Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Watch the "Heroes Wear Helmets" tv ad from 1990

Ok, back in the day when I lived in qld, the state government brought in legislation to make helmet wearing whilst riding a bicycle compulsory.

They thought that making the cycling activity look Rad would be the ticket to getting people to buy a helmet and wear it.

My brother posted the ad up on YouTube today and has the blurb on who was in it. There are some old school names in there who made up the mix.

I was the 'stuntman' riding the bike with this massive camera gaffer taped to the top tube. This was about the size of a small tv. Yes, it was primitive, but it worked in the days prior to gopro cameras.

From what I recall, I got paid $200 and we were fully catered for over the course of the weekend.

Bear in mind that the colours of the digital media are not screwy, this is just the colours of the era that was the really early 90s!

Anyway, it's pretty old school PRO! and brings back some good memories from back in the day.

Monday, May 21, 2012

ACT MTB club racing - never easy

Racing in the A.C.T. -- there is no easy day racing ever, and that is more so in Canberra. In the last 5 years, I have never had a race day at the local club level that was a cakewalk. The problem is, there are just no crap riders in Canberra and someone will always turn up to a local race for whatever reason.

Yesterday we raced at Kowen. More specifically, because Kowen is a massive forest, at the Orchard Road site. This is the one that is opposite the old Kings Highway from Sparrow Hill.

For the new racing season 12/13, CORC have put together PRO number plates based on your ranking from the previous season. Luckily for me, I got in 3 races with some decent results on paper and managed to snag the 002 number plate for the 12/13 season. Brad Morton deservedly got the 001 plate and Dylan Cooper got the 003 plate.

Dan McKay was out snapping some footage on his kick-ass camera and got a few which made me look like I was working the bike giving it a bit. Except the first shot. That is the start line. I just look like I am focussing on something happening underneath my front tyre.

Result-wise, I got 3rd behind Dylan and Brad. I think I am a bit smoked from 4 weekends of racing in a row, as well as the 5 hour training ride on Saturday. I felt I rode pretty strong for the first lap, but just had no punch after that. Good diesel power to keep chugging around, but just empty. That's how it goes. My next major objectives are Marathon Champs and the Husky in the month of June, so I am not too concerned - just aware that the fatigue is setting in. The good thing is that it is easy to address. Just got to time it right!

Of note, the top 3 were on 29er hardtails. Actually, I don't think that anyone in A grade was on a 26er. The times are changing that's for sure.

Monday, May 14, 2012

James Williamson Enduro – Smashing Wingello trails for a good cause

Sunday the 13th of May must have been one of the coldest days that I have spent racing a bike for quite some while. That is saying a lot as being from Canberra, and someone who races club races through winter, I do happen to see a few cold days on the bike. Added to the cold was a fierce wind that cut straight through the 4 layers of clothing worn and was just bitter.

The Saturday training ride was cold also, but not as cold as the Sunday. Saturday had no wind. I punched out a little over 100km in 3 hours with the Saturday morning bakery bunch to assist with my rebuild for the marathon champs and Husky Enduro later on in June.



A bit fresh in the morning upon arrival

James Williamson was a full on legend, who in addition to living in the 2602 postcode, loved riding and racing his bikes. I don’t think I ever saw him without a smile on his face. He raced everything from short track to solo 24 and I always saw him out training. He just had a raw, pure enthusiasm for the bike that was infectious. In memory of him, after he passed away 2 years ago at the Cape Epic, CORC got together a bunch of his old sponsors and decided to put on an enduro race in his memory at the Wingello State Forest. This was his old stomping ground before he move to Canberra.

Yesterday saw the 2nd running of this event with people coming from NSW, ACT and Victoria from what I could see to support the memory of Jimi as well as kick some wicked trails on the mountain bikes. 470 riders made the journey and weren’t disappointed with the trails. They were in sublime condition. The singletrack was flowing and the fireroads you could just haul some serious speed on. Just perfect!

Upon arrival, Jack Henderson plugged in the massive speaker which was blaring Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” which, happens to be my favourite Bon Jovi song. The first thing on the cards was to register and get a number plate. It was quite impressive to see a sign on board at the start. This added to the awesome atmosphere at event central.



Fully PRO setup by CORC having a sign on board at the start

Next up was the mandatory figuring out the right clothing for racing, getting bottles ready, and visiting the trees regularly. For my warm up, I tried to stay as warm as possible. The wind was just tearing through the layers and chilling me. I applied the number 2 level heat embrocation and just to be sure applied another level. Come race time, I would be shedding all the layers and wanted to ensure that I would still be warm.



Bottles sorted, now off for a warm up

At 10 minutes to 9 we all rolled off towards the start line. I was fully rugged up still at this stage and I was just trying to prolong my warmth as long as possible. Arm warmers, full leg warmers and long jacket were my comfort layers. On the start line with about 3 minutes to go, like a snake shedding its skin, I got rid of the leg warmers, and the long jacket and hoped like crazy that the start would come soon. For some reason there was a 2 minute delay and everyone froze some more, but no one really cared, the racing would come soon enough and we would be warm, or too hammered to even notice.

Three laps of a 25km loop were what we had laid out for us. This would take 3 hours or so, maybe a little longer with the cold and the wind. So all up 75km, and for me, the 3rd marathon in as many weeks.


On the start line using Jedi mind games and my jacket to stay warm

BANG!! The start gun went off and we all clipped in and scrambled up the start hill trying to get the cold limbs to get some fire into them. The organisers had put a fireroad start loop into the race to attempt to sort out the start of the race. This did the trick relatively quickly and an initial selection was made really early, before the course proper. Dylan Cooper went off the front early and was going just that little bit faster than everyone early on. Brendan “Trekkie” Johnston was next in line followed by me, Mark “Tupac” Tupalski, Will “Fat Will” Bowron, Troy Glennan and Ondrej Slezak.

With Dylan up the road, his team mate Troy Glennan had the luxury of being able to sit on and enjoy the ride offered up by the rest of us. Bit of a shame really as I was quite looking forward to be able to hide behind him when going into the headwinds! Into the first bit of singletrack and Trekkie got the inside line and looked at chasing down Dylan. I was right on Trekkie’s wheel and Tupac was glued to mine.

The first bit of singletrack was mesmerising. So mesmerising that my 700mm wide bars were put to the test with a tree gap of only 701mm. Hello!! Wake up call! The ensuing nose wheelie at 45 degrees ensured that I got things together and paid a little bit more attention to things at hand! With the blood and extra adrenalin flowing Trekkie started making up a little bit of time on Dylan heading into the KOM. He was dangling enticingly off the front only about 15-20 seconds or so. As we grovelled up the KOM hill, I am sure Dylan was breathing through his nose doing it pretty easily and rode off some more. At this point, Tupac decided to give chase and rode away nicely to latch onto Dylan’s rear wheel. In hindsight, I should have gone with Tupac at this stage, but that’s racing. At the time, I thought it was ok to let him go. About 5 minutes later we caught him again as he had picked up a stick in his rear derailleur and had stopped to sort it.

Shortly after this Trekkie slashed a sidewall around a rocky fireroad corner and his day was done. He fixed it and kept going, but any mechanical will change the course of your day in a big way.

So back as a bigger group (minus one) once more, we kept on smashing it along. Somewhere in the next 5km, Tupac went off again, eager to chase down Dylan. When we hit the last bit of singletrack, Will took the lead and nailed all of the corners flowing them together to keep speed as high as possible. This bit of singletrack, I remembered from the Highland Fling where Troy Glennan and I were riding together. Ironically, Troy was once again behind me through these trails as we followed Will who was riding awesomely today.

Out onto the fireroad I had scoped earlier, I knew we were coming up to the feedzone. Troy led us over the line and we all got fresh bottles and gels in readiness for lap 2.

I had a chat to Will and let him know that Troy wouldn’t need to work because Dylan was up the road, and that we should just roll turns on the fireroad to keep the speed up. With the knowledge of the course now in the mind, it was a matter of eeking the most out of each section.

Troy must have been thinking this also and going up a fireroad rise, decided to ride away. Having raced with Troy quite a bit over the last 2 years, he has this way of just sneaking off from you using his immense power to overcome gravity. It is not a violent attack, it is more like a ninja attack, you think you see it, but ultimately, you just don’t. All you see is the gap created.

We kept him in view for the next 15km just probably hovering between 30 and 45 seconds. With the nature of the course, sometimes, you couldn’t see him, then other times he would appear, and keep things motivated. Somewhere along the line, he let up and joined back into the posse. The wind had started to pick up a fair bit here also. There were times when you would be crawling along the fireroad barely touching 25km/hr, then in the other direction, you would be cranking out 45km/hr just hauling.

The start of the 3rd lap came up quite quickly after Ondrej has led us through the final singletrack section. We all gathered bottles and gels to hit up the last lap. I was feeling pretty good at this stage, and was already thinking of how I thought the race could unfold. With this group we were racing for 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th as Dylan and Tupac were up the road. Dylan had daylight to Tupac, and we were 80 seconds behind Tupac.

I had made mental notes of where I was weak and strong compared to the others as well as scoping out their particular strengths and weaknesses. It would take some major smarts to pull off a ‘Tom Boonen’ ride away manoeuvre with the hills, wind and cold weather playing a small part in the overall scheme of things. The other option was a sprint finish. OK, it was good, I had options.

These options unfortunately, came to a grinding halt as in the first major bit of singletrack I went to pedal and the bike felt a bit weird! I looked down thinking my chain had popped off the chainring. It had, and it was lying on the ground about 10 metres behind me. I said quite loudly “oh, that’s a shame” or words to that affect and bid farewell to my crew, and scampered back to the bit of the track where my chain was lying.

I ripped my gloves and glasses off, the chain breaker came out, the offending snapped link was removed, the chain threaded around the cogs, the chain link threaded though the links and voila, I had a chain once more and a functioning bike. I stuffed everything back in my pockets including my gloves, and threw the glasses back on. I noticed that 2 to 3 people from my class had snuck past, as well as a few others. To the MTB community credit, every single person who went past, asked if I was ok, and had what I needed to get the bike going. Totally awesome.

I can fix a flat tyre in three minutes. This I know from experience. I am pretty sure the chain took about the same length of time. I haven’t checked my Garmin file yet. And to be honest, it is purely academic. As a racer, you know that some things are just purely mathematical. Three dudes racing at a pace that you were also racing at. Put yourself 3 minutes behind them. Are you coming back? On a last lap? Probably not. Did that stop me from chasing hard? Hell no!

I got started back in the singletrack, made sure that I started slow, got my feel back and ramped it from there. I knew that Graeme from MarathonMTB and Ollie from Velosophy had passed me whilst I was fixing my chain. I wanted to get past these guys at least in that futile hope that I could catch up to the pod that I was racing with.

Every corner, I was out of the saddle trying to eek out speed and precious seconds. At the KOM climb I caught and passed Graeme. I could see Ollie up ahead, and I caught up to him in the next bit of singletrack. To his credit, he let me pass, and I told him to latch on. I kept smashing it as hard as I could. It was the last lap after all!

The singletrack was ridden in two-wheel drift style as I sought all the grip that the fast rolling Renegade Tyres offered. They don’t offer a lot, so I was working the corners a fair bit, relying on the Cannondale Flash 29er’s low centre of gravity and superb geometry to rail me and carry speed.



 Last lap past Rob Parberry’s camera lens. Apologies for the Thomas Voeckler style tongue action
As I came out of the last bit of singletrack, I had a few emotions going through the brain. I was stoked to have been able to race wicked trails (in the dry) in memory of James Williamson. I was happy with my ability to hold decent form over the course of three weekends of hard racing. I was devastated to lose valuable time with a mechanical. But, as they say in the movies, “That’s racing”. Well, they say it somewhere, probably at races where things go pear shaped.

I crossed the line in 6th place. The 3rd 6th placing in as many weeks. It was a case of facepalm, or appreciation of consistency depending on how I looked at it. These two thoughts went back and forth for quite a while. Pretty funny. Oh Well.





Results. Dylan smoked it.

After crossing the line I congratulated all those in front of me and talked some crap with a whole bunch of people. The consensus was that the racing and the trails were awesome. As was the cold weather. After cleaning up, I put on a truck load of clothing including beanie, and puffer jacket. To be honest, on the drive home it took until Lake George before I unzipped my jacket. I was chilled to the core!

So, next up, I will start continue rebuilding prior to the Marathon Champs on June the 10th and also keep the 30th of June in the back of my head, which is the XCM round of Husky in Callala Bay. After that, I might head to Thailand for some rest and recovery!



Monday, May 7, 2012

2012 Convict 100 Race Report

St Albans. Wisemans Ferry Crossing. Convict Trail. Del Rio Resort. Sandstone ledges. Waterbars at speed. A bit of climbing.kayak bridge. Anyone who has done this race will no doubt be aware of some of these synonymous terms that go with the territory.

Yes, back for another go at the Convict 100 XCM race. Round three of the Real Insurance XCM series for 2012, and the 3rd XCM race in a row for some, 2nd for me. I raced this last year for the first time and learnt a bit about the course. Course knowledge is invaluable and can make up minutes over 100km in some cases. To assist I did up some race notes in order to mentally help things along.

Luckily the Cannondale Flash top tube is wide enough for my notes.

On the Friday, Kylie and I packed up the car and made the trip up to Sydney. 4 and a half hours later, we were unpacking at the wickedly 80s resort of Del Rio. This year we had got a slightly larger cabin, which made things just a little easier with regard to moving around.

I love the vibe that this event has. When we rocked up to registration that afternoon, the area of St Albans pub was happening. Tents, people, trade demos, massive banners. It just makes you excited for the race seeing all of this. Registration was a breeze. Locate your number on the board, go to the appropriate desk and collect your bag of stuff. Too easy.

The next morning it was a standard 4:30am wake up call in order to get ready for the day ahead. After packing up and eating breakfast the 30 minute twisty road was negotiated with an owl, and two wallaroos almost becoming hood ornaments. Almost as good as coffee as a wake up! Espresso was the first port of call once we had parked the car. Then things started to feel a bit better.

The morning was really cold to me for some reason. There was a really thick fog hanging over the event centre and when I went for a spin to wake the legs up, the bike, my glasses and everything was covered in the fine layer of misty water that you get in these circumstances.

With about 10 minutes to go, I rolled up to the start chute to hang out with the other guys there. A quick scan.... Blairy, Lewy, Fleming, Mather, AJ, Fellows, Hall, Shippard, Trenton, the marathonMTB dudes, plus another 20 odd hitters making up a fully stacked Elite field once again. It was good to see the 2602 of Canberra represented by Blair, Lewy, Hall and myself. Cooper was out with a cold.

Start line. Trying to look #PRO in lycra when it is freezing. Note the number of 29er wheels on that front row. Definitely a trend for 2012.

The start gun couldn’t go off fast enough, and suddenly all thoughts of cold were out the window as we bolted out of the start gate and chased the car in front. Andy Blair gave Shaun Lewis a playful tyre buzz to rev things up in the mellow affair that was the start. The mellow start would only mean that it would light up on the wall. The wall is also where the initial selection is made as well as where the series KOM would be contested.

Suddenly, somebody called out ‘COW!’ and this massive brown beast darted like a scared animal does as the squeal of disc brakes and swearing permeated the still low lying fog. OK, so the heart rate just popped up a twig. Cows, like kangaroos have no respect for the race leader.

A few km later Shippard hit the deck over a slightly muddy puddle. I had done the same thing last year and was counting myself lucky that it didn’t happen again. Through this bit there was cow shit flying up and I breathed through my ears and nose to avoid any of that stuff getting in my mouth and making the day more uncomfortable than it could be.

My plan was to be at or near the front at the 10km mark. The wall was at about the 12km mark. I wanted every advantage that I could get. Then it came. Bang. Heart rate is through the roof, people are scrambling for clean lines, heavy breathing is punching the atmosphere as the legs are screaming. It is a massive shock to the body when you go from cruising solid tempo at 35km/hr on the flat to hitting the 15-20% grades and crawling under 10km/hr in an anaerobic state.

Blair, Mather, Day, English and Jackson had got the gap. No surprise there. I stuck near some good drivers; Fleming, Lewis, Shippard, and I was stoked to see my standard Saturday training partner Andrew Hall up there also. At the top, we worked together for ages to try and see if we could get the leaders back in sight, but they had bolted. Plan B then went into effect. Keep driving.

The 28km feed zone came up relatively quickly, and this signalled the start of the sandstone tech sections. Fleming and Shippard, who have immense knowl;edge of this course as well as the choice of riding dual suspension rigs, stole a minute off Ollie, Hall and myself to the 50km feedzone. Horses for courses.

At the next tech section we saw Fleming at the side of the course, day ruined by a flat tyre. Mechanicals are always a cruel way to go out, when you are well positioned.

The tech section here is just a point and shoot affair over endless sandstone ledges. The choice of the 29er was definitely a good one as it made it easier to roll up and over the square edges. The course was looking vaguely familiar in sections, but I was really waiting until the end of these sandstone sections to actually get some pedalling on.

I got a bit of a scare at a singletrack drop in point, where somehow a small branch from a tree got up under my glasses and poked me hard a centimetre underneath my eye. This scared the hell out of me, and I dropped the wheel in the next corner and unclipped. Hall threw out an awesome sledge as I recomposed myself and clipped back in and got going again.

Somewhere along the way, just like everyone, I picked up a stick in the back of the bike. Time freezes as you hope to hell that it doesn’t rip the derailleur apart. In my case, it did something pretty weird to the chain. I couldn’t pick it at the time, but it had caused one of the inner links to bulge and whenever I was in one of the 3 hardest cogs on the back it would skip under even the lightest power output. Fantastic! Not.

Hard to see, but the inner link was bulged and caused the chain to bind, and skip over the small cogs.

Finally we got descending and rolled out onto the main road below leading to the kayak bridge. This was a chance to have a drink and a gel and get ready for the river crossing. At this stage, Ollie, hall and I picked up a bottle each at the 70km feed zone and were funnelled to the bridge landing to commence the crossing.

The infamous kayak bridge crossing. Just keep looking ahead!

I rolled onto the bridge first, and the other two jumped on after me. I rode this solo last year, however, having the other two on the bridge at the same time made it feel pretty weird. It was like it was bobbing from the effect of the other guys’ kinetic energy and at times felt like a struggle to keep the bike going straight. I’m going with that story and I’m sticking to it!

As usual, the sand at the end of the bridge was the hardest bit to negotiate. A hard left trying not to shove the front tyre too hard, and then a traverse over a grassy paddock to get to the bitumen. As we crested the rise of the bitumen, I looked back and could see Fellows climbing out on the grass. 100 metres later, a kelpie comes barrelling out at me, I yell, ‘DOG’ and throw a hand gesture to alert the guys behind me. Ollie gave it some verbal retribution and it retaliated. We wondered how much fun it was going to have with another 700 odd riders coming through over the next few hours. Meanwhile, Ollie, Hall and I got motoring. We ramped it pretty well along here and were swapping turns all the way until the Webb Creek Rd climb which was at about the 76km mark of the race.

Ironically, I had ridden with Ollie last year at this same point, and it was at this point where he had bid me farewell and I rode off when he could go no further. This year, he was starting to go a bit backwards up the climb, but regrouped a little by the ‘top’ of the first ascent. The gap opened a bit more over the next few climbs and Andrew and I discussed putting the hammer down a bit to put some time into him. 2 minutes later and we had dropped him out of sight.

This bit of the course is quite hard. Even though we had averaged 24km/hr up until this point, the climbs were still a grind with 80 odd km of racing in the legs. I know Andrew pretty well, and as one of Australia’s best 24hr solo and 8hour racers, as well just being a bit of a driver, I knew he was in his pedal hard all day mode.

Inside I was thinking, it reminded me of our standard Saturday ride. Roll through the, at times, sketchy Canberra Bakery Bunch ride, then head out to the Brindabellas to tap out some tempo hills talking crap through threshold breathing.

That’s how it unfolded

At about the 85km mark, we came across Jason English with a broken chain. Yet another bad way to not have your day go. Andrew threw out some words of encouragement, or possibly a ‘race leader’ call to his good mate and we were off on the hunt of the end of the ridgeline and the start of the descent.

After what seems like an eternity we turned right and headed down. Fast. Rapidly losing all of our altitude gained in a matter of minutes. I took the opportunity to have an ‘on bike’ nature break on this descent, which was slightly amusing. But I was busting, and as anyone who knows, you just cannot ride properly when your bladder is full!

We came across the 5km to go sign and I decided to bring up the topic of contesting our relative positions for the race outcome. I told Andrew that I was going to sprint him at the end because I wanted the points for the series. He was ok with that which was fully PRO in my book and we kept motoring. After crossing the river at the shallow level spot, we battled through the energy sapping sand and finally got it up onto the main road and pinned it to the finish. Rounding the finish bend, I got in front and sprinted out of the corner to finish a bike length in front of Andrew and 6th in Elite.

Finish Line. The timing matts were slightly raised, and appealing to hit up as a Double gap jump as they were an enticing distance apart. Clicker thrown in for extra cyclenation points!

Ironically, it was the same placing that I had got last year, but on a positive note, it was 20 minutes faster than last year. 4 hours 4 minutes and 53 seconds. It was one of those days where you don’t feel sensational, but on the flipside, you are not feeling crap either. Hard to explain. That’s racing pretty much....

One of the highlights was seeing my mate Andrew Hall, have an awesome result, bagging a top 10 in a stacked Elite field, as well as enjoying the day out in the hills with him. Ultimately, I was loving the Cannondale Flash 29er for the vast fire-road sections of the course. Being a hardtail it was a slight handful over the rough sandstone sections, but miles better than the 26er hardtail I rode last year. The day after the race, I stripped the bike down to the bone and rebuilt everything. The sand and water just manages to get in everywhere!

Even the cassette body got new bearings!

So now, I will milk the current form I have until Sunday for the James Williamson Enduro, and then it is time to start preparing for the Australian Marathon Champs at Stromlo on June the 10th, followed by the Husky 100 on June the 30th.