Friday, April 26, 2019

2019 Monaro Cloudride 1000km - THINGS YOU MUST KNOW

The Monaro Cloudride is an unsupported 1000km race that starts and finishes in Canberra each Easter. This year the event was run in a anti-clockwise direction.
http://www.cloudride1000.com/


The Stages

I broke this trip down into sections as I found it easier to mentally deal with smaller journeys. It almost seems like the time between each re-supply town was its own stage and careful planning needed to be made before heading out onto the next stage.

Stage 1 - Canberra to Tumut (170km)
This stage seemed to start way too fast. I was happy riding mid field until I realised that the group was getting split and there were riders off the front. While this is a solo event, there was still drafting occurring over the first 40km.
This stage was hot, with temps over 30 degrees for most of the day. Moving time was relatively quick with only limited hike a bike sections (HAB) and I had reached Tumut at 4.30pm with time to fill up bottles, buy batteries for a low powered Spot Tracker before ordering Indian for dinner which opened at 5pm. Woolworths was closed due to it being Good Friday so the petrol station was the only option for buying batteries and caffeinated drinks.

Stage 2 - Tumut to Batlow (170km - 220km) 
Adrian and Paul left Tumut before me. I caught Paul climbing up the dam wall in the dark at Wereboldera. If I spent less time waiting for my Indian I could have made it to the dam wall in daylight. Soon after meeting Paul, he decided on a different course option and I followed the correct single track where I caught Adrian who had also found an extra hill to climb. Adrian and I rode together to Batlow where I stopped to eat the rest of my Indian, Adrian went to sleep and I continued on.

Stage 3 - Batlow to Cabramurra (220km - 315km)
I continued on solo after refilling water. This section I recall being fairly easy, I just put on the head phones and kept pedaling. It got colder as the night went on. I was keen to get to the indoor shelter of the Ski Lodge and arrived just after 5.00am in the morning. After a quick nap and recharge of devices I was back on the bike close to 7am. I was hoping for more sleep here but this was not possible with other people also using the same accommodation.

Stage 4 - Cabramurra to Jindabyne (315km to 415km)

This day has me wishing I had my dually, it was rough. It wasn't possible to sit down and pedal due to how rough the track was at times so lots of this 100km section was spent out of the seat. It was another hot day and I had to re-supply water at multiple clear looking freshwater streams. I used purification tables each time, just in case. I was surprised how long this stage took and I would have consumed close to 10 Stroopwaffles as I had only eaten a small breakfast. As I started to approach Jindabyne I noticed my chest feeling tight, which I thought was just inspiration muscles at the time. The highlight of the section was the final 10km into Jindabyne where there is fun single track. It was also perfect weather conditions and there were heaps of people out enjoying the trails. At Jindabyne I purchased 1kg of nuts, 1kg of trail mix along with a loaf of GF bread, cheese and GF vegemite. I also grabbed a couple of boxes of GF breakfast biscuits.

Stage 5 - Jindabyne to Tubbut (415km - 520km)
I left Jindabyne around 6-7pm with the aim of getting a few hours up the road. I had no plan on where to get to. At 495km was the river crossing. It was close to midnight as I crossed it and started the hike a bike. I really had no idea what I was in for. With my lungs now well and truly impaired (by some kind of chest infection) I really struggled through the next 5hrs of pushing the bike. The HAB section involved over 1000vm that were not rideable. Luckily there was a full moon so lights weren't required. I should have really called it a night on the top of one of the major climbs as it was still quite warm. Once I hit the valley on the other side it started to get cold. I found a campsite on the side of the road close to where I hoped water would be for the morning. Ideally I should have kept moving for another 5km further to the Tubbut tennis courts where I would have held a shelter, water and power! I think I got in after 4am and was back on the bike around 6.30am.

Stage 6 - Tubbut to Cathcart (520km - 695km)
Once I made the additional 5km to the road, I charged devices briefly while I filled up water and checked the requirements of the day ahead. The morning was cold so I started with my winter gloves but when I stopped and swapped them for my summer gloves I dropped a glove which I only discovered another 5-6km down the road. It is always worth going back for good winter Santini Gloves!
The next stop was Delegate. I rode the last 2hrs into town without water. I had run out and it was stinking hot. Once in the cafe I charged devices and drank 2L of milk drinks, shakes and coffees! I refilled bottles and aimed for an early arrival into Bombala. This wasn't the case. There was an extended section of hike a bike and paddock pushing. At the 640km mark I had a quick look at my phone which indicated that I perhaps should be taking a different route than what was on my device. I spend ages trying to work out where I should be going. Since my phone and Wahoo devices had gone flat I was left to use the only map I had available to me. This sent me on a slight detour and instead of arriving into Bombala with a choice of meal options I was turned down at a couple of facilities as they shut up at 8pm. I was lucky to find a pub at 8.10pm that kindly put on a huge feed of fish and mashed potato. After charging devices again I jumped back on the bike and pulled up at Cathcart close to 11pm needing a decent night sleep. The best option I could find was the grass beside the memorial hall. I looked in vain for the water tap but in the dark and with crazy fog I couldn't find it!

Stage 7 - Cathcart to 840km...(695 - 840km)
Sheltered campsite

Leaving Cathcart I had sufficient supplies to get to Nimmitabel at the 765km mark for the final re-supply. I got there with handy lead on the other boys so I went to the cafe, put my phone on the charge and sat in the park, aiming to have a sleep while I got some charge. I then swapped the phone out for the power bank as I got supplies for the last section including new batteries for the Spot Track, which was an issue. The general store had far less food than my pantry. The only portable GF products I could take included rice crackers, cheese slices and around $30 worth of various fudges, bars and lollies! It is a lolly shop! I was also down to my last 4 no-doze tablets so, with no more available, I took a couple of Dare Double Espresso drinks and a can of V for the road. Once I started pedaling again I was feeling sleepy already so I cracked open the V and then though I should check the ingredients first before consuming it. Disappointingly, it contained wheat derivatives so wasn't safe for me. It was pretty hard to pour out the contents knowing that I needed the extra fluid for this section and the caffeine to get through the night. In the end it didn't really matter as a stick took out my rear mech at the 830km mark. I pulled out my chain tool with the intention of making a single speed. I popped two pins out and when I tried to put the chain back together the tool broke trying to push the pin back in. I continued on for another 10km but with the rain, little light from a slow moving dyno light and hypothermia kicking in now I wasn't really working at intensity to keep warm. I had to seek shelter under a tree and wait for the boys behind to catch up to see if I could use their chain tool. I hadn't been so cold in my life. I was shaking uncontrollably and there was no easy option to get in a warm tent or car etc. I was just lucky for the sleeping gear that I had kept dry. From what I could see on my phone, the boys hadn't started through the 4wd tracks and were seeking shelter for the night also. I camped off the track a few meters as I needed a tree that offered some rain protection without the risk of having dead branches drop on me.

Stage 8 known to me as the bonus stage- 840km to Canberra
When I woke in the morning, I was in no rush to get up, everything I had was wet. I hadn't heard the boys ride past so I just took my time. The problem is, the boys had ridden past and I missed them, I was too far from the track to have heard them. I had a chat on the phone to Keith from Kumo Cycles who, being a keen bike packer himself, was able to come out and tweak my bike if I could make it to the 850km junction. He was able to rejoin the chain and we found the 3rd gear was the one that was going to work. This gear was good for around 10km per hour! I continued on the course where it was all fast fireroad. It would have been great to have big gears! At the 940km mark was a Cloudriders Feedzone which was great. A hot coffee, chips and water supply was really needed to get back to Canberra. After a quick stop I managed to sneak in to avoid the night time diversion through the back of Kowen Forest. My feet were becoming increasing painful during this section. Once I finished the event, I took my shoes and socks off and my feet were just throbbing from the trench foot I should have been managing. I don't think I will ever complain about "hot feet" again. It was so good to have Jason and Gwynn ready to pick me up at 10pm when I rolled in, I didn't want to ride any further if I didn't need to!



The gear


I have to admit, I didn't know what to expect from this event. I felt I had too many other events and things to think about. In the lead up weeks I decided I needed to focus on the following things:

Sleep strategies and sleep gear - for this I grabbed a hooded tarp from Sea to Summit and borrowed a Sol Survivor. I also had a thermal bag liner to add a few degrees of warmth. I just put on a Santini under shirt and got a Macpac 800 hyperdry puffer jacket. Not cheap but lightweight and warm.

Lights - I was using a dyno hub so it made sense to use dyno lights. I had a very cool setup on the front and back and ran an additional Light and Motion Trail1000 Fast Charge on the helmet as it only required 2 hours to charge.

Clothing - I decided to take only one riding kit but packed arm warmers, leg warmers, a windvest and rain jacket. I took both a Santini summer set of long finger gloves and a Sealskin winter waterproof set.
Nutrition - I had the plan to try and refuel along the way but packed 15 Gu gels, 20 Gu Stroopwaffels and Roctane Electrolyte Capsules
Fluid - I had a 3L Camelbak bladder in the frame bag and an additional bottle in the chafe bag.
Bags - I had a medium size seat bag that had additional food and clothes, full triangle frame bag that had my easily accessible food and equipment, 2 top tube bags for charging devices and holding spares and tools, 2 chafe bags - one for a bottle and the other for snacks and 1 bar bag to hold my sleeping gear.

What to do differently

- I would have stayed a night at Bombala to manage my trench foot. I wasn't prepared for this and I paid the price. I should have packed a spare pair of socks, talcum powder and taken the time to dry my feet regularly during the ride.
- I would ring ahead to order food or just only get food available from supermarkets to save time.
- I would have put a new drive train on, so if I did need to do a crazy chain repair it wouldn't slip the whole way home!
- I would have ridden with others, but with a sore throat and laryngitis I wouldn't have been much company as I wasn't really able to talk.
- I would have also considered hitch hiking to a bike shop to get my bike fixed when my chain tool broke, rather than getting a bike shop to meet me near the track. This would have ensured I finished without a DQ. I possible should have been more familiar with the rules of the event!

It was great to have the experience of Masiey and Kerry when considering this event. I'm not exactly sure if you are allowed to get advice mid race via a phone or if that too is considered external assistance?  Even a couple days on from the event my trench feet have limited my return to normal riding and I have recently stopped coughing up blood!Anyhow, I'm almost keen to give this event another go :)

Monday, October 29, 2018

2018 Wembo - Scotland




It's really hard to know where to start with this race report. Do I start with thanking my sponsors that jumped on board to help me get to Scotland? Do I start with the decision making around the timing of my surgery to fix my endofibrosis? Or do I just get straight into the logistics involved with simply getting to the start line?!
Scotland was seriously only on the cards through my very generous sponsors and I am very grateful for each of them. In past years when I have won the World Championships, the prize included an airfare to the next event. In 2017 I missed this prize so have relied on my major financial sponsors: Rohr’s Home Hardware and Blacktown Family Dental. Also Total Tender Services, Your Massage Therapist and Helen Jackson have come to the party to generously cover most of the expenses associated with the trip. I should also thank both my parents and Jen's parents for looking after our kids so Jen could come with me.

Surgery
It’s hard to be competitive with one leg, so surgery was an important part of the big plan. Unfortunately, I had to serve a waiting period with my health insurance, so July was the earliest I could go under the knife and provided the longest rehab time possible...3 months before Worlds. I used the Australian National Championships as a final tester of fitness and entered the 24 Hour Solo World Championships in Scotland soon after.

Getting to Fort William
There were plenty of options for getting to the race but, we ended up opting for a motorhome. I have seen lots of people use motor homes and I thought it would provide my support with easy access to power, water and most importantly, heating. Heating both for foods, fluids and crew. The drive from Manchester took around 8 hours each way. This meant rushing past some amazing things to do and see. I wish we could have spent an additional day or two making the most of our time overseas!


The track
This was similar to the 2014 event that I did. I just can’t remember so much climbing. If the trails weren’t heading down a rocky downhill, the track was heading up. Some of the climbs were nice and gentle, it was the loose and slippery steep sections that caused the most issues.
The track was quite interesting however with so much variety. From slippery rooty sections to bridges, from smooth flowy single track to technical bermed corners that took careful planning to ride well.

Final prep
I had tried to get hold of a 30T chain ring to match my 11-40T rear cassette but unfortunately it didn’t arrive before I had to fly out. The best I could find in town was a 32T but that still required working far too hard up the steeper pinches.
Rain was the other concern I had. I was waiting on a Sealskins order but ended up making a purchase locally. It seems Sealskins are the only way to go over there!
I have never used a mud guard before. I was trying to source a decent one in Australia however the shipment didn’t quite arrive in time but luckily Matt Page (who drove up from Wales to help me) managed to grab a set of really good guards from Rapid Racer Products.
I managed to borrow some lights Saturday morning from the event sponsor Exposure Lights as JetBlack Products announced last week they aren’t doing Niterider lights any more. Matt Page has had years of experience using them so it was great to use something he was familiar with.

The race
On the start line I was freezing. I had almost every Santini product I own on... Behot leg warmers, undershirt, Behot arm warmers, Sleek Kit, Guard Jacket, booties, Lazer helmet with rain cover, a beanie and a hot water bottle tucked down my front.
I ditched the hot water bottle before the start and should have also left the rain jacket. I warmed up very quickly! I had stuffed my jacket in my rear pocket by mid lap and was quite warm. If only this feeling lasted longer….
The pace from the start was fast as per usual and I had to settle for around 20th heading into the first single track. Unfortunately, there were quite a few riders that couldn’t ride the single track as well as the fire road. After a couple of laps I dropped my seat a little to try and manage muscular pain on my weak leg. Apart from the first 3-4 hours, I didn’t really notice muscular leg pain.
I was getting race splits from early on which was helpful, I was initially losing around 1-1.5 mins per lap. Once I caught up to Taylor Lideen who rides for Pivot I stayed with him until lap 15/16 where he caught up to the race leaders and I decided I should take the race a little easier. I just didn’t feel strong from the start and knew I was pushing it a little too hard given my lack of training. Normally leading up to a serious 24hr I would look at linking together several big weeks but unfortunately, with work commitments and recovering from surgery, I wasn’t in the form to be super competitive. 
For the rest of the night I took a conservative approach with my main aim to stay upright and just hold on to the 3rd position I was sitting in. 
During the night I got to try out the Exposure Lights systems. Matt had them setup so I needed to swap out the helmet light every 2 laps and the bar light much less often. The bar lights were quite clever, they would save power on the climbs by dimming and turn up the brightness on the fast decents. I normally run my lights on low beam permanently, so this was something great.
At around 6am when the rain really started belting down, I was pushing it a little too hard around one of the fireroad corners and had a good slide out. It took me ages to get back on the bike, it really hurt. The next 4 hours were quite tough, the pain in my knee became a constant ache, my forks were too stiff at 35psi and were only getting around 20mm of travel, I was freezing cold again and I was scared off falling off again and hurting my knee.
After 10am I checked the laps times with my support crew and we worked out I could stop, have a shower and warm up and get my knee stitched up, ready to go back out for a final lap if necessary. We reassessed the positions at 11.30am and I was safe to stay warm and dry.
The bikes I used for the race were great, the Mach 429SL was a good choice. The Elite Female winner and runner up Elite Male were on the same bike. My bike has Shimano DI2 XTR, Stans Podium Wheels, Wtb Ranger Tyes and Saddles, Mt Zoom bars and Stages Power Meters.
Getting home, was another story…

Pics: Russ Baker

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.