|Off and racing, finally I can relax, we are on our way!|
If you know Jase, then you know they dont come much harder than this bloke, so that should give you some idea of the course. BRUTAL, was the word of the day! But that is Stomlo. Host to many a World Cup level events, this place was made to test all riders, and test us it did. For the most part I really enjoyed the course, it was the right length with plenty of climbing and fun descents, and a few rock gardens thrown in. I took the approach early in the race to conserve my energy (and my back!) on the big climb. Advice from two of my wisest MTB friends were
1) take it easy for the first 12 hours
2) keep it smooth stay out of the red.
Little Seymour I've ridden a few times and I love the mix of sketchy downhill switchbacks and rollovers. Also the new entry into Luge is awesome. The exit from the first big downhill berm (after the bridge) is flat and smooth so you can now actually carry some speed knowing there is another berm at the end the size of a safety ramp to pull you up.
Off the start the pace was manageable except somebody forgot to tell John Henderson (Trek Target) it was a 24 hour race and after a sleazy shortcut sent a burst of nitrous through the bunch and the pace lifted. I was happy to see them go and meanwhile settled in for a sustainable pace with good mates Peter Selkrig, Dave Rae and Phil Welch. The 4 of us (across for different age categories) stuck together for a good few hours and I was happy to be setting the pace on the front for most of it. Phil quipped after the race that he was sorry (not!) to suck my wheel for so long, but that's where I like to be, setting the pace and riding my own race and it was great to have some company. Eventually Dave dropped off and then Pete spun out in a big way, so Phil and I were left to duke it out for the rest of the race. It was so good having four similar riders in a bunch keeping each other company and making sure the pace never let up.
With only 70 or so riders on course, it could get lonely and the time seemed to go in slow motion. I remembering looking at the time at about 3pm and thinking 21 hours to go, oh no!
Hitting midnight, I really wondered if my race was over, barely able to stomach another gel, and thinking I am only half way, the Garmin showing some ridiculous tally of kilometres, Steve pulled out the life saver, a can of Red Bull and a cup of noodles. "ZING ZING" The brain came to life, I stopped falling off and cut something like 6 minutes off my previous lap time. Now I had the witching hour (3am) firmly in my sights. It was a long and dark night, but eventually a wisp of light began to appear in the sky and strangely it started to get colder. I rode the whole night with just a winter jersey over the top, but as a cloudy dawn took hold, I needed my leggings to keep the cold breeze from freezing my legs
Meanwhile my nearest rival Tony Rowley, was keeping it consistent and whilst I had a nice buffer of 50 minutes, I couldnt seem to crack him. Every lap the gap was the same and I knew I would have to fight to the end to keep my grasp on the gold medal. Finally at around sunrise, the news came the gap had lengthened to 1 lap 15 mins. OK I can relax a little, just keep it smooth and bring it home.
|Crossing the finish line|
In my 3rd last lap I was enjoying an easy lap when I checked my frame and saw the existing crack had opened up big time. During the week we noticed a little crack on the seat tube of my Anthem. Unfortunately Giant didnt have a replacement frame available so they did the next best thing and gave me an identical demo bike. How good is that! So rather than going in with a duallie and a hard tail, I'd have two comfy duallies at my disposal. Interestingly the two bikes, mine with Rock Shox and the demo with Fox suspension behaved quick differently. My Anthem is built for speed, the suspension is hard, the bike feels light and responsive and just a little sketchy, the handlebars are cut down, it is an XC racer. The demo on the other hand was my roller. Slightly bigger bag tyres, a soft ride and wider handle bars, this bike was built for 24 hours in the saddle. I loved having both these bikes to ride and they both handled the punishing course with ease.
|The Giant Anthem 29er demo with Fox Shox. Nothing short of brilliant!|
I'd always been curious to experience the family vibe at Easter nationals and I can say it is alive and well. Everyone there get's into cheering on all the riders. We had Harry and Libby from Melbourne with there three kids on one side and Phil and Judy on the other side. Another highlight for me were the 4 gentlemen who in the act of lapping me had the time for a chat and a word of encouragement, Brett Bellchambers, Jason English, Ed McDonald and Andy Hall (6+6) thanks guys, you make getting lapped something to look forward to!
|4 of the best|
Thanks to CORC. These guys put on an amazing event with loads of enthusiastic volunteers, this is the biggest and oldest MTB club in Australia and the breeding ground of some awesome riders.
Thanks to the many friends who followed with interest, wished me good luck and gave a hearty congrats when it is was all over. It is humbling to have so many genuine friends spurring me on, so thankyou for reading, I'm sorry this has been a rather long post!
To my pit crew, Steve, Tom, Liam and Sarah. Steve, you were awesome, in the early hours of the morning when I almost refused to eat or drink anything, you concocted something I could swallow to keep the motor running smooth. Not only that, but going into the night I realised that after losing a bit of weight over the last few months, my knicks were a size too big and if I kept going like this, pretty soon I'd end up with a......well you know. Steve to the rescue loans me his road knicks, now that is taking suport to a new level!. And son Tom the mechanic; I guess I changed bikes atleast 5 times and every time it was like getting on a new bike with gears and a chain that ran smooth as silk. Not to mention keeping my lights charged and ready to go. I love you buddy you are awesome!
To the crew at Turramurra Cyclery, Mark, Dan, Brad and Simey, as well as Pete Melville (coach) and the Giant rep. It's a huge ask to get a rider ready for a 24 solo, let alone when you throw a cracked frame into the mix. And I turned up with two awesome bikes from Giant, the 29er Anthem, I could not fault them, perfect, thanks guys. Just look at the smile on my face at the finish, you need good bikes to finish 24 hours looking so comfortable.
Finally to my wife Sarah. It is a big ask for our partners to give up a weekend so we can run this race. Thankyou doesnt quite do it justice.
|National MTB 24 hour solo 45-49 male podium|
As a believer, doing something like this at Easter might seem a little irreverent to some. And even I had to think twice if this was the right thing to do. I guess if you want to consider how Jesus suffered for humanity, then you could do worse than go ride a mountain bike for 24 hours. Not that I am comparing a mountain bike race to the son of God being crucified, taking on the sin of the world and being cut off from his heavenly Father! But for me, Easter is about how Jesus set us free from rules and ritualistic religion so that we might have life to the full.