Preparing to pounce
A lot of work has gone into building great trails at the beautiful Bago Vineyards by HVMBR members Jason Dragos, Pat Galbraith - Robertson and the Hastings Valley MTB Riders team. This was to be the first time I was to ride the local trails after the DO IT For Cancer Cure 6 hr earlier in the year & there had been new trails added as well as some rain to bed the newly built trails in since then.
lining up on the start it was noticeable that there were a few Olympic distance cross country riders that would be hard to beat over the shorter distance.
The start was furious as we all sprinted up the first climb toward the single track. I tried something new for my preparation for this race by staying off the bike three days leading into it & was finding out fast that it did not work for me on the as the lactate started to flood into my legs only 500m into the race. I decided to back the pace off a bit & play the fat cat with the faster mice ahead of me know that it was a three hour race over a hard course & maybe my endurance would play a part toward the end. I was sitting in around 6th spot watching the guys in front slowly pull away from me & I was finding it hard to let them go, but this race was going to come down to tactics & for that to happen I had to keep my cool.
Only a few laps in & I could see riders starting to slow in front of me as I passed Grant Webster on the side of the track with what seemed like a flat tyre. Next rider to catch was Dennis van Mill who was only a few hundred meters in front & slowly getting caught. I found that the hill climbs were the place that I was gaining most & I used this to my advantage while trying to keep my cadence high. A little over an hour in & I caught Dennis on the largest hill climb over the back of the course. Dennis has great technical skills on a bike & it was not hard for him to loose me again on the first descent we came to, especially with his 2.4 inch tyres giving him the grip advantage. I kept gaining on the climbs & Dennis kept loosing me on the descents until two hours in where he finally cracked & I went around on the back climb before taking a few risks to keep in front on the next descent to keep in front. looking over my shoulder a short time latter there was no sign of Dennis & I eased up the pace again while focusing on the cat & mouse game.
Two and a half hours gone by & I had the leaders in my sights only 400m in front of me as they gave me a yew!
It was time to make a plan of attack with only 30 min till the end as everyone I went around were telling my that I was not far behind & gaining. I kept the leaders in my sights & got as much fuel in as I could before my plan of attack on the last lap. Coming by the feed zone on the last lap I started pushing hard up the first climb gaining fast on the leaders & I was confident that I was to catch them before the end until ???
At the top of the climb I went to change into the big front chain ring before descending with my chain coming off, then after pushing the shifter to the small gear to pedal it back on, the chain went right across jamming between the small chain ring & the bike frame. By the time I managed to free the chain I lost valuable time in chasing down the leaders & had no hope in catching them. With my plan out the window I finished 3rd, behind David Harris who managed his first win in a while ahead of Kerrod Parker in 2nd spot.
Sometimes the mice will escape the cat, but the cat will be back another day !
2014 GNaTPACK Series Wrap Up
The 2014 GNaTPACK has been a great series this year with longer events than previous years making it more cost effective to travel for a race & the numbers have also been up from previous years making more competition & fun. I manged to make it to all the rounds besides Armidale opting to focus on training for longer events planned ahead.
The 2014 Series had seen around 270 riders throughout the year of all ages, it had seen some good times & some sad times, but best of all a great atmosphere with a great bunch of like minded people.
I managed to make it onto the top of the podium for Open/Elite men for a second year in a row just ahead of the forever challenging Kerrod Parker in 2nd spot & Mark Wood finishing 3rd after riding the whole series on a single speed.
I would like to thank all the clubs that organised racing throughout the series & all the riders that made the effort to travel for the races throughout the season. Without you all there would be no racing of such a high standard in North Eastern NSW :-)
A Sad Start To A Good Race
I got some sad news the afternoon before Grafton GNaTPACK that Brian Cockbain of Nambucca Cycling Club had passed away while out on an easy road ride, just turning his legs over Saturday before heading up to Grafton for the Sunday race. Brian was one of the main representatives for the Nambucca club & helped a lot in the running of the GNaTPACK MTB Series as well as building most of the famous Jacks Ridge MTB Track near Nambucca Heads. I met Brian through mountain biking & there was never a time where I did not see a smile on his face, he was always excited about riding & was very competitively fit so it was a shock when I herd the news & really did not want to believe it.
Arriving at Bom Bom Sate Forest MTB Track just South East of Grafton it was a nice sunny day with a dry track to race on.
Walking over to the registration tent you could hear everyone's shock while talking of Brian & I thought about how much he was going to be missed at these events.
After grabbing my number & placing it on my bike, I got changed & went out on a quiet warm up & thought about how short our lives can be & wanted to dedicate my riding to Brian on this day.
At race briefing there was a short silence after letting everyone know of what had happened before heading to the start line where I spoke to Clay Talk briefly who was one of Brian's main rivals in these events, & he mentioned how they would always challenge each other for the win. Today Clay was wearing number one taped to his back for the race in respect to Brian.
Bom Bom is a very fast open forest track with sweeping corners & gullies but after a short warm up ride around part of the track I knew that if I rode to the edges of the single track it would be easy to come unstuck on the loose pea gravel that laid there, so I was wanting to ride the first half of the race with caution & was hoping that the younger fast riders would have the same thoughts.
The start of the race took us up a slight gradient fire trail where the pace was just as I had hoped letting me go into the single track first & set an easy pace. It was said at the race briefing that there was no A & B lines to choose from but after a short time on the bike we had already noticed a few shorter but harder lines & I was definitely going to give them a go on lap two. The first of the hills to climb you could here the sound of electric guitar playing in the distance & knew that you were near that top (this has become a trade mark of Bom Bom GNaTPACK races). As I rode past rocking to the riffs it took my mind off everything as I wondered what size battery this guy had to play so long at such a deafening volume.
A few times in the first few laps of the course I did some short bursts to see how Ryley & Kerrod tailing me would react, & without hesitation they stuck to my wheel not letting me get an inch, so I slowed the pace up slightly to conserve my energy ready to react if the tables turned. There was a couple of corners in the track that caught me out on every lap running wide & the boys would laugh at me counting the laps.
Mid way through the race I went for a bottle change & let the boys take a turn on the front while watching there form. I felt the pace increase slightly as we went back up the climb toward the guitar sound & at the same time noticed that some mistakes were being made by the boys in the tighter trails but I found it, now much easier sitting behind knowing what was coming up. As the time counted down toward the end of the three hours the pace was starting to get slower & I thought maybe it was going to end in a sprint finish, so I sat tight waiting for the reaction as time grew closer. There was a short fire road break around a km from the end & I decided to go around & pick up the pace thinking that maybe by the time we went through the timing area it would be three hours up. Picking up the pace to a near sprint up last five five hundred meters of fire road incline toward the finish I was expecting a full sprint for the line but there was no reaction other than Kerrod still sitting on my wheel. As we went through the timing tent I asked if we had finished? Still one lap to go was the response, & I looked back at Kerrod as he said we still had around seven minutes. Dow !!!
On the good side we did loose Ryley that was leading the second half of the race & that did mean that he was getting tired & not saving him self for the end. So after regaining my breath I rode the last lap hard pushing myself through the single track knowing that that was the only way to loose Kerrod given that I felt that I had more experience on the MTB. To my surprise I gained ten or twenty meters through every tight section but was quickly reeled back on the open sections. As we came around for the last time with one km to go I rode as hard as I could to drop Kerrod on the last section of single track & this time it worked with Kerrod making a mistake & sliding into a tree. With a quick glance over my shoulder to make sure he was OK I pushed even harder to the finish as I came out for the last time up the fire road incline to the finish, looking over my shoulder with my legs now like jelly & my heart rate at a new level I had two hundred meters on Kerrod with around three hundred to go. If he had anything left I would have been a goner now but I managed to hold on to the lead over the finish for real to take my first win in 2014 GNaTAPCK Elite Men.
My thoughts would be that Taree round of the GNaTPACK would be somewhat of an advantage for me against riders further to the North after recently racing the same track for the Chocolate Foot race a short while back but there was a spanner or two to be thrown in the works that I was not expecting.
Arriving at the race venue in Kiwarrak SF over an hour before race start there was riders everywhere already including two guns from Newcastle, Stu Adams & Guy Frail who I knew would make the race a faster pace than i would have wanted after waking with a bit of a headache for some reason.
Race briefing we were told there was over 100 riders before cruising down the main fire road for the start where again I was on the outfield but at the front. Sitting on the start line all I could think about was food as I was feeling unusually hungry still after a big breakfast. The usual count down from 15 seconds gave me about 3 ( I am getting use to the starters counting down now). A rush up the hill to the first section of fire road was a bit faster than I had expected & I was riding in around 14th position as we took the first turn into the single track. The first lap was at a good pace with all the riders in front of me until around half way where the lead riders seemed to be pulling away from me when two riders in front seemed to settle into a slower pace. At the first opportunity I went around and attempted to chase down the lead riders while slightly breaking traction on the rear tyre every now & then as well as the chain skipping over the gear teeth due to wear when I pushed hard out of the corners. As the race went on I was loosing energy fast & trying to gain it back by taking twice the intake of Hammer gel than I normally would, but I was unusually not seeing any effect still feeling very lethargic.
Just passed the half way mark I was caught by Silas Sutherland & Mark Drury from the 40+ age category that started 30 seconds behind us Opens & at this point I knew I was in trouble now loosing all motivation to keep pushing myself.
I slowed my pace down a little more & just rode on chatting to riders every now & then going over what could be wrong with me feeling this way. I knew it was not over training because I had not been training as much as I had in the past, The thought then crossed my mind if I had been training enough but that would not explain why I hS gone OK in races not that long ago. Why was I feeling hungry on the start line after having a big breaky? So much was going through my head & I could not find any focus on the race.
Half way through the last lap I was caught & over taken by Gavin Jackson, another rider in the 40+ charging to the finish line as he eagerly made his way through the slower riders in front. After passing the riders myself I decided no matter what, I was not going to let this guy beat me, as anger with myself began to fuel my aching muscles I chased him down and sat on his wheel till the last 200mtrs of trail where I went around into the finish out of breath & disappointed with my effort on the day.
I finished down in 7th in the Opens & hung around for the presentation getting in some more food before riding another 85 km home into a cross head wind along the coast making up just over 130km & 1300Vm. Many prizes including a GoPro was to be won in a lucky draw from online entries. I lucked out in this as well, but it was won by another lucky rider on the day, Clay Tulk.
After arriving home I had a big feed & hot shower before going to bed early. Waking the next morning with symptoms of a cold virus. That explained the ordeal of the race day & why I was hungry with a headache with my body starving for food to fight off the bug, after a visit to the Dr I was booked in for a blood test to find out if there is an answer for me getting a third cold & feeling light headed with no energy in as many months & a continuous runny nose in between. Yet to have the test results back while writing this blog, but if all comes back OK I will have to change my diet to boost my body's immune system up.
With 3 days of rest before racing because of a reoccurring cold that will not go away I was looking forward to racing a short 2 hr Endurance Cross Country race. Round two was held at Cows With Guns MTB track near Bonville, just south of Coffs Harbour, a track that has been around for years now & one I have ridden many times including in the annual Pleasure & Pain 100k race.
Less than a two hour drive to the race venue, my wife Cindy & I decided to drive up the morning of the race after getting everything ready to pack in the car the night before. Arriving at the race Cindy realised she forgot her riding clothes including her shoes but managed to lend a pair of shoes that happen to be the right size & have the same Shimano cleats but still had to race in denim shorts & cotton shirt.
The race start was broken up into three starting waves with the Open riders first off the line. My plan was to get a fast start after the bad starts I had been having in races lately. I managed to get a great start & was challenged by a young rider straight away so I settled into a steady fast pace following during the first half of the lap with another couple of riders on my tail until the rider in front decided to take a longer B line up a short hill where I took the lead & picked up the pace slightly with all the riders now following close behind me. During the second lap I slowed the pace slightly & before to long I was overtaken on a steep climb up a fence line in true challenging fashion regularly looking over the shoulder to see if I would follow. I kept a steady pace & let the rider get 15m lead by the time I got to the top of the hill with a plan to slowly gain back onto his tail in the single track, but now back on the riders tail when changing the rear gears my gear leaver fell off into my front wheel forcing me to pull off to the side of the track to take a look at what had happened. After a close inspection I seen that the bolt holding the leaver on to the break leaver had rattled out from all the tree roots now exposed around the track. I wound the shift around the brake cable & carried on with the race now a couple of minutes behind the three leaders less than an hour into the race. I knew I would have no chance in catching them with only two gears on the front & it took me a while to get use-to pushing a big gear but after a while I got into a rhythm standing when it was hard to push up hills & sitting when I was coasting in the single track. Nearly 2 hrs into the race I was caught by the Masters leader from the second wave who had passed all the other Open riders still behind me & I used his pace following him to keep my position as fourth in the field for the next lap & a half crossing the line at around 1hr 20 min disappointed at what had happened but keen to re-challenge the younger riders that finished in front of me at the next round in Taree.
Cindy went in a team of two & managed to finish second with faster lap times than most of the female riders in her new denim Nix.
Full results here.
The GNaTPACK Series introduced a new race format this year with 2 & 3 hour races making it possible to race in teams or solo. The longer format made it more reveling for me to make the races in the series around Northern NSW but Nambucca 3 hour was going to be a challenge after racing the day before for 7.5 hours in the Upper Hunter Valley. I am always up for a challenge but would have preferred if all the other riders had tired legs like myself from racing the day before. A three hour race is a bit short for me to race at my best but its always fun to go that little bit faster pushing the limit a little more over the shorter distance. To keep the competition fierce throughout the series I entered Elite but knew I would struggle in this race with the faster paced race & tired legs.
It was hard to get up the morning of the race after arriving home from a 4 hour drive late the night before but I was woken early by the family eager to travel up to Nambucca for the day where my wife Cindy was going to be racing in the two person open teams.
The race start took us down a usual fire road where we were set out on the line in our categories before the final count down. The pace started off at a much more reasonable pace than I had expected & I took the lead into the first single track where the famous Jacks Ridge roller coasters sent you at break neck speeds down & up large gullies on the side of a mountain several times before the only major climb in the 10km track up serpentine where my legs immediately started to feel the hurt before tackling the fun & fast slowing single trail over log drops & smooth berms. I had been racing all day the day before in wet sandy soil & cool weather & found myself sliding all over the place on the humid weather & dry pebbly ground while negotiating all the turns in & out of trees.
Near an hour had gone by being followed closely by a local Nambucca rider on a lightweight hardtail so I tried to slow the pace down a little hopping he would stay behind me for a bit longer, but after the end of the second lap I had to stop & change over drink bottles & he took the advantage leaving me in the dust putting the power down on the open fire trail where I was never to see him again. toward the end of the race my back started to ache from trying to push big gears from the lack of energy I had & I realised I was never going to catch first again & slowed the pace up even more just to hang on to second place till the end after being overtaken by a few riders in the age group categories.
You never stop learning, & the lesson I got from this weekend is I need to work on sprints during races & strengthen my back muscles. I think I will have to go pay a visit to the awesome staff at www.enrichedhealth.com.au & work on my weak points before my next race.
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