Monday, November 18, 2013

Canberra Short Track #SuperSeries Racing

Thursday night Short track MTB racing is back thanks to the awesome guys at The Cyclery.

Check out these videos to see what sort of action is occurring in the Canberra forests!

Round 1 - #SuperSeries

Round 2 #SuperSeries

A big thanks to Meerkat Productions for putting these videos together.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Highland Fling 2013

I went into this race well underdone. Well….at least a week underdone. That makes it really hard to be competitive and race at a standard that I wanted to race at. However, I am torn because on one hand, I am happy, but on the other hand a little disappointed.

I’ll go back about 4 weeks. I was extremely fortunate to be given the opportunity to be selected as a finalist in a prestigious infrastructure awards program, go to London, all expenses paid, and also present at a conference based on work that I do in my #dayjob. That sounds fantastic. And it is. It is a totally defining moment in a career that you don’t get too often. So, I had to take it, and I do not regret it for a moment at all.

When you are doing cutting edge work in an industry you have been in for a long time, it is extremely rewarding to be acknowledged by peers across the world for pushing the boundaries. It is therefore, quite similar to racing a bike. Yes, you do it because you want to see what you can achieve, but you are also doing it for peer recognition.

Now, the issue that I had was this….The conference was from the 28th to the 31st of October. I had the Husky 100 on the 27th of October and the Fling on the 10th of November. This had the potential to be really tricky. I am pretty sure that this is the sort of thing that Meatloaf had in mind when he penned the lyrics to ‘Two out of three ain’t bad’. (maybe)

I was really fortunate to get a flight out of Canberra at 7pm. My race at the Husky finished at 11:00am. After cleaning up we were able to get home at 3pm and then after cleaning up I was able to get to the airport at 6pm. Did it! Then it was just a 28 hour trip to London. Nice recovery model right there!

The conference was 8:30 to 9:30 daily and they packed it into 3 days. That makes things a little tight! I did have a gym with some stationary bikes. Alright then, intervals it was!

• On Friday I flew back to Canberra,

• got back on Sunday.

• Monday was sleeping for 18 hours.

• England has a really nice 13 hour timezone difference also, which makes things quite interesting.

Anyway, I was quite tired, but looking forward to the Highland Fling. I was a little petrified going into it a little underdone (by my standards). I felt as though my endurance was off a little. It had been a few weeks since I had done a longish ride, and like a lot of athletes, I get a little OCD with training and wanting to ensure that things are done in a certain manner before specific races. The Highland Fling demands that all of your abilities are at a super high level in order to just ride it, let alone compete.

The day before Andrew and I watched Kylie Webb race the Bundanoon Dash, which is a 6km race through the town, that ends in a brutally steep climb up Constitution Hill. She came in 2nd place and took home a fair bit of money. So, I make her pay for dinner! Surpisingly, we chose Thai, this time in Moss Vale, and it was exceptionally good. Better than at Huskisson and Bega!

Race day was amazing, and one of those experiences for the history books. We woke up, it was really cold. Then it started to rain. This was a good thing. I probably wasn’t going to overheat or get dehydrated for one thing. So the race went like this

• I warm up for a little bit. See teammate Andrew Hall start his race. Wave to him as he heads out. That’s all I see of him for the day as he is doing the 160km version.

• Get on start line. Freezing. Wet. Towel over shoulders.

• Gun goes off, as does Garmin Sharp pro Lachlan Morton. Ah… the solo breakaway 1 km into the race. Obviously showing some Coluzzi bunch panache there. Helmet choice is interesting however.

• Up the first ‘climb’ out of the first mini water crossing, my legs are feeling a little blocked. Or it is my lungs.

• Thing as get better after the

• Pace is pretty ok, and we have a relatively large group even after the first water crossing. By the second water crossing we are down to about 14 though. Of this, we have a few 50km guys.

• A group of 4 go off the front, including 50km racer Garry Millburn.

• Team tactics come into play, with false tempo and other sorts of things.

• A bunch come into Wingello oval and cross the line for the start of the untimed section.

• Andy Blair comes flying backwards towards us, with his rear tyre hissing.

• A train actually goes through and the boom gate is down.

• Blairy does the Leif Hoste 2006 Paris Roubaix manoeuvre (Google it if you don’t know) which in the end costs him about $2000 in prize money.

• I take a little too long in transition and have to head out solo into Wingello forest. This was going to suck a bit.

• Reach The Wall. Despite all notification, some muppets still decide that walking off the line with their bike on the line is a good idea. I choose to tell them otherwise.

• Catch up to Phill Orr and Jason Chalker after The Wall. Some good company.

• Phill drops off. Chalker is keen to work driving forward.

• Catch and pass Nick Both after he did some mad drifts down one sketch descent

• Negotiate a truckload of traffic through the Wingello singletrack. An absolute truckload….

• Catch Sebastian Jayne at the 65km mark. He looks around, so I wave to him. He then sprints off! Only 55km to go.

• Go past Grant Johnston going up a super steep hill, so I pop a wheelie and wave to him to show him that racing is still about having fun! Check out a burnt out Daihatsu Charade on the right that someone had obviously brought in from 2611 for some reason. Mention this to Grant in passing;)

• Catch back up to Seb. He is broken and out of water. So we give him a ramp test along the dirt road. Catch you later Seb! I’ll take this now, as I was quite surprised at how long he lasted out in front (75km), as traditionally he is a short course specialist. He has to work on his TV choices though.

• Chalker and I continue to swap off keeping the pace as high as we can along the open roads coming into the 2nd transition.

• Grab drinks, gels, lube chain and we are off for the final 29km.

• A truckload more traffic negotiated during this section which includes a fair chunk of technical singletrack.

• Rain has set in. It is cold. I feel like it is a standard Tuesday training ride during winter in Canberra. So I don’t really mind it.

• Come across Ben Marshall at Brokeback Mountain. Finally overtake him along Great Sandy Desert. Ramp test also for him.

• Down the hill, up the hill, across the farm, then under the bridge. Yep, you know where I am if you know this course.

• See the colours of Anthony Shippard in the last 100 metres. Unleash my massive sprint finish to pimp him right on the line. Offer some constructive verbal support as I go past him. Such a highlight. Good times.

• 12th place. Great day out working well together with Jason Chalker.

• Happy with result? Yes and No.

o All things considered (trip away, missed training) --- yes.

o Slight tactical error at T1 – no. That is just disappointing, and a missed opportunity. Oh well, coulda, shoulda, woulda, but ultimately didn’t, so made the best of the situation.

So…..that is just about it for the formal racing season for 2013. Just making a consideration on racing the Gravity Enduro QLD State Championships this weekend based on weather and fatigue levels. Short track racing will continue up until the end of the year which is always fantastic.

The next blog post will probably be a ‘2013 by the numbers’ and ‘best of’ version. That will be interesting to see how the year has gone!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Husky 100km 2013

The feedback from the last post on the Scott 25 hour race was supportive of my dot pointed approach. In fact, I had 66% of the Rockstar team members let me know that they liked it.

So....I will go with that approach for the Husky 100km race which was held on Sunday the 27th of October.

  • It is called the Husky 100, however, it is not even at Huskisson. That is flat out, just misleading. It is at Callala Beach. Callala is almost like saying 'Koala'. Almost, but not really.
  • Before I had woken up on Saturday morning, my teammate Andrew Hall had emailed me asking what the plan was for the day.
  • The response: Drive, recce, registration, Thai, sleep.
  • Drive down via Braidwood. Check out the rock formations.
  • Back 20km course recce. 
  • Noted that there were numerous sticks out on course. Probably close to a million. 
  • I reckon there were more than last year. I cannot quantify that, it is more of a gut feeling.
  • No bottle drops this year. Camelbak was dusted off, and filled up. I don't think I have ever run a Camelbak ever in a race.
  • Some pretty handy people had entered this race. I never underestimate anyone, but I had my eyes on a handful of guys.
  • My 3rd Husky. In previous years I had placed 6th and 9th.
  • Hotel was good, but bed was crap, so only 3 hours of actual sleep the night before.
  • Race started at 7am.
  • Matt Fleming, who was a previous winner, set the initial pace, and ultimately rode off the front.
  • Initial 2nd selection behind Matt was made in the first 5 minutes!
  • Andrew Hall 'flipped a biscuit'. The biscuit being himself in a small gully.
  • 100 metres later, I copped a stick in the rear derailleur which stripped the small outer gear cable and ripped the chain out of the derailleur.
  • 15 seconds and I was back on the bike and amazingly fortunate to a) be rolling, b) have almost all my gears working, and c) be able to get back up to to the pack.
  • We catch sight of Fleming at about the 50km mark.
  • Chalker wonders if we are doing a 110km race - because we see a 60km to go sign!
  • Hall overshoots a turnoff.
  • Hall hugs a tree with his kneecap. Harnesses a fair bit of HTFU to get going again.
  • Overtake Fleming who has binned it on a singletrack corner
  • At the 65km mark Chalker and I ride off up a fireroad and turn around to see no one behind us. 
  • So....we decide to drive on
  • At the 75km mark, we look back to see Hall chasing us down after 'TreeGate'
  • Chalker attacks when Hall was withing 50m - good move. I cover it doing the 'teammate' tactical move.
  • Hall eventually gets on. 
  • Hall drives it fast along the return fireroad
  • Chalker attacks again at the 85km mark
  • I get on Chalker's wheel.
  • Chalker drops a chain up a blocky rocky climb at the 86km mark.
  • I go through. Look around to see no one following. Quick decision made. ITT time.
  • Drill myself for 20 minutes to close out the 100km.
  • Cross the line in first place absolutely elated in a time just over 4 hours.
  • Chalker and Hall cross the line shortly thereafter.
  • Stoked for a Cannondale-Sugoi 1-3. Hall provided critical support during the race.
  • Kylie wins 50km race - legend!
  • Clean up, pack up, drive home.
  • Board plane bound for London!
  • 30 hour transit time. #jetlagged 
Another great life experience notched up. Fantastic times had with good crew in a really nice location. I was just happy that the course was dry - a first. To win was an absolute bonus against a bunch of in-form guys who can not ever be underestimated.

The bike of choice was my Cannondale F29er. Needless to say, it was great. I love this bike.

Next up - fly home on Friday, then prepare for the Highland Fling!

I like this photo by Marathon photos dotcom. I'd like to say that I am optimising the line choice here. But I honestly do not even know where it is!!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Scott 25 hour 2013

Scott 25hr

The dot pointed version - This race was a like a weird stage race.....

24 hour racing is such a mammoth task, even in a team category. Because Andrew Hall was booked in to race the Solo 24 hour World Championships the following weekend, we took the ultimate sandbagger option of racing the 7+6. As fate would have it, so would a few other top teams, therefore this became a real race!

My dot pointed version is as follows…..

• 7+6 class

• No night riding

• Still a truckload of stuff to bring to the race

• Made Andrew ride out to Stromlo as he needed the traiing for #WEMBO

  • A certain 'Elite' rider was noted to be racing a Master category. Is that UCI legal?

• Red and Blue laps – super short and super fast

• Rockstar Racing and Target Trek fielded Elite teams in the 7+6

Double jump down Skyline - no friction in the air!

• 25 hours of racing to commemorate 25 years of Canberra Off Road Cyclists

• Daylight savings kicked in on Sunday morning

• Andrew Hall does the run – team rules as he is the youngest, and I don’t get myself into situations that could have me confused as being a triathlete.

• We then do double up laps

• Repeat for about 6 hours

• Sewage receptacle overflows across road crit track

• Finish the first day in the lead by 4 seconds

• Thai Green Chicken Curry for dinner

• Electric Blanket

Luge (Berm track) - fish eye view of a smooth little berm

• Only got 7 hours sleep ;)

• Up at 5

• Out the door at 6

• On track at 7:14am.

• Double up laps for 5 and a half hours

• Andrew feeling efforts of running, pulls a sly one to get out of doing the last lap

• I do 14 laps, Andrew does 13 laps….plus a little run. I wouldn’t be surprised if he went for a swim also!!! Haha!!

• Rockstar Racing 1st

• Cannondale-Sugoi (that’s us) 2nd

• Target Trek 3rd

• Pack up

• Talk crap with some peeps

• Presentation – our category was done first!

• Cruise home with Kylie shoved in the back of the fully packed SUV also!

• Eat, relax, sleep

I love this bit of trail as it has awesome flow and lovely rocks

• Next day, throw up 10 times and spend an entire night in the ER with Gastro….

• Sportograph, hands down, take THE best event photos of anyone I know. Pure #PRO.

Alright then, that’s it in a nutshell.

Next up, Husky 100km at the end of October. That and get some energy back in me after removing the entire contents of my stomach!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Interview with Brett Bellchambers - Singlespeed Jedi

Brett Bellchambers – single speed mind

If you have been riding mountain bikes for the last 20 years you probably would have come across Brett Bellchambers. He is a true character of the sport and incredibly handy on a bike, especially seeing that the bike only has one gear.

Just as a subtle coincidence, he is another 2602 dweller, so obviously, he is fast on a bike, even if it only has one gear.

I sat down with him recently to discuss the burning issues that face the modern mountain bike racer.

OK Brett, please state your name, age, race category, website, and current sponsors:

Brett Bellchambers.

40 years

Single Speed or Masters.

DirtWorks – WTB (tyres, rims, saddles) Wayward Bicycle Co (Frames)

Kona Groupe Sportif – RaceFace (Bars,Stems,Grips,Chainrings,BB,Crankset,Seatpost)

DIYMTB – Xfusion (Suspension Forks)

Shimano – Brake Pads, Clif Bars and Gels

So, how long have you been racing bikes?

I bought my first MTB in 1991 for my 18th b’day, in Hobart in my first year at Uni.

I did my first race in the Adelaide Hills with the legendary Adelaide Mountain Bike Club in 1996. Raced XC in Sports C, most likely on an Avanti Competitor from 1994 recently fitted with brand new RockShox Quad 5R’s that I paid $600 for with my first paycheck. How the world has changed!!

Yeah, those RockShox forks with the elastomers were the bomb! Did you ever have a hair net helmet or wear woollen knicks?

When I first started riding MTB is Tassie there was no helmet law. I used to ride around Mount Wellington in a green Turtle Fur neck warmer that my brother brought back from a school trip to Mt Buller. I just pulled it up over my head and wore it there, it was cold in Tassie. I wasn’t until I headed butted a tree one day that I thought there might be something to this helmet thing. So I bought a hairnet helmet. The first ride a low branch stole the hair net, after that I was just like riding with a cheap foam esky on my head – how helmets have progressed. Never wore wool knicks – just Blunnie boots with Explorer socks, khaki shorts and a flannie top.

What made you get into the single speed action?

I was living in Adelaide and started to commute to work on a bodged up SS road bike back in ’97. Then in ’99 whilst living near ‘the shire’ I was riding a bodged up 16” GT mtb frame as a SS. Then when I got back to Oz after spending a year in Norway in ’03. I hooked up with some old mates in Tassie and the One Gear More Beer (OGMB) rides on a Thursday night took off and it’s been SS ever since

Jedi Question…..What is the optimal gearing for single speed?

I know this one, I think I explained it to a dumb person at XC Nats in ’07. It’s one chain ring at the front and 1 cog at the rear.

Wow, that is very zen….

This is optimal for Single Speeding. What you choose to make the ring on the front and the cog on the back is entirely up to you. Most people start with 52” or 2:1 on a 26er and go higher and lower from there. i.e 26” 32:16 – 29” 32:18 – 27.5” 32:19.

What is the highest gear you have ever run?

Biggest Gear Ever – Back Yamma BigFoot 100km – 36:16 on a 29er.

Smallest Gear Ever – Kona Paterson 24hr Solo – 32:21 on a 29er.

Are you comfortable with a two wheel drift at Stromlo?

At Strommers I am VERY uncomfortable, once that stuff lets go it’s all over red rover for me. I think I’ve managed a few two wheel drifts at Back Yamma most years, but each time it’s involved the tightening of a certain muscle.

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

Strengths : Big Legs, big heart, a love of hurting for a long time, dumb

Weaknesses : Descend slower than the Elite Females, tiny forearms

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

I know you boys love a good training story, but an epic day for me these days is 4 hours on a Sunday morning with the INDR crew. Last month we tried to hook up all the Inner North and West singletrack and fireroads through the parklands, we found loads of hidden gems, but we missed some parklands due to the roo cull – such a Canberra thing.

Looking extremely #pro for a singlespeeder! Oxymoron?
What is your take on the colour ‘white’ in cycling?

I saw a triathlete wearing a white one piece swimming costume and cutting laps at the Mount Beauty pool one xmas holidays. Since then all white in sport has been a disappointment.

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

Not many people know this but James holds the current Australian 10km road time trial record for riding a bike ‘side saddle’ style – weird but true.

Hey, you've got to take the wins when you can! Are you into quality or quantity when it comes to time on the bike?

I’m a quantity kind of guy I guess. A week for me is 10 hours commuting, 6 hours MTB. Some of that is flat out, most is just cruising. I tend to use races as a way of introducing intensity. I mean you paid money, so you may as well go as fast as you can.

So, hang on, you live in 2602, work in Woden, that’s only a 30 minute ride each way… you’re obviously doing secret intervals somewhere then? How do you train? Powermeter, Heart Rate Monitor, Feel, Jedi Force?

There’s not a lot a light rail in Canberra, actually there’s none. I have taken the slow train to Sydney a few times. But I really would love to see that VFT idea get up in the future. Apart from that I ride my bike, I ride it fast when I feel good and I ride it slow when I feel average.

What is the toughest race that you have ever done?

Any of the three 24hr solos of recent history in Victoria, wet and muddy 24hr solos is a major mental issue. The toughest one to recover from mentally was the Mawson Marathon Pairs with J-Mac in 2010, 360 km, point to point in 14.5 hours and we spent the last 6 hours chasing and riding flat out to finish 4th. That was a tough week after that. I remember just crying riding on the way home one afternoon after work and having no idea why, it was just a massive emotional release.

If you race in Victoria, you can expect there to be mud. Wear black kit, and pack a smile!
What is your take on ‘creative course navigation’?

I tend to be a reasonably straight down the line sort of guy. I take anti-inflammatories after I’ve finished a 24hr solo so that I can pack the Kombi and still drive home, but not during the race. So you can probably already see my point of view on this question. Once you get tainted with ‘creative course navigation’ every result you achieve from then on is suspect, IMHO.

Did you care to name any names?....oh hang on, my lawyers are telling me to retract that last question...Moving on, how many races in total would you do in a 12 month period?

I try to one big race a month (i.e. 100km plus) and I try to keep December and January free for doing skids on my hack bike.

Basically in a normal year – 3-4 * 24hr Solos, 1* 12hr Solo, 2-3 *100kms and 3-4 * 7hr Solos

What exactly is the ‘reach-around’? Can you reach both right and left, or is the wrong arm known as ‘the stranger’

To be honest the ‘reach around’ is a just common courtesy that is all to forgotten in the fast paced world that we live in these days. It used to be taught in most good private school educations. It still surprises me that these days the younger kids have no idea about it. To be honest it’s generally the dominant hand, but either hand truly is ‘the stranger’ either way.

The 'reacharound' - an advanced move no longer taught in private schools

Could you beat Andrew Hall in a two-up sprint?

Tough question, tough question. I don’t think I’d ever back myself in a two up sprint against anyone and many years on the road have proven this too me. I once lost the SA Criterium title to Brett Aitken. I was on a solo break and about 200 metres from the line I was still 50 metres in front of the bunch. I pretty sure that day that Brett Aitken beat me by 20 metres at the finish, he is an animal. But a two up sprint against Andy??? In my road days I was known as ‘last man in the breakaway’. If I placed 3rd in a big road race everyone knew it was a breakaway of three people. I think Andy has the same feel to him, maybe one day I’ll be close enough to him at the finish of a race and we can sort it out at full bore, one diesel to another.

This one time I saw you trying to ride a geared bike up the Stromlo World Cup course. It seriously looked like you were humping the bike! Have you totally lost the feeling to ride with gears?

Yeah up Cardiac Arrest this year at XC Nats I probably looked like a monkey trying to hump an orange, and to be honest with my lack of handing skills the bike humped me on the way back down. Last lap I got the entry and exit wrong to one of the droppy bits and I cracked a rib as my chest made ‘heavy contact’ with my saddle.

Damn, that sounds painful. But you still manage to get some good podium time. What exactly is appropriate podium attire? Is it acceptable to wear your wife’s jeans?

Sometimes going into a big race you just need some extra motivation to not only finish the race but to make it onto the top 5 overall podium. I spent the last 6 hours of this year 24hr Solo Nats riding my butt off, not only so I could make the top 5 podium, but to also loose that last little bit of weight so I could fit into my ‘podium pants’ that everyone seems to have appreciated!

Yeah, I’m almost buying that one. Good explanation. Which do you prefer: Guns n Roses, Aerosmith, Def Leppard or Motley Crue?

I’m not a great fan of the ‘hair bands’ of the 80’s, growing up in Tassie it was a tough time on the school buses listening to that every day. But cycle touring and 24hr solos allow for long periods of bad songs to creep into your head sideways. I have spent three days touring in Scotland with ‘You could be mine’ by the Gunner’s stuck in my head. I love the ‘Dr Feelgood’ album and I have the 12’ single remix of ‘Pour some sugar on me’ so clearly I have a ‘in the closet’ problem I need to address.

What course suits you on the single speed the best?

Stromlo is the best 24hr solo course I’ve ever done on a SS. It’s not too steep and not too flat. Perfect Cinderella SS course!

Speaking of courses, what is your favourite riding area in Canberra?

I never realised just how much I loved Majura until it disappeared. A four hour ride from my front door can take in either Bruce Ridge, Stromlo, Jerra, Majura, Sparrow or Kowen – so many legal singletrack choices, we are blessed in the 2602.

True-dat! Your main focus appears to be the 24 hour races. What other events do you do?

I still love a bit of cheap CORC action, be it a local XC or 3 hr race, I like to try and mix it up in the 100kers now and then, but either you guys are getting faster or I’m getting slower this year, who knows. Throw in some 7hrs and a 12hr and I’m done for the year.

What attributes do you need in order to be a half-decent 24 hr rider?

Ok Attributes – to do a 24hr you need to have a reason to do it, you will hurt, you will cry, you will want to go home, you need a good reason to stay out there. A sense of humour definitely helps, especially if you can laugh at yourself. The ability to hold a tune is a not a pre-requisite, but it is a nice quality. Big legs, a strong heart and a willingness to talk to strangers as if they are your friend, it’s gets lonely out there at night.

What’s your philosophy about on-bike nutrition?

Basically when the minute hand is at the top of the watch then it’s time to have a gel, so I at least get 1 gel per hour. In shorter races I may need to top up on a gel between hours if I start to go a bit woozey.

Why don’t I ever see you in the Saturday morning Bakery Bunch?

When I was a proper roadie in the early naughties I would have been there every Saturday morning and handed you your ass on a plate with a side serve of lamingtons.

Yeah, I do like lamingtons. That would have been really nice. Do you use Strava?

NO! I’ve almost punched a few people using Strava on the bike paths (and it takes a fair bit to get me going). Be warned if you ride at me on a bike path with your face in an electronic device attached to your handle bars and I have to swerve off the bike path to miss you, you will hear about it.

Awesome! That would have been great to see. What motivates you and keeps you going, both competitively and from an enjoyment factor?

I love riding a bike; I think that most of us do, so nothing amazing there. If I wasn’t competing I’d still be riding 16 hours a week, otherwise I’d be fat. I don’t get to do really long rides anymore, racing is my selfish reason to make that happen.

What is the best sledge you've ever heard / given?

“Take a turn you Maggot”, generally directed at Andy Hall, that bloke who never pulls his weight in the bunch and waits for the sprint finish.

I’ll have to remember that one for Saturday mornings, but then again, that is a valid ‘tactic’.

What’s up with the @fake_Jeebus twitter account? You don’t seem to get out on the tweets much?

I don’t know who that bloke is, but he’s hilarious ;)

Who are the O’Connor Swingers? I’ve heard you meet at Tilleys

The legendary Inner North Dads Ride (INDR). A bunch of dads the love singlespeeds (generally), each other’s company and spending time away from the wife and kids. We even let Ed McD join given his aged appearance. It came as a shock to most of us to find out he was in his early 20’s.

Ed does look 'experienced' and he uses big words a fair bit, it's easy to think that he has maturity beyond his years. Where did you come up with the name ‘Shunter P Jones’?

Back in the early days of Facebook (yes I’ve had an account for a LONG time I’m just not active, my life is not that interesting) someone went to Europe and the only way I could see their pictures was on Facebook. Seems legit.... Anyway.....I’d been listening to a Spencer P Jones album at the time and I used to be called ‘Shunter’ in my road days in Adelaide, amongst other things, so ‘Shunter P Jones’ was formed. So far Dr Eggs has been the only person to make the connection.

OK, the biggie. What is the deal with the beard?

There are a few SS 24hr solo legends like Steve Fitchett, Brendan Den, Scott Verscoe, Eddie McD and then there’s B-Rad, just like Madonna and Cher he is known by one name only. I remember the first time I met him was at the 2008 Scott 24hr, he even had B-Rad sprayed painted on the grass for his Marquee, the man’s a god. Anyway he’s known for his beard and he has a proper beard not like mine. As a joke we decided to have a “Beard Off “ for the 2010 24hr Solo Nats. It was about 2 months out, he amazing was clean shaven, which I never got to see but I heard it was scary, and I’d been growing for a few months so I thought my chances were good. Long story short I won the “on the start line beard off”. Then my kids got attached to it and now they both get upset to the point of tears every time we talk about cutting it off, weird I know.

Without action, there's no juice. Without beards, just look funny!
Doing it for the kids. That’s #PRO! What are your best tips for racing?

I always used to give this tip for 100km races: “Go as hard as you can until you taste vomit and then back it off a bit”. However since one of my mates took that advice a little bit too literally and ended up in hospital on a drip for the night I’ve stopped handing it out.

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

• Solo 24 hour racing – Pain followed by Paw Paw Cream

• Andrew Hall - Hammer

• Ed ‘wiener’ McDonald - Almost

• Jason English – Fastest ‘chugger’ in Australia and on his day the World.

• Steep climbs – It’s not ‘real mountain biking’ if it doesn’t include a walk.

• White kit – Hairy Butts

• Interval training – Make up your mind – either go fast or go slow

• Brindabella Mountains – What a view!

• Favourite MTB tyre – 1992 Smoke/Dart, 1996 Missile, 2006 CrossMarks, 2009 Raven, 2013 NineLine

• Espresso or Latte – Latte, full cream, 2 sugars

• Sock Height – Just high enough to cover my fat ankles, but not high enough to cut off blood supply to my shins.

• Social Media – Interesting/Confusing

Cheers Brett, it’s been awesome as always. I’ll see you during the week along Adelaide Avenue for commuter Olympics!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

2013 Kowalski Classic - the tale of the Kow and the Bird

Kowalski Classic

A cow and a bird were the mascots on the free water bottle received in the race pack. The cow represents Kowen forest, and the bird represents Sparrow Hill forest. Genius right? This race was promoted as having close to 90km of singletrack for the 2nd running of this MTB marathon.

I first rode Sparrow Hill in 2006 and was mesmerised by the network of trails that Alan Anderson and Paul Cole put together. Heavy Cow – in the anti-clockwise direction was the ultimate standout. What was also a standout was that Alan had let Kylie and I be the first people to ride it ever. 4km of perfectly groomed trail with amazing berms, rock formations and most importantly….flow. It took him 3 months to build that 4km of trail. We rode it 4 times in a row that day.

Over the years, the Mont 24hr and numerous club races have also allowed me to figure out that there are a lot of kilometres of trail out at Kowen also. As a Canberra local, I do not ride much out there any more, except for racing really. Living in 2602, I am spoilt for choice. From my house I can get to the following off road destinations in these timeframes (by bike):

• Mount Ainslie – 1 minute

• Mount Majura – 5 minutes

• Bruce Ridge – 14 minutes

• Black Mountain – 15 minutes

• Mount Stromlo – 40 minutes

Kowen\Sparrow is a whopping 30km or so by bike, and would take me at least an hour or so to get to!!! #firstworldpains.

So, when Self Propelled Enterprises organised the 2012 Kowalski Classic, I can’t remember what else was on…. But I missed it.

For 2013, I got my entry in and did the usual research on it. Wow. Mostly singletrack… in 99% singletrack. That is pretty unique….and potentially a little different with regard to race dynamics, feeding, overtaking, speed, and recovery spots.

This was made evident in the course recce of the first 50km that I did two weekends ago with my teammate Andrew Hall. He had done a recce the weekend prior to that with the Specialized Swell team mates Andy Blair and Shaun Lewis, and had logged the course into his trusty Garmin 800.

Initial thoughts were as follows:

• Fireroad start ability-sorter climb

• A truckload of singletrack

• Flat fireroad across ‘Rossy Flats’

• Super steep fireroad pinchers

• Switchback city through gum trees – super loose

• Roughest bit of bumpy singletrack up to the top of the climb – sort of soul destroying it was so tough

• Going backwards around some of the Mont trails.

That was 50km and our recce took 3 hours and 15 minutes!! Damn, this had us worried. What was also worrying was that my entire body ached the next day. A course made up of almost entire singletrack is going to take a lot of physical handling to pilot the bike around.

So, come race day, Andrew Hall picked me up and we cruised out in the cold morning, complete with fog and zero degrees to boot. Ahhh got to love a good Canberra morning.

We came across Ed McDonald who was doing some serious training on his road to Wembo in about three week’s time. He was riding out for extra training. Of course, this was a prime opportunity to hang out the window to offer some encouragement for a fellow competitor \ 2602 #PRO. However, I just yelled out “What’s up baby?” to which Ed replied “Nothing much”. Andrew was going to ride out with Ed that day, but having already reached his secret training quota of 30 hours of riding for that week, wisely chose the car option. It was at least 28 degrees inside and we had heated leather seats. Ed looked a little cold!

Driving out to Kowen, it was 0 degrees and foggy. Thankyou canberra!
When we finally got to the event HQ, Andrew negotiated the CX7 up onto the graded verge and got a totally boss carpark for the day. Awesome start! We sorted bottle drop, table for other bottles, nature break, and then went for the standard warm up. We just went up the first climb. That was plenty – it was a little slick and I didn’t want to get the bike dirty just yet.

Al Vogt called everyone up and we did the standard race briefing. He rattled off a bunch of Trail Names that made up the course. I can’t say that I knew any of them! I was just going to be following either wheels or arrows or course bunting. We were finally off and racing. The pace was medium-fast, sort of like Glenn McGrath on a good day. 100 metres from the top, everyone remembered that we funnelled into singletrack, and so ramped it up to Brett Lee pace for the coveted holeshot. I am pretty sure that Seb Jayne got the holeshot, and then we all followed. A lot of us.

I knew that we were in for about 40 minutes of singletrack before the flat fireroad section known as “Rossy Flats”.

I am pretty sure this early in I had done the right amount of #fabianese ‘position-fighting’ to be around 10th place or so. But it was hard to tell. It might have been anywhere up to 15th. Even having a chugger day, Andrew Hall had managed to get a few wheels in front of me. Sneaky bugger! As we spewed out onto a fireroad section, I summoned my entire inner strength not to sledge him as I rode past with the mission of getting back to the wheels that were cruising off in front. Instead, I showed him my back tyre and got my drift on through the forest.

I managed to get on to Lewy Cressy’s wheel and every now and then would look back and see a truckload of riders through the trees following. This must be like what solo 24hr racing must feel like ;) When we flowed out onto Rossy Flats (the long fireroad priot to the super steep fireroad), we had a decent bunch of riders. From my vantage point I could see the following

Seb Jayne, Andy Blair, Mark Tupalski, Jarrod Hughes, Kyle Ward, Lewy Cressy, Jason English, Chris Fisher, David Nairn, Chris Hamilton, Anthony Shippard, Troy Herfoss and maybe a couple of others

The only notable exception was Shaun Lewis who had copped a massive rear flat earlier on and the duo of Ed Mac and Andrew Hall. These guys were dieseling along with the allure of a specific race in 3 week’s time.

As we neared the end of Rossy Flats (so named in honour of Jeremy Ross who loves this sort of terrain in order to smash anyone who wants to suck a wheel. He and Chuck Norris have restraining orders out on each other because ultimately, the world might end), riders were getting rabid as there was a short bit of singletrack prior to some super steep fireroad.

This fireroad required you to chew a bit of stem, and whilst pretty short, it was about 20% and a little intense! We then hit the gum tree switchback climb and then went into the next section after a short fireroad interlude\recovery. This section has great potential, however being freshly cut, it was a little energy-sapping. It was bumpy, tight, and lacked a little flow to be honest. When it packs down with some more use it will be a bit of a pearler because it climbs to an extremely high point in Canberra, and is technically the highest singletrack in the ACT at over 1000m above sea level.

It was through this section that the natural secondary selection occurred. Mark Tupalski and Kyle Ward had taken off. Andy Blair was biding his time with Cressy and Hughes in hot pursuit. Jason English had probably the easiest first hour of a marathon ever, Seb Jayne was somewhere up ahead. Shippard, Nairn and I caught the Kow-train onto the next section.

So that was pretty much the top 10 selection happening right there. It took an hour and a big hill, but as was expected, the race was in relative pieces and the war of attrition that was expected, was now playing out.

The next 25km went by reasonable slowly to be honest. The first 50 took about 2 hours 13 or so. The wet ground definitely played a part in this. It wasn’t muddy, but it wasn’t superfast either. I was riding with David Nairn and Anthony Shippard (again) and every now and then we could see flashes of team kit through the trees. Sometimes you would look over and see the rider coming straight back at you and think, ‘you beauty’ I’ve got you only to discover that you had another 300 metres of singletrack to ride before you hit the switchback. Damn!

One point of note. We were riding through the trails that the Mont took in. A lot of these trails we were actually riding in the opposite direction. And, they had amazing flow and such a different feel to what you were used to.

After coming through the 50km point, we crossed underneath the start\finish banner and then started up the second part of the race. We all stopped for a beverage top up and motored on. Up ahead we could see Cressy and Shippard drove the bus to hunt him down.

We hit up a specific climb for the 2nd time and this one had definitely had 950 riders already over it. The muddy sections were pretty mashed up. I hit one thinking it would be an above average line, only to have my front wheel sink down a foot. The bike stuck still standing there by itself. It took 5 yanks on the handlebar to prize it free from the mud-porridge. This probably cost me 10 seconds or so, and I laughed at the mud rode off and caught up to the boys who were now hitting up some of the absolute best singletrack on Kowen.

After going through that mud I had to get some Towels to clean the bike with. Cheers Trev!
This took us all the way down to the entrance to Sparrow Hill. We were now in store for a bit of a singletrack treat. The trails over this side of the road have a little better flow, and we were hauling, with Nairn driving the pace. Cressy had rebounded after being caught and was in our group . I would have to say that an hour in Sparrow felt like about 5 minutes. It was mesmerising, hero grip was aplenty, and even the muddy bits were not a hassle. It was almost like being in the zone.

Occasionally, certain things happened that woke you up out of it. Cressy hitting a stray pine cone, the boys concertina-ing on a tricky rock section, the shriek of a black cockatoo. The occasional fireroad crossing. Otherwise it was left, right, left, right, outside pedal, inside pedal --- then repeat. Awesome.

Through this section we picked up Jarrod Hughes who was broken for the day. He didn’t last long unfortunately. We also came across Kyle Ward. Again, like Cressy he rebounded after being caught and joined our group.

I could ‘feel’ where we were in Sparrow and when we went past the 78km feed zone, the lovely volunteers offered me a bottle handup. I didn’t need it so just waved to them! That is seriously cool!

We began our descent of a trail that I am sure that I have pretty much ridden up every single time I have been at Sparrow. Going down was pretty cool. That is a bit of an understatement. When does descending not end up as being fun?

When we went underneath the highway, Shippard was leading, Nairn following, with Cressy and I in hot pursuit. Kyle found some hidden energy and attacked hard. Up the rise, then down the fireroad descent. Nairn got on his wheel, but Shippard was a little slower to react. Cressy didn’t go around either. Damn. The K-train was leaving Sparrow Station and I needed to be on it. I sprinted past Cressy and Shippard through the last section of the fireroad and got back on to Nairn’s wheel. Kyle was driving like a man possessed. We must have been doing 30km/hr up the gully rise trail that takes us over to Kowen. I went pretty deep here to catch the wheel.

We got through the next bit of singletrack and came out onto the old Highway section that takes us over to the Natural bushland of Kowen. Nairn attacked Kyle here, and I quickly responded because I had a feeling we were pretty close to the finish. Unfortunately, Nairn was about 0.5% faster than me through this last section and I just could not close the gap at all. And it opened up a little more as well. What felt like 5 minutes later we crossed the line in a shade over 4 hours for the 90km of wicked trails.

For me it was 6th place. Jason English sprinted Mark Tupalski for the win, whilst Andy Blair recovered from a late race flat to take 3rd place. When you do the math on how long it takes to fix a flat, and how much English beat him…..well, you get the picture of what might have been.

A day out in the mud, in the forest and across a lot of singeltrack

To be honest, I was pretty happy with this result. I was pretty happy to pull up reasonably well from the weekend before at the Flight centre Epic. I was really happy with how the Cannondale F29er handled the tight and twisty singletrack and the bumpy sections.

Top 20 results. So great to see a really strong field
I had a good time racing around the forest with some good company and enjoyed the course that Self Propelled Enterprises had put together. I really, really liked the Sparrow Hill loop that they did. That was a bit of a treat for the second part of the race.

Andrew Hall, whilst in chugger mode still managed a very respectable 10th place. With 30 hours of training under his belt. I guess all of the secret training is going to pay off sometime soon! Anthony Shippard came across the line in 9th place on a ‘new’ loaner Cannondale Scalpel from City Bike Depot. That was pretty cool. 3 Cannondales in the top ten!

Ok, up next, Andrew Hall and I will train through the Scott 25hr race in a 2 man team. Make sure you drop by the tent and give us some good sledges!

Monday, September 16, 2013

2013 Flight Centre Epic

A race that is Epic like a boss.

Damn, where do I start with this one? For years I had seen race reports from this event. Like a lot of events, you sometimes just don’t get the right opportunity to get there. It might be for logistical reasons (reasonably lame, just HTFU). It could be for financial reasons (reality of life). It could be due to the fact that it was close to another important race (fair call sometimes). Or it might be as simple as the fact that you ‘didn’t get around to it’.

So….I got around to it. Anthony Shippard sent me through his 2013 race calendar about 3 months ago and I noted that his September was fully packed. And on it, was the Flight Centre Epic. The race was entered onto my training diary and my race calendar.

On the Monday before the weekend, I sorted all the flights, accommodation, hire car and the race entry. That was the logistics sorted. Then I did the packing really early. That is sometimes pretty tricky to do, depending on what training you have on.

Packing for a race for me is always one of those things where you are thinking of all of the things that could go wrong and whether you should bring a ‘spare part’ or not. I always err on the side of bringing a truckload of things so that if and as is usually the case, when something goes wrong, you can sort it. So, as per usual, I packed a lot of extra stuff.

Bike packed - plus some other stuff

This week was pretty much fuelled by listening to Aerosmith. It just got me in a good mood for the trip up. At the Qantas club lounge in Canberra, I bought Steven Tyler’s autobiography “Do the voices in my head annoy you” via Google books. Yeah, I can relate to that question. The inner voice is always working overtime!

We got up to Brisbane about lunchtime and headed out via the motorway to Ipswich. Now, I have mentioned in other posts about the ‘style’ that Ipswich has. I hadn’t been there for a couple of years, and to be honest, it did seem to have gone slightly more upmarket. However, there were certain elements that still existed that did not fail to disappoint. It’s ok…. My mum was born in Ipswich so I feel as though I can speak with some authority on this subject ;)

Race accommodation is however, especially at a new event you haven’t been to before, a bit of a lottery. We got there. We inspected. Not overly happy. Can we inspect a new room? Again, not overly happy. The main reason was lugging up all the bags and bike bags UP flights of stairs. Such a drama! So we did what had to be done and negotiated a deal on the ground floor ‘unit’ accommodation complete with kitchen. Now, we’re talking!

Making ourselves at home

So I cranked Aerosmith’s ‘Sweet Emotion’ and got building the bikes. Kylie went off for a snooze. That’s pretty standard. An hour later, I had everything unpacked and two bikes rebuilt ready to ride. We scouted the drive out to Spicers Hidden Valley where the Epic was situated and went for a spin to loosen up the travel legs and scout out some of the course. As we left the carpark at 5pm, it was somewhat of concern at about 5:45 when it was getting close to absolute sunset and we were still in the forest.

Relief set in when we came out to the cow fields, saw a couple of camels, and the lights of the event centre. Made it using the force! Never truly lost, just a timing issue!!

Kylie was excited to see camel's on our recce

Soon after getting home, I got a message from Specialized Swell Team Captain, Shaun Lewis, asking about tyre selection. As the #PRO advisor, I can be relied on to provide sound advice on tyre choice, sock height and other important cycling issues such as how much of the colour white to incorporate into your entire package.

That night we went and got some Thai takeaway from the Khmer Thai restaurant in town. This was unreal and we booked for Saturday night. We discussed the plan for Saturday and then hit the sack. It was a long day!

Saturday morning we went exploring out the backside of the course and recced the long flat and the super steep climb. I also took the opportunity to check out some of the singletrack in the back 37km of the 87km race. Race registration was sorted and bottles for the next day were dropped off. Then it was back to the motel for a one hour afternoon snooze.

That night we caught up with Anthony Shippard and Wayne Dicksinson for dinner. Dinner is always a great time to recount tales from the recce, previous races, future races, other racer’s form, embellish or play down one’s own form and othwerwise just talk some absolute random shit.

Paradise City, the Brisbane Guns n Roses tribute band was playing at the Booval Sports Club, and it was seriously tempting to go and see this act. The only issue is that they probably would not have started the set until 9pm. And we had a race the next day….However, they do the 1987 to 1993 era of Guns n Roses, which arguably was the best. Whilst Axl had matured as a songwriter for Chinese Democracy, it was not the same without Slash, Duff, Adler\Sorum and Izzy.

Where the grass is green and the girls are pretty

So, because we were in Ipswich, we did the next best thing before bed time, which was cutting laps around town in Shippard’s SUV. He had hired a Mitsubishi Outlander, which had almost stalled going up the Gateway bridge due to its absolute lack of power. Finally he figured out that the vehicle had ‘sports mode’ and he then utilised the paddle shifters to manually get the car to red line and actually get up to speed. Fun times were had taking on other local SUVs at the lights and drag racing them to the next set of red lights. Way too much fun on the eve of a race.

Shippard could probably be a racing car driver if he wasn't driving a gutless SUV

It seriously was....

The morning of the race it was super foggy. It almost even got cold, getting down to 9 degrees on the drive out. However, that fog soon lifted and we were on the start line at 7:50 for a 8:00am start. That is pretty civilised. Most race starts are at 7:00am, so this was an absolute luxury.

Everyone was talking, Blairy was assisting Robbie McEwen with his camelbak, media were taking photos, the HR was just buzzing with anticipation on the start line. The countdown came and we were off.

It was a pretty mellow pace. Justin Morris (Team Novo Nordisk) and Robbie McEwen (Orica-Greenedge DS) , the two token roadies at this race were doing the pacemaking early on, just keeping us moving at a nice pace on the open fireroad. There was 5km of fireroad prior to the first climb, which also happened to be singletrack. Shortly before the steep descent, I went around them both and upped the pace slightly so as to get a cleanish clear run down the hill. A few others had the same idea, and the race was properly on.

The flat valley area allowed the group to swell up again, and when certain people you don’t know start moving up…. Well, things get twitchy and the pace lifts again. That and the fact that the singletrack was coming up. This was the first little heart starter and rose about 100 metres straight up the side of a mountain past checkpoint 3. Over the other side, it was across some grass before getting into the funner part of downhill singletrack. Andy Blair (Swell Specialized) had dropped his chain here and lost a few spots at this stage.

We then lost all of the elevation in a wild ride down a dusty double track through farm lands and then spilled out onto the first bit of bitumen. 8 of us here, Shippard stated “that’s the first selection then”.

As the pace here was pretty chilled in order to get a drink and a gel a few more riders got back on. From here we climbed another 100 metres up another hillside that had some really interesting gravel points just thrown in for fun I am assuming. At this point, Adrian Jackson was climbing about 10 metres in front looking strong. As I was on Jason English’s wheel 8 riders down, it was pretty apparent that some team tactics were being played out between the Merida team mates.

After the traverse around the mountain, we descended this sketchy fireroad. Shippard somehow managed to hit a rut and catapult himself out at 45 degrees into the side of the hill at the base of a large gum tree AND managed to ride it all out as if nothing had happened. Luckiest SOB ever! The run out to this descent was a sweet fast flowing open farm road which we hammered along at 45-50km/hr and we all spilled out onto the bitumen shortly thereafter for a drink, a gel and a natural break for those that needed it.

It wasn’t even an hour in and we had covered over 25 kilometres. That was awesome. However, it also spoke volumes as to what was coming up as the race winning time always tends to be around 4 hours. As we went through the first feed zone, the pace was getting a little too slow. My heart rate was about 130bpm, so when I came rolling through to the front, I just upped the pace about 10% and when I checked behind, no one was following. So I just rode off. I didn’t go super deep, but kept it just beneath threshold and opened up about a gap of 30-40 seconds on the group. I had thought about this the night before after doing the recce.

I was only doing it so I could climb up slowly and minimise losses

My plan was….if it unfolded….to get a gap to the base of the steep climb up Sunset Boulevard, then do the 15-20 % gradients at my own slow chugger pace. Hopefully I would get up the climb and not lose too much time. It worked. I got to the gate prior to the 2nd part of the climb and then just managed my losses. At the top, I had Justin Morris in sight and caught back up to him, and then we soon picked up Shippard who had thrown a chain.

That's how steep the climb was..... stem was thoroughly chewed

Rounding one corner, we came across a herd of cows. Big buggers they were too. They were on our right on the high side of the hill and you could tell that because of the direction and the way that they were moving, that they wanted to run on the trail in front of us. So being 1000kgs each, we let them do just that. One of them got the crazy eyes and chucked in a desperation move off the left side of the trail, which went straight down the fall line. He was running straight down the hills dodging trees on a 30% gradient. Amazing. The other 10 cows were slowing us down running in the middle of the trail. I yelled out ‘track please’ and they finally got it and moved left upside the hill. True Story.

After the bovine incident, we were back on it. This included some super steep pinch climbs as well as one of the steepest and sketchiest ‘doubletrack’ descents I have ever done. I got to the bottom of this climb and could smell someone’s rear brakes absolutely cooked.

Then it was through the creek bed and up a crazy steep rocky loose climb. This then made its way along a rocky singletrack traverse before coming out at Checkpoint 3. At this stage we were only half way through the 87km and I was looking forward to the run to the start finish transition where my esky filled with ice and cold drinks awaited me.

We had lost Morris with a double flat in the singletrack prior, and Shippard and I started hammering the sinuous singletrack. My chain dropped off and got caught between the chain ring and the frame underneath the front derailleur, and it took a fair while to get this sorted. I lost contact with Shippard at this point, but could see him up ahead with Shaun Lewis who due to the team dynamics was getting a nice tow in the vortex. I looked across to some trees in the paddocks, and noted that the camels were there.

The day was heating up a fair bit, and his was soon made evident to me climbing the last bit of singletrack up to the transition point with Nigel James. Yep, the good old cramp in the leg. I quickly downed the rest of my electrolyte drink which made them go away, but the 30+ degree temperatures forecasted were here, and the Garmin said 40 degrees riding up that climb.

I followed Nigel through transition and stopped at my esky and grabbed two chilled bottles. These were to last me 30km until the final checkpoint where I could get some nice sun-warmed electrolyte drink.

The next bits of singletrack were absolutely fantastic, and even in a deranged, fatigued, dehydrated state, I could enjoy every metre of them. If you are a trail builder, you should do yourself a favour and get up here to see what a good trail rides and feels like.

What was slightly amusing was the magpies. To them, we were merely sport, and when cruising the open trails, they were more than happy to bomb us and snap us. It was good because it kept the focus tight. The 30 km were gone in an amazingly quick time, and the time was taken to manage energy outputs with regard to fluid and electrolyte intake.
With 2050 entrants, the magpies would sleep well that night

Heading up the twisty, rocky, switchbacks at the 78km mark, I noticed the green Attaqeur outfit that Shippard was wearing. It is a little known fact that this outfit was inspired by the Versace dress worn by Jennifer Lopez. Shippard even had the zipper fully open to simulate the navel shot that J. Lo rocked. Unfortunately, for Shippard, he was done for the day, beaten by the heat rather than by lack of form. He was flying early on.

OK, this is not what Shippard looked like, but his outfit was eerily similar in colour.

At the checkpoint I grabbed two warm bottles of electrolyte drink and sculled a truckload. Right then. Nigel had bolted, but with an extra 250mL of fluid and salts in me, I was ready to race the last 20 minutes or so. I quickly caught up to Nigel in the singletrack and we weaved in and out of the backmarkers of the 50km pursuit and 87km epic riders who were probably in for a rather long day. At this point of the race, you are just emptying the tank and a lot of it is probably running on the smell of the fumes of the adrenalin.

It feels like you are flying and is an amazing feeling. You are seeing the track and hitting all of the lines. In all reality, you are probably going pretty slow and are just so cross eyed that it is making all of your sensations totally amplified ---- or it is somewhere in between.

As we were going across the grassy plains, we picked up a passenger. Not sure what race he was in, but he must have been an OK guy, because he was on a Cannondale and riding out of the LifeCycles shop in Brisbane that the Stockwell family used to own. Not sure if they still do or not. We had actually passed him back near the barns way back up after a grassy descent.

Just prior to the last singletrack climb he got the holeshot to the skinny trail and led us up the climb. I was on Nigel’s wheel, and he was on Mr Lifecycle’s wheel. We must have overtaken close to 20 people up this last section. I saw Kylie yelling encouragement to us all as well as trying to direct some traffic for our clear egress through this vital section. When we came out onto the fireroad I knew that we were almost done. Mr Lifecycle pulled off to the left, I gave him the thumbs up for his assistance and got into Nigel’s slipstream. I got around Nigel just prior to the last bit of ragged singletrack and crossed the line after 4 hours and 14 minutes in the sweltering heat, which was good enough for 6th place.

Top ten results

I was stoked to see Kylie at the end, and provided Mike Blewitt from with a quick interview before jumping into the swimming pool with all my gear on, helmet and glasses included, to cool down. You simply can not beat a race that has a swimming pool at the finish line!! Race promoters, please take note!

Stating the obvious is sometimes the best policy

We found out shortly thereafter that Kylie had taken the victory in the 50km race, which was sensational for her. She also battled the heat and was extremely fortunate to have Dave help her through the last bits providing advice as to what was coming up whilst she was seeing stars!! Only a little bit dehydrated! Cheers Dave!

So, all in all another great life experience on the books. This event is pretty hard to top. It is definitely the best event that I have been to from an atmosphere and logistical point of view. The awesome trails were just icing on the cake. The promoters managed to put on a superb event for a record 2050 competitors. That is just amazing!

For this event, I chose to race the Cannondale F29 hardtail. With 2500 vertical metres, a light bike will always help me. I can pick lines through the rocks pretty well in singletrack and the way I see it…. It’s going to hurt the next day anyway regardless of what bike you are on. The hardtail is my only MTB and I like it.
I seriously love my Cannondale F29er. Perfect geometry with F1 technology

I’m still running SRAM XX. I like and need the super low gears that the 2 x 10 range affords. However, with a few front chainring drop issues that I have had at crucial time at races this year, I am definitely considering going to SRAM XX1 for next year. I’ve just got to sort the gear ratios for the specific courses.

My Sugoi RS PRO jersey was pretty amazing in the heat. It did end up covered in salt crystals as I sweat like a mofo, but due to the awesomely placed mesh inserts I wasn’t overly hot or bothered. It’s amazing what the technology is capable of in these garments.

So today, it’s 11 degrees and raining back in Paradise City. A stark contrast to yesterday’s 35+ and beautiful QLD sun.

Up next… clean and rebuild in time for this weekend’s Kowalski Classic at Kowen and Sparrow Hill.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Back Yamma Bigfoot 2013

The Back Yamma Bigfoot 100km is probably my most favourite event on the calendar. I am pretty sure that I have said that before. There are probably two reasons for it. The vibe and the track. The vibe is so chilled and relaxed which is fantastic for racing. And the track, well, it is flat and it is fast and you can get your drift on – so I love it!!

First stop before the road trip - coffee

Kylie and I had the Kluger packed by 8:50am on the Saturday and made the trip up to Parkes via Yass, Boorowa, Cowra, Gooloogong and Eugowra before turning left at Back Yamma State Forest and checking in at race headquarters. On the trip up, we noticed that the ground was fairly wet showing the effects of the recent rain. A lot of thoughts were going through my head, but ultimately on arriving at the forest I was relieved to see that it was dry and more importantly, it was dusty. Phew!

Packed and ready to go

As the BYBF is a 2 x 50km loop format to hit the full length, we hit up the back 25km for a bit of a recce and it was quite apparent that the course had been revamped for this year’s edition. Gone were the vast expanses of fireroad in the back 25km which made the course super fast. In its place was a fair bit of singletrack, some rough patches of cow-trail, and some freshly cut bush bashing through reclaimed older singletrack.

On the return I also checked out the front 10km to check the all important first 20 minutes. We met up with Andrew who had also done a recce. In his case he did the entire 50km as he is an endurance machine, and ultimately, the ride on Sunday being less than 4 hours, would be marginal in allowing him to capture his magic numbers for the week.

A little bit of moisture on the ground in places

We registered, discussed the track changes, and talked some general crap in the carpark before making the trip up to Parkes for the evening. Bikes were cleaned and given the ‘once over’ to ensure that they were good for race day. I was stoked to see that Kylie had booked us the Spa suite, and the hot tub had the #pro headrests installed. This made for a very relaxing soak in the hot tub prior to dinner.

#bigtime --- Last year we made the Forbes Advocate
At 10 to 6, Andrew drove the WRX down to our motel door and gave it a bit of a rev signalling that he was ready for dinner. We quickly got in the Kluger and made our way down to the local Thai restaurant. We met up with the ONYA bike boys from Canberra which included Brad Morton, Glenn Columbine, Trent Smyth, Madison Giles and Grant Johnson. Mark Tupalksi was still on the road driving up slowly. Ed McDonald was missing in action, perhaps meeting up with his special friend that he met up here last year (see last year’s blog post for context). I am also not sure where the big beard, Brett Bellchambers had gotten to either – maybe he was hanging out with the bigfoot discussing grooming techniques or something.

Dinner time. Andrew texts Robyn to let her know something
Brad thinks that it is about him.
2 weeks ago I came down with bronchitis, which is probably the worst thing that a cyclist can get. Your lungs suck big time. A trip up to the warmer climes of Noosa helped me get some good training in for a few days before the BYBF, but I was till coughing up some oysters. The saving grace was that they just weren’t green anymore. Through all of this, my appetite has just completely disappeared and it was an absolute chore to just force the bare minimum down the gob in order to have some energy for the next day. I just made a mental note to take extra gels.

My saving grace was that Andrew was still recovering from Giardia, and Ed and Tupac were sick also. So, ultimately, we were all probably on a fairly even playing field!! At about 90 – 95% - #classic.

There were some good stories told that night. Some highlights include;

• Brad describing how ‘bogan’ he was compared to Americans after his 3 month USA road trip

• Grant describing how he designs Olympic Games XC horse courses as a side job. Heading to Italy this weekend to do one.

• Glenn and Andrew discussing Charlie Sheen’s teeth rot from drug use.

• Me telling them how Slash from Guns n Roses had actually told Charlie Sheen to slow down on his drug use

• Kylie telling everyone how Madison provides the ultimate windblock for drafting on the road bike.

• Andrew, Kylie and I trying to scare the others with tales of the ‘out of control’ rough back 25km and potential bigfoot sightings

Later that night I turned on Midsomer Murders, and lo and behold, someone died in this small English village. Well, he was shaken to death by a tree shaker, then put into a vat of cider. Then I fell asleep because the show was way too mesmerising! To be honest I probably had the most restful sleep ever prior to a race. We had the luxury of the massive king size bed, and I was tired from probably doing too much riding that afternoon!

The next morning, Kylie fed me banana bread whilst I drove down to the race HQ in the dark. It was freezing outside and we were rugged up with all of our clothes on when we arrived. When Andrew and Robyn arrived we quickly got the Cannondale-Sugoi Factory Racing Team weekend chalet up so that we had a place for Robyn to sit whilst we rode around in the dirt and also give us a place to stay warm as the sun rose.

Mission Control for the Cannondale-Sugoi Factory Racing Team

Table space for spare water bottles was bartered between Bellchambers, Tupalski and myself. Deals were made to ensure that each of us had prime real estate claimed for the crucial bottle pickup. Of course, when the others weren’t looking we added some dirt and grass to the contents of their bottles and moved the bottles to a different location. #gamesmanship

The prerace warm up and secret line checking was done, and at 7:40 we all lined up for the 7:45am start. The nervous energy on the start line manifests itself in the form of mumblings, heart rate observations, sledging and thousand mile stares off into the distance.

Start line - Hey baby, do you come here often?

Bang! The start gun went off and I clipped in and got the holeshot to the first corner, which is so important in a 100km race!! Brian Price then came to the front and drove the entire field down the dirt road at about 40km/hr. Just prior to the little kink in the road that indicates that the singletrack is coming, Ed McDonald decided that he was going to guide us all along the first part of the singletrack. This bit of singletrack is nothing short of sensational. Without even trying, the average speed is over 30km/hr, the corners have just the right amount of powdery dirt to encourage the slightest of drifting to ensure a subtle slingshot out of the corner.

At Bellchambers Ravine, there were two lines. These were cleverly named the ‘A’ and the ‘B’ lines. Ed decided that he would take the B line. The entire field behind him decided to take the A line. Unfortunately for Ed, the A line was about 10 seconds quicker and he ended up shuffled back down the line. I led the pack down the creekside singletrack for a few km until we spewed out onto the fireroad. After deftly negotiating a few puddles in order not to get dirty, Andrew, Brian and Ed all jostled for position prior to entering the next bit of singletrack. Brian got it, and kept the pace high through the next bit. After charging through the creek crossing, we came out onto another bit of fireroad. Everyone grabbed a quick drink and then we were back on it climbing up the short climb.

At this stage we still had a pretty large group together, which was not unexpected. It wasn’t until Tupac came to the front on a slight fireroad rise that the elastic began to stretch a little. As we made our way down to the dam at the 20km mark, there was a fair few still in the initial selection. The dam offered up some good opportunities to grab some creative air lines, and a few riders went for some style points even though there were no photographers there.

On the fireroad, everyone grabbed a gel and had some fluids, and got ready for the next bit. This was the biggest climb on the course. It is all still doable in the big ring, it was just a little pinchy, and Tupac took the opportunity to sprint up the climb and then try and out-descend everyone. It was a fairly good move. The group had now whittled down to 5 and thus formed the selection, which included Andrew Hall and I (Cannondale-Sugoi), Mark Tupalksi (ONYA Giant), Ed McDonald (Target-Trek) and Brian Price (Panthers Cycles on a Cannondale).

Andrew and I knew what was coming up in the back 25km so we forged ahead. At the top of one of the climbs, Tupac copped a massive stick in his rear derailleur, and I managed to quickly get around him as he smartly grabbed a handful of rear brake and stopped the rear wheel from spinning and doing more damage. About 3 minutes later he was back on.

The rest of the lap went by pretty uneventfully and we crossed the line in a time of 1 hour and 53 minutes or so. Tupac, Ed, Brian and I grabbed a quick bottle, Andrew got a hand up from Robyn and took off super fast. The boys sort of sat up and looked at each other, and I said to them “you’d better watch him, he’ll just ride away!” As I had the luxury of a team mate up the road, Tupac then decided that he would be the one to bridge the gap. Attaboy! Within about 5km, Tupac had got Andrew back in the group. So we were 5 once again.

The next bits of singletrack went by in a twisty, turning haze of following wheels and avoiding branches and kangaroos. Once again, Tupac went to the front up the fireroad and ramped it slightly. Brian was starting to dangle off the back at this stage, and unfortunately soon after was unhitched. We descended down to the dam, went right around then popped out onto the fireroad and grabbed a gel and a drink. I rode up to Andrew and had a few tactical discussions with him between gulps of energy gel.

As we rounded the corner the pace was lifted. We were heading up a nice little rise doing 30km/hr as Andrew and Tupac drag raced each other for the singletrack. The summer short-track racing Andrew did this year paid off and he got Tupac by a wheel length and cheekily signalled to all that we were heading right into the singletrack.

Andrew forging new trails in the forest
At the top of the climb, Tupac again had a nudge to try and get back in front for the descent. Andrew nudged back with his elbow and drag raced across the summit singletrack and got the nose ahead for the descent.

For the second time through the 25km feedzone, I smiled at Bronwyn (Sam Nelson’s partner) and decided not to pick up a spare bottle as the pace was high, the weather fairly cool and my bottle was still half full.

At this point we were 75km into the race, with about 27km to go. I was not having the best day ever on the bike. I felt pretty stiff and tight and though not quite pedalling squares, I was far from fluid. I made the assessment that if I got to the top of the last climb with the group, then I would be going for Plan C – which was the sprint finish option 1. There were a few other options, as well as a few other plans, but this one seemed to be the one that would be the best for how this race was panning out.

As we were coming up through traffic, Andrew called out “4 riders. Well, actually 3 and a half because Ed hasn’t done a turn yet”. Ed took this as his cue to come to the front and drive some pace. Ed kept a really solid tempo over the cow fields alongside the erosion creek and up the climb near where Tupac got his sticky run in the lap prior. Andrew got back in front when we came out onto a short section of fireroad and kept driving. Tupac was buzzing Ed’s back tyre quite a bit through this section. Not sure if was intentional or whether he was just a little tired!

All that was left now was the climb up out of the paddocks into the bushland, some negotiation of the shrubby overgrowth and then down the descent to the creekside trail. For the last 5 km I was really busting for a piss. It wasn’t very hot, so I only really needed 2 750mL bottles of energy drink for the 102km. But at this stage it was about ‘just that little bit’ too much more than my bladder could hold. However, even though I did consider going for a natural break, I did not execute it. Probably a good call.

Andrew kept the pace super high down the last bit of trail with our speeds not dropping below 30km/hr. The dust was awesome in the corners, and I followed Tupac who was following Ed. You could sense the feeling of urgency in everyone’s moves and there was just a presence of anticipation of the pounce that was there.

The final creek crossing came up signalling the last 2 km of track. This was a subtle false flat fireroad with a few little forays into the singletrack, as well as 2 semi-technical multi-line options followed right after by a 100m section to the finish line.

Tupac sprinted out of the creek like a man possessed and Andrew got immediately onto his wheel. Ed was a little slower exiting the creek and I went around him and got within 4 inches of Andrew’s rear wheel and the safety of the vortex he was creating. Tupac kept ramping the pace and at the point that I had identified, I smashed it with everything that I had and managed to get a 10 metre gap. I pinned it through the little erosion gully, got out, sprinted hard to the next section, negotiated the moonscape erosion feature and realised that I still had the lead. I carefully negotiated the last corner, then sprinted to the wooden stile crossover, negotiated this, then smashed it to the finish line.

I managed to sneak a look back to ensure that I had enough space, then I threw my hand up in the air, totally elated at taking the win a second in front of McDonald, Hall and Tupac. A sprint finish at the end of such a long race is always exciting and the crowd that were at the finish line were cheering so loudly and probably got a small thrill seeing the racing unfold after 3 hours and 48 minutes in the saddle.

 A good day out for the Cannondale-Sugoi boys
The funniest thing was that straight after, all of us ducked off to the bushes to go for a pee. We were all holding on – Tupac said he had been holding on since the 10km mark!!

Ultimately, I have to thank Andrew Hall hugely for executing our plan to a tee and doing the vast majority of the work sitting on the front for at least 80km of the race. The team aspect of marathon racing has really played a part in some of the results at specific races this year demonstrating the changing dynamics of these races. Fortunately for me, this time, our team was the one that got up.

For this race, I rode the Cannondale F29er. As I have said before, it is great. 8.3kgs, compliant and efficient and for this course a hardtail 29er is difficult to beat. Ironically, I have now won this race twice on a 26er hardtail, once on a 29er hardtail and come 2nd once on the 29er hardtail. It is still a matter of you and your competition that determines the outcome of the race though!

As a bonus, Kylie won the 50km for the 4th year in a row. Needless to say the trip home was a good one in our vehicle! We took the time to dissect the entire race for each of us, and recount all of the stories we each had for the 3 hour drive home.

A big shout out also need to go to the Central West Off Road Club for putting this event on once again. They run a solid event, and look after the riders with a great course, fantastic support in the way of food, beverages, showers and beer. I’ll definitely be back next year.

Also, it is always great racing with the 2602 crew at the official 2602 World Championships. Good banter, close racing, fantastic crap talking and everything that goes along with a weekend away.

It is also worth mentioning here the Milky Bar Challenge. This is almost as important as the 2602 World Championships, however, because Grant is not eligible to live in the 2602 postcode, he has to race for chocolate. He and I made a bet based on the first 5km of the race. The challenge for Grant was to hold onto the main pack for 5km. If he did, then I owed him a Milk Way. If he fell off, then I got the Milky Way. I was concerned when Ed was on the front for the first bit, but when Ed took the B line at Bellchambers Ravine, I was able to ramp it up a notch and shake off Grant, and therefore grab the opportunity to take the Milky Way back to the 2602 where Andrew Hall and I will share it after the Saturday Bunch ride. Cheers Grant!

Next up…..figure out which race to do next! September has heaps on.