Monday, June 3, 2013

Catching up

It's been a busy few months and I've missed writing up a few races ... so here is a summary of the last few months of racing ...

After the Solo Nationals 6x6 it was off to Woodend Victoria for the Wombat 100km. Having never raced down there before I had no idea what to expect. I was lucky enough to get a hotel room at the event center, which was literally 50m from the start line! 

The race started out with around 10km of fireroad. Having no idea when the singletrack would start, I moved to the front to set the pace and hopefully give me a little more time to react once we did reach the singletrack.

Soon enough we were into it, and it did not take too long for the lead bunch to break apart. Little did I know we were in for around 50km of singletrack!

Falling off the pace in the unknown single and moto track, I was left on my own. 

At the 50km mark, I was caught by Sammy Chancellor and a few others, and they now set the pace through the next sections of singletrack. Again I was off the pace. It was not until around the 70km mark when we hit more fireroads that I started to feel good. Catching sight of Andrew Fellows up the road at the 75km mark I hit the gas. 

Pretty soon, I caught sight of the main chase group! I got across to these guys and did what I could to try and break this group up before the finish.  Again, not knowing where exactly the finish was was a problem, but I knew it has to be soon so I kept pushing.

Soon enough it was Shaun Lewis, Sammy C, myself and a few others sprinting for the line.

In the end, it was 6th for me.

Up front in the Wombat 100km

Next up it was off to Tathra for their local 100km race. This venue has some of the best singletrack in the country, and is well worth a visit.

James and I had a race plan, which of course did not go to plan. Up front with us was fellow Canberra rider Lewis Cressy - who was riding strong as ever.  With the three of us still together at the 50km point, we knew that the 2nd 50km was all singletrack - and no one was going to get away. This did not stop Cressy from launching a few attacks, but we reeled him in each time.

Heading into the final few kms, I was giving JD the reminder to get his sprinting legs on. Since I had led the boys and set the pace for pretty much 90km of the race I was smoked, and all I could do was set him up for a sprint with Lewis. 

The final corner came, I pulled out of the way and off they went. Lewis got the little gap and that was it. 2nd for JD and 3rd for me. Disappointing, but an awesome day of riding.

Next up it was off to the Convict 100km outside of Sydney.

Just prior to race start, some deals were made with Team Specialized - with the idea being that Andrew and Shaun Lewis (aka 'Wombat') would do an early breakaway. Reading between the lines, Blair wanted to get Wombat a head start to get over the climb early.

Within the first 100 meters of the race, the attacks started. At first the bunch was quick to shutdown the attacks, but on about the 4th attack it all came together. Wombat, myself, Brendon Johnson ('Trekie'), and Mike Blewitt launched a strong attack and got the gap. Meanwhile, James, Andy Blair and Cannondale stagiaire Anthony Shippard got to the front of the bunch and controlled the pace.

This was a perfect example of team tactics at play in an XCM - something we are likely to see a lot more of!

Up front, I attacked the climb with Trekie, and got a good gap over the others in the lead group and without any hesitation pushed on to see how long the gap could be maintained.

We stayed off the front until around the 45km mark. This is the part of the course where it is really rocky and technical. Unfortunately, due to some mechanical issues, I only had 2 working gears at this point and was unable to hang onto the back of the chase group.

Over the next 55km, I picked up a few riders who had burnt too many matches early, and finished up crossing the line in 5th place.

Meanwhile, James was out climbing Anthony, and finished the last 20km solo. James and Shippard finished up in 6th and 7th place respectively - a great result for Cannondale Australia!

Over the climb with Trekie

Breakaway group

Canoe bridge

With the race calendar opened up slightly, the last minute decision was made to head up to the Ingerreke Commerical stage race in Alice Springs. This stage race is of an XCO stage race format, so 7 short stages over 5 days.

The last time I raced an XCO was maybe 2 years ago at a local corc clubbie - this was going to hurt!

Our race plans were dashed early when the flight out of Canberra could not land in Sydney due to fog, and we took an 7 hour detour via Melbourne! In the end, we missed our connecting flight to Alice and therefore missed the first day of racing.

Despite being out of GC contention, and out of the overall results, JD and I decided to hit each stage hard and just aim for good individual stage results.

The first real stage for us to hit was the 49km race from Telegraph Point into Alice. We had time to scope most of this route out the previous day, so we had a plan for attack. I attacked early, and got away with Rockstar Racing Kyle Ward. Knowing some of the sandy river crossings to come gave a distinct advantage, as there was no way the main group would make it through these without losing time. 

We managed to stay off the front for the first 25km, before being picked up by the chase group lead by Andy Blair.

The course was great fun - there is some really amazing singletrack out there, and nothing like what we have around Canberra.

I finished up in 5th place, and JD 6th - both crossing the line in just over 2 hours.

It was then off to the pool for relaxation and eating :)

The next day's stage was the Queen stage - 90km of fireroad back to Alice. On paper, this would perfect for me. Long, flat, fast. Wanting to keep the pace high, and not give anyone a rest, I set the pace early and stayed up near the front to keep it driving along. The lead group was quickly whittled down to about 7 riders.

With 10km to go, some blistering attacks were made by Andy Blair, and by the 'Wombat fence scurry' maneuver.   This was going to be a big 3-way sprint finish ... until we lost the course!  Course marking sabotage, or just poor course marking meant we lost the course and spent the next 20 minutes making phone calls and finding our way back to the finish line.  We were not the only ones, as we picked up various other bunches on the way who also lost their way.

In the end, they gave us some random results - a frustrating end to an otherwise great day of racing.

The next day of racing was split into 2 x 23km races. The first being done in the morning as an individual time trial, and the latter being done under lights in a mass start.  As with the theme for the week, we got the short straw and were pretty well first off in the ITT. The problem was that it had rained a lot over night and the course was sticky and soggy. In the end, our times would be 5 minutes behind the leaders who went out a few hours later in the day - when the course was bedded in and dry. Lucky we were not in the GC!

The night race made up for this - in one word, it was awesome! I had the new Exposure lights cranked up to full-ball, and got away with the lead group of 5. 

The course was amazing under lights - rocky step ups, fast single track and crazy rocky descents. 

In the end, I finished 5th (and I need to work on my sprint finishes), and James 11th. James had some chain drop issues and was reminded all the benefits of XX1.

The final stage was short 40km back out to Telegraph point. The pace was exceptionally fast, and in the technical singletrack it was only a matter of time until the front bunch broke apart.  We were both in the first chase group, and largely stayed together for most of the stage.

Nearing the last few km, it was time to lose our passenger - I attacked at the top of the final climb, and nailed the technical descent. The advantage of the 29er Scalpel in these conditions was evident. Meanwhile, James relied on his sprinting legs to get the passenger before the line.  In the end, it was Andrew 5th again and James 7th.

Overall, the ICME is a fun race - the tracks are great fun and well built. I'd love it if they were just a little longer stages ... riding less then 2 hours a day was a struggle for me :)

For more reports on the ICME check out

One of the many fences in the 90km stage

Someone has to set the pace around here ...

Hill climb TT - ouch

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