Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Two to go

For the handful of people out there that read this blog and I haven't had a chance to chat with recently, I've got two more races to go. Yep two more, then I'm hanging up the racing ego and getting fat, slow and hairy. It’s time to go back to being a recreational rider again.
It’s been a great time racing over the last 4 odd years and if anyone had of said to me I’d accomplish all this, I’d have said they were bonkers.

See you out there on the trails,


Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Victorian 2009/10 State XC Series - Round 4

This one was down at Forrest. There's a lot of hype about the trails down this way, personally, I don't get it. Though it does mean less people on the trails I love:) I do a recon lap and I'm not disappointed - It's underwhelming in its technicality with stuff-all altitude gain. Maybe I should have been a little more positive about the course as things just didn't flow today. Are you still reading or is it too negative for you already? :)

1st lap is a 'super lap', it's got extended fire road to sort out the field before we hit the single track. I'm struggling already as we rise then swing right and finally into the single track. I'm about 6th wheel. I can see the front of the race as we are all tightly bunched so I'm not too worried and the pace seems to have been wound down a notch. We stay like this for a while until we get to the undulating section which starts me thinking I need to get past the guy in front as I can see he is now showing signs of dropping the wheel in front of him. But there's no real opportunity presenting itself to me and a gap slowly starts opening. The guy in front of me starts to dig a little deeper and as he does, his bike handling skills start to wane. In fact, if you were to graph the two, they would be directionally proportional. How do I know this? He keeps fighting harder and as he does he's all over the shop. I have to back off and give myself some room because he's like a bomb about to go off. Finally he does go off. The trail sweeps left and for some reason he keeps going straight and he's into the scrub like an F1 car into the kitty litter. Finally I bridge then we get the added bonus of the other categories reversing into us. It's a mess the 1st lap.

Lap two and we are now on the 1st section of single track that we missed due to the super lap. It's lined with balga grass trees and it feels like you are riding through an automated car wash! The single track opens up a bit on a flat section and I decide to go on the attack in search for Matt Molan who went on the attack earlier during the second half of lap one. No one comes with me so it's head down bum up in search of Matt. The second half of the course has some fast rutted sections and it's on one of these that my chain leaves the big chain ring for a rendezvous with my crank arm. The ruts and speed I'm carrying doesn't feel safe to go one handed and nurse the chain back on. By the time the chain is back on, the chasing bunch is back with me.

I recoup and go again, this time Tom comes with me. Again on the second half of the course I go to slam back a gel but in ends up going down my wind pipe. I think I've now got a good idea of what full blown Emphysema could feel like as I try and exhale with minimal effect. Tom's gone so I'm now third with a lap to go.

The fourth lap is far more enjoyable than the last three combined and I'm hooking into the sweeping turns through the trees. Senior Woo has made the long trip to man the bottles in the feed zone again and there were some sleek changes today. He's still in the feed zone as I approach for the finish line so out comes my hand, bottle-less, and we 'high-five' as I pass him heading for the finish line.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Victorian 2009/10 State XC Series - Round 3

Round 3 was back in Bendigo, though on different soil to the last round here. The course was in an area that was used for part of the National Marathon Championships, so I had some idea on what we were in for. I got a practice lap in and ended up having an off and egging my shin with my pedal. Not the best start to the day but it was soon forgotten as we all lined up in one long line in a large paddock ready for a drag race up a incline then round a sweeping right and down into freshly cut single track. Before any of the categories started there was a fitting minutes silence to remember Black Saturday.

The Elite field are 1st then us, Expert, and I'm fighting to stay with the young legs as we crest. Surprisingly I'm fourth wheel and have a good view of the front runners as we weave along a dried up creek bed. Next comes some climbing and I sense 3rd wheel is about to pop from 2nd, so I jump past then bridge. Tom Grant, who is in 1st, is drawing away but at this stage I'm happy to stick with Matt Molan who I came 2nd to last time we were racing in Bendigo. A little over half way on the 1st lap and Tom is back with us. It's on a rise and I punch past the both of them. Back around to the start\finish\feed zone and Matt is marking me from 2nd wheel. As we enter the feed area I notice Sean is just in front and is about to take my bottle but it's quickly transferred to me and there's no loss in time just a change in front man back to Matt. At this point it feels like it's down to just the two of us. We verbally reacquaint ourselves with each other and keep the pace on to keep our lead. Towards the end of lap 2, I decide to kick again to see if I can shake Matt.
This continues and I feel like I break him on lap 3 though it hasn't come without its price combined with the heat.
Lap 4 is spent conserving my lead and keeping it smooth while also keeping something in the tank to combat any late surges. There's no surges and I keep my lead and cross the line 1st!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

What, another trip to Bogong?

Go to the Flickr set here for a bit more of the story.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

2010 Australian National MTB Championships

I loved racing Nationals last year for the first time, so it wasn't hard deciding to do it again this year.
Like most people, I had a few weeks off work over the Festive Season and spent the time up at Mount Beauty, like a lot of mountain bikers seem to do, for my final preparation. This break ended with an adventure to the top of Mount Bogong.

With the race on the Friday, I flew into Adelaide on the Wednesday morning and was picked up by my soigneur, Woo Senior, a quick stop into the accommodation to check in and pick my steed up (thanks a bucket to D.C who did the drive over with all the teams bikes) then out to the course to bang out some laps. The course terrain reminded me of Mt. Stromlo, dusty/sandy with a general smattering of imbedded rocks. Technically I found the course no dramas. After my laps the only concerns I had was if I'd remember when I needed to slow down for sharp corners in the fast sections.

Thursday was one more lap to consolidate my memory then rest up for race day.

The access and parking isn't the best but thankfully Friday morning isn't too busy out at the course and I'm twiddling my thumbs getting nervous in the Fitzroy Revolution marquee. Finally it's time to kit up and get the legs slowly into the groove on a good steady fire road that runs through the guts of the course. I notice Rob Eva out there too with a few other riders: "did he have a plate zip tied on?" Is the after thought. We pass each other again: "YEP! ... Wow, I get to race the living legend of Australian mountain biking! Wonder how fit he is? Guess I'm about to find out".

Finally the time to head back to the start/finish area comes and we are called up to the start line. It's seeded, so being the defending Champion, I'm called up 1st. Next is Evan James. With his local knowledge he's definitely one to watch, then a few more guys and Rob Eva, the dark horse, also makes it to the front of the grid. We're in the starter's hands and get the 15 second call. The gun can go off anytime now... We are away and I get away clean, though the gear feels a bit light on so I'm changing up a few.

Rob is about a half bike length ahead as we round the 1st sweeping left. I'm on his right and watch as he chops Evan. It's quickly into the 1st of the single track and I'm happy at 3rd wheel. There's a short open section with a solid short and sharp pinch. 2nd wheel has gone out too hard and blows backwards, so it's Rob leading me into the major climb that's your classic single track switch backed climb, my fave! By the top we've got a gap on 3rd, Evan James.

Next is some downward pointing flowing single track and Rob shows his bike skills as he looks real smooth and fast. There's more climbing though they are tiered and not that long. I usually go into a race without a plan and just go with the flow and wait for intuition to kick in. It kicks in, and I smash it past Rob on a small rise. I don't let up on any of the climbs which make up the first half of the course. The last climb gets dubbed 'The Roubaix climb' as it's a minefield of half imbedded rocks and to get through it you have to monster over it in a low gear. You then pop out to the feedzone that marks the slow fast and flowing downward trip back to the finish. This is the part of the course where you need to keep off the brakes but remember the odd spot to jump on them so you don't end up over cooking the corners. There's one section that is a false flat and I make sure my legs are hurting at the end of it.

Arguably the most technical section is next, a snaking steepish section of rutted out burms with a myriad of options to cut straight through them over rock drop offs. At the bottom of this Rob is back on my wheel. We stay like this down a switch back descent before a small but usable climb up to the start/finish. Use it I do and smash it out of the saddle with no response from Rob. A clean bidon exchange with Woo Senior, and flat out back around the the climb out of the village area to head up it as hard as I can for a second time. I've got to use the first half of the course to my advantage and climb as fast as I can to negate Rob's descending prowess. Anxiety creeps in and this lap isn't the cleanest. I settle into the last half, where it counts, and it starts flowing a lot better.

Another perfectly clean bidon from Woo Senior and encouragement from D.C in the tech zone. It's around for the last time with the mantra "are you REALLY hurting?" going over and over in my head. I have the odd check behind and I can't see Rob though this doesn't stop the pressure. If anything it encourages me to push harder to make sure he can't see me. I'm on the back half of the course now and still keeping the pressure on. I come up on the last section of flat fire road and slam it into the big ring... The chain is now off the big ring and resting on my crank arm! I reach down and nurse it back onto the big ring like I'm disarming a bomb. Defused, I'm back up to speed within 5 seconds. I reach the descending burms and I feel like I can start to back off, relax and make sure I stick it. Through the switch back descent and I'm cruising it. Back to the bottom of the last small climb and I stand and squeeze as much out of my legs as I can then top out with the line in view! "Fuck-it, this time I'm doing a Euro line cross" and it's both hands off the bars with fists in the air as I go under the blow up finish line.

The full set of photos from the weekend including both the Elite races can be found here.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

There's a blow by blow description of this days adventure with every picture. Just go to the Flickr set here.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Victorian 2009/10 State XC Series - Round 2

The team at Dirt Riders MTB club have put together what feels like will be an enjoyable circuit to race on after an easy bang around the course. The starting line is really close to the first section of single track, so getting as close to the front before it is a high priority. To keep the legs ticking over before the start I go over the first section to the single track a few times to get my line dialed in. The next thing to get right is my position on the start line. I'm just going to have to be a pushy bastard to make sure this happens so I lurk as close as I can to the start line then rush it as the marshals call us up after they have let the elite men's field off.
I get a good enough start and end up 4th wheel going into the single track. 3rd wheel would have been better but it's not long before I'm around him and the three of us are pulling away. Matt Grary is leading Matthew Molan then myself. Their pace is high enough and I'm happy to follow at this stage. Towards the end of the 1st lap Duncan Murray comes past the lot of us on a flyer. The other two don't\can't respond so on the next climbing section I pass the two Matt's and bridge up to Duncan. For the next lap and a half I'm just hanging in there on Duncan's wheel. He has some awesome single track mojo and I struggle to hold it but make it up on the climbs. Duncan comes unstuck on the entry into one of the rock gardens and I pass him. Once he's caught up, I complement him on his single track mojo. Strangely though, he seems to have lost it as I'm slowly pulling away on sections that on past laps I was struggling to hold his wheel, he was now falling behind. I take this opportunity to concentrate and slowly further the gap over the latter half of the 3rd lap and the last lap. Towards the end of the last lap there's a handful of times when I'm held up by slower traffic and this starts to chew into my lead. At the base of the climb up to the finish line there's more traffic and Duncan is now on my wheel again. We both pass and I pin it up the winding single track trying to shake Duncan but he's sticking. As the climb eases off and the trail opens up the line is about 50 metres away now and Duncan kicks and come around. I've got nothing in the legs to respond and he beats me to the line. I roll up to Duncan and thank him for an awesome scrap on wheels.

Old man, new tricks

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia