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.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

2014 Cannondale Product Camp

Over the last few days I was extremely fortunate to be invited by the crew at Cannondale Australia up to Twin Waters on the Sunshine Coast for their 2014 product launch. My wingman, Andrew Hall, also made the way up there with me as did the lovely Kylie and Robyn. It wasn't much of an imposition as the weather in Canberra had turned to blustery snow, and the alternative on the coast was 25 degrees. Not too shabby.

Day 1 - getting there...
The early morning Sunday flight was preceded by the obligatory stop at the Qantas club Lounge in Canberra to smash some espressos. This enables Andrew and I to function, and it gives more energy to Kylie so that she can talk! A few hours later we were at Maroochydore and headed to the Novotel Twin Waters resort where Cannondale had booked the entire joint. However, it was a massive joint, situated both on the beach and the river\inlet and was fully self contained with restaurants and shops. In a word it was a #pro setup.

Of course, we brought the bikes. Road bikes to be exact as I had been given the 411 on the best routes to take by Ryan Quade who lives up in that neck of the woods. We got there, booked in, built the bikes and went for a cruise up the road. Our destination was Noosa, which was about 33km up the road along the coast. I always feel pretty crappy on the bike after travelling so it took me a short while to feel square (ish) as we headed up the David Low Way.

Trev on the Scooter, Andrew on an Evo

When we started to get to the rolling section of road, I noticed Andrew looking at his stem. I think he was channelling his inner Chris Froome ( and keeping an eye on his power output. The other thing that is the dead give away is the seemingly random surges and apparent half wheeling that starts to occur. This is fairly typical and we started to up the pace just a little. At one point I yelled out ' Stop looking at your fscking stem!!!' and attacked up a rise. Keeping the pressure on down the descent I kept on attacking up every rise, and this continued in an absolute childish, unnecessary manner for the next 20 minutes! Then we hit Noosa and we chilled a bit as we went though town and out the other side pretending that neither of us had put out any effort at all.

When we headed back we came across Kylie and once again it turned into an impromptu TTT as we sped back to Twin Waters at an average up at about 40km/hr. Back at base, we hooked up with some of the crew out at the demo bike ride area, and took the opportunity to take a Cannondale Trigger out for a spin around the MTB track that was on site. I haven't ridden a dual suspension bike since 2008 so it was pretty fun bouncing around the trails. The Trigger is the 'OverMountain' bike in the range. Ridable up to the top of the mountain so that you can keep it wide open on the descents. Pretty much spot on for the sort of riding that you would do for the pure love of the sport. Check it out if you can.

That evening we had an amazing banquet dinner on the beach at the resort. We had the Canberra Cyclery crew on our table and we were talking about a million things. I have known Janie, Trev, Jayson and Matt for over 20 years and it is always great catching up with these guys. Most importantly we made plans for the riding the next day. As a bonus they had pavlova for dessert!

Kylie rode for 3 hours in the sun and enjoyed a high quality recovery drink

Day 2 - 2014 product launch presentation ---- this one is ideal for dot points.

  • New business model approach for Cannondale Sports Unlimited (CSU)
  • Presentations of Global and local racing teams
  • Overview of 2014 product range
  • Brand marketing strategy overview
  • --- super exciting concept coming soon - book your demo bike online, have it delivered to your dealer and 'keep' it for 3 days for a realistic riding experience - this will allow you to 'really' demo a bike properly - ie on your own trails/roads so you can see what it is all about
  • Sneak preview of the Cameron Wurf 'Castaway' video

The afternoon was about taking the crew out for demo rides on the Cannondale Evo road bike and the Caad10 road bike. The first run was up to Noosa and back with The Cyclery crew. As it was a group ride, it was nice and easy. NOT. The boys were loving the Evo and were finding out why Sagan is able to ride fast. A lot of it is in the bike!! Seriously.

Highlights of the ride included Trev and Andrew half-wheeling each other at 400 watts. After 70km of road riding in a shade under 2 hours, the boys were really impressed with the capabilities of the bikes. Someone was heard to say "as soon as I get the coin, I'm getting one!'

Round two was scheduled for 4pm with the afternoon crowd. Numbers had swelled by this time and we had quite a good crew with us including Tim from GT, CSG Dean the CFO, and Super Mario - Asia Pacific kingpin. Trev was also up for round two, needing the extra miles, having got himself an entry to the National Capital round of the NRS series. For Andrew and I, this was out 3rd ride of the day, and we were loving it, already having 120km in the legs after our ride with the Cyclery crew.

The Northerly was blowing a gentle headwind as we headed up the road. The plan was to head up for 40 minutes or so, then smash back to base before the sun went down. Andrew and I rolled out of Twin Waters, made sure everyone got onto the David Low Way, then we were off and rolling. Soon enough we were getting sledged by Dean asking us to raise the pace a bit. Not wanting to be intimidated by an accountant, we raised the pace a bit and were soon motoring along at 40km/hr. This speed always feels good on a road bike, and we were hoping that the industry guys were getting a good feel for what the bikes were capable of. 
Off to Dinner

After the mandatory 10km turn on the front, Andrew and I peeled off to give Trev and Dean some time in the wind (at their insistence). This gave us the opportunity to talk to some of the other guys and see what bikes they were into and talk some crap. I love talking about bikes, and it is always great to talk to people with the same passion. 

At the turnaround, which conveniently was a roundabout, the hammer was put down. Everyone was keen to raise the pace and roll some turns back into base. We had a strong unit rolling past the airport and we were easily keeping it above 45km/hr. No matter if it is Saturday morning standard bunch, or a bunch of guys I have met for the first time, it is always an amazing feeling going fast on a bike in a bunch. Finally we got back to the resort, with everyone on an adrenalin high from the 'hour of power'. Awesome to demonstrate what the bikes can do.

Day 3 - Mountains, and packing up
Trev, Andrew and I decided to hit up the early morning training session and head west to Nambour and beyond. We rolled pretty chilled in the balmy 11 degrees and spun up heading into the wind in a pure westerly direction. The direction was 'up' and Trev was driving the bus. We hit up some pretty good rollers before being greeted by some awesome gradients. These were of the 10%+ type. Good for the soul. At the top of the range, we regrouped, took some photos and hit the descent - I'm pretty sure I nudged 90km/hr going down the first one, and we took advantage of the tailwind and drilled it home.

The afternoon was spent hanging out at the demo area, taking some of the dealers out for a spin and explaining the subtle complexities of the bikes to those wanting some unique perspective on the bikes. At 3pm, we started the pack up to help the crew out. At 7:30 we were just about done. It is really humbling to see how much work the guys did to set up such a slick affair for the entire display and I have a greater appreciation for the sort of logistics involved in this sort of thing.

Sleep that night was easy, as I was hammered from the lifting and moving stuff! You get good at what you do, and if you don't do it, then it is tough!! 

Right now, I am home, there is snow on the mountains just outside of Canberra and I have the heater cranked up to 24 degrees! There's no place like home!! 

This weekend, it is off to Parkes NSW to my favorite race of all. The Back Yamma Bigfoot 100km. I am really looking forward to this event once again. Bring on the weekend!!

Trev's drink on Monday night