Monday, April 29, 2013

Tathra 100km - 2013

Tathra Enduro 2013

I found out about the Tathra Enduro from somewhere. I can’t exactly remember where or how to be honest. I may have even entered in a previous year and not actually raced there for some reason. This year, however, I was pretty keen to give it a whirl. After the Wombat 100, I changed a few things up with my preparation of both the bike and other things. I could feel that there were some positives that came out of the Wombat, even though there were some things that weren’t great. Sometimes you have to take the good with the bad and be able to analyse things to determine the way out.

2 weeks can be a long time, or a short time in cycling. That was how long it was between the Wombat and Tathra. It’s pretty tight to be able to turn around a season, and quite unrealistic to be honest, but I wanted to at least give it a decent chance. I won’t go into what was changed, as these may or may not be what have assisted, but suffice to say, being thorough with these sorts of things does allow some view into where to improve.

Bike prepped for the race

On Saturday morning, I woke up and did the standard roll down to Woden for the start of the morning bunch ride. 40km later, I was back at home warming up a little as it was a pretty cold morning. I was also trying to eat some food. It’s pretty hard to force down food after such a relatively easy effort. The body isn’t really receptive to it. At 11:00am, my team mate Andrew Hall turned up at my place to pick me up. Somehow he had managed to convince the lovely Robyn Ramsay to let him drive her new Subaru WRX STI R-spec car, with no less than 120km on the odometer down to the coast! It was probably not too risky as it was double demerits for the long weekend, the car couldn’t be hammered because it was too new, and Andrew drives like an old man towing a caravan (sorry Andrew, it is true!)

Bikes loaded

Fortunately, I was in charge of the music for the trip down. With the phone\MP3 player hooked up, it was all about 80s rock and rap to keep us awake for the 3 hour drive down to Tathra. 3 hours of being in a car with someone makes for some interesting conversations. So many topics about random crap. Pretty standard really.

Road trips require music - GNR is always a good choice

When we got to Tathra, we headed straight to the Country Club for registration, which was an easy affair. We then went for a quick recce of the first 20km of the course. After a bit of a drive, the last thing I want to do is hop on the bike and ride. But the course intrigued me as in the first 50 metres there was a nice left handed berm. 10km later and after a trip to the top of the hill and back, I had put this bit of trail in the top 3 of all time highest rated singletrack. A big call, but I think it is pretty fair to say that these trails are amazing, and definitely appeal to my definition of what trails should be like.

We then went and checked out the first bit of the fireroad climbing section. Fairly standard fireroad, quick and easy recce. By this stage we were both starving, and packed up and headed back to Bega where we were staying. After checking into the motel, which turned out to be not too bad at all, we headed off to Coles for some supplies and then to the local Chinese\Vietnamese\Thai restaurant. This should have set off the alarm bells. It is probably a little dodgy to have such a mix of cuisine. However, the internals looked authentic with the standard Asian paraphernalia that restaurants have adorned on the walls.

Recce along the waterfront
Andrew wasn’t too keen to sit near the fish tank, so we sat on the side wall. Probably freaking out the hostess, we ordered exactly the same meal: Panang Prawns, rice, spring rolls and lemonade. Yeah, that’s not too weird. Not more weird than wearing the same T-shirt, cap and sunglasses.

The spring rolls came out and they were bone dry. This was not a good sign. I’ve never seen spring rolls like this. They were also boiling hot. I tried to break them in half and burnt my fingers. Andrew just ate them! They joys of eating at an unknown establishment.

After dinner, we headed back to the motel and chilled out watching a David Attenborough documentary on sea life, followed by Ghostbusters 2. Quite frankly, I do think that the original Ghostbusters was the better movie of the franchise, and that the shark had definitely been jumped by the time the 2nd one came around.

The morning couldn’t come around any quicker after a fairly standard ‘race-night-sleep’ – at 5:20am, we were up eating, dressing and pretty soon after were on the way to the race event HQ.

Russ Baker had his kick-ass 80s music mix blaring and the vibe was really positive, 5 minutes prior to the race start, it was announced on the PA that there was going to be a Le Mans start. There is nothing better than running in stiff soled mountain bike shoes, however, the saving grace was that it was on grass. The only plan here was to get through without pulling a hamstring, and get into the singletrack in a fairly decent position.

30 seconds after picking the bike up after the run, we hit the singletrack with Andrew Hall, Shane Taylor, Lewis Cressy and myself threading the needle through the singletrack. Half way up the climb, Shane started to lose Andrew’s wheel, and let Lewis and I through. The single track climb was punctuated by a lot of 180 degree switchbacks, which equalises a lot of the efforts making it easier for a group to stay together. In what felt like 5 minutes (but was probably closer to 25) we were down heading across the grass through the event HQ out towards the next 40km of fireroad.

Shane Taylor had reattached himself across the tarmac when we were crossing the bridge and as a group of 4 we meandered our way around the coast line before heading upwards. Andrew had decided that he was going to drive the bus for today’s race, and he set a pretty solid pace up through the hills. There was a varied mix of hill types out here. Big gear power rollers, and granny-gear grinders. Once we had made it as far out the back as possible, we turned around and headed down some super sketchy descents with water bars, sandy corners and random conditions all pretty much unknown and hit at crazy speeds over 50km/hr. Coming down one particular descent, Andrew as amused at the ‘Caution signs’ that also included a skull and cross-bones. After the descent, he asked us both if we were scared? I replied, ‘only with the lines you guys were taking’!

At the bottom of one steep descent, we saw a creek which looked wide and deep. A quick neutralisation was called and we crossed over via a strategically placed fallen tree. Short discussions were had recalling tales from every Husky and Fling race we had all done where we had to cross some water. We were thankful for having the opportunity to stay dry in this instance.

After a truck load more up and down, we were headed back on the tracks that we had already climbed out on. Some of the descents were unbelievably fast and let us know how steep the climbs out were. Back around the coastline and we were soon onto the tarmac heading back to the event HQ and half way point.

We all stopped to pick up bottles, and headed out for the 2nd 50km. After crossing a ‘stile’ we rode across some grass. I was having flashbacks to the Highland Fling first hour, but this grass more reminded me of the grassy bits from the Mt Joyce Marathon Champs. Energy sapping, random holes, angry cows and a 1 metre wide mowed strip to ride in was the story for 5km. We finally got off the grass and were headed up a nice hill with a few teaser signs posted by the organisers.

At this point, Lewy decided to have a bit of a tester and channelled his inner MC Hammer and lit up the climb. Boom, he was gone. I knew that he had ridden the back 50 with the ONYA crew the day before and knew this part. Andrew was a little hammered from the grass section and waited until the top of the climb before making chase. I chose to wait until the flat section as well before putting the hammer down. I went past a family that was cheering for us, and gave them a little wave as I mainly just wanted to keep the boys in sight, as I could see that after about 3 minutes, Andrew had caught back up to Lewis. By the time we crossed the top road on top of the real hill, I had latched back on also. Good to see where everyone’s form was!

This next section was the most amazing singletrack. Open and flowy, even with a truckload of 180 degree switchbacks. These switchbacks were the type that you didn’t have to break for, as you just stopped pedalling and let gravity slow you down whilst you hooked into the corner. Andrew was back in front through this bit and driving the pace once more. Lewis had another crack at a slightly open section and went around Andrew and gapped him a little. I went around Andrew also and got onto Cressy’s wheel, calling to Andrew to get onto mine, sitting up momentarily so he could get the wheel back. He was quick to get back on and Lewy drove the pace just that little bit higher.

We soon passed through the 80km feed zone, which pretty much meant that there was about an hour or so to go. The next 20km were the most sinuous I have ever ridden. 100% singletrack, with a mix of flow, technical, up and down, with some sucker bits that ended up with you having to climb out of the bottom of some valleys.

The last 10 km of singletrack went forever. In the tight and twisty singletrack it would have easily taken half an hour. There were some awesome steep gullies that had some wicked little bridges at the bottom to keep you alert. Finally we saw the 5km to go sign. Then the 3km to go sign. We could also see the event village and ocean to the side as a reference point. Andrew asked me if I was visualising the Acton Tunnel in reference to the Bakery Bunch final sprint point. I replied that I had been for quite some time. Actually, I was just focussing on the wheel in front and counting down the switchback turns.

At this point the reality of a 3-way sprint finish was coming through. It had been in the back of my mind since I caught back on after Lewy’s attack on the hill. After getting back on, I knew that I would not let the wheel go again. The only problem was that the sprint was on grass and was straight for 100m followed by a left hander and maybe 60 metres to the finish line. Whoever made it to the left hand turn first would easily have the victory. My plan was to be as close to Cressy’s rear wheel as possible as we exited the final dirt berm before the grass.

As the script played out, Andrew led it out to the final berm, then pulled off to the side. Out of the saddle, Lewy ramped it and I matched him all the way up the grass inching back bit by bit, but ultimately, he got the corner first, and with it, the victory for the day. Over 100 metres it is pretty hard to get over someone in a sprint for a corner. Probably needed another 100, but then ultimately, who knows and who cares as it didn’t pan out like that.

How it panned out on the day

So, going back to the 2 weeks question posed earlier in this blog and whether you can turn things around in that length of time..... well, I think that I can improve upon certain things. I was pretty happy with how the day had panned out, and whilst I didn’t get the victory, it was a lot better than how I had felt on the bike for a while, so hopefully at the very least, it is a turning point.

Pretty cool trophy

The Cannondale F29er was amazing out there. It ate up the 45km of fireroad and tarmac with absolute ease, and allowed me to rail singletrack for the remainder on total autopilot. I chose the Adidas Crystal Silver lenses dude to the dappled shade all through the area. A good choice, as seeing clearly is quite an advantage. Where Andrew rode SRAM X11, I was more than happy with the SRAM XX, utilising both chainrings constantly, getting full use of the entire gear ratios.

A massive thanks also to the Tathra community for putting on such a cool event. I will definitely be back for next year – the singletrack is worth the trip down from anywhere I reckon. Having showers on site also is amazing. Being in 3rd wheel for the majority of the race, I was thankful to be able to get clean before sitting in a car for the 3 hour trip home.

A huge thanks goes out to Andrew Hall for the roadtrip and especially for driving the pace for at least 95km on the day. Thanks also to Lewy Cressy for the company in our group of 3 and for showing his class on the bike.

So, what’s next? Well, for starters, it is the Convict 100km this Saturday – back to back weekends of racing – how good is that?!?!

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