Friday, September 26, 2014

Interview with a gentleman in blue - Lewy Cressy

I was really fortunate recently to be able to sit down with Lewy Cressy of the Giant-Onya team and cover off on the important issues in life. I rate Lewy vey highly and he just continues to impress with both his ability and class on the bike. As a bonus, he is a good mate and a serious gentleman.

Name: Lewis (Lewy) Cressy

Age: 32 (as at 2014, he'll get older as time goes on)

Race Category: Elite

Sponsors: ONYAbike Canberra, Giant Australia, Hammer Nutrition, Lazer Helmets, Bright Consulting


Twitter: @LewyCressy

This is what Cressy looks like from the front. Not that many of you would know
Do you have a day job at all?

Some people call me a Librarian. But to be more accurate, I manage the video resources and video collections at the National Sport Information Centre (The library at the AIS). I work with sport videos all day… Dream Job! I also get the chance to film/record countless Sport Science lectures and conferences that cover topics like sport nutrition, strength and conditioning, recovery, supplements, physiology etc etc etc! I love it!

How long have you been racing \ riding bikes for?

My first MTB race was the Gravity 12hr back in 2010. My Bro in-law Matty and Father In-law Johnny, drove down to what was a super muddy but fun track! Afterwards I was exhausted on a level I had never experienced. It was a good feeling and it's what got me hooked on racing!

I have ridden bikes since I was a little tacker. I still have my first REAL BMX at home. I bought it from Big B bicycles (Now ONYAbike Belconnen) back in the mid 90s . It's pretty much restored to its former glory. I used to ride it all day every weekend at Belconnen Skate Park throughout my early high school years before I got Into Skateboarding. My best trick was a 360 out of the donut!

The donut at Belco skatepark was legendary wasn’t it? So how did you get into bike racing?

It was pretty much the in-laws that got me into racing. They ride and then I joined them a few times and we thought we'd have a go at racing - it just snowballed in a big way.

Did you do any other sports before getting into cycling?

I was big on the board sports! Skateboarding, Snowboarding, Wakeboarding. I played Basketball in high school. Then finally I had a crack at Soccer for a couple of years there before cycling took over!!!

Cressy showcases his ability to coordinate blue right across the entire presence. It is not easy, that is why he is #pro

How many bikes do you own?

None! ONYA own my bikes. Oh actually I have my BMX! Haro Group 1b 90s model!

You do a lot of racing aboard the road and the mountain bikes. What particular niche (XCM, XCO crit etc) is your favourite\preferred one?

I don't think I can single one out! They are all tons of fun! Marathons are brutal but rewarding. XC is fast. Actually I probably enjoy the team races the most. The most fun I have had at a bike race was while racing the Scott24 or one of the Chocolate Foot rounds. Hanging with the ONYA crew in between laps is always a laugh!

You are looked after by the mighty ONYA Bike Empire of Michael Brice. How much does this support ensure that you are looked after throughout the season? Is it true that Micko gets to name the firstborn of all sponsored riders?

The only rule is that your child's name must be able to be shortened to include an 'O' or 'Y' or 'IE' on the end. So our daughter Ellie qualifies.

What can I say about ONYA...? The day Micko called me and said he was going to start TeamONYA, also known among the onya crew as - the 'white jerseys' or the 'A team' - it was, at the time, the second happiest day of my life... :) ha-ha The support is incredible, from bikes to our gear to servicing - the riders are looked after first class!

Recently we have started to look outside of the empire. We did a lot of work, with the help of design and web guru Madison Giles, to build an online presence for the team. Our website is very slick and it helps to 'showcase' the team and the riders and our achievements. I think all the little things help when trying to attract sponsors. We recently teamed up with Hammer Nutrition and we are stoked. They sorted us out with tons of their goodies that keep us fuelled in training and racing. Their stuff tastes awesome as well!

For me though Onya is more about the crew and I think a lot of people can see that! We have such a tight knit group of riders who ride all disciplines and at all levels. We hang out, we ride and race together - it's sweet! It's the ONYA Family.

Yeah, nice one. It definitely comes across that way. You have your image on an advertisement on one of Canberra's buses. Do you get free bus rides? Requests for signatures? Other perks? Seriously though, this is marketing genius, but how does it make you feel?

So the FIRST time, I got a text from Micko one day and all it said was "you don't mind if you are plastered up the side of a bus do you?" I just thought WTF? Then I thought hell yeah that'd be sick!!! Ha-ha the street cred and social media banter was off the charts! Azza (Aaron Bashford) and I were overnight celebrities.

I remember that. It was going mental!

The second time, Snadzy (Andrew Snaidero) and Timmy Eaton got all the attention. Their pictures are HEAPS bigger and I got relegated to the back window.

The bus thing gets mentioned at work and by my family all the time! I am still milking it as best I can.

Action Buses can't afford to give out perks, they're Government funded.

So true! You guys seem super tight as a team, and perform extremely well at the races across all grades. What do you think the reason is behind this?

We feed off each other. I think we are lucky that there are so many strong riders in our group. It makes for some awesome training rides. If you come on any ONYA ride you will see that it inevitably ends up in a race. We used to do a Wednesday night federal highway road ride. We would swap off all the way to the tulip farm and then race full gas to the top of washing machine hill (I think we still own the KOM). On the way back we'd just race all the way - nonstop attacks. It was probably the sketchiest ride I have ever done, but the most fun as well.

On Saturdays we help the riders who are in the lower grades get stronger by not stopping. Ha-ha Saturday ONYA Ride is a race with no photos (no stopping). If you get dropped, we'll see you at coffee. Sounds rough but the crew all know that's how it works. It makes for funny stories at coffee and the slower riders don't stress about 'slowing everyone down'.

That is the best way to help your teammates out! Is there any dirt that you can dish out on any of the members of the team?

Where to start? Brad Morto Morton has the WORST socks I have ever seen.

Yes, don’t get me started….you can take the boy out of Kaleen...

Eliza Kwan doesn't know how to frown. Jarrod Hughes loves a crash and finally, I can't understand what the f$@k Ed McDonald is talking about in his blogs.

I am not sure that anyone knows what those words that Ed uses actually mean, but he is quite eloquent in his articulation! I have to ask you Lewy, are you really comfortable with the colour blue?

Yeah I was born with these eyes! That is what you are referring to right?

Um, yeah right….Speaking of blue, Giant recently adopted the 27.5 (650b) standard for their fleet. How do you feel that this wheel size standard has influenced your riding? Are there any Pros and Cons that you can let on about?

I'll be honest. I was surprised when Giant decided to drop the high end 29er. But the addition of the 27.5 SL in 2015 is exciting and I can't wait to get on one!

Now that I have ridden the 27.5 hard tail for close to a year I think there are both Pros and Cons when compared to a 29er hard tail. I haven't ridden a 27.5 Dually so I can't comment.

I can only go by feel on this, but I think the 27.5s are at a slight disadvantage on the long fireroad sections that u might encounter in a marathon.

Pros are in the tight stuff. The 27.5 accelerates easier. It is also very agile. Changing direction and throwing the bike around is a breeze! They really are suited to techy XC and the team based formats where you just race all out.

Nice analysis mate! It makes sense. I will attack you hard on the fireroads then! So, how many races would you do in a 12 month period?

Nowhere near as many as you JD!!! I have never counted and am not going to try. Let's go with as many as I can within a 5 hour drive of Canberra.

Racing is definitely awesome. I rate it. But to get there you need to train. What does a standard training week look like for you? Distance, Time, MTB:Roadie ratio

12 hours, give or take a couple, is pretty standard for me. That's about all I can fit in. Any more and I'd never see my family! I do a lot on the road, especially since I bought a power meter. Now I just try to drop watt bombs. What is a watt bomb anyway? Normally I'll try to increase my MTB hours a week out from a race.

How do you train in order to be fast? Heart Rate, Power Meter, Feel, Jedi Force?

The last 12 months I have started to try 'structured' training with the help of ONYA physiology guru and age group XCM weapon Tony Rice. More recently the famous

Triathlete turned elite MTBer Glenn Columbine has started to help me out. Both of these guys have taught me a lot about 'how' to train and I have learnt a lot about what my body can handle.

Before I teamed up with these guys, I just rode as hard as I could as often as I could. That method makes you fast in a short period of time, but unfortunately it isn't sustainable. I found that out the hard way, just like many of the other elite riders have at one point or another. I got sick and stayed sick for months. It's a long slow road back from that point. Tony Rice helped drag me out of that hole mid last year, I owe him big time!

Cressy laying down some 'Watt bombs' against some other dude

Nice one. It is all about consistency and sustainability that is for sure. What is your favourite event on the race circuit?

The Highland Fling is awesome. But I'd have to say Nationals is my favourite event. Seeing the best riders go at it is a buzz. Bright this year was awesome as we had a good group to hang out with as well so that always makes it more fun. From memory you introduced me to pre-race Thai food that weekend. We also snuck an Onya Bike sticker onto your teammate’s Cannondale that weekend, he didn't find it for months! Good times!

Thai food the night before a race is hands down the safest option anywhere in Australia. That is a life #protip right there for free. We definitely talked some smack that night! What is the toughest race, mentally or physically, that you have ever done?

2014 Giant Odyssey. I had a SHIT day, it was easily the hardest mental battle. At the start of the race I went out way too hard on a 10km climb and blew up within the first kilometre of the climb. I lost maybe 20 places and then crashed in a huge mud bog at the top of the climb. With 80km to go I was covered head to toe in thick mud and was way back in the field. I was so ready to pull the pin on that race but managed to talk myself out of it.

I learnt a lot from that day. The two main things being; Scout the major features of a course (like 10km climbs) and ride your own race.

Yeah, I remember you crossing the line totally covered in mud. I thought it was a good idea to just give you some space after that one. Is there a standout result that you have had that you think, “Yep, I dialled that one”

It was cool to beat you and Hally at Tathra. Racing head to head with guys like McConnell, Van Der Ploeg and Jared Graves in the National Eliminators of 2013 and 2014 was a real buzz too.

Scott 24hr Overall in 2013 with great mates was awesome. We had never won the overall.

Yes thankyou for reminding me about that one! I am still pretty pissed that you outsprinted me to take the win at the 2013 Tathra Enduro! I still have flashbacks of that race, damn it! When you attacked Hally and I at the 60km mark did you do it as a ‘tester’ or did you think that you could take it home for 40km?

Well Hally had been on the front for about 58 of those 60kms. I tried to roll some turns but he would just roll back around 2 secs later. So in that light, it’s not my style to sit in… so I thought I would see what happened. I knew the hill was coming and I made up my mind that I was going to hit it all out. I hadn't thought past that hahaha I was no chance of solo-ing for 40km, that's also not my style

Could you beat Brad Morton in a sprint?

If Brad had done as much work as what I normally would have done then maybe I could beat him in a sprint. But if Brad is fresh with no wind burn, not many people will beat him in a sprint.

He is definitely the master of sitting in. Probably so that no one can see his socks! What is your take on the XCM races that are currently on offer. Did you prefer the Real Insurance XCM series or the Maverick Series this year? Do you think that having a dedicated single series would be better for the sport?

One series that links the established and already popular XCM events is the way of the future. I hope they can make it happen again like the original Real Insurance Series. I think there were a lot of devastated MTBers when the news surfaced about the old series.

The Maverick series definitely gets my vote with established events and excellent scheduling.

The attempt at a national series was pretty ambitious. I think they shot themselves in the foot when rounds were scheduled with XC events and on back to back weekends in different states.

I had to laugh at the quote from The Deputy Mayor of Eurobodalla who said the event would bring 3000 riders and supporters as well as inject $900,000 into the local economy! Someone put on an excellent sales pitch to sell him those figures!

Yeah I reckon! How do you find balancing a young family with the demands of training and racing? Any #protips?

It is hard and it is something that you learn. You just need to learn the intricacies of female body language, facial expressions and what they 'really' mean when they say 'yep whatever'.

For Jess, Ellie and I it is about balance, planning and communication. Weekday mornings are a given, most are training days - on training days I don’t see Ellie or Jess in the morning at all, I find that aspect hard. Evenings are family time, except maybe one night per week. Weekends are also family time except for Saturday morning when I get In a long ride.

A xmas present from the men of #2602

Did Jess appreciate the 2014 Men of 2602 ™ Calendar that Hally and I sent to her for XMAS?

Yeah no doubt… That was by far her best present. I had to throw it out though, I was getting all insecure.

Ok, I will make sure that you get your own copy for your workshop next year. Where is your favourite place in Canberra to ride a mountain bike?

I enjoy going to the spots I have never been before! Canberra has tons of dirt trails in and around the suburbs with lots of random hills. Mt Rogers is somewhere I have used as a training ground. It is near home and has some nice long gradual climbs with a super steep finale.

The North side centenary trail is a lot of fun. It's almost at my back door too.

Are you comfortable with a 2 wheel drift at Stromlo?

Yeah no doubt. But I don't have as many photos as you do to prove it.

I find that hard to believe! How much do you enjoy the local Canberra racing scene?

I love club races! I have said before, you can turn up to a clubby and race the best guys in Australia. The road scene is just as good.

Yeah, it is pretty brilliant like that. Canberra has an amazing cycling scene. What are the standouts that you have in your standard weekly rides?

There is a secret road bunch on a Tuesday morning that I love. It is super smooth and it is HARD! Half the NRS peloton turn up to it most weeks. Riders are also banned from talking about it on social media. You got in trouble for that once didn't you? The Saturday ONYA ride is always good, 7am back of Belconnen store you should come one time. We'll let you do the first turn so you don’t have Bakery Bunch withdrawals.

Ahh yes….the bunch ride that has the same rule as fight club. Unfortunately, I did not get that memo… ah well, you live and learn. Those dudes who had the issues are wheelsuckers anyway*. If you had to pick the perfect day on the bike, what would it consist of?

It would be sunny, I would have no time limit and some good mates and we would go for a very long MTB linking up all of Canberra's locations. Centenary trail, Ainslie, Majura, Bruce, Stromlo and of course coffee and cake!!! Another ride that I really miss is a ride with Jess, we used to get out quite a bit together, mostly coffee rides or lakeys. Since Ellie came along those opportunities don’t come around very often.

Top step of the Scott 24hr in the prestigious overall 'real man' team category in 2013

Where do you feel your strengths lie on the bike? Any particular place for improvement?

I can accelerate pretty well, the change of pace is probably my strength. I am working to improve my ability to maintain pace for longer periods - it’s called Threshold isn’t it?

I have no idea. I just try to average 30km/hr everywhere when I ride. Onto a different topic, apart from myself of course, are there any other riders that you respect, admire or rate highly for any particular reason?

JD for his social media presence. I am not even joking, you use it well. Plus you have about a Million Twitter followers... I respect anyone who comes in to finish a race or a ride looking buckled - I love a rider who digs deep! I rate Morto for his will to win, he is a straight up racer and knows how to play his cards. If you don't drop the guy he is gonna roll you in a sprint! I also have spent a fair bit of time riding with Dylan Cooper over the last couple of years; he has done it all and has always been willing to share his experiences and knowledge when asked.

Thanks mate, that is way too kind! So, do you have a race nemesis?

Hmmm... On the MTB I was always just stoked to be in the top ten of the Elite Field. Although we did ALWAYS want to beat Blairy and Lewy for the overall at either the MONT or the SCOTT. On the roadie I have had some mad duals with John (Pothole) Forrest at Thursday crits. He is like Morto and knows where to sit and knows how to sprint! I never really knew him but towards the end of last year we started to talk and he is not a bad bloke! We had some great head to head sprints.

You can definitely learn a lot from watching the guys that always do well week in week out. It is probably not a fluke hey?

Yeah, exactly!

What is your favourite song on Appetite for Destruction?

Mate, I would have to check the Google... I loved the Gunners when I was younger. Sorry JD I didn't have that Album. BUT, November Rain is my all time favourite song. Two of my first cassette tapes were Use Your Illusion 1 and 2.

Nice one. 8 minutes and 57 seconds of awesomeness! Another burning question….Have you ever been on one of Andrew Hall’s Epic ™ MTB training rides? Were you half wheeled?

Yes… he took us up the Brindabella Mountains once, but we had to cut it short cause Snadzy and I ran out of time. Pretty sure he only took us on his regular warm-up route though. If Hally calls something Epic, for me that would be catastrophic! I have been half wheeled by Hally SOOOO many times.

He just gets excited, that it is all!

Alright then, let’s wrap it up with a bit of word association – try and respond with one word (or a sentence if required) to the following…

Bakery Bunch: I have never done first turn

Sock height: Long and black

Internet Forums: No

Social Media: useful

Espresso or latte: Espresso

Road Criterium racing: Can't wait

Cross Country (XCO) MTB racing: Fast

100km (XCM) racing: Brutal

Favourite MTB tyre: Crossmark or Ardent race

Hardtail or Dually: Hardtail

650B\29\26: 650B

Dylan Cooper: The benchmark

Andrew Hall: Half wheeler

Brad Morton: Team Captain

Shaun Lewis: A good guy with a great surname!

Thanks Lewy, any final words?

Thanks for the chance JD. Maybe we can ask you some questions next?

No worries mate! You said you guys have a web presence now? Let’s do it!

* - wheelsuckers, calm down, I am just kidding ;)

Monday, September 22, 2014

2014 Kowalksi Classic

Kowalksi Classic Elite Men start line...Hally asks if Ships borrowed Blairy's aero helmet for the day. Photo courtesy of Peta Stewart, media ninja for

This was my 3rd race weekend in a row. So I was pretty much running on the fumes of form. The sensations were still good after the Flight Centre Epic so I really wanted to roll the dice one last time before the rebuild needed to commence. The only issue I had was trying to keep a slight infection at bay. A lot of travel, a bit of cycling stress on the body, some heavy duty Spring pollen and a few sick people around were all trying to conspire against me in the last week of this race block. But….I got to race day ready, able and willing to race!

The Kowalski Classic is unique in that it features a huge amount of singletrack. Some of it is simply amazing, and some of it is utterly soul destroying. But, it is the same for everyone, and like every race that I do, there are bits that I like as well as bits that I do not like. Ultimately, they do not make much of a difference in the outcome.

The Kowalski was round 3 of the Maverick Series and attracted just under 1000 entrants for its 3rd year. I was pretty fortunate to have laid down some ok results at Capital Punishment and the Giant Odyssey earlier in the year and was sitting 2nd in the series. The organisers had recognised this and put together ranked number plates for the top 20 in the series. I’ll be totally honest here. This is so freaking awesome. It is a nice validation for the hard work done throughout the year to be able to ride around with a single digit number on the bike. The ego appreciates it.

Eye of the Tiger has nothing on this...

I’m going to do this race write up in a dot pointed format. See what you think….
• Listening to a lot of Steel Panther in the lead up to the race. My teammate Andrew Hall put me on to this band.

• 8 am start time – quite civilised

• Black cockatoos flying overhead in the morning

• Blairy, Wombat, Cooper, Trekkie, Hally, English, Ships, Lestrell, Blewitt, Orr all in attendance – everyone wants points for the series.

• Gun goes off. Fresh from the disappointments of early mechanicals at the Flight Centre Epic, Trekkie is driving the pace quite strongly

• 50km and 100km riders start together

• Mad sprint by everyone for the 1st bit of singletrack. Not overly surprised at this

• Pollen dust everywhere. Like a blanket in places. Breathing feels tight. Absolute crapola for me – stupid allergies

• Shippard cops a flat tyre in the first 5km. Is mildly upset to say the least. He knows that he has lost the #SeptemberSideBet and must ride the prestigious Canberra Bakery Bunch.

• Ride with Lachlan Paton around Sparrow. He is racing the 50km and knows how to rail singeltrack like a boss.

• Jason English dialling up some heavy breathing action behind us. He always sounds like Darth Vader in the first half hour of racing.

• Sparrow Hill has one amazingly long downhill section where the brakes do not get used and the speeds are insane. This feels absolutely amazing.

• My legs feel stiff, the breathing feels a little laboured. Pollen is not pleasing. I just suck it up and keep on rocking

• Trails going backwards as we head back into Kowen do not have great flow. The braking bumps in play whilst climbing are quite challenging

• My bladder gets shaken and stirred by the lumpy trails. Nature break required

• Come through and grab an extra bottle and head back out for the back 50km.

• Mental note of the time split over the first 50km indicates that the race will be a ‘long’ one.

• Mental note made to ensure that I smash a lot of gels – even in the singletrack. It always requires more energy to ride this sort of singetrack.

• At the 70km mark there is a climb that includes a 25% gradient. Fortunately, I am a natural climber. That is reasonably steep. Chew the stem a little to get up this sucker. Feels like it takes 5 minutes to get up it.

• Ride a lot of grassed sections in the back 50km

• Wonder if my eyes have been rattled, as I find a heap of miniature witches hats in the forest denoting where the trail goes.

• A lot of freshly cut trail being used for this race

• Another nature break required

• Cross the line in 6th place

1st and 2nd place on Dual Suspension, 3rd place on hardtail – Whilst the engine is what makes the bike go, this course may have favoured the dual suspension approach.

This event has probably one of the best event headquarters going. Kick-ass bean bags, super tent, product display, food and beverages, good vibes all round.

Riders from just about every state travelled to this event. That is what a series will do.

The trails through Sparrow were pretty damn awesome. They always are. These followed a similar route to the Capital Punishment held earlier in the year.

In addition to a flat, Shippard also breaks finger, cuts wrist and does some crazy stuff to his elbow, whilst protecting his face whilst crashing. He was protecting his face because he is getting married in the next couple of weeks. Bucks night sounds pretty awesome and may or may not have its own #hashtag.

It was interesting telling Shippard’s parents about our #SeptemberSideBet. His mum instantly realised that the Canberra bunch rides were superior to the Sydney ones once I told her which riders turned up. She knew the score.

Garry Millburn smashed the 50km event beating Tristan Ward in a tight race. It was great to hear him talk about his Cyclocross racing experience in Las Vegas and how much he had to, and was wanting to improve, to take it to the next level. He is off to Europe pretty soon to get all Euro in the CX scene.

So, what is next? Probably a bit of a recovery week as I have a bit of a chest infection to get over after filtering about a kilogram of pollen. The colour of the phlegm is pretty much the same colour as the pollen.

Ultimately, like most, the Highland Fling is on my calendar and always requires the body to be in the best shape as it is one of the hardest races on the circuit.
My selfie game is suboptimal, so I appreciated Mike Blewitt taking this portratiture of me post race

Monday, September 15, 2014

Flight Centre Epic 2014

I did this race for the first time last year after hearing great things about it. As soon as I crossed the line in 40 degree heat, I knew I had to return. The course is brutally tough. The elements are off the charts, whether it be the heat, the magpies, the camels, the rocks, the humidity, the dust or in the case of this year, the mud….ah yes, the mud…..but we’ll get to that a little later.

Breakfast. I didn't have the sugar with the espresso though

Light reading material

After landing in Brisbane, I grabbed the bags and rocked the i30 over to Ipswich. I stopped by the palatial office of First Endurance in Sumner Park to catch up with the team there and shoot the breeze and check out some of their fine products, one of my favourite ones being their namesake, First Endurance.

First Endurance HQ at Sumner Park

I am a creature of habit as I like things to be consistent, familiar and therefore allow me to be in a good comfort zone when it comes to racing. So, I stayed in a motel in Ipswich that I have used numerous times. It is super spacious, comfortable, and there is a pool. As a major bonus, it is super quiet. It is also well located in order to get around to various places. An hour after arriving, I had the bike built and went out to Spicer’s Retreat outside of Grandchester to check the course out.

This doesn't even make sense....the Euros love it though

It was rough. A lot rougher than I remember. Not that it was smooth last year, but it seemed like there had been a bit of water through some of the singletrack and it seemed rockier. It could well be that the 40 degree heat from last year baked my brain and I don’t rememberhow rough it was. Or I was still snoozing after my transit.

A little bit more friendly than the psychotic magpies

That night I met up with Anthony Shippard and Wayne Dickinson for some Thai delicacies. After the Sydney boys hooked into the chardonnays there were some pretty tall stories told that night. Now some of these, I have on tape for later blackmail opportunities, and some I probably wish I never heard to begin with. Of great interest and vigorous discussion was the September Side Bet ™ (aka #septembersidebet in social media circles)

Bike against a stick

The background to this phenomenon was a discussion that Shippard and I had back in July. The premise was 3 races during September. A combined total time, or an algorithm of placing and time was to be used to determine the ‘winner’. The ‘loser’ then had to visit the winner’s Saturday road bunch, and maybe wear an outfit that was selected by the winner. And probably do the hardest turn. I was keen to have Shippard do Canberra’s Bakery Bunch, as it is pretty solid. It has recently been awarded 1.1 status by the UCI. Coluzzi just has fashion, coffee and panache at its core.

When the staff started packing up we took that as our cue to pay up and head back to the motel.

The next morning we cruised down to the Cactus Espresso bar in downtown Ipswich. It took us an eternity to find a café that was open at 7am. I thought 7am would have been a fairly decent time for cafes to be operating, but I obviously was completely off the mark with this thought. We parked up for 2 hours over numerous brews and talked more crap about crap. Race day seemed an eternity away...

The rest of the day went like this…..

• Sort bike

• Clean bike

• Spin around town

• Nap

• Crank up some GnR

• Sort bottles

• Sort nutrition

• Sort stuff

• Dinner time

• Sleep

It is hugely glamorous waiting for a bike race. But, as I love racing my bike, it is part and parcel of the big picture. 5am….alarm goes off. The food goes down, then the car gets fired up and I take off west on sunrise in search of another random paddock where there are 2000 people keen to take on a super tough bike race.

One thing I had noticed when I went to dinner the night before was the massive dark clouds brewing out west right over where we were racing. I was curious to see what effect that would have on the racing. It turned out to be quite significant….

I found out first hand what lay in store when I went for my warm up. Having done enough geological work in the past I know what happens to a thin to thick bedded, coarse to medium grained, feldspathic to lithic feldspathic sandstone with clay matrix will do when it gets wet… gets a little sticky…..and my tyres were coated in the most phenomenal clay mud and the race hadn’t even started. This made me change a few things prior to the start. I also had to spend quite a while getting this crap off of my tyres before I headed to the start line.

On the start line we had a few Mexicans who made the trip up from down south: Shaun “Wombat” Lewis, Brendan “Trekky” Johnston, Jason English, Anthony “Ships” Shippard, to take on the resident QLDers in Jeff Rubach, Travis Frisby and a few others. The gun went off and we bolted off and were soon riding along quite leisurely. Like last year, this race starts really slow. It is a sign of things to come. As soon as the first descent loomed, the pace was ramped and I sprinted the wombat to the top of the rise before the sketchy waterbar descent.

There was quite a bit of water here, and when we hammered along the valley flat track, we were fishtailing all over the place. The first climb was where things got interesting. Trekky, Wombat and Shippard were met with an unridable first steep climb and English, Rubach and myself were also off the bike walking in slow motion. Grip was unattainable, chainstays were starting to get clogged and it became quite apparent that no one would be posting any fast times today.

By the top of the climb we had lost Ships. He had chosen to run 2.3 tyres on his Epic and the rear wheel was not moving. Trekkie had the same issue with his Superfly. No clearance at all. The rear wheel was not moving for him.

English, Rubach, Wombat and myself bombed the crazy double track descent down to the road before forming a single file paceline. I have to give credit to Wombat for calling this. With 4 people, a single line paceline is way more efficient and allows everyone longer rests with just one person doing the work at any one time. This is why he is the team captain.

Back onto the dirt and the going was once again glacial. That is another geological reference…..and it means slow. There was a lot of walking in this section. Here are some of the quotes from the front bunch:

• “This is just ridiculous”

• “This soil is so fertile, I should take some of this home for my garden”

• “You probably will”

• “F#ck this”

We were pushing up one hill in unison and we heard this super loud scream piercing the Eucalypt forest from someone who was trying to bridge up to the front group. It was not a ‘pain’ type of scream. Rather it was a ‘oh bugger, my bike is not working appropriately’ sort of scream. It was not complimentary at all. We didn’t see them again.

At the top of the climb I looked for the highly appealing dry grass to ride on. It doesn’t allow the mud to get on the tyres and can also help get rid of it. Soon, I looked behind and no one was following me. That seemed pretty weird. But then I hit the descent which took all of my concentration. The rain had done wonders to the randomness of the trail and you just had to be ready for anything. The soil was not always what it seemed!

I knew what was coming up. A nice long flattish road section. I looked around and saw English coming across, so I sat up for a short moment and waited for him. We then proceed to hall ass north keeping the speed at about 35km/hr. It was awesome! No doubt we probably had a tail wind. We had managed to get a huge gap on the others by the time we rolled through the first feed station, with Lewis having copped a flat tyre. By the time we hit the super steep climb, Rubach had hitched back on, which was a sensational effort as he was at least a minute down and demonstrated how strong he is.

A few more comments….

• “You will go faster than me up this climb”

• “The day is going to be random. Let’s press on”

• “Lewy had a flatty”

• “This is a steep f#cker”

• “I rode my Cyclocross bike up this climb”

• “We should have googled how to set the bikes up as singlespeeds”

I don’t class myself as a climber by any stretch of the imagination. I can get up the hill, but it is not pretty. So, I was pretty satisfied with my efforts when I crested the top of the 20% gradient in first place. I was the only one to keep the bike upright though through the technical ascent. It was slick, unpredictable and sketchy. Perfect conditions!

English and Rubach soon caught me and we sort of swapped positions unintentionally due to the randomness of the terrain and the soil. Finally, English broke free just before the 37km feed station. I went past Rubach who had some mud clogging issues and set off in chase of English. This time round through this initial singletrack section was like being on a slot car track. It was so tacky and you could lean it hard almost like a superbike. There was no way that it was going to let go! Of course it was only shortlived before the brain had to be re-engaged and concentration levels back on full force.

By the 50km mark he had a decent 3 minute gap. I grabbed my bottles for the back 37km and Ships let me know that his bike had packed up with mud and that he was out for the day. He also said that English’s bike sounded like a “bag of spanners” – which was slightly amusing, because my drivetrain sounded like it was a strangled hyena!

I was having a bit of a blast out on these trails. They have pretty damn good flow and I may have got the wheels off of the ground a few times when the terrain dictated it. And also when it didn’t!

What was amazing was how bone dry some of the tracks in this bit were. It was like they just didn’t get any rain. And they probably didn’t. They were definitely super rough and some of the rocks I saw were like axe heads. Sooooo sharp. These one were tiptoed around. I was keen to look after my position and that involved respecting my equipment. To my utter surpise, I stumbled across English around the 60km mark. He was at the side of the trail after a really rocky creek crossing. As soon as I saw him, I jumped off the bike and pushed through this section as a precaution. Damn. He had a busted chain. That is a 3 minute or so fix on a good day. The maths were done. I had to bust a move. I know how strong English is and what sort of things he has recovered from in the past and what sort of times he is able to pull back.

So I busted a move. I was on a mission and I was wishing that someone could cure my lonely condition. That is so bad. Apologies to Young MC! But now that I was the lead rider I did have the two dudes on the motos to hang out with. The Cape Epic in South Africa has the helicopters. The Flight Centre Epic had two motocross bikes. The feeling of being at the head of the race with what is essentially an escort through the trails is pretty freaking awesome.

I was counting down the segments I had to get through. These were my own segments that I made up to allow me to tick off particular check boxes that got me closer to the finish. When I reached the final grassy drag across the base of the final climb I got swooped by the magpie about 6 times. I also saw 3 camels. I knew it was getting hotter out there, but I was hoping that these were not part of a mirage. It didn’t matter. I had looked around and could not see anyone chasing. I could walk up the climb and still hold this lead if worse came to worse. It didn’t and I was able to thread my way up the climb, pull a sneaky wheelie for a cameraman and really enjoy the last 100 metres across the crazy off camber grass through the finish line.

Damn….this was huge. I mean, it is a big deal to win the Saturday morning training bunch sprint, but this was on a very different level. This is definitely the biggest win in my cycling career and I can still remember my first ever race win, which was my second ever bike race back in 1989. It too, was in QLD, up the back of Toowong in some undeveloped bushland. To be able to win such a huge race 25 years later in the same state where it all started is a pretty surreal feeling.

Way back then I was addicted to the thrill, passion, frustration, elation, satisfaction, devastation and so many more emotions that bike racing gives you. That addiction has not disappeared over time, and probably never will. I simply love racing my bike.

This race boiled down to a lot of luck. I was hugely fortunate to have the least amount of bad luck. That is racing, and sometimes it all goes your way. Sometimes it definitely doesn’t, but like Jodie Willet says “you make your own luck”. That much is definitely true.

Next up…..the Kowalski Classic in Canberra this weekend. Round 2 of the Maverick Series. What a great month for bike racing!

That is a summary of the trail conditions
Finish line celebrations

Crazy mud

Popped into the bank on Monday and cashed this one

This trail was riddled with booby traps

Selfie game was above average in the i30 #caroftheyear

Loving this course!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Back Yamma Bigfoot - #Driftfest 2014

I’ve been here before. How many times? Every edition in fact.

2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and now 2014!

This race sticks in my head for some reason. There are a few reasons why. When I worked in Parkes for a year doing Geophysics for North Exploration, I remember that I was listening to Green Day, Offspring and Oasis. I watched Seinfeld all of the time. I was still buying bike magazines on a monthly basis, and I remember hauling ass between Parkes and Orange following the Japanese Mitsubishi Rally team’s Factory Pajero. Likewise, each one of these races over the course of the last 5 years I can also remember with wicked clarity what happened.

Brilliant course markings

I’ll recap:
2010 – first event. I rode my Cannondale Flash 26er. It was 50/50 fireroad to singletrack. I remember Ryan Quade driving the pace calling out wheelsuckers. There were a hell of a lot of trees over the entire course that we had to hop over all of the time. I remember Trevor Rix driving it along the fireroads well over 35km/hr and I remember getting a small gap on a sketchy descent at the 75km mark and riding away to take the win.

2011 – a lot more people found out about this one and quite a few of the #canberracrew made the trip up. Andrew Hall had a front shifter break, Bellchambers had a flat tyre. I remember going through the feedzone looking around and no one was there. I took off and did 50km solo to take the win that day. I was aboard the Cannondale 26er once again despite everyone saying that it was a ‘29er course’.

2012 – BYBF becomes slated as the official 2602 World Championships. Merida fly in Jason English to thwart our attempts to take the coveted trophy back to Paradise City. I remember him riding off at the 55km mark after a few mishaps in the gullies by someone. I also remember sensing the wind direction along a fireroad and putting it in the gutter at the 67km mark when we rounded the 90 degree fireroad into a fierce crosswind. Only Andrew Hall and Jeremy Ross came with me that day. Unfortunately Andrew washed out on one of the corners in the last few km and Rossy and I battled it out for 2nd that day, with English having done a runner early on. 2nd for me that year. Rossy was in the chop. 29er for the first time – Cannondale F29er.

2013 – Ed McDonald, Mark Tupalski, Andrew Hall and I were all sick! I was recovering from bronchitis which is so awful as a cyclist. We were all at about 90%. Andrew rode 95km on the front at an insane tempo that thwarted all attempts at attacks, riding off the front and other moves. He delivered me to a pre-determined spot and I attacked hard and took the win in a sprint finish. I attacked so hard that I am positive that my legs were about 6 inches shorter the next day. The Cannondale F29er was used to good measure negotiating the tracks. Hally was in the chop. #legend

That takes us up to 2014. I raced on up the day before in about 2 and a half hours from Canberra (I know a shortcut) and did a sneaky recce of the lap. Nice and dry, which means nice high speeds. The course had even less fireroad this year. I would say that it was about only 10% fireroad. That is quite the evolution over time. That night I met up with Glenn Columbine and Trent Smyth and we hit up the ‘Rice’ Thai restaurant in Parkes for some pre race cuisine and discussions - I had the spring rolls, green curry chicken and steamed rice. It was delicious. I can wholeheartedly recommend it.

Also at the restaurant were some organic singlespeeders. There were some good sledges thrown back and forth between the tables. The discussions at these dinners are always the best. Here is the executive summary. Note, some of the names and situations may have been changed to protect the innocent:

  • Wheelsuckers in training bunches
  • B grade NRS teams - only $2500 to get an NRS license
  • Dudes on said B grade NRS teams getting popped in training bunches
  • Overtaking requests and resultant conversations at the Albury 3 hour
  • Backpack training techniques – watermelons, bricks and other power increasing contraband
  • Cycling team recruiting techniques for certain riders
  • Very questionable tactics by a showpony NRS racer at this year's Capital Punishment - didn't really help
  • Certain team members only being allowed to travel in packs
  • Triathlon race entry costs - $900 for a Kona entry
  • Googling the term ‘Dutch Rudder’ at work and the subsequent calls from HR on Monday morning…. #nsfw
  • the concept that being #singlespeeded was worse than being #chicked

Heading out to race HQ Sunday morning

As always, reaching the field where race HQ is in the early morning is met with huge anticipation. It is also best dealt with by wearing a lot of clothes as it is always relatively freezing after having ridden the day before in 20 degree luxury. The standard spin around to wake everything up was done by all before the civilised start time of 7:45 am rolled around.

As per normal, the gun went off and due to the nature of the course, the speed was quickly up to 40km/hr on the downhill run to the singletrack. Glenn Columbine and Simon Ross (who is definitely not as angry as his brother Jeremy) were keen to set the pace and I was fortunate to be able to sit in behind Columbine as we entered the first bit of singletrack. I was impressed that Simon Ross offered up a resledge to me from when I called track on him at the Albury 3 hour about 2 months ago – Touche.

In the past, Hally and I had offered Columbine some good advice with regard to tyre pressure. Coming from a Triathlon background, Glenn probably has a fairly decent run leg, but like most triathletes, is not overly comfortable with the two wheel drift. This was probably down to the fact that he used to run 50psi in his tyres on the mountain bike. Luckily he rectified after the Convict 100 and ran low 20s for this race.

The most awesome ribbon of singeltrack ever

In the first hour or so of a flat race course like this the pack is always a little larger. We had probably about 8 riders at the 15km mark. With a little bit more tight singletrack, it keeps the speeds slower and the group much closer. Heading up the fenceline climb, I was leading and managed to cop a stick in my rear derailleur. So random. I just grabbed a handful of rear brake immediately and stopped before it ripped everything to pieces! Glenn and Brad snuck through, and I sorted things then slotted back in line. Brett offered some constructive feedback to my climbing abilities which I thanked him for.

When we popped out onto the long flat fireroad everyone sat up and had a drink and a gel. Glenn rode on and gave Brad the elbow flick. Brad came through, did a turn, then offered a wave through, which was rather polite. So, I applied the patented Andrew Hall Ramp Test ™ to the group. Andrew uses this technique often on cyclepaths, out of the Cotter, anywhere really to see what level of pain threshold that people have. It has the desired effect of ramping the pace up. Bellchambers came hauling past in his 36:13 gear and wanted to drag race me to the start of the singletrack climb. He was hauling ass big time in this gear. I let him go into the singletrack first and when we crested the top of the hill, I snuck through and let the brakes off down the hill. This descent is full of moto berms, is loose, dusty and probably goes for a few kilometres. In short, it is awesome.

After a couple of kilometres I looked around and had opened up a small gap. A few thoughts went through my mind. I was 25km into the race. One hour in, 3 ish to go. Sure, why not… was breakaway time. Statistically, a breakaway this early never usually succeeds. I watch the Tour every year. I know how it goes. You don't want to be known as one of those French TV-time dudes. But we had no camera crews out here, only crazy, I tried to focus on going fairly deep for about half an hour. I wanted to get out of sight of the chasing bunch.

Easier. Said. Than. Done.

This year the prevailing wind was in my face and also a slightly annoying crosswind for what felt like 90% of the course. Just under two hours into the race I rolled around transition and grabbed a fresh bottle and took off once again. At dinner last night, Glenn had asked me what my tactics were for the race in a roundabout sort of way – “so you are going to sit in the bunch for 50km and then attack?” – I replied “yeah, pretty much” --- I had options, but until racing starts, you just do not know which cards to play at times.

The card I was playing now was the 75km Individual Time Trial. That is a pretty long card. But, I chose it, so it was what then played out. It was warming up so I knew that I had better get the fluids down. I had a fair bit of fluid and had to actually have a nature break each lap – coincidentally, it was on the same bit of trail. It was super rough, so it may well have been because my bladder was getting shaken around like crazy. When you gotta go, you gotta go!!

I kept driving hard trying to ensure that I put in a good back 50km and look after my advantage. At times this meant looking after tyres and equipment and riding slightly slower, but I tried to capitalise on bits where I could. I remember getting smacked in the head by a low hanging stick that ALWAYS gets me every year. It left a masive dent in my helmet! It just comes out of nowhere through some uphill tight singletrack and does wonders for waking you up!

Hitting the creek-line singletrack for the 2nd time, I was really enjoying the downhill run and the swooping lines through the corners. It was easy to imagine being on a motocross bike through here, grabbing a handful of throttle accelerating out of corners. A shade under 4 hours after starting, I crossed the line in 1st place having thoroughly enjoyed the course put on by the crew and the nature of the trails.

Results just in

I have said it before and I will say it again. This is a great mountain bike course for anyone who is looking at doing their first 50 or 100km race. Or even if you want to just post a super fast time in a race of this nature the course does not fail to disappoint. The trails are superb. The event vibe is just amazing, and I always enjoy every aspect of the entire journey for this weekend!!

I stopped by a fantastic cafe in Canowindra with Glenn Columbine for a mid afternoon snack for the drive home!

Have I mentioned how much I really enjoy the dry and dusty nature of this course and the two wheel drifts that can sometimes last for minutes?!!?!? Hell yeah. They are awesome!
I am probably the least hairy dude on the podium!

Sushi entree the night after the race!

Hanging out with my niece and nephew who had come down to visit