Sunday, October 26, 2008


THE 2008 SURF COAST 6 HOUR will go down as one of my best endurance race event in recent memory. The past 3 months of steady work on improving my bike riding endurance, taking part in the Knobby Sport Dirt Crit events and heeding advice from others, as well just getting out and doing the hard yards seems to be paying off. An event with a happy ending.

IT ALL STARTED a few months back with emails from Matt asking if anyone was interested in doing the event. After reading up Troy Bailey’s website and the rave reviews on it, I put my hand up and was to form a team with Matt and Andrew Nurse as Men’s Triple. Unfortunately, due to interstate work schedules, I couldn’t commit, so it was decided that I best be left out to allow Matt and Andrew to proceed with the event entry. Luckily, as result of my interstate client’s delays & indecisions, I was given the all clear this weekend to race. Wasn’t keen on doing any more solo races after the less than successful Anaconda Series earlier this year, I went around hunting for riding partners and by chance, Damien was available and after a few phone calls later, an all clear was given for what should be a good team.

THE WEEK PRIOR to this event, I caught up with Tim Rowe at the Dirt Crit event and he advised me that Anglesea track was no hardtail country, so decision was made to give my butt a break and roll out my GT I-Drive Race for her race debut. The I-Drive Race, which I have only recently acquired from a home of neglect, needed some major work. After replacing the fork, headset, all the cables, seat post, saddle, grips, stem, handle bar, brake pads and wheel set later, this outcast was restored to former glory and was a surprising full 2 kg lighter than my other I-Drive 1.0.

THE PLAN WAS to for me to do 2-3 laps in a succession, as Damien was scheduled to arrive later. Somehow he managed to get here before race commencement. After some discussion the revised plan was to do 2 laps each before each transition, so each of us get one reconnaissance lap in before doing the second lap at racing speed. Andrew Nurse had to reorganize his race entry as Matt broke his ankle a week prior, so this will be his first Solo event & he naturally was showing some signs of nerve. As we readied for the start, Damien was cruising about preparing himself, while Victor, with military like precision in his race build up, was like a colt ready to bolt out of the staple.

SO TO THE RACE. Since I had zero knowledge of this course, starting at the back and work my way in made sense. The usual traffic jam at the first single track entry ensured a slow start for all but the fastest riders. So I stayed behind Nursey for the first 10min railed his tire tracks as he’s done a reconnaissance lap. A wise decision because the course was mostly covered with a very fine layer of dust making cornering, not to mention seeing and breathing a tricky prospect. Once I was warmed up, I fare welled Nursey and set off at a comfortable pace to make up for the lost ground. Beside the dust, I found the track much to my liking. The I-Drive, with it’s Giant Anthem-like short 3.2 inch of travel, was nearly perfect for this kind of course. It climbed like a hardtail, yet it had just enough give to take away all the jolting from trail without feeling mushy like longer travel bikes do. The Monorail / Larsen tire combination was doing a good job keeping me upright in sand so my progress through the pack was fairly rapid. Then it all felt apart.

ROLLING THROUGH A SAND PIT at a fair pace, the front tire bottoming onto something hard. Then burrrrrrp, the tire was off the rim & sealant went everywhere. Just super. No big deal, pull over and fix the flat. Then I realized I didn’t have my pump with me. Fcuk it I thought, ride the thing out, since Damien is waiting and time lost trying to borrow a pump and fixing flat would be better spent just getting back to pit. Surprisingly, riding on rim in deep sand actually wasn’t that difficult and as long as I kept the weight off the front tire, I could hold a good pace. Got plenty of crowd support as I made my way back, feel a bit like a wounded soldier in a parade. At the marquee, Damien had a good laugh before taking over – I seem to get a flat tire whenever he’s around. Victor was recovering after a serious case of head-butting a tree branch, while Nursey was still somewhere behind me minding his own solo business. A pretty eventful start for us all.

SOON, DAMIEN WAS BACK from his maiden lap and I was out for my next lap. With front tire fixed and good knowledge of the course now, the second lap was tackled with a bit more pace. By now, the field had spread out nicely so there were plenty of overtaking opportunities, which I seized whenever it presented itself. I must remind myself not to get too carried away during races, because when I get all excited I tend to end up making a mess. After overtaking 8 riders in a row going downhill at warp speed, my progress was to spectacularly end up against a tree. Basically a case of Newton’s Law in motion and I went straight in the sandpit, left knee first. Tree didn’t move a bit but I did and it hurt like hell. For a scary second I thought I also broke my leg because it was twisted awkwardly. Luckily a quick check up revealed nothing more than losing a bit of skin, so dug myself out of the sand pit to set off again, but now more wary of the type of stupidity I’m capable of.

FOR THE NEXT 4 HOURS, everything ran like clockwork. No more mistakes and I surprised myself by being able to finish this event without any major pain, suffering or negative effects that I usually get at the 4th hour. Damien was a seasoned endurance racer and he finished the event drama free. Teaming up with him always has a positive outcome. From his meticulous preparations prior to an event, to giving sound tips during the race, or just sit back and goof around while you are just bloody knackered and ready to throw it in, Damien’s experience and presence benefited all who was around.

We didn’t hang around for the presentation because it was already 10:30 when we finished packing. The compulsory post race McDonalds junk fest followed but somehow we lost Victor in our convoy. I was so tired that I had to pull over at Newport for a snooze (I must have a death wish) coughing up a tone of dust in shower and slept in till 10 Sunday morning. With a sore knee, I turned down all the offers of riding today and happily spend the whole day cleaning and tuning the bike for the next race, the Golden Triangle at Bendigo next weekend.

Special thanks to Steve Rowe for the great photos again, best of luck in your upcoming operation, wish you the best and hope to see you back in action again soon.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Woodend Mud Bash 2

WHO SAID LIGHTNING DOESN'T STRIKE TWICE? Well it was nearly another de-javu at this weekend's ride at Woodend. Mud caked bikes, Dana crashing, getting a little lost and me struggling way behind Paul were the order of the day.

AS USUAL, an email from Paul midweek started the ball rolling. The weather was a bit questionable with heavy rain on Friday afternoon casting a shadow on this ride. In the end, it was Andrew Wade who went to the trouble of looking up the long range weather forecast, checked the rainfall rate in Woodend in the past 24 hours and one hundred other little things which I don't even know about which got us over the line. No one was to pike from this ride.

SO 7am START AT KFC @ WESTGATE BRIDGE. Bloody hell, it was an early start. No big deal for Paul & Dana who lived in Port Melbourne, Andrew had to get up at 5am just to get to my place at 6:15am so we could carpool. Andrew however was not going to miss this ride, rain, hail or shine because he's just got himself a new bike, an 09 Giant Anthem X1. And quite a bike that was, 100mm travel, hydroformed tubing everywhere and not one single ounce of wasted material anywhere. OK I admit I have a soft spot for the Anthems. I admire it's design brief of making a "no-compromise" all out XC racer, built to do nothing but to go as fast as possible. A pretty brave move by Giant to bring out such an uncompromising short travel bike back in a time when big travel free ride bikes were all the rage. But looking at the number of Anthems at a XC race event today, Giant's decision proved to be an astute one.

ANYWAY, THE RIDE. As usual, Paul led the pack, fast and furious pace, followed closely by Dana, me and Andrew. I was being my usual self of an old school hold out, riding a hardtail (Zaskar)
running V-brakes among a fleet of Epics and Anthem. Probably a odd thing to do to but I'm truly comfortable with hardtails and V-brakes. The muddy single tracks and wet pine trails were littered with viciously exposed tree roots but it didn't slow me down too much. I was trying out the new Maxxis Monorail tire on this ride, although a good tire in it's own right, it soon became apparent these couldn't give me the same cornering confidence that a Highroller offered.

HOWEVER, MY BIGGEST PROBLEM was, and one that's going to concern me for the foreseeable future, was how far off the pace fitness wise I was compared to Paul, Dana and Andrew. I couldn't keep in touch with Paul, barely kept Dana in sight, and if Andrew was not on a maiden ride aboard his Anthem, he would also be long way ahead of me. I just didn't have the wattage or the stamina to keep up. Keeping them in check through winding single track was OK but as soon as the gradient went up, I was left for dead. My winter preparation appears to have been inadequate so I have a lot of work ahead of me. Hmmmm.

A RIDE WITH DANA would not have been complete without him crashing, or doing something spectacular then crash, or doing something stupid followed by a crash. Well Dana was about to break his jink on this ride until he didn't clip out in time and fell over while waiting for us at the trail head. At least this time he was prepared and had a wound dressing with him. Seeing Dana drawing blood made me ill but he soldiered on as if nothing happened nor did it slow him down a bit. Tough bloke Dana you are. Hope you've got a good private health insurance policy.

MECHANICAL 101. Besides remembering getting separated from Paul and Dana & getting a bit lost, I had nothing more to report. The Zaskar was running flawlessly, unlike the last outing at Chase the Sun Round 3. Andrew on the other hand, broke his chain on the way going up a hill climb. Combining mud, gradient, rushed gear change and Andrew's colossal wattage, the chain simply snapped under the strain. The picture on the right is Andrew getting down and dirty mending his new bike to health again.

Well that's about all, a good ride but it exposed my lack of pre-season fitness against the benchmark rider, Paul. If I was hoping to do well in the upcoming summer racing series, I'd better step up with my training program. On our way back home, Andrew was bubbling with enthusiasm with his new Anthem and was genuinly looking forward to Kona 24. Deep down, I know I have a lot of work ahead of me if I was to become a worthy riding partner for him in Forrest at end of November.