Monday, April 1, 2013

National 24hr Solo - 6x6

National 24hr Solo - 6x6

1st - Open 6x6 - 18 laps ~ 230km ~ 5400 vert m

Results at

Easter long weekend in Canberra ... some think easter bunny time, but I know this better at 24hr solo nats time ...

I'd made the decision early in the year to not solo this one. With Robyn overseas I did not have my much relied on support crew, and with a busy race schedule following easter I did not want to fry myself early.

Even though I had got this decision firmly into my head, and coach Fenner was fully on-board with this plan, with the final days ticking by leading into this race I must admit I was pretty torn and the thought of jumping back into the solo pool at the last minute did cross my mind many times.

From a solo perspective, this was always going to be one of the most epic 24 solo races since 2010 Worlds. Jason English was still recovering from his Croc Trophy injuries, Ed McDonald was (is in) top form - showing his hand at the RTE 100 miler earlier in the year. 

Then we have wild card Scotty Chancellor, who again has some top form even without big miles under his belt. Ed and I have both done some recent training rides with Scotty, and to say Scotty has some power in his legs is an under statement. He can drop Ed and I like a stone out on the roadie. Scotty has also had some impressive 100km results at both the RTE 100km and Capital Punishment.

Another wild card for the race was the return of Ash Hayat. I'd spoken with Ash earlier in the year, and was excited to hear he would be returning for a shot at Wembo Worlds, and he would be racing Easter as prep. Ash had schooled me a few years back at an Easter 24 - lapping me in the final 6 hours, as I was a dribbling mess and he was still riding through the morning strong as ever.

Yet another wild card for the mix was young Callum McNamara. Although Callum does not yet have the same solo experience as Ed, Scotty and Ash - he has definitely stepped it up in the last 6 months - and give him another 6 months he may well be another contender for Wembo Worlds. He just needs to lose those Explorer socks ...

Oh yeah, and I suppose I should mention the one other guy who can never be over looked in a Solo - the Big Beard Bellchambers. Even with his one gear he puts most other solo riders to shame, and making a tough course just brings out an even tougher and more determined Brett.

Jase McAvoy and I got the opportunity to set the course. We were both keen to set a course which was very different to the years gone by. This was going to be a course worthy of a National title, a course designed to challenge the top riders. Our starting point was to draw a big line through the traditional Stromlo red lap (trunk climb), and then to draw a line through the standard blue lap return. With those gone, what do we have left to work with ... ?

We knew we wanted the Blue Tongue and Little Seymour sections - their rocky, off camber and slightly techie sections would provide a great challenge - especially through the night. The various rock roll-overs would reward the more adventurous rider.

We also wanted to make sure the course had a big climb in it - as preparation for Wembo. We originally proposed the start of the Worlds 2010 climb, linked into Andy Blair's 2012 XCM National climb. However, this caused a bit of controversy and the shops must have been running low on some cans of HTFU - so the compromise was a shorter but slightly steeper fireroad climb through Pork Barrel and into Skyline.

What else did we want - well we wanted to reward riders after the climb with a run down the re-vamped Skyline and Luge, and then give the riders a free-for-all run down the lower section of the downhill track. Although this part of the course had been run in the Scott 24hr, it was highly padded and bunted for safety. For this race though, it was fully open - making for some crazy lines and speed.

So the stage had been set - a tough course and a top contender list ...

For me, racing the 6x6 - for those who don't know this, it means we race from midday to 6pm on the Saturday and and then 6am until midday on the Sunday - was a very different experience. Setting up for a 6x6 is just like a normal training weekend for me. I stick 12 gels in my back pocket, lay out a few drink bottles and know that I can pretty much go as hard as I can for 6 hours. I've raced so many 6-8hr events it is a very familiar territory.

Setting up in the pits, I was pretty chilled out - and it gave me a unique opportunity to see the other side of 24hr racing. I never realized how in the zone all the solo riders actually are, and the tension in the air was unmistakable.

With the race start, the 6x6 riders start 10 minutes behind the solo men - so I had no idea what was happening up front. Although I think we all knew that it would be Ed & Scotty tearing each other the shreds.

With the 6x6 start, I just stomped it. I was eager to catch up to the lead guys and see how it was all going to play out. I was happy to have racked up 4 or the top 6 fastest lap times.

It was interesting seeing how the lead guys were riding ... Jase looked like he was struggling and not looking his usual fluid self, Callum was pushing a little too hard, Scotty was already in the pits tinkering with his bike and Ed was just going way too hard off the front.

I hit the climb with Ed - I was in my 36T XX1 and easily turning it over, mean while Ed was still in his 38T 2x10 big ring and pulling away from me on the climb! Are you crazy Ed - you have a good gap, don't fry yourself in the first 4 hours! I got back the "I'm feeling great - I'm in control" ...

As the first 6 hours started drawing to a close, I had one of those on the bike in-decision moments .... Looking at the clock, I could possibly get back through for another lap ... but was this the best thing to do. In decision racked the brain - is it better to do another lap tonight or tomorrow? Will I be faster now then under light in the morning? Geez, I'd like an extra 40 minutes sleep in ... So I pushed hard on the last lap, and made it back under 6 hrs from when the 6x6 gun fired ... BUT I forgot that we actually raced until 6pm - not 6:10. I rolled over the line at 6pm and 10 seconds!

Oh well - nothing like a 4am wake up call the next morning ...

Starting back out at 6am (and 10 seconds) on Sunday, it was actually happy with the start time. It meant I got a full lap under full lights - which is great fun. I then got to experience the dawn lap, which is again always well worth while.

On my 2nd lap of the morning I lapped 2nd place in the 6x6 - good friend Aaron Thompson - and we rode a lap together, tooling around on Skyline and the downhill track. Tommo had his go-pro on, so I look forward to that footage.

I then went after the other solo riders to see how they were fairing from the night ...

First up was Callum - he had slowed right down to hour-ish laps, yet when I came by he was determined to show me how fast he could still ride. Not necessarily the smartest move for a solo rider at 7am :)

Next up was Ash - he is a man of very few words in the morning - I think I got a grunt back.

The Big Beard was churning it out still - he was a big more chatty, although he also used quite a few more expletives to describe his night and current state of mind.

Then it was Ed - over night Ed had fallen back to about 9 minutes behind Jase, and in the morning would get within 1.5 minutes! When I found Ed he was still looking strong on the bike, and despite being in one of his philosophical moods he was going well. I think in a solo Ed could probably answer the meaning of life and many of life's over mysteries. Even with a full nights sleep under my belt, he being up all night he was still using big words that I would need a thesaurus to decode.

By the time I caught up to English, we had time for 1.5 more laps. With a lap and half on Tommo, I decided to keep Jase company for the remainder of the race. Once Ed fell back again, Jase turned the pace right down - although he was wondering if Ed was going to make a final comeback in these last few laps.

So that was another Easter race done.  I really enjoyed the 6x6 format, and it was really interesting for me being able to ride through all the solo riders and see how they were doing.

A few shout outs and thanks;
  • Cannondale Australia  - I rode the F29er (hard tail) for the whole race. It was just brilliant to ride. There are not too many 29er hard tails you can ride for 6 hours straight - through every trail condition - and then get back on for another 6 hours. Light, responsive, exceptional handling and forgiving. I ran some Conti's for change - X-King protection on the front and Race King protection on the rear. Great combo for Stromolo ...
  • The Cyclery - the new Cannondale-Sugoi Factory Racing marquee was great. It drew heaps of positive comments and attention
  • SRAM - I ran XX1 36T for the whole race. It really is a technological step forward and a race advantage. After the first 6 hours, I chucked on a bit of chain lube and that was it. Good as new. The range of gearing in the 11 speed cassette is all you need, and the advantage of no chain-suck or front chain ring issues is immediately obvious.
  • Adidas eyewear - The Evil Eye sunnies did their job - through both the brightness of the day, as well as into the dusk and dawn times. Comfortable and light.
  • Exposure lights - I ran the Reflex MX on the bars and the Diablo on the helmet. Heaps of lumens with no external battery packs or messy wires. The Diablo is so light on the helmet you don't even know it is there. The quick release on the Reflex also meant that ditching the lights at sunrise was a quick transition.
  • Frameskin - Kept the frame protected from all the rocks flying around the place, and the trusty framewrap on the rear stay did it's job. With the crank-brothers pedals I find my heal often scuffs the rear stay, and the framewrap protects the frame.
  • All those that chucked me a few drink bottles - Superfast Chick (Kylie Webb), Jase McAvoy and Jacki
  • CORC - especially Sarah and Jack - and all the volunteers for putting together and running a smooth race 
Finally, a shout out to all those riders who finished a tough solo - everyone who finished deserves a huge congratulations.

See you all at Wembo Worlds ...