Friday, October 14, 2011
Camping at Stromlo was heaps of fun, especially with 3 teams of 6 from HORCC. The buzz around the camp site was always enthusiastic (even at 3 in the morning!) as guys rolled in from their lap fully wired, ready to recount many a glorious performance. These guys are seasoned campers and they do it in style. No sooner had I arrived they had the car unpacked and the TMC marquee erected. Wow, thanks guys! I also had Tom and Liam with me and they were pretty excited to be there. They had an awesome weekend riding their bikes around, camping, eating good food, Liam even picked up 2nd place in the U13 race (and he’s only 11, watch out for this guy in a few years to come ;)
Upon arrival Friday evening, the place was looking a little damp to be sure, and there was talk of a sloppy track from other riders but I wasn’t having any of it. Stromlo is built for MTB’s and it didn’t disappoint.
The vibe around the event centre was electric Saturday morning and a few of us from JesusMTB got together for a quick catch up and prayer for the race ahead. We asked for fine weather, safety, and an opportunity to share His love and gave thanks for our good health to ride and wive’s that indulge our passion. The clouds continued to roll past all weekend with the odd shower, but that only served to keep the track tacky, an experience I’ve not had at Stromlo before and I reckon it never rode so well. Fast forward to the start and Dan is our man who sprints off the line and get’s to the bike at the pointy end of the field to begin on the Blue lap. Gav followed in a similar fashion on the Red to put us in first place. By the time my lap came around, I was raring to go and raced off the line to tackle Blackberry and Willo Link. This was to be my best lap as I averaged 89% Max HR and seemed to really nail my lines. Also at this stage of race there was no slow traffic and after passing a few riders early in my lap, I settled in with a train of 3-4 riders and proceeded to bury myself. I came to love this Blue lap the best, it was so challenging with lots of tight techie corners and the Ellsworth really seemed to suit these trails. Heading into Skippys brought back memories of last years 24 solo and then into Deep Creek which I had never ridden before, a very tight section of trail but beautiful all the same. Just when you think you’ve had enough, of tight sketchy corners on a slight incline, you hit Shady’s, the toughest part of the lap, but it doesn’t last long and from there it is fun all the way home starting with Party line, what has to be the most flowingest sweetest stretch of single track on the planet. Oh yeah I almost forget Terminal Velocity, this will test your (insert euphemism to describe courage). A straight steep downhill fireroad that rolls into something like a safety ramp. The challenge is to pedal as hard as you can downhill without touching the brakes so you can roll up the other side and just pop over the crest of rocks at the top of the other side. I hit 60kph here, scary stuff.
My elation at my time of 43+ minutes was shortlived when I learn the guy I have been dualling with for the second half of the lap is from the competition (3FIDI6) and we drop from 1st to 2nd place with a gap of just 5 seconds. Game on! But it doesn’t end there. On the 5th lap, a team called “chain suck” put in a 41+ min lap on Blue elevating them to 1st, while 3FIDI6 fall back to 3rd and we hold 2nd. So now we have a 3 way battle for the category and it carries on pretty much that way for rest of the race. The whole team now gears up for a long battle, Dave and Gary both put in solid laps and Paul finishes the cycle with a 38+ min Red. Nice work. Dave, the team strategist floats the idea of the 3 strongest riders to pull a double and try and make up the gap to first, so I take the time off to mingle with other riding buddies including the crew from TORC, Sandy, Mark, Vicki and Stan. I watch my boys ride and catch up with a few more friends around the track. Thanks to the organisers for the kids race, I count the laps in the U11 and there are so many kids even two of us Dad’s cant quite keep up with it. It’s so cool to see all these kids out riding and loving it. My next lap is a 44+, which I am happy with as I hit a bit more traffic this time but the legs are still feeling good. I love being able to give it everything for a lap and then rest and recover till your next turn. It is only a brief rest this time as we are pulling our double which puts me onto the Red lap…in the dark. I am pretty excited about this, as I love the trunk climb and our course, Skyline and Luge and legendary. My lap is just OK, I have a few little offs, including a tangle of bars ends with a slower rider who picks the most narrow technical section of track to call me through…err fail, we pick our selves up, I apologise profusely and I’m on my way. I never really find my rhythm after that and to top it off I dump it in an unseen abyss on a fast left hander at the end of rascals. The lap also finishes through a bog resembling something out of the Jurassic Period so now my bike is dirty, not happy! But all is not lost and by the end of the cycle we now have a nice 8 min buffer over chain suck and a further 1 min over 3FIDI6. Turns out Dave hates the Blue lap so we swap over next cycle and everyone’s happy again.
My next lap is a night lap of Blue and this is tough. The corners are so tight and the shrubbery so dense, it makes it hard to anticipate where the track is going. There are times where I exit a corner, unsure of where the track goes next! Another lap down and still we We’ve now completed 19 laps (10 blue, 9 red) and we’re back in 2nd place. Every now and again chain suck wheel out their secret weapon and he puts 5 minutes into us all on his own. We’ve been off by up to 8 minutes but we are clawing back the time. It is now 1:30 in the morning. The boys are sound asleep but I cant rest. I take on some food, potter around the bike but I just don’t feel like resting and and my next lap isn’t till 5:20am. Then I remember my mate Phil, who is doing a solo impromptu performance. I roll down the hill to the solo transition to his hut to find the tell tale signs of a madman, gu wrappers everywhere! I tidy up and make some plans so I am ready when a shell of a man rolls in at 3:30am, completely shattered. The bike is a mess after negotiating many a bog on the red lap and he is out of petrol. OK noodles, that worked for me so I boil him up some noodles and get to work on the bike. He says he’ll stay put for a whle so I head up to the bike wash. When I get back, Phil is atleast smiling again though he groans when he realises he has to go out again. I rev him up, he is in 3rd place and 4th place is getting slower. All he has to do is keep circulating and he’ll podium. I see the spark behind the eyes and before he leaves he puts in an order for porridge next time round. OK cool I’ve got about an hour before I need to get ready and I can leave his porridge for him just before I go on my next lap. Perfect!.. Later on I pass his transition and see the porridge is gone. Phil goes onto hold 3rd place at the finish, and I feel just a little chuffed that I played a little part in getting him there. OK so back to our race, Dave rolls in off the Red lap bang on time and it is time for me to attack Willo again. I play a little game with my self each time trying to pushing a bigger gear up each section of this gentle climb. By the time I get back we are in the lead by 7 mins. Not enough, but this team will dig deep. There’s alot of excitement in the team, the dream is so close but a puncture or any little mistake could see it evaporate quickly. Strangely at this point I am ready for sleep, so inhale some porridge, curl up in my sleeping bag just as the sunrises and grab 90 minutes of shuteye.
Amazing he still posts a 41 and we celebrate the win as we wheel him off the first aid to get patched up. YOU BEAUTY!
Thanks to everyone for a great weekend