This was always going to be the highlight race of the year for me. I was a little disappointed not to be heading overseas to race but with the race being held in Australia in front of family and friends it was always going to be a special event regardless of how I performed. With all the media hype around this event, the amount of quality Australian riders and the various National Champions from around the world I was quite prepared not to win this race.
I arrived in Canberra ten days before the event after a massive ten days of riding for me leaving me with just enough time to recover before the race. I tried to get around three hours a day of training in this final week and a half but with a significantly reduced intensity. After doing one lap of Stromlo I wasn't excited about the track but by the second lap I was loving it and couldn't wait until race day.
Jason and Kylie McAvoy were generous enough to put us up at their place before the race and it was fantastic to be able to talk mountain biking 24/7. The only downside was I started my carbohydrate loading a little to early... Kylie is an awesome cook!
On the Thursday before the event everything started to fall into place. I got my new Stans wheels, my new tyres, my new race kit, and a bike that evening. Friday was off to rego and briefing where I picked up my other new bike. I got to sleep Friday night around 10:30pm after choosing the wheels and tyres I wanted to race with. It was a tough call and everything was weighed. I ended up choosing the new Continental X-Kings 2.2 on the front and the Continental Race King 2.0 Protections on the rear. I didn't want to be stopping to fix flat tyres.
On race day it was time to take the bikes for a pedal, test out the new tyres, adjust shock pressure and get the seat height to a comfortable level. Moving down to the marshaling area we had to get the bikes racked. I managed to get mine in the prime position which meant I had the shortest distance to run. After the run I must have been the third rider in the pace line which was moving out of transition at a seemingly silly pace. I was happy sitting behind knowing that someone out the front was going miles too hard. Looking behind it seemed like there were heaps of riders together at this stage before the first climb started. Andy Fellows clicked it up a few gears and I was just going to watch him ride off, that is, until he realised the first climb went for a few kms! It was the Canadian National Champion Cory Wallace who was happy to bust off the front and no-one else seemed keen to follow him. I was sure he was going to blow up.
As the race continued I was determined to get to the front of any downhill or technical section before the other riders as I had been practising the quickest lines all week. This strategy paid off and it allowed me time to recover slightly up the hills as the riders behind caught up. There must have been 5-6 of us riding together for the first 3-4 hours before I managed to get ahead and catch up to Cory who must have been slowing down. I was finally getting to a speed that was maintainable and I was starting to put time into the rest of the field.
By around 7-8pm I got one of my first race splits in a while and I was quite surprised to hear I was 25 minutes ahead of second place and 35 minutes ahead of third place. This time also happened to be pizza time and it was fantastic. I was knew my pizza was being rationed as I only got three small slices over three hours, compared to the National Championships where I ate around ten slices in three hours...
I was enjoying the night riding however by 10pm I was starting to get tired. No wonder, I had missed my caffeine hit! Around 1am we changed batteries and I started to look out to the east each climb in search of the glow indicating the sun was about to rise. After the sun was up I really enjoyed my breakfast of super soggy Weet-bix in a drinking flask. The stuff was great as I was looking for a change from sweet bars and gels. Everything was going to plan and by around 9am I had lapped third place and was 4 minutes away from lapping second.
The thing I wasn't counting on was my knee blowing out. I have never experienced anything like it before. The only thing I can put it down to was riding these new bikes, one of them was way too high for a lap. I'm just not sure why my knee started having issues then and I wasn't sure if I would be able to finish the race. It was such a weird experience. It took me a while to work out I would suffer less from pushing a harder gear and by locking out my hips. I pedaled most of the last three laps to the finish with most of the pressure on just one leg. The Neurofen gel did nothing for the pain. I apologise to anyone that tried to talk to me on these laps as I was just feeling sorry for myself. I was also trying to work out if the prize money would cover a knee reconstruction if I caused further damage!
As I came across the line I really wasn't enjoying the experience (due to the pain) until the ice came out and I could sit down and appreciate the amount of effort my pit crew and supporters had invested in seeing me succeed at this race. I need to say a huge thanks to all my sponsors. This race obviously means the most to all of them.
JetBlack Products and Pivot Bikes invested heaps of time and effort leading up to this race. I must have called them most days to see when the new drive train, new frames, new seats, new wheels, new hand grips, new lights, new gloves etc would be available! Their physical support at the race in servicing the bikes ensured I always had a fresh bike to race on.
The NiteRider lights I used only recently turned up in the country and the 1400's were fantastic to have on both bikes. I programmed them exactly how I wanted and this ensured I had a good broad beam on the bar and a 350 spot on the helmet.
Fox Forks came to the party to provide me with the latest oversized 2011 forks for the 2011 Pivot Mach 4 frames that I received on Friday!
Sram helped out with a new XX drivetrain to ensure I had no issues at all getting the power down.
Continental tyres did everything they could to try and get me the latest x-king in time for the race and all the different versions of all the tyres they do. I had too many options on this front!
Shotz Nutrition provided me with their whole selection of bars and gels for the race and the electrolyte tablets assisted my hydration especially during the warm afternoon on the Saturday.
Lloyd from Gordon Street Cycles in Port Macquarie came down to pit for me and did a fantastic job. I was scared to ask how much time GSC had spent putting new drive trains on bikes and swapping frames and forks in the lead up to this race. These guys have been great!
It was great to meet Chanh from Adidas Eyewear who made sure we had every possible combination of lense available to suit all the conditions that Stromlo could throw at us. Not to mention the super bling gold Evil Eyes he bought out for preso!
Anytime Fitness were there in force across the different age group categories and in elite. It was great to see Richard Peel use this event as a fundraiser for juvenile diabetes.
Cannibal clothing whipped up a green and gold kit for me with only a few days notice and it was super comfy, no issues at all. I wouldn't dare use anything other than their clothing during 24 Hour events!
The Weldtite Wetlube has previously kept the chain quiet for up to eight hours at a time at Stromlo so was the oil of choice. I'm also stoked that JetBlack Products are now doing Stans wheels, as I need another rim - oops.
My mate Scottie was a fantastic support in the pits. And Jen is amazing. She keeps me coming back to 24 hour racing.
Thanks CORC and 24 Hours of Adrenaline for the awesome experience!