Wednesday, October 31, 2012

STM - Round 5 - Rydal - 8hr

2nd - Open Solo

This weekend was the 5th round of the SRAM Singletrack Mind Series. The course for this round was the twisty-turney Rydal single track.

The Rydal course offers around 9km of singletrack, fitted into something like a 2km x 2km square space. Needless to say, to achieve that feat there are a LOT of corners.

Corners around trees, under trees, over rocks, off-camber, bermed, rutted, grassed, dirt - if you can think of a type of corner, Rydal has 10 of them!

Going into this race I knew it was going to be a long day on the bike - between still recovering from the Scott 24hr, and having a nasty case of man-flu all week I was not going to be 100%.

The race started up a little fireroad, and this was enough to string everyone out and let the faster team riders lead us into the singletrack. After the first little section of singletrack there is a 300 m section of slightly uphill fire road, heading up it was a few team riders, Ed and then myself - all closely packed.

At the last possible moment before heading into the singletrack, Ed did the dirty move of jumping in front of the guy in front of him - interesting. Luckily he did not get the gap in the tight singletrack, and as soon as we hit the 2nd fireroad ot the course I moved back in front of Ed.

After a few laps, Tommo bridged across from being stuck in the start traffic and so that is how we were for the first 5 hours or so. I set the pace on the front, and occasionally Ed and Tommo traded places.

It was pretty tight going in the singletrack, and once we started lapping the slower riders it was definitely tricky to get all 3 of us around together.

At the 5 hr mark I was feeling ok and getting prepared to keep up this pace for another 3 hours, but this is where my luck all changed ...

Coming through transition, I missed my bottle pickup - meaning I had to stop and grab another bottle. This put me on the back of Ed and Tommo. No real drama there, it was nice to see Ed setting a slower pace and it was a bit of recovery to sit in.

Coming to the end of the lap, we hit a little uphill grind, and in the process of getting around a slower rider my chain jammed up. Crap!

I quickly fixed it up, and figured I'd lost 20 - 30 secs which should be easy to make up. I punched it hard through transition and soon came across Tommo but no Ed - ahhh, interesting again - Ed has done the dirtiest roadie trick in the book and launched his attack on my chain suck!!

So with a Stomach of Anger I gave it everything to bridge back that gap. I could see Ed working hard to stay away, but after about 15 - 20 minutes I'd covered the gap and was just 2 bike lengths behind him.

But no sooner had I got there when I got a big stick straight through the rear jockey wheels. This took another 30 seconds to clean up, and Ed was off again.

I started the chase again, but this time both my front and rear derailleurs were stuffed. The chain kept dropping out of the big ring, and the rear slipping. Soon enough I lost the big ring all together and after an hour of problems, stopping and trying to fix this on the road I sucked it up and did a bike swap.

By now, Ed had a decent gap and there was little point in drilling it to chase him down. So, I rode out the last 2 hours in a pretty easy manner.

One thing I learnt from this race is to not get sucked into the friendly social side of racing. I'd spent the first 5 hours riding with my mates, helping them get through the traffic, sitting up when ever we went around slower riders to make sure they all got back onto the train. I'd also played nice and not launched any attacks when the others needed to get their own bottles. So, when Ed attacked on my mechanical it was a reminder that I should not be offering those friendly concessions in the future!

Even though it was not the day I had wanted, it was still a fun day out - and the Rydal course did grow on me as the day progressed.  It was a shame the sticks stuffed up my gears, because the 26" Scalpel was an awesome bike for this course.

A big thanks to;

  • Robyn, Kylie and Anne for looking after my bottles and nutrition - and for all their help in packing, unpacking and gear prep
  • Schwalbe for the awesome tires - Rocket Ron on the front and Racing Ralph on the back is a wicked combination
  • Vie13 Kustom Clothing - for the comfy kits
  • Cannondale Australia - the 26"  Scalpel and 29er Flash are great bikes - both handling exceptionally well on the tight course
  • Choc Foot crew - for putting on another great event
Well done to Tommo for another podium too!! Must be those new Schwalbe tires working for you :)

Also, best wishes to young OnTheGo racer James Ross - he had a nasty crash, breaking his collar bone midway through the race. Hope you have a speedy recovery and are back to smash it next year!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Scott 24hr

Scott 24 hr

3rd - Open Solo

30 laps / 23hrs : 58 minutes

This time 12 months ago, I had just finished a terrible solo ride. I was completely broken, I'd injured my knee and had to finish up at the 20hr mark of the race. I said to Robyn - "I am never doing another solo at Stromlo unless it is Solo Worlds ...."

My plan for the Scott 24 was to ride it in a pair or a team, and use the Scott as a final build weekend for the Terra Australis stage race. But with Terra being postponed I slowly started to get my mind around manning-up for another Stromlo solo mission. How hard could it be right? Last year I was just being a pansy ...

Needless to say, it took Robyn by surprise when I asked if she would support me for a solo run at the Scott ...

The decision to solo the Scott left me with about four (4) weeks to build some more base, and a two (2) week taper. Luckily I was still carrying a lot of base from Trans Alps, the Jet Black 12hr and all the other marathon and enduro races since July.

Plus in the back on my mind I was thinking the race would just be the usual suspects of English, Ed and Bellchambers.

As the race got closer the 24hrs of Adrenalin announcement came out, and soon enough UK champ Matt Page was on the entry list. Then the Surf Coast 24hr dropped the 24hr component and Sam Chancellor appeared in the line up. And then in the last week Candian champ Cory Wallace appeared in the start list.

Oh crap - this is going to be a serious race!

Riding the course in week before the race, Stromlo was dry and dusty. 28C in the afternoons. Nice!

Then two (2) days out from the race ... boom ... 60mm of rain, snow on the brindies and more rain predicted.

This was going to be messy ...

The race start was quick, but not as crazy as last year. Cory went off the front on the red lap showing his strong climbing legs.

Soon enough it was Ed who made his way to the front and after another lap or so myself, Sam, Cory and Matt all bridged across. English was playing mechanic with his seat falling off!

The rain started to come in, and combined with the water already flowing off the mountain the bogs were really starting to form.  I hit a banked corner at usual speed, and the whole front wheel disappeared! I went tumbling off into some rocks and left a few skin donations on the hillside.

The first 6 or 7 hours went pretty quickly, as we all traded places and stuck within a couple of minutes of each other. The first casualty was Ed who carrying a hip injury did not have his head in the race.

Sam had the lead, and soon enough English came back across. So in the evening it was Sam, English, Page and then me.

Coming through a transition around the 9hr mark I was told that Sam was out with stomach problems.

Going into the night the rain really started coming down, making an already muddy track even worse.

Bog holes just kept growing longer, wider and deeper. It really became choose your own adventure to get through these sections.

The rain eventually let up, and the cold came in instead. Ah, Stromlo ...

The night was not too bad, I eagerly awaited 1am when I could hit the caffeine. After two (2) weeks off all caffeine it felt great taking in 200mg! I came through transition ready to get my next round of "most awesome caffeine gels ever to grace this world" and there was no Robyn :( .... noooooo. Luckily it was only a red lap. Hitting the next transition, Robyn was very apologetic and I got my caffeine gels (and some extras for good luck).

Dawn came and revealed an overcast morning, but at least there was no more rain. Just 5 or 6 hours to go now.

Through the night Cory had dropped back and was an hour or so behind me, and Matt Page was about 15 minutes in front.

At about the 3 hour to go mark, I was at the bottom of the red lap when I broke my rear trigger shifter ... ah crap. Luckily it was in the middle of the cassette.  Now I'd set myself a personal challenge for the weekend of using the big ring only, and I could not let this spoil my fun. So it was time for a flying single speed lap up the Stromlo climb!

At the top of the climb, a huffing and puffing guy who had sat in for the ride said something like "wow, that was great - are you in a 4 or a 6 man team?" ... I muttered something about silly solos and how much singlespeeding sucks :)

With the last few hours to go, I'd done the calculations - one more blue and maybe two more red laps. Matt was still about 15 minutes in front of me, and I had no desire to chase. I rolled my last blue lap, just soaking up the clock time. I did not dawdle enough and came through transition with 2 minutes still on the clock.

Robyn wanted me to go do one more lap, to finish on the same lap as Jase and Matt - but I was definitely done for the day.  Take me to your pizza!

So, all up that ride was something like 390km and nearly 7000 vert m, and with all the rain, cold, bogs and rocky Stromlo terrain it was definitely up there on the "tough" races list.

In addition to my big ring personal challenge, the other challenge I set myself was to ride the entire race on gels. No solid foods at all. It actually worked! No sickness, no stomach bloating, no #2 stops ... mission successful. Be warned though - it has taken me all year to get my stomach able to do this, working up to it at all the 8 & 12hr races. I would not try this without building up to it!

A big thanks to;

  • Robyn and Kylie - for being awesome support crew. Robyn spent most of my laps washing bikes and did a fantastic job of tracking all my food, drink, caffeine, electrolytes and light batteries
  • Cycling Sports Group / Cannondale - for making sure I had two great Scalpels to race, and they even hooked me up with a spare lefty fork in case of emergency. The 26" dualy bike should not be dead - just ride a 26" Scalpel at Stromlo and you will see just how amazing these bikes are
  • RLC Sports - thanks Aiden for quickly getting me last minute parts
  • BikeBox / Schwalbe - for hooking us up with the perfect tires for Stromlo - Snakeskin Rocket Ron for the front, and Snakeskin Racing Ralph on the rear
  • Radical Lights - for the super bright lights that kept me going through the night. It always entertains me when a rider 50m up the track pulls over because they think you are right on top of them
  • Vie13 - for the comfortable clothing and winter gear that got me through the cold night
  • Russ and CORC - for putting on another great race
  • Matt Page & Cory Wallace - for coming all the way out to Australia - we look forward to seeing you guys next year
Also, well done to Radical Lights Factory team mates Garry James and Jase McAvoy for taking out the pairs category.

A few weeks rest now, and then it will be back into it with the next round of the SRAM Singletrack Mind 8hr series at Rydal.

Cory holding up Matt on the podium
English, always lurking close by