Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Rocky Trail - AMB100 - Mount Stromlo

I had a good time racing this event last year. By 'good time', I mean that the 12 months that had passed had allowed me to forget the immense pain, dehydration, sickness and suffering that I had endured over the course of 4 hours out on the mountain.

On the Saturday night, Andrew Hall, Robyn Ramsay, Kylie Webb, Paris Basson and Carrie Ade joined me at the finest Korean restuarant in Dickson 2602 for a feast to fuel us through the next day. As usual, Kylie and Andrew were giving each other a hard time. Well, it was probably mainly Kylie, with Andrew on the receiving end. Robyn was flying because after 12 months of no alcohol (having a baby apparently or something like that) half a glass was all that was needed to take her to the moon and back! Paris was letting us in on all the top secret development work being done in the Magellan GPS world. I am sworn to secrecy, but suffice to say that some of these changes will be legen....wait for it....dary. That's right legendary, and will totally blow your mind away! Watch this space. Or if not this space, then keep an eye on www.magellangps.com.au !

I really enjoy racing at Stromlo. It requires fitness and a truck load of skills. The trails are fantastic but command all of your attention in order to ride them fast. You have to be at one with the tyre knobs and the handlebars, and allow your inner jedi to feel the trails and provide you with the grip to go fast.

Race HQ for Team Cannondale-Sugoi
I like it so much that this was the 3rd time in the space of 7 days that I had raced at Stromlo. I was fortunate to have raced a CORC XCO race the Sunday before, as well as the Thursday night #SuperSeries short track MTB racing put on by The Cyclery.

With a massive season of XCM and stage racing on offer, I had decided to train through this weekend in order to keep building up over the next month or so. On Saturday, I rolled out to meet the morning bunch over in Woden. I got to pair up with Allan Sieper for the first turn and we drilled it down Adelaide Avenue all the way to the Acton Tunnel before peeling off and sitting back in the draft. A bit of a thrash in the gallop section along the GDE ensured that I got a nice 90km in with some really good high end intensity. It also meant that I might be a little unfresh on the Sunday, but I was also keeping one eye on the racing down the track.

Unique fact: Allan Sieper was the first person I met when I moved to Canberra in 1992. Yep, you guessed it, we both lived in the 2602 even back then. Back then he was a pure mountain biker. These days, he does it all pretty much, and is still a driver!

Having said all that, when I was on the start line on Sunday morning, I was really looking forward to having a strong hitout and seeing where things were at. I had scoped out the start section, which was a nice little downhill run along the bitumen road with a sharp right hander into the first singletrack. This ultimately would be a critical point in order to position well.

We were all started together. 1 lap, 2 lap and 3 lap racers. Each different class has different requirements with regard to distance and approach to the race. I had figured out who was doing what and who to let go if need be.

Quote of the morning on the start line. Some dude on the 2nd row says to Darren Smith....."where does it go after the bitumen section?" Seriously grasshopper?

When the gun went off, I got an average clip in, but it turned out to be spot on, because Brad Morton and Ben Comfort got in front – and being 2 lap racers, they would go out a lot harder than I needed to. All three of us had scouted out the start section where it went off the bitumen into the singletrack. There were at least 5 different line choices on offer here for the #pro, the brave, the clueless and the desperate. I hit the same line Ben and Brad hit and never looked back, as from what I have heard.....250 riders funnelling into singletrack is a bit of a clusterfuck.
I hit this drop off pretty fast after railing the corner before

This course is pretty tough. Martin from Rocky Trail has done the Croc Trophy which, if you are Euro, is one that is mandatory if you decide to visit Australia. He then likes to set really hard courses that will suck you in. You think..... 'oh yeah, Stromlo, piece of cake, up and down and around the hill'. Then when he is doing the pre-race rider briefing and he says "I have come to clean zee pool" to rev the crowd up, you are further lulled into the sense that this is an almost enjoyable race that you are about to do. PROtip: it is brutal and probably one of the hardest races on the calendar.

First off you have the Trunk Trail climb. Then you descend the mountain via Pork Barrel, which is rough. Out to Deep Creek, you utilise a lot of upper body negotiating the millions of rocks and switchbacks out there. Climbing out via missing link, you are required to stay on the ball through the sketchy switchbacks. You then take in Double Dissolution, Party Line, Dingo, Bluetongue Heart Breaker, Skyline, Luge, Slant Six and Breakout before coming through for your lap. That is pretty tough to say the least. Hopefully these names actually mean something to you. I had to look them up! I’ve been riding Stromlo since they built it and long before they even had names up there. I have my own names for trails out there!! Some of them are not very complimentary beacuse, they are reasonable hard.

What made it tough again this year was that it was mildly warm, with temperatures forecast for 39 in Canberra, which is equivalent to 50 Stromlo degrees - (this is a concept similar to alpine or aiport dollars) It really is an oven out there as whilst the trees are growing back, they do not cover the mountain fully just yet. The result is that you will bake and end up like a raisin if you are not careful.

So back to the race….. As the start unfolded, I found myself in the lead of the 3 lap racers. We would be doing about 75km today. As we got to the top, I noticed that the group had been whittled down a little bit. It was basically my Cannondale teammate Andrew Hall, and the ONYA crew made up of Lewy Cressy, Scott Chancellor, Jarrod Hughes and Aaron Bashford. Pretty much who I was expecting to be there. Hally was showing his Stromlo expertise by pointing out rocks, dirt, and lines that he had discovered in his Saturday course recce as well as his lap he did in the moonlight. He was originally in the 5 lap race, but a busted tyre sidewall had him change his plans to do the #pro event, which was the 3 lap race.

The ONYA boys were extremely impressed with Hally’s line selection over the red rock after the Pork Barrel descent. So much so that Scott Chancellor decided to change the order of the race in a subtle stalling manoeuvre. When I got to the start of the missing link climb I looked around and thought, where the fuck is everybody? Only Bashy was with me, with Cressy and Hughesey chasing things down.

It is a little known fact that in order to be a true part of the ONYA tribe you have to have a name that can be changed in its ending. You have to be able to add a ‘O’, ‘Y’ or an ‘A’ to the first or last name.

The owner of the ONYA franchise, Michael Brice, does not, however, have naming rights to ONYA riders' newborn children. He gets their middle names...there is a little bit of give and take in the equation.

At this point, Azza was dialling up some heavy breathing sort of gear behind me, so I called him through as I didn’t want to hold him up. He is a 2602 member, and even though he is on a rival team, he was needing to get away from the rest of us. When we came out onto the long fireroad drag I let Hughesey and Cressy past and jumped on their wheels. It stayed like this for the first lap and we ended up crossing the timing matt together.

A bunch of fluid was grabbed by all and somehow I ended up behind Cressy with Hughesy behind me as we started off for the next lap.

It gets relatively boring from here. With the fatigue in the legs from the week’s training, I couldn’t really go with the other two when they took off up the hill and shortly after the cardiac arrest turnoff. I had to let the elastic snap, and just go into damage control mode. I knew it was going to get hotter, and as a ranga, some things are just a given. I just made sure to keep the pace high enough to ensure that I kept going forward and to not lose too much time. I was keeping an eye on my Magellan 105 GPS. Mainly at the heart rate. To be honest, I didn’t see it drop much below 170bpm at all for the entire race, and up the climbs it was always buzzing around 180bpm.

Coming through on the start of the last lap, I took in 2 bottles and a camelback of fluids. Probably about 2 and a half litres all up. And I drained it all in the space of an hour and 13 minutes as the temperature soared over 40 degrees celsius out on track. Bike racing at times can be thirsty work!

Out over the back western side of Stromlo, I saw Brad Morton and Kylie Webb who had come out to cheer us on. Brad was quite helpful in stating that “there was only one more hill to go”. It definitely helped. But I knew otherwise. When you are being fried, and the air you are breathing is hot to feel, then every slight rise is a hill! So using that logic, there was at least 20 hills left to climb!

The best feeling was finishing the descent of Breakout, and then climbing up to the crossover bridge. From there it was just a nice smooth run down to the finish line knowing that the esky contained cold drinks.

The ONYA boys showed their class and their skill at racing at Stromlo – nice work boys!

Results in the 3 lap #pro category

I crossed the line in 4th place. This is good and bad. I was off the podium, but in the overall scheme of things, I was happy with how things had gone. I had trained through the weekend of the race, and have come out of the race wanting to keep building through. I have also recovered really well and got out and did my Black Mountain reps this morning.

I was also pretty happy as from about November 2012 to May 2013 I had a shocking time racing due to somehting not being quite right. The results were crap, the body felt crap and it was really ordinary. I would like to think that things have now turned the corner and are on the right track.

Kylie had a hit out at the single lap affair and managed to put down a smoking hot lap and managed to not only win her class, but also beat all of the boys in the single lap category! Really impressed with this as I also made her do bakery the day before just for some extra training.

So, next on the To-Do-List is basically training up until the first round of the XCM series in Bright, and the hotly contested Capital Punishment in Canberra over consecutive weekends in early March!