Thursday, March 31, 2016

Lasseter's Easter in the Alice Stage Race - feat. XCM National Round number 2

Lasseter’s Easter in the Alice Stage Race

The race is over. I have flown home to Canberra and I have just had 3 double espressos this morning and I am missing the fact that I am not in the resort pool talking crap about the morning’s riding with my homies. These are known as the post stage race blues and they always hit you the day you get home. The routine of waking, coffee, racing, eating, swimming and talking crap are broken up by having to come back to reality and be an adult once again. And, I don’t care what anyone says. It is always hard work being an adult! Don’t grow up kids….it’s a trap!



Airport lounge and coffee go hand in hand. I find that when I fly to a race I like to get there early and take my time checking in. Then I like to go to the lounge and drink coffee and eat stuff.

Alice Springs totally rocks. 300km of singletrack. And not junk singletrack at all. This is the sort of trail that puts a smile on your face. It give you great satisfaction when you are riding it and makes you want to ride more when you are done.

Racing is the main reason for going up, but I’m also up there for a good time hanging out with awesome people. And there are truckloads of them up there! This report is going to be pretty heavy with photos. That is how it goes on a 4 stage race. Some things are a bit of a blur and time flashes by in a blink of an eye.

Coffee and resort lifestyle for the win at Lasseter’s Hotel. When I left home it was dark, cloudy and 6 degrees. When I got up to Alice Springs it was blue sky, sunny and 30 degrees. Such a stark contrast! Every day after racing was spent chilling poolside with the view of the MacDonnell Ranges to the south. This is one of the best things about this race. You are only ever 15 minutes maximum from the start and finish of any stage. So….logistically it is very easy to get around and manage everything.


#pro level #baaw game up in Alice Springs - QOTD: “don’t go searching for the walls….they will find you” I flew up on the Thursday beforehand so I could get in, chill out and get accustomed to the heat. In the leadup both Luke Pankhurst and Ben Gooley had messaged me and invited me to come and race a local short track MTB event that was being held at the Velodrome. I met Luke at the big roundabout and we checked out some walls, some jumps, did some wheelies and skids and took the long way to the velodrome as you do. This is the sort of riding that you do when you are a junior. You just ride without a care in the world just because you like to ride the bike. Fortunately for me, that feeling still exists and we were doing dumb bike tricks and massive sandy berm roosts without caring. That is a pretty good place to be in!



Are you sure you want to start in that gear bro? Start line sledging always happens no matter where you are! 30 minutes full gas around a kickass course got rid of my travel legs and had me accustomed to the local dirt by the time we were riding home in the pitch black of the night. The pipes were well and truly opened that is for sure! This race was so much fun. Every corner was done full on Tokyo Drift style with 2 wheels sliding and an outboard leg dragging and dirt spraying everywhere! So loose and so awesome. What was even more awesome was seeing how many little kids were out racing – and they did the full 30 minutes as well! Legends!



Loose on sunset!

The next day I had breakfast with Briony Mattocks and Imogen Smith at the Tali restaurant which is part of the Lasseter Hotel. I marvel at anyone who can get up and not drink coffee and these 2 chicks don’t touch the black gold. So I had 2 double espressos on their behalf. We planned to meet up at  7 and go for a spin out on the Telegraph Station trails. This soon turned into 8:30 after we just spent the morning talking crap.


Breaksfast is the most important meal of the day after coffee

The trails were in superb condition and these trails out in this part of Alice Springs are absolutely brilliant. We were getting some really good flow on through the rocky sections and using every roller as a backside pump and every rock was either a jump or a berm.


Briony demonstrated an extra aero maneuver that she was planning to use on the more open parts of the course


So much flow equals so much smiling!

Yeah these trails kick ass that is for sure. There are 300km of singletrack up in Alice Springs and the variation is sensational. The local trail builders are very passionate about what they do up here and if you ever get the chance to stop and look around you are simply blown away by the views on offer. The colours, the landscapes and the feeling you have when out on the trails make the whole experience simply amazing.



We do our own stunts - 2 hands for beginners! When you are not racing on these trails it is sooooo easy to have fun on them – this was a 25km ride but it felt like it was 5km as we were having so much fun and really enjoying the flow!

That night we went out to the local Thai Restaurant which was Kim’s Little Thai Restaurant in the centre of town. We rode the bikes in along the bike path and as luck would have it there was a bike rack out the front of the restaurant George Castanza style. Like Axl Rose sang, It’s So Easy ;) – I tried to get the others to get some green curry chicken in their tummies but they weren’t down with it as they had their own system in place. Fearful that the carbs are never enough, I ordered 6 servings of rice, which ultimately turned out to be probably 2 too many. I ate 3 of them though. Imogen got a serving of rice to go so she could have a midnight snack in readiness for the gruelling 90km stage that was on offer the next day. Endurance athletes always hoard carbs…

Rice, rice baby…give me all of the carbs please!

Briony brought her photo albums of some of her favourite Thai dishes that she had experienced at the different races she has been to over the last 12 months– She was particularly fond of the Ginger Fish #truestory

Bike Racing – Details up on Strava as you do. Stage 1 and the 2nd round of the National XCM Series. These particular combination of random numbers netted me 4th place on the day. I felt that I rode fairly well and was really consistent with my outputs. As is the way the reality of it was that there were 3 dudes who were simply faster than me on the day.

 So many rocks and singletrack out there – I opted for the camelbak option in order to get lots of fluids in on day 1 and 4. With the heat being what it was….ie, HOT, Damn hot, and the course being singletrack heavy I went with the option of the hydration pack to get fluids in more frequently and with ease.

© Tim Bardsely – Smith

Post race goodness – wasn’t even Thursday. Cheers to Penny Pankhurst for hooking me up with this awesomeness on a plate at the Juicy Rump bar at Lasseter’s Casino! #ratethat. Stage racing is about being able to back up day in and day out as the body takes a hiding with the high intensity efforts that you are putting through it. I didn’t eat the chips as I don’t really do fried food, but the burger was fairly good as it provided me with a huge slab of meat which is a great protein source. And protein is great for recovery. And recovery allows you to do it all again the next day. Up in Alice Springs you also need to replace the fluids as you will dehydrate just walking around. After races I tended to put in a combination of Coconut water, electrolyte and Berocca to get some of the lost salts back in.

QOTD: “I could be a model” --- Luke Pankhurst rated these chairs for their ability to hold a 29er’s wheel. He also rated his chances at a #bluesteel job….after all, “Emily Battye does it”

I met Luke last year at the Redback. He impressed me with his ability on the bike and engine which for a 16 year old is pretty impressive. At 16 he has the goods and managed to grab 2nd place on day one in the 90km stage (and round 2 of the National XCM Series) – he lives by the motto of ‘if in doubt, get the foot out’ and rides the trails up in Alice Springs better than anyone going. Keep an ear and an eye out for this guy at races in the future.


Start line selfie with Ben Gooley prior to the start of the hillclimb up Mount Gillen

After the hillclimb I checked out some other dudes riding Cannondales

Imogen Smith, Jeff Rubach, Luke Pankhurst, me, Ben Gooley, Briony Mattocks, Daniel Rubach --- after the lactic acid bath up Mount Gillen. One of the best things about these races is hanging with a good crew and telling stories. Jeff and Daniel told us that they had driven over from Townesville via Mt Isa taking advantage of the roads with no speed limits. Then Paul Darvodelsky came and told us about how he got his new Mercedes C63 up to 268km/hr on the straight roads just because he wanted to see if the stated top speed was legit or not.

Ken Napier grabbed this shot up on Mount Gillen – thankfully it was after the 30% gradient section. Thankfully you can’t see my hillclimbing grimace either! This particular climb took me 8 minutes and 7 seconds at an average speed of 9.3km/hr, an average heart rate of 176bpm and 400 watts. That is 1.2km of 190m of vertical gain at an average of 14.7%. I’m not a natural climber by any stretch of the imagination. For reference Luke Pankhurst smashed it up here in 7 minutes and 1 second at an average speed of 10.9km/hr and an average heart rate of 180bpm


Night Stage – and Luke Pankhurst went #soenduro with the goggle option. It was amusing following his wheel on the first lap when we hit the bulldust. He didn’t see a hole in the ground and being a midget pretty much disappeared in it and when he came back out was shot out at a 90 degree angle. How he kept it upright is beyond me!

After the night stage I ate at Tali – a delectable Butter Chicken with 2 servings of rice. I pretty much inhaled this in about 3 minutes. I was hungry as I had just raced the night race which involved smashing it around the golf course on the buggy tracks under lights. A group of 6 of us got away and it was pretty much a sprint to the final corner to get to the 2nd section of bulldust first. After that it was strung single file until the finish. We averaged 40km/hr for this race which is absolutely hauling ass on the mountain bike. There were constant attacks, chases, and counterattacks going on all of the time. Seriously superb tactical racing.

Rock on! – yeah, sorry about that one…it was too good an opportunity ;) These trails up around the telegraph station are really, really good. They flow, they have technical features and they are just simply interesting to ride. When we were waiting in the shade for the race to start my bike computer said that it was 39 degrees! Once I got going the first hour with a bit of airflow over things said that it was 37 degrees. The last hour was 42 degrees all the way. Alice Springs has very low humidity – say about 10% so most people were pretty dessicated by the finish.

Tim Bardsley-Smith ©

Day 4 early on in the stage – just emptying the tank as much as possible


Dropping into the Todd River for a dip at the start of Stage 4 – managed to avoid getting wet luckily. The start to this one was nuts. It was about a 75 metre dash to the drop in here from the start line. The river itself is sand and is about 200 metres wide. The sand is pretty close to impossible to cross while keeping the bike upright in this direction. A short start loop through the other side led us back to the river once again and we crossed it before heading back out on the singletrack to the north of the Telegraph Station.


Stage 4 - 42 degrees – totally cooked – at least I had some salt for my chips

So after the 4 stages I ended up 5th overall on general classification.  I had some issues with a few mechanicals as Alice Springs can be a very harsh mistress at times. But, you have to deal with these as they come along and I did so to ensure that I got a result each day and also didn't get eaten by hungry marsupials out in the desert!


Next up – XCM National Championships at Blue Derby, Tasmania