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!!


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