win a 24 in the first 12 hours, but you sure can lose it.
The race really begins in the early hours of the morning.

I am still a newbie compared to guys like Bellchambers, McAvoy and
English. These guys know how to race 24s. They stay in control and
stay within their limit. Their lap times are consistent without too
much sway throughout the day or night. Importantly, they finish

From what I have learnt so far, to truly race a 24 you need three
things; fitness, nutrition and luck.

I think anyone can ride for 24 hours, but to race it you need a big
base fitness.

Nutrition will make or break your race. You have to be able to keep
eating and processing for 24 hours. Your stomach has to survive.

Luck. 24 hours is a long time and a lot can go wrong. You have to be
prepped for all sorts of contingencies - gear, food, weather etc

Jason English has set the bar for the last few years in the solo 24 hour
scene. He is incredibly talented on a bike at 24hr solo, 100km, and
even XCO. Do you think that he is able to be matched or beaten by
anyone at the 24 hour solo discipline?

I know there are a few guys who would love to take his crown. It is
hard to gauge how close everyone else is to Jase, as he has not really
been pushed in the last few years. Once he laps the field he shuts it
right down, and we are left guessing what he really has left.

I think some of the keys to Jase’s success is that he is very
technically skilled on the bike. This equates to him being a very
efficient and smooth rider. He conserves energy well. He also has an
amazing metabolism. He can eat so much food and not have any stomach
problems. Food powers the engine, and he can really keep that fire

How did you get into Enduro racing? How many solo 24 hour races have you done?

I’d been training a lot on the road with the New York City Cycling
Club, falling in with the guys doing the longer rides. We would do up
to 400km in a day! The weekend I arrived back in Australia it was the
Scott, and I was out supporting a friend. A few hours in and I knew I
had to give this a shot.

The Scott will be my 4th 24 hr solo.

This year you got 6th at the Australian Solo 24 hour championships.
Last year you got 11th at the World Championships in the Elite class.
Were you satisfied with these results?

Yes and no. I consider both events big learning experiences. In
retrospect, I was not prepared for Worlds. I made lots of mistakes
with pacing, nutrition and bike setup. But I got through it and put
the lessons learnt in the bank.

Solo Nationals taught be more about pacing. I had a great first 12
hours, and lost 3 places in the morning. It was a good insight into
the pace I should be setting early on.

I expect the Scott to teach me more again, and I hope I can pull it
all together for a top end result in the new Solo World champs in
Italy next year.

Can you improve on this for the future?

Of course! My fitness, skill, form and results have all significantly
improved in the past 12 months, and I am still on the way up - Thanks
Fenz. I want an overall podium at Solo Nationals.

For solo 24 hour racing, it is for the most part, quite a selfish
pursuit of the sport. How vital is a good support crew for your
success in the sport? Who is in your support crew?

Good support crew is essential. You need someone you can trust,
someone who knows you and can give you what you need - even when you
are in no state to tell them what you need!

My wife Robyn does my support, with the help of Kylie McAvoy. We go
into a race with a plan for nutrition, bike swaps and lights etc. But
nothing goes to plan, and once you really get into the race the rider
has to rely on the support crew to improvise.

Come the early morning you can barely think or put two sentences
together. You have to just accept that your support crew knows that
they are doing and eat/drink/do what ever they say.

Sleep deprivation is sort of something that comes with the territory
of 24 hr racing. Is this something that you can train, control or
mentally manipulate in any way?

It’s called no-doz and caffeine gels … going to your happy place.

A recent announcement that CORC was going to create a ‘proper’ World
Championships must have been quite stimulating for solo riders. How
has this changed your 3 year plan?

A big hats off to CORC for stepping out of the box and organising
this. It is really exciting.

It changes things a little - more around prioritising which races to
do. Overseas racing is not cheap, and there are lots of other big
races I’d like to get too.

It will really depend on what extra sponsorship I can find.

It’s a major endurance feat to ride, let alone race at the pointy end
of a 24hr race. What sort of distances, calories burned and consumed,
power numbers are you creating in an average 24 hour race?

A 24 will take riders to around 360 - 400km, and at least 10,000 calories.

A 24 will be around a 1200 - 1500 TSS, and roughly 200 watts average.

You have also participated and done quite well at MTB stage racing.
What’s your take on this and do you think that this is a niche that
can grow over time?

I love the MTB stage racing. It’s great being in the zone for multiple
days and just focusing on riding and recovering.

There are already a lot of MTB stage races around, with something for
everyone. I personally prefer the events with the longer and more
challenging stages.

I think promoters have to balance the “epic” races with those that are
achievable by a wider range of riders.

For me, I plan to get to Terra and Croc Trophy next year, and maybe
Cape Epic after that ...

Where do you feel your strengths lie on the bike? Any place for improvement?

There is always room for improvement. My biggest strength is my
fitness and ability to backup and repeat solid day long rides. My
biggest weakness is technical skills. More skills will mean more flow,
and more energy conserved.

Describe the most epic day on the bike you have done in the last month?

4k vert / 140km on the MTB with McAvoy riding the ranges between
Tidbinbilla and the Brindies - after a full training week. We got
rain, snow, sun and head winds. Big day out!

What is your take on the colour ‘white’ in cycling?

There is no excuse for white knicks in the rain. Bad!

Apart from myself :), who are riders that you rate highly (for whatever
reason), and why?

* Jason English - oh der - and he is a really nice bloke - always up
for a mid race chat
* Brett Bellchambers - never underestimate the Big Beard - he knows
how to tactically race and is amazingly strong on his single speed
* Garry James - cause he is just a tough nut. After binning it on
Skyline a few weeks back, and getting yet another round of stitches …
he pulled the stitches out himself and was back out doing epic rides
within 10 days! I hope I can still race 24s at 50 years of age!

The age old burning question in MTB circles. 26er, 29er, or dually?
Why do you ride what you ride?

Scott Spark for me … 26 inch / dually. It is a fast race bike and
comfy enough for the long rides. Easy to adapt to different trail
conditions. One of the only bikes to survive Terra Australis without
any mechanical issues!

My new Scale 29er should become my bike of choice for the more fire
road based races.

I have ridden with you a fair bit on the road in training bunches. Why
do you always half wheel me? But seriously, why do you think that
riders behind us stop talking when we are on the front?

If someone is talking behind us, then we are not going hard enough.
There will be no talking.

Canberra is a pretty awesome place to live if you are into bikes. Who
is in your standard crew of riding homies year round?

Jase McAvoy, Ed McDonald, Garry James, Aaron Thompson … and of course
JD for some Bakery fun

If you had to pick the perfect day on the bike, what would it consist of?

Warm weather, epic climbs and epic distances … finish it off with some
pizza and garlic bread on the couch!

At Stromlo, are you comfortable with a two wheel drift?

You have to be to ride Stromlo!

Word Association – respond with one word (or a sentence if required)
to the following....

  • Saturday morning Bakery Bunch – Puff Pastry
  • Sock Height - @Fake_jdowning26
  • Internet Forums – Not interested
  • Social Media – Good time waster
  • 24 hour solo racing – challenge
  • Cross Country MTB racing - lungs and heart in mouth
  • MTB stage racing - super fun
  • 100km races - almost as fun as stage racing
  • Effective training – sticking to the schedule and getting in recovery
  • Long rides – training
  • Brindabella Mountains – Two-Sticks descent and Webbs Ridge climbing
  • TCP equals 13 - SYN
  • Favourite MTB tyre – Racing Ralph
  • Flat bars or riser bars – what ever works
  • Scott 24hr Australian Championships 2011 - goal
  • Australian Solo Championships 2012 - goal
  • World 24 hr Championships – Italy 2012 - big goal
  • Brett Bellchambers - Don’t under estimate the Big Beard
  • Jason English - talent
  • Ed McDonald - future Aussie 24 hr champion
  • Jason McAvoy - Jedi Master
  • VO2max, Threshold, all day epic – all three - just a usual Sat training ride!

 Thanks Andrew, it's been great. Any final words?

Fastest average speed always wins #jdfact

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ben Henderson Interview

I'm pretty sure most people in Australian MTB circles know Ben or have heard of him. He is extremely talented on a bike, both physically and technically, and backs this up by posting superb results both domestically and overseas. I have known Ben for about 5 or 6 years, and one thing I can say is that he is extremely down to earth, loves the bike and also the sport as a whole.

Ben recently took some time out of his hectic training schedule to conduct a small interview with me. The answers demonstrate that he is very switched on, and brutally honest with his assessment of key incidents in his cycling and life experience.

Read on.....

For the tape, please state your name, age, race category, website, and current sponsors:
 Ben Henderson. 25, elite men,, Anytime Fitness, Trek Bikes, Stromlo Forest Park, TORQ Nutrition, Capital Bicycle Hire

What is your priority MTB niche (XCO, XCC, XCM, 24 solo etc)?

Why is this where you channel all of your time and energy into being good?
 Because MTB racing and riding is what I love to do and I'd like to know just how good I can be at it. 

So, what’s a standard week of training look like for you?
 Between 10-30 hours per week depending on what part of the season and stretching and strengthening sessions throughout the week.

Are you into quality or quantity when it comes to time on the bike?
Quality without a doubt. But the secret is knowing what quality you are looking for. 

Do you use any electrical devices on your bike (GPS, HRM, Powermeter, Di2 etc)? What sort of numbers can you put out?
Garmin/Powertap. 350watt threshold @ 65kg. Heart rate max 191.

In the lead up to the 2009 MTB World Championships, I stated on Facebook that you were a ‘Stromlo Specialist’ and would achieve a top 35 result. When you actually raced that event and got a great result of 35th, what were your thoughts, feeling, sensations?
It was probably the most amazing experience of my life. To have everything fall together over the previous months to be able to race my first world champs in my first year elite, on my home track, was a dream come true. It was a huge buzz from start to finish and to have a great results just put the icing on the cake. During the race I just concentrated on doing my own thing on the track and not making mistakes. The other guys around me had no problem riding the sections but as the race wore on they struggled to clear the sections consistently. I was gone by the end, barely making it up the the steep climbs, but having everyone there just made the pain insignificant. 

Shortly after the 2009 MTB World Championships you got the opportunity to ride with Team Drapac Porsche on the road. How was this as a life experience and how did this compare with your MTB experiences?
 Honestly, it was horrible. It was straight after Worlds and I was cooked. It was a 10 day tour and I felt like I went to hell and back. It made me stronger but it showed to me that it's not what I want to do at this time. It's so different in so many ways. Playing footy on the weekend probably has more in common with what I do.

Your Dad is a 24 hour solo MTB World Champion, Your sister has won a couple of junior and U23 Australian XCO Titles. Your sister’s boyfriend (Dan McConnell) won the 2010 Australian XCO Championships. At times your house has some pretty fast racers living under the roof. Are you the fastest in the 2904 postcode? Are you even the fastest in your house?
It's been a battle and I guess we've each had our time owning the title. I can tell you it's definitely the most competitive household in the universe. Both Dan and Bec put in some great performances overseas so I actually decided to move out before they got back. I just couldn't face being the dunce of the house once they got back. I'm hoping 2903 has some good things in store.

Flashback to Tasmania last year. You have really good form going into this race. You won the opening round of the National Series. What was going through your mind as you were standing underneath the overhead timing equipment and it fell down on you?
 I'll keep it short. I'd just had a little off in my first practice lap. I'd put that to the back of my mind and I was loving the course and really getting into it. I was about to start a hot lap and I was super amped. I was opening it up going through the start finish and out of the saddle and looking up the road. Out of the corner of my eye the timing board I was riding past suddenly fell towards me. I was still going full gas as the board started falling towards me. I actually didn't look as i was focussed on the track, but the impact was so hard into my leg that I just buckled and hit the ground. I'd say disbelief was going through my mind from that moment until a long time after.

Is this the worst ever bad luck that you have experienced on the bike?
Considering the odds and the severity I'd say yes. The Nationals incident was probably not so lucky either. I've had my fair share of mechanicals and flats at inopportune times but I believe that's just part of racing.

2011 season seemed to be a bit of a breakthrough year for yourself with regard to excellent results at the national level. What do you attribute this to?
I just built on the confidence I gained from the season before and made some training changes with my coach Mark Fenner. I did win the first National round but at the second one in Tassie there was an accident with a timing board basically falling on top of me and I never really recovered or regained my fitness and confidence for the remainder or the season. I was just getting back on top of thing when the incident happened with Chris Jongewaard at Nationals. The result of this was great motivation but even greater pressure and that recipe didn't transfer into results. I was relieved to grab 67th starting 120th in South Africa but I needed a top 60 to give me a start position, and without that my international season went dormant. 

You have raced a fair bit in Czechoslovakia. What’s the go with that?
 Hey it's been Czech Republic for 20 years! I've got some good friends there including the Ivanator, Ivan Rybarik. It's been a great base and I've had some great times there but it has proved not to be the place I'm looking for and I don't expect to spend much time there in the future. 

Where in the World is your favourite place to either race or ride your MTB?
I rode some great trails in New Zealand in 2009 and Oceanias are in Rotorua next year so that may well take the cake. Otherwise I thinks it's two hard to choose where there best riding is. The best racing is any world cup when there are 30 000 people lining the track and you are racing against the best in the world. I do love Stromlo when I've got the feel for it and can just drift around a bit.

Apart from myself (J), who are riders that you rate highly (for whatever reason), and why?
 Dan McConnell, because he has some unbelievable power when he wants to use it and has proved he can ride with the best in the world. I want to beat Dan but on a personal level, I'm truly happy to see him do well. However I don't feel like I want to be, or be like, anyone else. 

The age old burning question in MTB circles. 26er, 29er, or dually? Why do you ride what you ride?
 29er hardtail. Because I think it suits my style and power profile the best on average. We'll see if it takes me where I want to go this season.

What is your take on the colour ‘white’ in cycling?
 The right amount looks classy, too much looks like you’re out of place.

Where do you feel your strengths lie on the bike?
 My efficiency and my persistence around all aspects of racing.

Canberra is a pretty awesome place to live if you are into bikes. Who is in your standard crew of riding buddies in summer?
 I guess those you mentioned from the 'house' , Dylan Cooper, a group of older guys (they're not all old, sorry) and a lot of time is spent with my buddies, Ipod and Garmin.

Word Association – respond with one word (or a sentence if required) to the following....
·         2 wheel drift - optimal
·         Roadies – depends
·         Skyline at Stromlo – flowing
·         Contact in XCO racing – happens
·         Fast starts – helpful
·         Junior racers – Prosser Brothers
·         Internet Forums – anonymous? 
·         Effective training – knowledge
·         World Championships – improve
·         Club Races – home
·         NSW State Titles – beginning 
·         Favourite MTB tyre – Bontrager
·         Flat bars or riser bars – flat
·         Latino women – handful 
·         Excellent Support team – easier
·         Adelaide. National Championships 2012 – focussed
·         Dylan Cooper – ability
·         Mitch Codner - reformed
·         Dan McConnell – climbing
·         Sean Lewis – mentor 
·         Short track MTB racing – pain
·         Cross Country MTB racing - dedication
·         24 hour solo racing – slow
·         VO2max or Threshold sessions – Threshold, but it depends how long.  Completing a session of VO2 efforts is endorphin central.

Thanks Ben it’s been great – any final words?.......
Now or never.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Scott 24hr - Australian MTB Championships

Planning has already started for the Lonsdale Street Cyclery assault on the prestiguous team events at the Scott 24 Hour MTB Australian Championships. This race will again be held at Stromlo in Canberra on the 2nd weekend in October.
The Scott this year will be held on the well regarded red and Blue hourglass loops. This is a fantastic way of getting the course spacing spot on. When you have 2500 competitors entered, with up to 650 riders on course at any one time, then course spacing is paramount to enjoyment.
It is not uncommon to overtake 100 riders per lap at some of these events. It is a very fine balance between keeping speed high and still being polite out on the trails chasing an Australian Titles whilst maneuvring around all sorts of riders out there having fun.
The last 3 years the 6 man Lonsdale Street Cyclery High Performance Racing team has made it into the top 5 overall, beating out other fancied teams. Course knowledge and a consistent approach is the name of the game here.
This year we have the following team returning
James Downing, Will Bowron, Trev Rix, Allan Sieper, Doug McLean and Ben Carmody.
Experience counts big time in 24 hour racing. Out of the team myself, Trev, Al and Doug have all been racing bikes for over 20 years each.
Last year, 6 man teams occupied 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 9th and 10th in the overall, therefore surpassing many of the supposed 'pro' 4 man team setups. 6 man teams are here it is at for quality of racing that's for sure.
This year we are set up in a corporate tent with the Specialized crew again. Specialized will once again be offering up their demo fleet to the riders to try out $10,000 demo bikes. Get down there and check out the industry's top bikes once again.
The corporate tent will once again give us a luxurious set up with a fantastic crew right outside the transition zone. Big thanks to Trev and Janie from Lonsdale Street Cyclery for setting this up again.
Secret training out on the course has begun......

Friday, September 16, 2011

Questions received when selling a bike

I received this question about a bike I am selling on a certain website. The bike is a 42cm size one that Kylie used. I have also included my response....
Dear James,
I am a 6 foot 5 inch - will I fit this bike?
S. Speeder| a/g Assistant Director | Intelligence Services & Target Identification Portfolio (ISTIP)
Strategic Information Design and Governance Branch | Strategic Information Division | Department of Human Services
ph: 02 xxxxxx| email: take the sting out of diabetes - visit a Medicare office in September to make a donation or purchase a buzz bee pin.
 Reply Forward

 Reply |
James Downing to S.Speeder.
show details 11:16 AM (1 minute ago)
Dear Mr Speeder,
this bike has 19 more gears than you are used to and a ladies saddle.
If you run a 150mm slammed stem and some mad offset in the seatpost it should be right for you.
'Intelligence Services' - now you're really taking the pi55!!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Back Yamma Bigfoot - Pictorial Review

Thanks to Kylie for always being a Japanese tourist and taking hundreds of photos on all our road trips!

The Fat Lamb hotel Eugowra. Love the name!

I have driven over this bridge tons of time - secret back way to Parkes. It looked like this back in 1996 when I lived there. It rattles like crazy when you drive over it and undulates up and down.
Cool Pub building
In the country now. Keep going straight.
Word to your mother! Compression garments are fully mainstream now!

Cool little abandoned mud brick church or something

Double shot espresso please! Driving to the race HQ in the morning.
Manscaping was undertaken specially for this weekend.

Phil is a true gangster from the south side. He loves Katy Perry. Probably not for her singing though.

The saddle is holding me up after 4 hours at threshold. Shaky legs. Need some sugar!

Local wildlife. Why is it that cows always look at you?

Just how the 24 hour solo boys roll

You go through the 2nd roundabout and it's on the left. Discussing how to get to the coffee shop!

What you see on the way home from a road trip.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Lonsdale Street Cyclery Massive Carpark Sale This Weekend

The annual Lonsdale Street Cyclery carpark sale is on this weekend.

17th and 18th of September.

One off bike models aggressively priced.

Sugoi, Vaude and Cannondale clothing.

Tyres, Tubes and various other accessory lines.

Spring is here and Summer is coming. Get some new stuff for your bike, and for you to make the most of the warm weather.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Back Yamma Bigfoot photos

Me and jeebusSam and Bronwyn
Just finished (tight hamstrings ;)

Start line anticipation
Pain face practise..... I think....

Back Yamma Bigfoot 100km Results and Photos

The weekend of the 3rd and 4th of September brought the holding of the 2nd annual Back Yamma Bigfoot Marathon race. This event is held about a half hour from Parkes in Central NSW. A fairly large contingent of Canberra based riders made the 3 hour journey up north to sample some of the flat fast and sandy trails.

The week leading up to this event was spent mainly on twitter wiping out smack-talk bushfires that kept rising from within the 2602 postcode. SInglespeed as a viable option, to beard or not to beard, whether your accountant would approve of you using a power meter, and appropriate choice of socks were all important topics that were discussed, and in the end rule number 5 topped them all. In unanimous agreement, this would be how this race would be raced.

Kylie and I drove up the day before and scouted the back 25km of the course. The back yamma 100km race is a 2 x 50km event. This is a pretty cool dynamic, allowing you to pick up food and drinks when you come through after your first lap. The general consensus was that the back 25 was pretty hard and that the wind would play a part in this race.

I also got the chance to catch up with my brother on Saturday afternoon who was doing his first bike race in about 12 years. He had driven down from Orange and was really excited to be racing this event. We set up the Cannondale tent and Liam looked after it over night whilst we went back into Parkes and chilled out in the motel room watching air crash investigation, eating Pasta Carbonara and Cheesecake. 

At 5:30am on Sunday we were up and off to the race HQ. Double shot espresso was the first port of call and Kylie did the honours while I got the bikes prepped. Everyone started rolling in and getting all there stuff together. The anticipation for the start of the race was building. Everyone was doing their warm ups, getting their food together and enjoying the chilled atmosphere of event central.

At 7:55am I headed over to the start and got in line and talked some crap. I was slightly molested by Brett Bellchambers on the start line. This woke me up pretty quickly!  It probably had something to do with the inappropriate twitter photos being sent back and forth over the last 12 hours. I guess it is a singlespeeder thing. Or maybe a beard thing.

The gun went off at 8am on the dot and everyone clipped in. I knew that there were a handful of superfast dudes on the starting line. Brett Bellchambers, Joel Ryan, Andrew Hall, Ed McDonald and Jason McAvoy (non-2602) were all guys I had to keep a check on. 200 metres into the race, and it was already at 40km/hr on the slightly downhill sloping fireroad. We crossed a perpendicular fireroad and with the slight tailwind and shaped embankment, I was able to launch totally over the entire track being crossed.

Ed soon came by with his non-aero baggie pants flapping madly in the wind putting in a bit of an early attack. Brett was spinning like crazy as we got up to 45km/hr. Joel Ryan came through just before the singletrack entry and called me to get on his wheel. We hit the singletrack still at 40km/hr and just kept it pinned through the entire section. When we got to the fireroad I looked around and we were pretty much down to about 4 or 5. Joel had done some major damage to the field. From here we had a nice false flat uphill into a deep cross wind. Andrew and Ed were driving the train up here which was spread out in an echelon a Belgian would be proud of. 

When we got close to the end of the fireroad, I ramped up the pace a bit and Brett matched me and went one better and got into the singletrack climb just in front. We were now down to brett, ed, Andrew and myself. Brett was pretty keen to drop as many players from the pack as he could. He was turning a massive gear on his SS - 36:13 or something like that, and was absolutely motoring. As we spilled out onto the long fireroad section, I kept the pace high and drilled it with the tailwind pushing speeds back up over 40km/hr. 

The race then got into a slight holding pattern as the singletrack kept things interesting and relatively stable. Brett and I swapped turns on the front as the wind swept through the bush making life both fast and slow depending on which way you were headed. By the 25km mark we had pretty much dropped Ed, and Andrew's elastic was getting a good workout at the 40km mark as he battled some front derailleur issues. Coming into the 47km fireroad climb, Brett and I agreed to a truce through the feed zone. I am pretty sure that this is one the rules. No attacking through the feed zone. It is definitely one of the unwritten rules of cycling that's for sure.

I was enjoying the descent down into event headquarters and the start of the 2nd lap. I know when the dirt feeling is good, because I look for things that appear as jumps and try and gap them. They are only small sometimes, but it makes the flow feel awesome. I stopped for 10 seconds or so and got new bottles and gels, then took off looking around for Brett. I couldn't see him.  I cruised down the fireroad eating and drinking and looked behind for ages. Still couldn't see him. I thought maybe he had stopped to order a burger or something. When I couldn't see him for the entire long straight fireroad, I decided to get on with my back 50km. 

My mental calculations put the front 50km actually at 51.5km at 1 hour 54 minutes based on my speedo. So we were hauling. This was with the start and a fresh pack of riders to beat the wind. Always makes a big difference at making the pace. It was going to be a little harder going solo. But that was how the race now presented itself. I put in a big effort over the next 30 minutes to take advantage of the prevailing wind and open up the gap. I was still looking around on every long fireroad section trying to see if Brett was chasing me down. I know his abilities on a bike and did not discount him coming back. 

The 2nd time on the trails was better. The trails had been ridden over, sand worms now showing where the terrain dictated where you place the tyres for maximum grip. I kept stomping out a pretty high tempo as I still wasn't 100% where the other guys were, and wanted to ensure that the gap I had stayed pretty high. The kilometres between 60 and 85 went relatively quickly for a change, and it wasn't until the 90km mark that the countdown began to reel off the last 13km. Mental note having been made that this was going to be a 103km race. When I got through the last of the creek bed wall rides, I knew that the rolling fireroads were up next. I got out of the saddle and kept the pace high here and to also put this rise behind me. The last bits of singletrack were sweet and I really enjoyed the run down to the creek and through to the event headquarters and the massive start finish banner, which in this case was now my finish.

I crossed the line in 1st place for the 2nd year in a row in a time of 3:52 for 103km - this turned out to be an average speed of 26.6km/hr, needless to say, that is pretty quick for a mtb race. Last year's average speed was 26.4km/hr (for 100km) which is quite comparable. I actually thought that this year the race was harder. The back 25km was actually 28km and was a little harder. Fresh track, slightly tighter singletrack and also the wind played a big part this year, making the race really hard when battling the headwinds. Everyone I talked to said the same. Huge factor in the overall scheme of things. This also contributed a little to the slower 2nd 50km ~ 1:58, compared to the 1:54 for the first 50. That's how it goes I guess! 

Standout things from the race:
  • Strength of Jeebus (Bellchambers). Dude is a machine. 
  • Getting coated in mud after Ed rode through the only puddle on the course.
  • Racing kangaroos along fireroads
  • Catching up with my brother and family at a race (haven't done that since 1991)
  • Kylie winning the 50km for the 2nd year in a row
  • Good crew from Canberra making the trip up
  • Phil Tucker getting his Katy Perry CD from the car and putting it on the stereo at the restaurant Sunday night
  • Monday morning recovery breakfast (pancakes and icecream) and coffee in Parkes
  • Excellent race organisation and event layout
  • Fast course
  • Dry course
  • Sasquatch doing burnouts on the trike
Everyone I talked to had a blast. This course offers something for everyone, which is a pretty rare thing. I love how fast you can race the 100km on a mtb. Other people I talked to liked how achievable the 100km was. Again, though, people loved how fast it was. The organisers definitely did a really good job yet again, promoting this event and drawing people into the township of Parkes. I was impressed with my brother coming out and giving it a go and achieving his pre-race objective, Got to be happy with that. Nice one Limbo!

I will definitely be back again next year that's for sure!!