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

Monday, October 16, 2017

2017 Australian 24 Hour National Championships - Tips to Success


Racing the National Champs has been my main focus since losing the title last year. With school holidays a couple of weeks before I had the chance to do some longer rides and play catch up. I have had less training time this year with new hours at a new job. For the last few weeks of school term I had the alarm going off at 3.30am so I could ride from 4-7am each morning. I found using a power meter made my training time far more effective as I could carefully monitor training load. I have Stages power meters on all my bikes for this purpose.


In Canberra some generous people offered us their house while they were away. Arriving a few days before the race allowed us the chance to enjoy Canberra cycle-ways and allowed me the chance for a sneaky ride around Stromlo and Majura Pines before the race. This meant I had quite a few days of low intensity riding. I also tried tweaking my body clock by sleeping in as much as possible!

The Track

Photo: Russ Baker
The track had been reduced to around 9km with less climbing than had first been planned. I spent the first 6 hours of daylight testing which corners and sections I could avoid braking on. The track had a few really fun sections with small doubles, berms and fast and flowy sections. This wasn't always the case and some sections were painfully rough,

Support / Pit Crew

My team was made of my parents, Jen (who camped out with the kids) and Jason Moxham from Fizo Cycling. He was looking after a few riders and was available for mechanical issues during the race. I need to thank my parents for driving Jen and I back to Sydney so I could work on Monday.

The Bikes / XTR DI2

The course was quite lumpy and bumpy so I picked the XTR Pivot Mach 429 SL. There was no chance I was going to use a hardtail on such a rough course. These bikes have Shimano XTR DI2 which minimise the risk of repetitive strain injuries of the wrist and fingers.

The wheels and tyres

I used Stans NoTubes Valour Wheels with a WTB Ranger on the front and WTB Nine Line on the back. This combination was perfect for this course as I was able to hit the corners with more control than normal. The light weight wheels allow for easy acceleration out of corners.


On the start line I was heckled for wearing M2O socks however any compression on this course really prevented excess muscle soreness associated with trying to stablise the body and muscles when smashing the downhills. During the night I was putting on the arm warmers downhill just for the extra support rather than for the coolness of the night.

Shoes / Helmets

I had the choice between the top of the line super light, carbon North Wave Extreme Tech shoe or the cheaper North Wave Spike shoes (that retail for just over $100). As I hadn't really worn the carbon show in enough, I choose the Spike knowing it would have more flex allowing for a more comfortable ride while sacrificing only small power transfer gains associated with the carbon model. I have 2 Lazer Z1 helmets that I use for race with one setup with a light for the night.

Photo: Brett Clark

I have been using the Adidas Zonyk Pro. These lenses are photochromatic so they get darker when needed. I have a daytime set which have a light tint that gets to a medium darkness and a clear set that go to a light tint when required. I would be interested in trying the Aero Pro version which drops the lower frame which would allow for better vision and perhaps a lighter set of glasses.

Cycle kit

Photo: Brett Clark
I chose to wear my Pivot race kit, I have been waiting on a custom Santini kit but that may not be ready until next year. I have been training in my Pivot kit so I knew what I was in for. I also gave the M2O compression socks a try. I know I will always race in them on longer events when the temp is relatively low. They provided great support for tired legs as the race went on.

Seat / Bars / Grips

Photo: Brett Clark
I use Mt Zoom bars which are super light and have a good 9 degree sweep which work well with my wrists. I have extra chunky foam ESI grips which work well to lesson the impact of the rough terrain. The seat I use is the light weight SL8 saddle from WTB which for a 149 gram seat is very comfortable.


Nutrition for me starts days before and doesn't end when the race does. I focus on a low fibre / high carbohydrate intake before the race for a couple of days leading up. On race morning I will have "fun" cereal and this time the ripoff Nutrigrain form Aldi was the choice. As I had eaten quite well in the days leading up I only had a banana sandwich 5 mins before the race started.

Photo: Brett Clark
During the race I carried a selection of GU products. My pockets were stuffed with Stroopwafels, Chews, a gel flask filled with Salted Caramel and assortment of Gel flavours to keep things interesting. To replace electrolytes I ran Gu Tabs in my bottles during the day and swapped to GU Roctane Electrolyte Capsules during the night. This combination seems to be working quite well.

Camelbak have been very generous supplying me with enough podium bottles to prevent my support crew from doing too many refill trips. While the laps weren't long enough to need a Camelbak Pack I will be using one next week at the Whaka 100 held near Rotura.


I have been using NiteRider Lights for the past 10 years and these things have improved significantly. I have the 1800 Race on my bars and run them on 200 lumens which last a full 12 hours. I use the lightweight MiNewt  Pro 770 on the helmet also on low. The 1800 provides a really good wide beam and the MiNewt has a more focused and brighter light.

Massage / recovery

I have been lucky to have Di from Your Massage Therapist work on my recovery with massage and stretching. This has made a significant difference however, I need to develop a more frequent relationship with my foam roller.

Financial support

I need to thank Percival Property (Port Macquarie) for assisting me to attend this race.Their assistance has helped me out with the costs of travel to this race and that of entry.


A big thanks need to go to CORC for running this event and WEMBO for providing me with a good incentive to race towards. I'm stoked to  win so I can wear the green and gold National Champion Jersey in Scotland for 2018.