Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Round 2 - CTS Series 2008

WE WERE WARNED. Some took notice whilst for the majority it probably wouldn't have made a difference anyway. The smiling blond weather forecaster in the TV the night before have correctly predicted that the morning will be dense with fog and bitterly cold before the sun find its way to burn through the dense fog. Almost on queue, came 7:30 am Sunday morning, those didn't heed the warning were paying for the price of under estimating what mother nature can do in a cold frosty morning in a open field. No, the Round 2 of Chase The Sun Series isn't about weather, it wasn't about having the most technically dazzling bike, or the usual struggle for survival in an endurance event without destroying oneself. It was the defining moment that proved that extra bit of hard work before the event does pay off and those hard kilometers in the cold each morning commuting to work is the catalyst for surviving and succeeding future endurance race events.

PREPARATION. Round 2 was exceptional. More riders, longer tracks and longer time in saddle. Instead of a 5 hour event averaging 10km a loop, 6 hours covering a 17km loop is the menu for the day. As a bonus for me, the race course was on a track where I have practiced and logged many miles on. More single tracks, less fire road to test rider's skill, will and endurance. It was round to forget for Damien. Harbouring a stomach bug from the night before, he bravely saddled up with the masses at the start, only to be halted by rare mechanical failure after one lap. Determined to do better this time after the pain & suffering endured in Round 1, Kathryn had become a battle hardened soloist after finishing in a strong second place (women solo) in a separate 6 hour enduro event a week prior, was focused as ever and ready for another determined assault on another solo event.

THE STING. The usual pre-event shit chat with other cyclist preceded the mass start. Not unexpected, few comments were raised on my choice of Maxxlite 310 dry racers on Xizang. Determined to avoid the masses at the start, a softly-steady start was adopted again for this event, easing into the tail of the pack from the comfort of our marquee to start dead last then picking off others when ready. Event was going according to plan, slowly build up my momentum as my body warms up from the bitter morning freeze.

Half way through the first lap and looking like a wasp in my black and yellow attire, an sudden and unexpected pain was felt on back of my neck. An instinctive grab to the stinging region revealed the source of the pain - somehow a wasp has decided that I was worthy of its investigation, probably the result of my bumble bee race attire. Dissatisfied with with what he had found, it decided to leave his mark behind by putting its sting right on the back my neck. A second later, the wasp was made to pay the ultimate price as a size 11 Fox Dirt Paw glove compressed the winged insect beyond repair.

THE RUSH. The pain in the neck was both literally and figurative, as I increased the pace in an attempt to see the paramedic to ease the effect of the sting, now that the area has become both numb and painful sore. Luckily, I was not allergic to the sting and a quick stop and inspection revealed all's good. Now properly warmed up and a little ticked off, the second lap was all about making up time lost on lap one struggle. Mindful of the mistakes from last enduro event, food and water was consumed systematically as the race moved into the long fireroad along the lake. With the thinning of riders on the complex single track section and being relatively fresh and pissed off, lap 2 of the event would end up to be my fastest lap ever at Lysterfield Lake clocking a time of a sub 38 minute lap.

ATTRITION. Towards the returning climb at end of lap three, an unusual sight of Kath standing and talking to another cyclist on side of track caught me by surprise and the uneasy feeling that something was wrong came to my head. A quick dialogue with Kath resulted an rather despondent "Yeah, I'm OK" response from her. I have heard this tone of voice before when she's down and I knew right away something was wrong. I thought of pulling over to see what was wrong but the facial expression from her said it all, she doesn't want to hold my race up nor any sympathy from me. Later I was to find out that she have fallen heavily on a botched log crossing and busted her hand. An unhappy ending for another determined racer. Later the X-ray found nothing broken except for cuts and bruises. Kath will be back.
CONSISTENCY. The next 3 laps was text book endurance racing for a soloist. Keep rolling, drinking and feeding where ever possible and focus on not doing anything stupid as fatigue sets in. A couple of momentary laps of concentration nearly resulted in big shunt in the single track. One was braking too late and ended up nose wheeling into a tree and another was being lazy with body english and clipping the tip of handle bar against a tree trunk whilst travelling at a fair pace. Besides those small but significant mistakes, everything was going according to clockwork, both bike wise and body wise. No last minute dramas from leaking Stan's this time as the bike was immaculately checked and prepared for battle after last event. Only hiccup was the need to pull over and pee each lap from over-hydrating, plus a sore left knee which was a manageable pain were holding me back. Lap 6 was my last lap before the clock ticked past 6 hour mark. Paul pulled up shortly afterwards with 7 laps completed. Then it dawned on me that for the first time in a solo race, I wasn't lapped by Paul. A pathetic little personal triumph I realise, but nonetheless a much needed milestone of achievement and the spark necessary to sustain my enthusiasm for future enduro racing events.

All photos by Stephen Rowe & Richard Jupe for braving the freeze to take such quality photos.

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