Monday, June 22, 2015

Evocities Series - Albury 6 Hour - June 2015

A while ago my Cannondale - Enve Racing teammate, Tom Ovens and I discussed the possibility of pairing up for the Albury 6 hour. This race is part of both the Victorian Enduro Series as well as the huge Evocities Series and was held up on Nail Can Hill right smack bang in the middle of Albury. We had some good experience of racing this event up on the hill with both of us racing the event last year. I raced the 3 hr solo and Tom partnered up with Todd Cuthbert for the 6hr pairs.

In the ensuing months Tom had to smooth things over with Todd so that the original bromance was not severed in the tiny seaside hamlet of Geelong. Todd was a good sport and took it all in his stride and partnered up with the Dan 'Core Strength' Beresford. Though I was slightly concerned when Tom and Todd started wrestling in the Cannondale marquee prior to the race. I just put this down to youthful exuburence and as they say in the big shows, what happens on tour gets recorded for posterity on the internet.

Rewind back to the week just gone and just about everywhere in Australia it was raining. I went out for 3 hours on Wednesday and I have to say that I got the most waterlogged that I have ever been. It was completely nuts. Thursday was one day I would prefer to forget as going in a straight line along Adelaide Avenue at about 45km/hr I hit a bit of oil on some slick paint, ironically the green stuff in the on road cycle lane, and hit the deck sliding across the wet bitumen. Not ideal...and the whiplash was intense!

Friday was spent training in the sun and I gave the Strava KOM on the Hume Weir Wall a good nudge....but, alas Lachlan Hutchins will still hold that one until a better tailwind comes along! I also spent part of the day at Osteohealth getting manipulated back into some sort of non-crookedness. I have a couple of #protips that I go with to keep things on the straight and narrow....never give the people who prepare the food or those who are dry needling your glute muscles a hard time. Dry needling blows my mind in how effective it is. Nothing has come close to the sensation of the end of the needle tapping the pelvic bone....
Do you even wheelie bro?

After working on the tan on Saturday for a few hours Tom Ovens and Garry James rocked up and we went out to Nail Can Hill for a sighting lap. The course on offer was incredible and was a real mountain biker's course. 300 metres of climbing per lap, incredibly rocky and technical singletrack and all up about 12 km per lap. The climbing was predominantly on fireroad which required pure power to get up. The singletrack required your utmost concentration in order to nail the lines and negotiate the rocky sections.
Perfect tanning weather
I showed the boys some of the good lines around the place and discussed some of the tactics with Tom that we were going to employ on race day. The fellas went out for another lap whilst I sat in the car and checked out what was happening in the world of social media.

That night we had an absolute feast of Thai food with about 5kgs of coconut rice consumed and the dishes of choice accompanying the plate. There may have also been quite a good spread of entrees devoured as well.

The next day, the race day started at the luxurious time of 10am. This was probably a good thing because some of the people from Victoria struggle when the temperatures drop to 5 degrees. It was probably closer to zero with an apparent temperature of minus 3.6 at the airport (of course). Having been on our game the day before we had scoured the race hq and snagged ourselves a sensational spot for the Cannondale marquee with an elevated position with a superb northerely aspect. This proved to be sensational as we were bathed in sunlight all day long.
A huge thanks to Peta for whipping up some sensational pancakes for breakfast!
Now...onto the racing. Racing for 6 hours is probably about at hour too long in my opinion. That may be a controversial statement but 5 hours is the time when you are just about done. Because Tom is the youngest, and he also wanted to race Todd, he was elected to do the first lap of the day. He was on fire because about 30 minutes later he came through in 1st place with Brendan Johnston (solo) hot on his heels. I headed out for lap 2 and took advantage of the best conditions (clear track, fresh legs, fastish track) to go as fast as possible.
Just about to hand over to Tom so that he can do another lap
Now, lap based races are quite interesting. You are basically going out for 35 minutes and revving as high as you can for that time. For reference each lap my average heart rate was buzzing at threshold and each lap had about 3 minutes of pure anaerobic effort. It was, as they say in Europe, full gassss.
Peta Stewart photography services caught me grovelling up this climb. It might look dead flat, but I am sure that it was a climb!

So for about 3 and a half hours we chaperoned Brendan around the course doing our best to go as fast as we could with the prime objective of posting the most amount of laps on the day. After about 3 hours the fatigue starts to set in and you start dreaming of the finish. Both Tom and I were individually doing the math on how many laps there were left to do. Subconsciously you are pretty much just rationing out your energy expenditure for the day.

I now have some good proof on the efforts required for doing 3 hours of efforts when training or racing and it always is quite fascinating. For those that want to geek out on some training stuff here are some random numbers for you from my 3 hour rides this week
Wednesday ride - 3 hours - 149 TSS (total stress score)
Friday ride - 3 hours - 116 TSS
Saturday ride - 3 hours - 75 TSS
Sunday race - 3 hours - 225 TSS (each lap was 45 TSS for me)
For reference I did a 3 hour solo back in March and posted about 215 TSS
Looking incredibly fresh....just exiting transition obviously!
As they say there are many ways to skin a cat, and as you can see 3 hours is not the same always...
I also think that doing a pairs race where you are stopping and starting all of the time is quite hard as well because you are revving the engine hard then letting it cool down before giving it another go at full gasss. It hurts!
At 3:51 I rolled in for my final lap and gave Tom the opportunity to get some extra training in and head out for our 11th lap. He was very eager to do this as we had discussed it on our previous handover and I ensured that I got back in time so that he could do some extras for the day. Whilst he was out there, I managed to change out of my kit, pack up half the stuff, do an interview with SBS, eat some food and talk to a whole bunch of people. When he came in for the final time there were man hugs all round as well as high fives to celebrate the team effort. Well there would have been but we were both too shattered to do all that!! So we just shook hands, patted each other on the back and told stories about how the day unfolded! #goodtimes
We had executed the plan to a T and had raced extremely well to take the overall win as well as the win in the hotly contested pairs category. But most of all, we had enjoyed the whole experience as a team. The banter, the stories, the hard racing, interacting with everyone, seeing others racing and everything that goes on at a race.
That evening I demolished a pizza whilst sitting in the bath then half a viennetta ice cream and about a litre of Fanta. I also slept for about 10 hours which was so good!
Next up....there are a couple of things on my radar. Wagga 3 hour and the Wagga to Albury road race.....I wonder if Beresford is racing those 2?! ;)





What exactly is #lightbro ? Thanks to Tim Cartmell (@ozhudo) for the photo on this technical corner!



Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Tathra Enduro 2015

Just in case you are wondering, the Tathra Enduro is a 100km race. It is not an *enduro* where you have to have goggles, full face, camelback, baggie pants a flat brim cap and a 6 inch travel bike. Not that there is anything wrong with that. It is pretty trendy to be #soenduro right now, but I just ride my bike and try to avoid being pigeonholed!

The next thing I will say is that the Tathra trails are in my top 3 of all time greatest mountain bike trails. There are 51 kilometres of singletrack that have so much variation that you are constantly stimulated and never bored. The other thing of note is that the trails are pristine. They have flow that simply epitomises the word beyond belief. If you were to have a check under Wikipedia for the word 'flow', there would probably be a photo and a footnote regarding the Tathra trails.

On Friday morning, I participated in a nice Gentleman's bunch ride known as the HoT. It was about minus 2 degrees and had rained so there was extra oxygen in the air and I rode well enough to be ranked 2nd that morning which showed that the sensations were indeed above average. By being muy tranquillo  on the drive down, I was not phased by the snow on Brown Mountain as soon enough I could see the ocean, and the ocean means coast, which means heat. It's all relative as the training days in the leadup to the weekend were all minus 8 I was looking forward to the positive 7 minimums on offer.

Freezing my ass off on the start line whilst getting photobombed by Garreth Paton!

Saturday morning was spent wandering around Bega searching for a coffee and breakfast. Peta and I found a cool little hipster café and smashed some espresso and some bacon and eggs and then made our way down to the coastal town of Tathra. After registering, we headed up the mountain. The trails were in pristine condition and we were having a blast, with the highlight being the iconic 'Bridges' track. The singletrack here is phenomenal and you are flying incredibly fast and railing corners with the biggest smile on your face!

That same morning I had scoped out a brand new Thai restaurant in Bega and made a mental note to get back there that evening. True to form, I hooked up an amazing Green Curry Chicken and a Beef Penang Curry with some Coconut rice. I also went in for the mixed entrée. The resultant food coma was worth it though. The curries were made from scratch, and not from a tinned mix and the flavours were absolutely incredible.

I went to sleep with a full belly to the sounds of the couple in the motel room next door getting jiggy with the freedom that a motel affords you. It was just like being on campus at university. The next morning the alarm went off at 6 and I forced down some oats and half a banana. The car was packed and the 20 minute drive to Tathra was done listening to some particular music to get fired up for the day's racing.

Behind the scenes...and by scenes, I mean car. Just getting stuff sorted prior to racing.

I probably needed some other things to get fired up and warm as it was still very cold down at the beach. I was longing for my puffer jacket but had to make do with layers until the very last minute just before the gun went off. Once it did, all sense and feeling was lost as the pace slowly ramped up. Simon Ross was the first to attack along the bitumen trying to get some television time for Jim's Mowing. Shaun Lewis (Specialized)  chased him down to warm things up as Brendan Johnston (Trek) and Mark Tupalski  Torq \ Merida) both responded after Dan McNamara (Jim's Mowing) used some subtle blocking tactics to quench the counter attacks.

As we rounded the point, I attacked up a small rise which led down to the first bit of dirt. This did what I wanted it to do, which was to string it out and get the pace ramped up. Once we started heading up the hill some more I peeled off and slotted into 4th place behind Johnston, Tupalski and Lewis. This was where Johnston and Tupalski took off. Once we got out of the singletrack, Ed McDonald and Callum MacNamara got quite excited and drilled it up the climb in chase of the 2 escapees. Heading down the bitumen back tot he event centre on the 15 minute start loop, the front 2 had a half decent lead and would be hard to track down. When we hit the event centre I ramped it up a bit and drove it through the singletrack trying to keep the leaders in sight. Half way up the climb I let Lewis past and got on his wheel and we were flying through the bridges trail with Ed, Callum and Dan behind me.

Grantley Butterfield grabbed this shot of me leading the chase group. Good timing that I just so happened to be on the front when he took the photo!

15km in and we went past Tupalski who was fixing a flat. Someone said "I wonder how long before we see him again?" Yep...the thought had occurred to me!

Somewhere up the School Climb we unhitched Ed and Callum and by the feed station Dan had latched back on. Peta slung me a bottle through the feed station and we headed out to the next section which was even more awesome singletrack. Lewis motored on the front jumping off every log drop and kicker he could find and once we got out onto the short sections of fireroad I came through and pulled turns to try and keep the pace high. By the time we got back tot he feedzone Tupalski had piloted his motorbike onto the back of our train. Game was back on. After the feedzone, Tupalski got in front of me, and then attacked past Lewis up a small rise. Lewis responded and we got pulled along by Tupalski who obviously had unfinished business. At this point the pace was a bit too high for McNamara and he was unhitched as we hurtled down the descent hitting all of the corners like we were on rails before spilling out onto the football field and into the event centre. Lap 1 was done.

Drinks were grabbed and the pace was put back on as we headed off for lap 2. Tupalski was driving it and I was on Lewis' wheel heading up the climb. I made it 3/4 of the way up and then had to let the elastic stretch a little bit more once it got to the steeper bits. Lewis kept on Tupalski's wheel and I kept them within 30 seconds to the next feedzone before grabbing a fresh bottle. Off in pursuit I was on the lookout for Shaun's fluoro yellow kit and Mark's Orange kit. Due to the nature of the course I could see them every now and then and it kept me motivated to keep the pace high.

Exiting the singletrack onto the fireroad climb at the 80km point I got excited as I could see the fluoro yellow. You can imagine my feeling when I rounded the corner to see 3 guys in the 50km race wearing fluuro yellow jackets. It was not the sneaky Wombat....

I kept the pace super high and went through the final feedzone looking forward to smashing the descent. The final 5 kilometres are all down hill and fly by in a matter of minutes. You are railing bermed corners, flat corners, off camber corners and keeping it wide open the whole way down. The final 2 berms are railed and then it is a soggy slog across some spongy grass to the finish.

In the end, Brendan Johnston won followed by Shaun Lewis and Mark Tupalski whilst I grabbed 4th place and Callum MacNamara nabbed 5th. The gaps between the first 4 were only a minute each and I was pretty happy to finish only 3 minutes off 1st place. There is always the retrospective thoughts of what could have been but it is just a matter of determining what can be done to sort a few things for next time.

I cannot tell you how good that coke tasted after the race!

The prizes were absolutely fantastic with the club giving away some unreal local produce including wine, olive oil, cheese, chilli, coffee and other bits and pieces. I have to say that the community gets right behind this event and makes it pretty awesome to be a part of. It is definitely on my race program every year and the trails are definitely the main drawcard that keep bringing me here.

Mid interview post race - a great question was asked....what advice do you have for any kids? My reply "just get out there and ride your bike and enjoy it"

Up next....Albury 6 hour Evocities - pairing up with team mate Tom Ovens to smash some hot laps around Nail Can Hill!