Monday, March 2, 2015

XCO Mission Accomplished

When I targetted the XCO series late last year, the aim was to ride some new tracks, get a taste of what it is like to travel with a bike and make some new friends.  On top of that, I was hoping to improve an area of my cycling that was sadly lacking ie. the ability to go flat out for a relatively short period of time.  Well all that came true and a whole lot more.

The People 

I have met probably 100's of people over the course of these 5 events from Mum's and Dad's supporting their kid's cycling dreams to the riders, the commissaires, volunteers and trail builders. Even though I mostly travelled alone, there was always someone who was happy to sling me a bottle during the race.  I've already mentioned in other places the good mates I have made; Daniel Beresford, Peter Lister and Dave Harris to name a few. There is something about battling one another on two wheels with just your legs and lungs as weapons that forges respect and mateship.  Thanks as well to the Butcher family for your support and encouragement.
The start of the Men's Elite XCO

The Travel and the Venues

I found it an intense experience just organising my own travel arrangements.  The mind boggles at the thought of organising for a team of 5 or 10 cyclists.  That being said it was a mindful experience arranging the flights, the luggage, the accommodation and car hire and I hope I can do it again in the not too distant future.
As far as the venues go, The YouYangs was probably my favourite place, a stunning landscape with challenging but well designed trails.  Stromlo is virtually my home trail and always rates a mention especially for being the hardest course bar none! But Pemberton and Toowoomba were also excellent and really well supported by the local clubs.  I'd liked to have seen more interaction between the long hair Downhiller bros and the lycra clad Cross Country freaks, but perhaps that's why Enduro is growing so fast.  A meeting in the middle perhaps?

Pinning it! #airborne

The Cycling

Well, I find if you want to ride faster, the first step is go and find some faster guys to ride with and that was certainly my experience.  At every round there were atleast 5 really fast competitors in my age group who were in contention.  It would have been great to see slightly larger fields but understandably, not everyone can commit to such a big undertaking. It takes substantial resources to do this and MTBA being the peak body, the main game is the Elite racers.  Speaking of which, mingling with these guys, listening to them and watching them ride is a real privilege.  I often felt awkward introducing myself like I was some kind of MTB aged groupie, but these young guns are so friendly and always have time for a quick hello and good luck.  They possess incredible discipline and class as they focus on the prize of perhaps an Olympic berth or a ride in European circuit.

My racing here was pretty good, though not stellar.  Despite being fresh, my legs felt heavy in the Oceanias and I had to contend finishing one place away from a jersey.  Congrats to Paul Brodie, if you have to lose to someone, a nicer guy I couldn't pick.  Saturday was a different race and even though the field was stronger I felt ready this time, you know the minute you open up the legs in the warm up even before the race starts what kind of a day you are going to have.  The start was insane but I held onto a good position until 5 mins in I felt the dreaded slouch of a deflating back tyre.  I nursed the Epic down through the rock garden and rolled into the techzone pleading for someone to hand me a track pump.  My breathing was heavy and my vision was about 2 feet in front of my nose.  Some very kind fella had an awesome pre-charged track pump and re-inflated by back tyre in no time.  A bit of wiggling to get the Stans to plug the leak and I was away again.  I'm pretty sure this is the first race flat I've had in 8 years, so I cant complain too much, here's hoping my luck doesn't dessert me altogether.  On the other hand it might just mean I haven't been riding hard enough all those years!
My introduction to XCO at the YouYangs December 2014 seems like eons ago - Photo

It's amazing to think back what went through my mind, now that the pressure was off.  Having given away any chance of a podium in the race, the idea now was just to race for fun and make sure I got enough points to achieve a series podium.  I rode outside of myself, reigning those that had passed me and enjoying every metre of track to finish just 3 mins behind 2nd place, not to mention the "Weapon from Wagga", Daniel Beresford, who beat the field by a further 3 minutes to take 1st.

I'm not going to guild the lily too much, in 5 rounds I only stood on the podium once, but I finished all 5 rounds close to the pointy end and was certainly competitive. In a couple of rounds I had to dig deep to overcome some fairly burley obstacles and finish the race to claim some series points so finishing 3rd in the series was a great reward.
Series Podium for MTBA XCO Masters 3/4 2015

Can I get faster?  I really dont know, perhaps I have reached the pinnacle of my genetic potential, and the best I can hope for is to hold this form for the next few years, before age takes me down another peg.  In the end it doesn't really matter.  Medals and podiums might be good for the ego, but the main game for me has been to enjoy doing something I love with some like minded souls, stay fit and healthy and do it to the best of my ability.  Life on this beautiful Earth was given to us by a loving Creator and I reckon riding a bike in the great outdoors with friends is a pretty good way of honouring that.

As always I continue to pinch myself with the wonderful support I have around me in my family, my team and my work (both Knox and Cyclery Northside).  Thanks for indulging my passion guys.

Keep riding

PS. One of my other passions is photography.
Click here for pics from Oceanias DHI 26th Feb 2015
Click here for pics from XCO Elite U23 U19 men 28th Feb 2015

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