Saturday, October 13, 2018

2018 Hero MTB Himalaya

There is really too much to talk about for each stage, so I just picked the thing that really stood out to me from each stage.
Prologue stage – The first day was really the rego day, where there was a prayer ceremony and 1km loop through a closed off section of Shimla is a pedestrian heavy area.The loop was more of a showy lap around and a chance to recognise the contribution India Tourism and other supporters have made to make this event possible.
Stage 1
The crazy ride to the start is a good introduction to riding around India. Eventually the crazy traffic, both pedestrian, vehicular and animal became normal. Within 5km of the race component, I lost balance and fell off a cliff. I was balancing as I looked for the line through a landslide, but there was no line. I think my pedals were gunked up with mud from an earlier section so instead of unclipping off I went. I was lucky to come away with just scratches, my bike got a broken helmet and I didn’t realise that my gopro fell off. I couldn’t get my bike up the cliff by myself and had to rely on a couple of riders to climb down a tree to reach me and my bike. Peter Rorh then stopped to assist as I slid my handlebars across to give something to grab onto, I strapped on my brake leaver and could fit the shifter only on the end of the bar. Finishing this first day with only a back brake was a little crazy at times.
Stage 2 began with a gradual climb, all on good gravel road. My partner Akshit had no idea how to ride in a group and so I had to really encourage him to get right on a wheel. He also lacked the strength to muscle up any undulations in the road and required a helping hand to get him back to a wheel. We carefully stayed with the team in 3rd place and I spend around 3 hours with my hand on Akshit’s back!
Stage 3
This was the longest day for me, with lots of walking. When I finished at 4pm I had rice to eat which was cooked at 6am that day. It was the last time I ate anything without checking the heat of the serving tray. If it was not hot, I assumed it was cooked at breakfast and was sitting out all day. I did spend a significant part of the evening revisiting the rice I had consumed earlier.
Rest day – started with the riders heading into a local school for a show and dace. After was a chance to do some shopping for clothes, fireworks, chia and a haircut. I was really bummed about losing my sweet casual Adidas glasses this day.
Stage 4- I thought this stage had a neutral stage for the first few kms so I just cruised out of town. It ended up being a race from the start and Akshit and I got left behind by the team still sitting in 3rd ahead of us. We eventually worked our way through the field and moved into the 3rd team overall.
Stage 5 - The highlight of this stage was the 1000vm decent, riding down crazy stairs past private residence, then finishing the ride with a cold coffee ice-cream and hot showers as we camped at college.
Stage 6 -
I did the first climb out of the college with the top few riders before soft pedaling waiting for Akshit, we then rode together following an impressive ridge-line. My highlight was seeing Akshit push himself to hold my wheel when I was pushing 220-230 watts for the last 10km on the flat.
Stage 7 - This stage was really looking unlikely to go ahead with the number of landslides in the area. The course setters were able to come up with an option luckily. The amount of hiker bike sections was crazy. It just felt like it was easier to just walk the whole course rather than getting on and off the bike. If there wasn’t such a nice downhill I wouldn’t have really enjoyed this stage, although, this day did have the most impressive views.
Stage 8 -
the final stage was decided to be a race where the first person across the line wold be a local Indian rider. It was amazing how hard this guy was pushing to prove he deserved the stage win. He was super emotional coming over the line to know he had the respect of many top riders. I finished this stage ahead with the leaders then looped back to find Akshit who was not the far behind and demonstrated massive improvement over the 8 days racing. With a little training before the event and with learning how to bunny hop correctly, he will be one of the top Indian riders.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

2018 XCM Marathon National Champs AKA - Where is my bike?

pic: Marcus Monteith
I was planning to write a short and simple report on my visit to Townsville for the 2018 Marathon Champs however, it wasn't a simple weekend.

My trip started by racing a missed train from Wollongong to Helensburgh where I finished the train trip to the Sydney domestic terminal. I was there an hour before the flight so I was a little surprised, upon arriving in Townsville, to have Virgin inform me that my bike had missed the flight. With no bike I missed out on a lap around the course Friday evening and instead opted for last minute school work. At midnight my bike got it's own maxi taxi to the campsite where I was staying.
With race practice open from 1pm on Saturday, Peter Lister and I planned for a mid-afternoon ride. We ducked into the shops around 2pm with our bikes locked on the roof of the car. The bikes were locked with expensive bike racks, which I have had 100% confidence in. After a 15 minute shop we returned to the car to find security having a discussion and a lack of bikes on the roof. I would have thought a bike should have be safe locked on a car at 2pm, high up on a big 4wd in the middle of a busy shopping center car park just outside McDonalds. I was wrong. With lots of kids roaming around, there would have been some witnesses to the theft. In borrowed thongs I took off in pursuit of a rider who appeared to be riding what could have been one of our duallies. A few kilometers later I was so blistered up I called for a pickup and Pete, who had been circling, picked me up so we could have a chat to the police.
With around 300 Facebook shares we got a message that our bikes had been spotted while we were getting the car finger printed. It was interesting to hear the police radio as crew were directed to the sighting. Unfortunately the bikes went out of sight of our spotter and Pete and I were left lapping around the area asking anyone and everyone if they had seen our bikes. After a couple of hours Pete found a family with kids who had seen the bikes and knew who had them. The uncle took us around to the house however the kids who had taken the bikes apparently weren't there. We left our phone number and the offer of a cash reward and headed off to continue searching. Within half an hour we had a call to come back to the same house to pick up our bikes. After we un-reported our bikes stolen, we head back to camp to assess the damage.
I had all my Di2 cables pulled, a speed sensor taken, co2 and tubes played with and power meter battery removed. Pete wasn't so lucky. With the rack Pete was using, it required damaging the frame to remove the bike. It also looked like it had been impacted in a few places. I was lucky to borrow cables from a junior, Owen Elvy, who spent a few hours stripping his bike. At 1am we had managed to route the wires and it was time for a few hours sleep.

My first ride on my bike in FNQ was on the first lap of the xcm race course. I was feeling pretty good but the bike still needed a few adjustments to make it right. I had no real race plan at Townsville rather than trying to maintain a solid pace and try and stay in the top 10. Initially I felt good for it. Heading into the single track I was just inside 10th however, dropping a chain, getting lost starting the second lap and generally struggling to corner with too much air in my front fork I lost a few more places. By the 3rd out of 5 laps I started to get the hang of the track and started to increase my pace. As I started to pick up a couple of positions I managed to cut a side wall. I didn't think it was so bad so gave it some co2. Five minutes later I put in a tube that had been clearly damaged during the theft. I managed to grab a spare tube but spending over 15 minutes trackside is not a good way to place well. I was mindful of running tubeless tyres and rode far more conservatively. I thought I should still try and have a race and so picked up a few positions in the remaining 1.5 laps. I found it entertaining to catch a busted Michael Harris about to head down the second last descent. I managed to get a gap on him along the last flat tar section and my lead felt very safe up to the final climb where he smashed past. I held his wheel expecting a sprint for the line before Michael had a lay down and let me roll past.

I love mountain biking. Here is summary of the standout moments of my trip:
* being lent a tube during a race
* being lent Di2 cables for a race (costing the donor hours of his time)
* having so many people in the local and mtb community sharing around the pictures of our lost bikes
* having people join in the search for the bikes

Monday, October 30, 2017

Whaka 100 - I hate you, I don't think I will be able to ride in AUS ever again....

The Whaka 100 is the best marathon race in the world. I have ridden around the Redwoods MTB Park where the event is held but I couldn't design a loop that takes in all the best trails in the right direction.

The Logistics

I was surprised how easy it is to get to Rotorua from Newcastle. I simply jumped on the train with my bike boxed, swapped at Central and was off to the International Terminal.

On arriving in Auckland after midnight I regretted not brushing the bindies from my mtb tyres. The customs process took longer than I had hoped for....

I took the shuttle option to Rotorua and arrived just before 5am Saturday. At 7.30am I was building my bike up before riding to the Redwoods to run two mountain bike clinics.

The way home after the race was much easier. A 5.20pm flight out of Rotorua to Auckland had me in Sydney not long after 9pm. If I hadn't of slept past my train stop I could have been home by 2am Monday morning....

The MTB Clinics

Running clinics for this event was a real eye opener. It gave me an insight into the wide variety of riders who attempt this race. There were riders who initially weren't sure which pedal to drop when cornering while others were gravity experienced riders who had more skill than I!

I can see now why the course was designed well to have 'b line' options for those that weren't confident to attempt the more technical features.

The Shootout

Saturday afternoon was a 1.8km shootout. Riders were seeded with the predicted faster riders going off last. I was off second last but with my previous race being a 24 hour I wasn't planning or expecting to be half competitive! The 1.8km individual time trial started with a steady climb that I started out way too hard on. By the top I was feeling light headed and was glad to have pre-ridden the course in the skills clinics. I almost had all the lines dialed except for the spectacular final creek crossing that I later learnt had a nice jump line to avoid time lost smashing through the water. I snuck into a 5th overall less than 2 seconds off the leader.

The Race 

The race started fairly sensibly. I got to start on the front row so I just slid into the top few spots into the first single track. Everything felt quite calm until we hit the first few climbs and the race was really on. I spent a lot of time watching my heart rate in the mid to high 180's before I let the top few boys ride off.

This is one of the few marathons where there is limited benefit from drafting - on the fire roads you are normally heading up and on the single track you really want to have space to ride at your own pace. For this reason, perhaps I should have settled down earlier so my legs were fresher at the end of the race.

From around the 30-60km mark I rode with Tristan Haycock. I managed to sneak a bottle from his brother who was providing support via e-bike during the event. I rode around with a 2L Camelbak which helped me get through most of the race however I still had to stop a couple of times to fill up bottles. In hindsight, I would have been better to put a spare Camelbak in my mid bag drop, then it would have been just the one quick stop.

While the race course has a fair bit of climbing, the climbing is not unrewarded. For each fire road up there was a new fun and flowy downhill trail to explore. It was difficult to predict how hard to hit each corner. I kept expecting to need to use more brakes than what was necessary.

At the end of the race I missed catching 2nd place by less than 20 seconds. I put a post on Facebook suggesting that results are not so important when the trails are so good. It is a funny race when I think about how good the trails are - I kept forgetting that I was in a race. My pacing at times went out the window as the trails just encouraged me to pedal faster and hit the corners and doubles with more speed.

I have seriously found it hard to get out on the MTB now I am back in AUS. Nothing compares to the Whaka 100! #postNZlow