Tuesday, July 2, 2013

3 hours sliding around in a pine forest

The last day of the 2012/13 financial year provided me with the option to go and race my bike. I was intending to originally go and race the Husky 100km event down just outside of Nowra, but I did something that may or may not have contributed to some rain. I put new bearings in my wheels. This always usually ends up with it raining. This time, however, it rained and it didn't stop. So, I guess that it was my fault that the race was cancelled. Sorry fellas.

Luckily the race got the call to be cancelled early in the week. This allowed me to not worry about the taper, and just keep riding my bike. On Saturday, I was called up to be Kylie's domestique for 3 hours on her training ride in the rain which, ended up being a pretty awesome 100km in the legs.

The night before, I made the mental note that the course in use at Kowen might be a little muddy and slippery. I dusted off the trusty Cannondale Flash 26er hardtail and put a nice fresh Schwalbe Rocket Ron on the front. On the rear I left the low knob, built for straight line speed Specialized Renegade. Good to sit on the fence with regard to tyre choice.

Driving out to Kowen, I always like to get my head on by driving fast and taking good lines. This time was no exception and I had Guns n Roses debut album, Appetite for Destruction blaring. It was coldish, but the day had potential to get a lot better.

After arriving, I did the standards.
  • Registration,
  • prepare bike,
  • ride first bit of course,
  • toilet stop,
  • get stuff together for race.
  • Done.
  • 9am, start line call up.
  • Bang, we're off.
Sebastian Jayne got the holeshot followed by Dylan Cooper, myself, Ed McDonald. Aaron Bashford (racing pairs with Mick Brice) and then Matt Rizzutto. Coming out of the singletrack onto the fireroad, Sebastian had managed to pick up a stick in his derailleur. Actually, it was a small tree, and he now is known as the 'lumberjack'. Hang on, no that is Jack Lavis' nickname. We'll get Seb a new one in due course!

Cooper took this opportunity to put in a dig, and then Ed came around me and tried to chase Coops down. Ed had driven back the day before after racing a 6 hour in Albury, so I was quite impressed and surprised that he was giving it a drive. Nice one young fella!

I was thoroughly enjoying the 26er up the mellow climb through the natural bushland. The light wheels were so easy to spin up and keep driving as the course went up. However, when the course reached the peak and went the other way, the light weight wheels lacked the momentum of the 29er wheels and required a bit of extra effort to stay on the speed that was achievable on the larger wheels. The extra bumpiness that Kowen has also conspired against the actual flow of the 26er. It is always swings and roundabouts.

Actually, the only reason I was aboard the 26er was due to the mud. With my 29er all slicked up ready for Husky, I didn't really feel like getting it dirty. Yep, that is a pretty lame reason for not riding it, but that is the reality. But seriously though, how fun is it riding the 26er. After 18 months of riding the 29er, it is like being aboard a bmx bike. It is so nimble and flickable - just like the media says!!

Anyway, back to the racing, I followed Ed and was kept amused by his excellent tyre choice. By utilising a super fast rolling low profile knob height tyre, Ed could keep the speed quite high. Except in corners, or where it was slick - which was pretty much the same thing. Struggletown is a word that comes to mind as to how Ed was managing the conditions at Kowen. There are probably over 100 corners each lap, and combined with the tree roots and the wet ground, he was having a bit of fun.

I was happy with the front tyre choice I had made, but the back tyre was like when you drive a ute in the wet. Fishtail city under power. An adventure all round. Matt probably made the best choice with the Racing ralphs all round and was sliding around a little bit less than us.

After the first lap, we lost Ed, and Matt and I kept each other company for the next 5 laps, taking turns to lead the lap and discover what the trail was doing as it evolved under the numerous riders doing their best to keep it upright.

Dylan was up the road somewhere, so we just kept pushing out fairly consistent laps, each of us having the odd slide out here and there in the lower section of the lap. On the 6th lap Matt put in some good efforts through some back-marker traffic and I lost contact down the first descent mainly because of the 26er lack of ability to roll over the bumps. A fitting reminder as to how awesome the 29er rolls over the rough stuff. A slide out on a corner and a dropped chain cost a few precious seconds and I was unable to get him back.

So after 3 hours of racing over about 60km or so, I ended up 3rd overall, not too far behind Matt, with Cooper a fair way out in front. It's always good having a reason to ride your bike when it is cold and damp. Racing through the forest is exactly that reason.

Next up, a short break off the bike, followed by the lead into Back Yamma Bigfoot, The Kowalski Classic and the Highland Fling.