Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Giant Odyssey - Forrest Victoria, 2015

Road trip time! I’ve been road tripping for bike races since I was 16. Back in 1989 my first taste of the road trip was with a bunch of other mountain bike mates from Brisbane. We did the mega drive down from Brisvegas to Canberra for the National Championships out at Pierces Creek. Good times indeed. From that point on, most weekends were spent on the move in search of a bike race. Fast forward 25 years and not much has changed! The road trip is a pretty essential skill to have if you like racing bikes as this wide, brown land is indeed very wide! And by wide, I actually mean long….

I took a slight detour on my way down to Forrest to check in with the crew at Monza Imports. They do, in my opinion, the best brands in the sport….yes, I am biased of course, but Cannondale, Enve, Bell Helmets, Louis Garneau, Drift Innovations, Fizik and Lezyne (among others) are ones that I rate highly – they not only look great, they function superbly – and that for me is what it is all about! 4 hours later after getting full equipment run downs, pumpkin risotto, double espressos and talk of hitting the beach, I was on my way to Geelong, then onto Colac, which is about 30 minutes from Forrest.

Filling the car up with crap to take to a bike race!

With road trips comes the challenge of finding a place to sleep for the night. Now, contrary to popular belief I don’t always stay in 5 star luxury. That is only when doing stage races. Everywhere else I am looking for the most economically priced motel….because let’s face it…I’m mainly there for a bed, a shower, and a place to store my bike for the night. With all those checkboxes ticked I checked into the Otway Gate Motel and was content for the evening.

The next morning I went wandering through Colac on the search for coffee. Now, I do drink a fair bit of coffee and if you understand this then you will know that getting a good brew in the morning is paramount to the rest of the day’s success. Luckily I got a good one. I sent Anthony Shippard and Kyle Ward a text message letting them know where I was and they dropped the bike building and joined me 5 minutes later. The stories told at these epic coffee drinking sessions are probably not really allowed to be repeated on a public facing interface such as this blog. They are in fact legen….wait for it….dary! That’s right, legendary! If only the walls and the coffee cups could talk! Needless to say though, after 2 hours of drinking coffee we decided that it was time to ride some trails down in Forrest.

Along with sushi, coffee (double espresso) is my favourite....though they are mutually exclusive

We had a pretty good recce of the middle section of the race. This is the one with the copious amounts of singletrack and a few logs to cross over. Kyle decided to go full enduro with baggies and a t-shirt in full black. Shippard had probably had a tough week in the lead up as he had forgotten to pack a jersey…..so he was looking quite resplendent in a base layer and a rain jacket….and it wasn’t raining. We did a deal behind the scenes and I lent him one of my new Louis Garneau Course Jerseys for race day. Being from Sydney, Ships is used to rocking mismatched kit under the veiled guise of panache.

The weight of the golden fleece atop the shouldes

Speaking of mismatched kit, I too was in that boat…but at least I had a decent reason. With a couple of guys off racing some race in South Africa, and another dude twisting throttles I had inherited the Maverick Series Leader’s Jersey…not only was the kit mismatching, but the yellow of the jersey did not enhance my deep tan either. But, I have never had the opportunity to wear a leader’s jersey in a race before so I took it with both hands and rocked it!

After our recce we retreated to the Forrest Brewery for a brew….and a meal and some more talking. The boys from Giant Hampton rocked up and Shippard, being from England, asked us if we knew about Cockney rhyming slang. I knew what he was on about having watched enough Alf Stewart action over the years. The others needed the full explanation.  This one is probably best done doing the following Google search “cockney rhyming slang Hampton” ….. so with the boys from Hampton promoting a certain bike brand on the side of the car, Shippard was quite amused….the boys from Hampton on the other hand were only slightly amused….and possibly left a little uncomfortable!!

Fast forward to race day and it was a leisurely 5am wake up in order to get to Forrest by 6am for the first race of the day….to get the perfect parking spot. A huge thankyou to Rapid Ascent for offering VIP options with their entry – the VIP option allowed for preferential parking less than 100m from event headquarters! How good is that?!? With that mission accomplished it was then a matter of waiting for the sun to rise…..it took a really long time!!
Railing perfect singletrack

At 7:30am though, the sun was up and we were off. The Odyssey is fantastic as the first 20 minutes or so the pace was relatively cruisy which allowed for things to warm up naturally. A few keen solo breaks went off the front, and a couple of proper testers were laid down just for kicks. Good times!

Having scouted the first climb the day before, I knew that I wanted to be near the front of the first descent as I knew it was pretty long and we would all be strung out before hitting the steep climb. A few others had also checked it out and there was a pretty cool sprint that wouldn’t have been too shabby at a dirt crit to get to the start of it. I reckon I hit this in the top 10….I think.  When the next climb started, I knew that I was having a relative struggle as I simply felt like I was blocked up, the legs felt tight and the tyres felt slow. At only 40 minutes in I just decided to back it off a smidgen and hope that things would get better. All I tried to do was to keep a couple of guys in view, but as the climb went on the guys I was trying to keep in view became the few that passed me! You know when it is going to be a long day!

MC Hammer called

After an hour or so of climbing it was time to go downhill thankfully before going back up hill. Here I saw those in front of me and it gave me the carrot to keep on driving. There is a descent here that is simply amazing. It feels like you are in a jungle that has had an explorer chop through with a machete! With 660mm wide bars the singletrack at 640mm in width was an adventure in itself! This descent feels like it goes on for about 5 minutes at least. It was simply awesome.

Coming into the Forrest oval, I had Shippard and Hanson in view and was just hoping to keep them in sight and also just hopefully reel them back in through the sinuous singeltrack of the middle section. It took about an hour to catch them! All through this section you could see and hear other riders, but at times you would be minutes behind them or it would be someone minutes behind you! These trails just wound back and forth through this little area!

I do not mind a good berm now and then

Heading out of transition we were faced with a reasonable long climb…about 20 minutes at least….could even be more. After 3 hours of riding into the race I was starting to feel a little bit better and rolled gentleman’s turns with Shippard. Hanson was trying to bridge across after the transition but was not able to make the junction. Now it was up this climb that we were able to witness some interesting things going on in the Women’s race (which started half an hour before ours). We saw Jenny King. She actually looked pretty good and seemed to be pushing on. Then we found Jenny Fay. She looked like she was in damage control and simply tapping away. …not too far in front of Chris Hamilton was Peta Mullens. She too looked like she was turning the gear over, simply getting up the hill.

After finishing the climb, we then enjoyed the descent and gave it some full gas, as that is the good gas, down the wicked singletrack descents that followed. You haul ass down these ones in excess of 40km/hr on a narrow ribbon of singletrack with the most amazing ancient ferns surrounding you in a tunnel of shadows. Time stands still.

Having learnt my lesson from last year on the slippery bridge, I took it with a little bit more caution this time and got ready for the climb out of there to the start of the Red Carpet descent. This is actually a timed descent so it was important to do what is known as ‘Strava Burgling’ and hang back a bit after the rider in front goes over the mat, and then catch up to them by the end of the timed run. It works a treat on the results board, and sometimes that is the main thing! Towards the end of this section, we found Kyle Ward chugging through the forest. A few light hearted sledges were thrown around and Kyle sat on the wheel for about 10 minutes having a rest.

More perfect singletrack goodness in Forrest

This seemed to energise the Ward Brother ™ and he promptly attacked through the next feed zone at the 85km mark when Ships and I stopped to grab a bidon. Sneaky little bugger! He didn’t really attack….it was more like he just rode off while we were searching for our bottles! He then got his 2nd wind and we didn’t see him again! Classic!

From the 86km mark there is some pretty cool singletrack. I counted over 364 corners that we had to go around through here. And at least 78 logs. One log got me and spat me on my stomach in a momentary lapse of reason…or I was just being lazy…samesame. That woke me up a little bit and got me to pay attention a bit more. By the 95km mark I was still riding with Shippard and we were just rotating through different sections with one of us on the front and the other one wheelsucking.

We sort of discussed the finishing protocol and agreed that it would be done the gentlemanly way….which means that it would be a fair battle based on who had the most power. Now I am quite aware that Ships was laying down some awesome jedi mind games when we rolled out on to the final fireroad by stating “I don’t even know where we are”. Look I expect this sort of stuff from Jason English and I tried my best to stifle a laugh. When he started doing the fake coughs as if he was under pressure, I think I may have peed a little trying to stifle the giggles. He was hysterical! So I just ramped up the power going down the tar road and covered my lines before the singletrack that led to the  finish line. When we safely rounded the final corner I unleashed a sprint only seen in the Canberra road bunches that he was unable to match.

Unleashed the ultimate sprint....and also forced Ships to take the wide line an travel an extra few metres. He probably let me take the sprint because I had lent him my brand new Louis Garneau jersey!

It was good enough for 10th place in a phenomenal field. It was also good enough to take the Maverick Series Leader’s jersey for real into the next round! That is pretty cool!

Some stats from the race


2500 vertical metres

4 hours 38 minutes 30 seconds

4 litres of Sukkie drank

12 Pro4mance gels consumed

Calories burnt – about 5000!

It was good to hang around at event HQ after the race and talk crap with everyone before heading home. This is one event that you actually do just want to hang out and stay just that little bit longer. That is a pretty rare thing, so it is great to do it when the opportunity presents itself.

Next up:

Albury 3 hour

Lasseter’s Easter in the Alice

Wombat 100

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Capital Punishment 2015

Wow….what a journey this race has had over time. I have been fortunate to be able to have done this race every year since its inception in 2010. So that is 6 times I have been lucky to ride across the ACT in the most unique point to point race that exists.
In case you have been living under a rock, are new to the scene, or just don’t even live in Canberra or Australia then here is the dot pointed version. This will also work if you are time poor, as I am this week!
  • Dinner: Thai Green Curry Chicken. Massive serving of rice. It was huge.
  • Had 4 spring rolls as well
  • 5am wake up. 5:30 leave. 6am arrival.
  • 7am start time
  • Point to Point
  • 100km
  • 10km of untimed section to traverse the Capital City of Australia
  • Takes in Kowen, Sparrow Hill, Sutton Forest, Majura, Black Mountain, the Arboretum and Mount Stromlo
  • 3 hours 26 for leaders
  • Incredibly fast
  • 29km/hr average speed
  • Lots of tactics
  • First section is 65km and about 2 and a half hours long
  • Second section is 25km and a bit over an hour long
  • Pro4mance gels consumed: 12
  • Litres of Sukkie drink consumed 3 and a half
  • My 2015 Placing: 4th
  • My placings over the years: 2010 – 7th, 2011 – 9th, 2012 – 6th, 2013 – 13th, 2014 - 4th

Luge on Stromlo - if you haven't been here and ridden this track, do yourself a favour!

Results - awesome to analyse the unique splits

The morning was absolutely beautiful. 7 degrees in Kowen Forest. No wind. A full moon. An amazing sunrise. Well behaved kangaroos. It quite simply could not have been more perfect if you had tried. At 7am the race was underway and there were a lot of riders wanting to leave an indelible mark on this race in one way or another.
So apparently this is the last time that AROC will run this event. That is a real shame as it is an absolutely brilliant race. There are not too many point to point races that exist out there. But, the logistical side of things is incredibly difficult and expensive to undertake, so it is understandable from that point of view.
However, it does leave the option open for someone else to potentially run a similar event if they wanted to!
 Keep an eye out for a more in depth write up of this race in the next issue of Enduro Magazine!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Husky 100 2015 - a lesson in patience!

So, the Husky 100 would have to be the unluckiest event going around. To my knowledge, and I could be out here by one or two, but this event has been run 5 times now and 4 of those have had some major run ins with the weather. The weather brings water, and that water fills some pretty deep holes out there. For 2014 the Husky was run in a steamy month of February 2015. It had been postponed from its original date in late October 2014 and with the new year brought a new event centre at the Coondoo trail head. It also brought a brand new course. But onto that a bit later...

The weekend started with one of these

On Tuesday night I was fortunate to visit Anthony Shippard in Bosstown to see Slash with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators and their support act, Steel Panther. I drove up with Grant Johnston Tuesday lunchtime and we drove back to 2602 on the Wednesday morning in time to clock in for work. These are some of the sacrifices that have to be made in order to enjoy life to the fullest some times. The concert was absolutely brilliant and I have to thank Peta for giving Shippard and I such great birthday presents! Our birthdays are a couple of weeks apart which is pretty much totally irrelevent, but sets the scene for why we got the tickets. In #pro form we rode to the Hordern Pavilion. SHippard had lent me Briony's beautiful Cannondale Flash 26er hardtail ( ergo: brand appropriate) whilst Grant rode Black Beauty the commuter and Ships rode a pink step through beach cruiser which underpins his panache on the bike in general.

At the concert we openly considered the fact that we may have not had enough tattoos between us for this concert. I think we had 1 tattoo between the 3 of us. However Grant did wear snakeskin boots and we figured he knew what he was doing because he had seen Guns n Roses in 1993 at eastern Creek with 90,000 other bogans and was seeing the Foo Fighters on the following saturday night in Melbourne. Yes, he is a total rock groupie.

Slash goes for it on the Paradise City double time section

 My highlights from the concert would be the solo that Slash did during 'Rocket Queen' and the Steel Panther classic '17 Girls in a Row'. I am also going to give a supplementary commendation to Slash for doing 'Double Talking Jive' and Steel Panther for premiering '10 Strikes You're Out' for the first time ever in concert!

Steel Panther got 17 girls up on stage during one of their songs!

One of the highlights of the trip home with Grant was him figuring out how to use the 'how much fuel left' function on his new car. Even better was the fact that we had 13km to go to empty. Totally winged it to a petrol station!!

So anyway.....I drove down to Nowra on Friday after getting a new set of rear tyres for the car, which I got fitted that morning. The guy that fitted them also has the same car that I do so we chatted about car stuff and I pretended to know what I was talking about. Look, honestly, I just use the car to get from A to B and don't really know what sort of mileage it gets on a full tank. I do know that the premium unleaded fuel makes the car 'feel' better when I give it some off at the lights but by how much, I cannot really quantify.

Leisurely drive

I took the short cut route down to Nowra via Braidwood and snuck down Nerriga Road which has a little bit of gravel road but the twisting section through the sandstone outcrops are worth it. In 2 hours I was down at event HQ and got the bike out and went for a spin around the first 30km of trail. Due to some recent rain, the trails were moist in places and the puddles were quite large. It is common folklore that this area is actually below seawater, and therefore being quite close the ocean, the tides influence how deep the puddles are depending on the phase of the moon and the tides. I'm not 100% sure how real those tales are, but the puddles were deep. I got to one of them and truth be told, it may have been a creek as I could not see anyway around it. There was a dude on the other side and he old me that he had just crossed it and taken his shoes and socks off so that he could get across with dry shoes. Fair call I thought as I waded knee deep across the clear water body.

Pretty cool rock formations

I got registration sorted and caught up with Ben Read who had sent me a text message asking where the event HQ quarters was. I asked him if he had the rider's information booklet. He said that he had and that he didn't live in a particular suburb of Canberra, (yeah I don't know either). I then asked him if he had read page 1. He said that he had not. A yes, a trap for young players no doubt as page 1 did indeed state that there was a new event HQ for this version of The Husky100. Nice one Ben...

Race recce going well. Puddle shaped like Australia

After scouting the trails for a couple of hours, I went down to Huskisson to check in to my salubrious digs for the night, Another common misconception is that racing is always about staying in amazing locations, eating copious amounts of Thai food, and staying in 5 star lodgings. Again, because we're going into details, the motel doesn't really have to be all that much. I mean, all that I am doing there is cleaning my bike, shaving my legs, staring at the ceiling and waiting for the alarm to go off.

My sort of singletrack!  \m/

When the alarm went off, I smashed some breakfast and got straight out to the event HQ in order to snag a parking spot close by. With that mission sorted I was super ready to get onto the start line. Unfortunately I had to wait about an hour and 20 minutes as I may have been quite enthusiastic to get there.

Finally at 7am we got underway. The start was so beautiful. A downhill gradient for about a kilometre made things start off incredibly easy.The track had dried just a little bit from the day before but I knew what was coming up so I positioned myself at the front of the bunch and got ready for the puddle sections. It was probably best to be at or near the front for these as it made it easier to see where to go. Some of the puddles might be only 3 cm deep, others might be 50cm deep, and like buying fruit, it can be a bit of a lottery as to what you will get.

I'll dot point the exciting things that happened:

  • Dan McNamara hits a sandy spot and bins it
  • I ease up a bit so that he can get back on. He brings across another dude with him. He is saying that he busted his bidon cage and lost the bottle
  • We roll through transition at 18km and I grab 2 fresh bottles to last me until the 73km mark
  • It is probably 90% humidity right now
  • At the 30km mark we come across some people moving the bunting and saying that they are "going to close us down" and that "you'll probably be the winners" - - we are a little perplexed by this but the arrows are still there so we keep on racing
  • At the 50km mark Dan says that he has 57km on his computer. 
  • Dan notices that the other rider is lagging on the steep techy climb
  • Dan decides to channel his inner MC Hammer and gives it some 'Hammer Time' (TM)
  • We drop the other rider and keep motoring on
  • Dan gets cramps due to lack of electrolytes, fluid and 90% humidity due to lost bottle
  • I head off in search of my next feedzone which is 20km away - I too am running low on fluids
  • Turn right at the 65km mark and go through this amazing bit of rainforest which made me feel as though I was in the wild forest of Borneo or somewhere crazy like that
  • Spy a couple of dropped bottles on a bit of track we are going back over. Very tempted
  • Make it to feedzone with Tristan Ward, who is 1st place in the 50km race
  • Grab fresh bottles and more gels. Head out for 2 laps of the short last section
  • Tristan and I pretend that it is Tuesday night and we are racing dirt crits at Stromlo getting our two wheel drift on through the sandy singletrack of Coondoo. Except that I don't use my elbows on him this time!
  • Tristan hits the wall with 3 km to go and lets me through
  • I have got to hustle another 15km or so.....so basically just emptying the tank
  • Start to dream about an icy cold coke that is waiting in the esky for me
  • Have an unplanned front wheel drift to footplant to hope that noone saw that maneuvre
  • Finish off the final loop and cross the line in 1st place. Really, really happy with this!!!

Ok now for some stats

  • Litres of Sukkie drink drank: 5
  • Number of Pro4mance energy gels consumed: 13
  • Time racing: 4 hours 36 minutes 22 seconds
  • Humidity: 90%
  • Number of drifts: 243
  • Litres of coke smashed post race: 1
  • Number of big macs hoovered post race: 2

Bike was happy after I took it to the carwash. Number 1 plate for winning the previous edition. 1st place trophy for winning this edition. Very pleased!!

After the race I headed off down to Callala Bay to jump in the ocean and soak the legs and clean up. Whilst in the water I reflected on the Husky 100.....This race does suck you in a little bit. You think of it as being flattish, fast and somehow 'fun'. It is probably the allure of racing near the beach that does it.  When you are at the 55km mark do you realise how hard this race actually is. Due to the damp conditions it requires more power output and due to the humidity and heat it takes a lot more out of you than you think.

This is so much more apparent the next day. On Sunday I had 6 double espressos and was quite content lying in bed drinking electrolyte fluids until 2:30pm!!! Yes, the Husky 100 smashed me once again. The last time I did it I drove home then jumped on a jet to London 2 hours after getting home. At least last night I got to chill out a bit and wind down watching crappy TV!

If in doubt.....affogato

Next up - Capital Punishment on Saturday the 7th of March