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

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