Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Real Insurance XCM Round 1 - Bright

I’ve only ever ridden my road bike in Bright. That was years ago on a training camp and it pretty much rained the entire time. With Round 1 of the Real Insurance XCM series held here on Monday the 10th of March, it was a great opportunity to check out the town once again.

Kylie and I took off on Friday and made the hallowed trip down the Hume until Albury then took a left. After about 4 and a half hours we were in Bright and settling into our accommodation. Accommodation is always a lottery and at first it seemed like I had done an ok job of sorting this aspect. But, more on that later!

On Saturday we met up with my team mate Andrew Hall and decided to scope out the trails around Bright and see what was in store for us in the race. We pretty much managed to put together most of the course except for the north section. As the course was only marginally marked out, we used part Jedi force, part intuition based on the provided Bing maps, and a little bit of luck to navigate around.

3 hours later we had covered about 35 km but had thoroughly enjoyed the trails that we had found. The highlight was the trails alongside the river. Such good flow! Feeling pretty happy with the recce, we managed to find a sushi place in town and made the owner extremely happy as we pretty much bought out everything that he had on offer. We then headed down to the river to chill out and eat some food and talk some crap.

That night, Saturday, we found out a negative of the place where we were staying. As is the case, there are bogans everywhere. The bogans here liked music all night long, and thought that it was ok to play it just that little bit too loud. They also thought that talking loudly outside the door at 1:30am was an ok thing to do. Oh well….what can you do? Kylie told them exactly what they could do!

Sunday’s practice session was taken slightly carefully after a night of almost useless sleep. Andrew and I scoped out the first 10km of the course and it was unreal! Some super techy singletrack, with some nice long power fireroad sections to mix it up. We then went back to watch Kylie race the super long winded XCE racing. Kylie had done pretty well qualifying in 4th place. She had really just wanted to check out the discipline to see if it was of any interest to her. The racing was. The disorganisation, changing of the plan, unexpected breaks and a long time in the sun was not!

When we got back to the Motel, the noise level was just unbearable. The bogans were out of control. So, we just sorted it. A couple of calls and we had a new place to sleep for the night that was super quiet. The bogan motel was turned into Service Course. You gotta do what you gotta do! Sleep is a premium, that’s for sure. I have done this twice before. Once in Mt Beauty in 1997 for a Downhill National round and once in Perth for the BMX World Championships. So we do have a precedence to call upon!

That night we caught up with the ONYA crew of Columbine, Hughes and Cressy for a nice bit of Thai at Suganyas in Bright. A few wild stories were told, and a bunch of crap was talked whilst we ate up. 6 people had 6 different meals that night. How often does that happen?

After 9 hours of peaceful sleep I woke up ready to race. On the start line, everything felt right. The gun went off, which if I recall correctly was probably a whistle, and we headed up the fireroad climb. The pace was mellow. This excites a lot of people, but it just is a nice little warm up before the action starts. I was in the top 10 on Ben Mather’s wheel as we funnelled into the first bit of singletrack. This was going exactly to plan. I rounded a corner and pedalled out, and snap, then stop. And suddenly I had to go to Plan B. There is probably no worse feeling than having been in a race for 7 minutes and have a mechanical. So I fixed the issue and got going again. I was now officially in dead last place. This meant a couple of things. I’m ok on a bike, but not ok enough to make up 2 minutes on a pack of superfast dudes on a mission. I also had a truckload of overtaking to do, and there was a fair bit of singletrack to negotiate. This would be a great mental test!

The hardest thing right now was to just get the right pace going. After any type of issue, the inclination is to channel MC Hammer and give it some ‘hammertime’ – this approach will definitely burn a lot of matches. If you go with the mellow approach, then the front runners will just ride off.  So, the next 40 minutes or so was just trying in vain to hunt down the jerseys in front of me. One by one I picked off riders, but it was really hard going. Each rider I saw I was trying to figure out where I was now in the standings. It wasn’t looking great…

 About 45 minutes later when I had reached the river, I rounded a bend and then snap, and stop… again. This time with my spare lives used up, I was wondering what I should do. Fortune came in the form of Mike Blewitt from www.marathonmtb.com who helped me out with a spare and with another 2 minutes lost, I was back on the bike. All my flow had been taken, my mental toughness had been given a good thrashing and I still had 2 and a quarter laps to go.

For the river section I was fortunate enough to join up with Glenn Columbine, who is a major driver. I got a nice tow up to the feed zone with Glenn and a few others and grabbed a couple of bottles. So, onto lap two then.

As we climbed out of the start\finish area, Mike asked me how many more lives I had up my sleeve. That was awesome! I said to him, that hopefully there is always next week! Right now, I just had to bury myself once again and get through the 2nd lap. For the start of the 2nd lap, Glenn was keen to go, and we worked together for a while to get back up. As I was entering the ‘Sycamore’ trail section, I saw the group of Andrew Hall, Ed Mc Donald, Lewis Cressy and a couple of others exit the compartment.

So I did what any good cyclist would do…..I did the math. Damn….that section was not really short. Was there a glimmer of hope? Sort of. Was it a realistic chance? I know those guys well, and I knew that I would be travelling in a parallel universe timewise for that lap.

Ah well, I could hear some other people in the compartment, so at the very least I could try and hunt them down.

Coming into the same section as the 2nd mechanical, I felt something go down the front of my jersey. Then I felt an excruciating sting on my stomach as that ‘something’ decided to bite me. Well, that was number 3 in the line of crap things to happen today. All I hoped was that it was not a bee. I don’t do bees well. 10 minutes later  was still able to ride ok, so it was probably not a bee, but all I could think of was that a fair bit of crap would be flowing through the system now. Hopefully, it didn’t affect me too much.

Rounding the bend coming up to the final feed zone, I grabbed 3 bottles and started sucking down a truckload of fluids. The temperature had risen and there was still 26 km to go of super tough trails. These went by over the course of the next hour and a bit in the standard way. That is…..by just chopping off segments one by one. The glimmer of hope that I would pick up a straggler or two was still there, but it would only be through sheer fortune.

After 3 hours and 48 minutes or so, I crossed the line in 12th place. A little disappointed to say the least due to some misfortune, but on a positive note, I had an absolute blast on the trails that the race organiser had put together. I was really impressed with the sheer riding variety that a single lap of 26km could have on offer. The flow of the trails was also something quite impressive.

As Charlie Sheen says, ‘There’s no do-overs in Vegas’, and it’s not cool to do what-if scenarios based on things that didn’t play out, so my focus now is onto Saturday’s Capital Punishment 100km race here in the nation’s capital. You have got to love a race that traverses some amazing terrain across the ACT and you get an untimed section through 2602! Plus as a bonus, the untimed section goes past my house! How good is that?



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