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Toowoomba to Ewen Maddock Dam

TMBA What Rocks Enduro – May 16th 2015

The other weekend I competed in the Toowoomba what Rocks Enduro. I jump at the chance to race out on the Toowoomba trails every chance I can get. They have such a good mountain bike community out there working on the trails and developing sustainable and wicked fun trails.

You can check their the blogspot website at here for more information for events and maps of their trails, you can also like them on facebook.

Here are the stage for Saturdays race.

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Stage one was the start of the downhill track Frenzie making it’s way onto Canyonero. The TMBC had a nice flow to their event with all the stages following onto each other. Stages two, three and five all started at the same point. There was a new trail called ‘Ida’ going right on to a classic, Reaper. Stage 3 was High Life onto Rollercat. Stage four was Turkey onto Centrelink, which is pretty much awesome corners onto a blast out, down, super fast XC flowing trail. Stage five was Calibre and straight back to the event area.

I didn’t want to crash on something silly and not be able to race in the first round of the Nomad Sunshine Series at Jubilee Park. So I wasn’t giving it my all just incase I pulled a Jared Graves…

At the end of the day I was 4th in elite, but 5th overall. Pretty happy with how the day played out. Smashed out the course on my Trance Advanced 27.5 1, check it out on the fortheriders.com page.

 

 Nomad Sunshine Series, Jubilee Park – May 17th 2015

The first round of the Nomad Sunshine Series was held at Jubilee Park, which sits on the side of the steep slopes of Toowoomba. First round, first time to stretch out the racing legs and see where you stand against everyone else. People who don’t race the national round won’t have done much punchy cross country racing in Queensland unless you were attending the shorted XC races that the TMBC also runs, Wild West Series.

The track was pretty much, go up a nice gradual windy climb with a short fire road descent in the middle followed by a wicked down trail, which was a bit of Turkey and onto Centrelink to hit on back to the event area. Here is the course below.

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As the image shows, the course is 3.8km long. We, A Grade Men riders had to pump out 7 of these laps. The whole race I felt like I yo-yoed off the back off wheels. The first two laps I felt like I had stumps for legs that just didn’t want to go. I eventually came good on the third lap. Maybe unknowingly, Declan Wharton paced me into a good rhythm and I found some pace. Unfortunately he was pretty frisky on the climbs and got away from me a few times.

We battled out for the whole race until the start of lap six where I dropped my chain. Uh-oh. I tried to pull Declan back, but I could only just spy him on some of the switchback climbs. Finishing lap 6 I had another train drop on Centrelink. This wasn’t helping at all. I felt like I was riding for 6th position now. I rode as fast as my legs would let me, trying to make the most of the race. Low and behold I found Declan on the climb and I knew I had to make my move before we hit the descent if I wanted to avoid a sprint finish around the hairpin turn on the loose gravel fireroad. I passed and layed the hammer down to try and break Declan and get some ground. I think I must have had a little bit more in the tank at this stage and I got the gap I needed to hold the position to the line.

Bit disappointed with the chain drops because 4th may of been a possibility, but getting up on the podium is always nice. I reckon QLD has one of the best MTB community out there.

If you want to check out the bike I rode on head over to fortheriders.com to check it out. I was on the 2015 XTC Advanced SL 27.5 1.

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John Russell’s Picture, from left: Bradley Babel, Ben Forbes, Jared Graves, Ethan Kelly, Chris Firman.

 

 

For the Riders 45km XC MTB (Hosted by Tre X) – Sunday 24th 2015

This race was a week after the Toowoomba event and this race hurt.

The course was awesome, but it did not give you any chance to rest. Nothing but full gas. The soil was a mixture of soft sand with hard dirt fire roads and some loose dirt covered with pine needles. It felt a little rough on the hard tail although very manageable.

It was a lamont start, meaning a run to the bikes as the start of the race. Having 6m long legs helps with this aspect even though crazy talented kid Dean Cane crushed it to the bike. But I was the first onto the course with pro like cyclocross skills. Sadly my early lead was destroyed by Ethan Kelly’s insane power. Once it got to the fireroad it was bye bye to Ethan and hello trying to suck onto Dean’s wheel to recover. This kid is fast.

I took the lead of our two man chase group. Unfortunately this is where my race starts to deteriorate. Dean and I were flying around this bend one second then I was shoulder charging and having my body slap on the ground the next. I didn’t expect the ground to just move under me. Obviously this was a surprise to me but I honestly did not expect it to happen in this section, I had felt so composed riding the trails just moments before.

Dean checked if I was ok and I think I nodded, still in a bit of, “What the F*** just happened? Am I dead?”. Then my fellow team rider Simon “Freddo” Frederiksen came by a second later and asked if I was ok. I think I may have hit my head, but everything was so fast I wasn’t sure and I didn’t feel too bad once I got on my bike and rode on. I really wanted to get on the back of Simon to gather myself but I felt flat. I was hitting the fire roads and feeling smashed. Every time I got to single track I felt good, but flat on the fire roads.

The crash wasn’t helping. The small bumps in the track eventually felt harsh and my shoulders and wrists were hurting. Similar to Toowoomba, I felt like I was just racing for 4th place. I think I was bad luck. Dean had a worse stack than I. He told me he just got Ethan into sights and then BAM, he flipped over and broke spokes in his front wheel and got some shifters to the knee. He came into the timing area to swap bikes with his dad. Unfortunately he didn’t move his timing chip over which is apart of the race number and lost a lot of time in the process. Completing the 5th lap he said he had to pull out because the pain was too much.

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The only reason my hands are not up in the air is because I don’t think the world is ready for my mid drift.

 

When I finished I was startled to find out that I had come 3rd and then saw poor Dean with his leg patched up. He had to get stitches! I hope he gets better in time for an important running race the following weekend.

That was the big wrap up of the weekend. Definately have a look at the Giant XTC Advanced SL 2.7.5 1 at for the riders or even the 2015 Giant Anthem Advanced 27.5 0.

 

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Selection Trails and Update


I am not sure if I want to write a lot to explain what has been happening in my life during these unscheduled and spars blog updates. Or if I should shoot out the recent update and news in my cycling career. I think I will stick with a recent update since it’s easier to write. So heres a wordy text post update.

 

The Australian Mountain Bike Orienteering Team selection trials were being held down in Newcastle on the 21st and 22nd of March. I had to attend these trials if I were to be considered for the Australian team. I hadn’t really planned to attend to race any MTBO events this year. My sights had been set on XCO. Since December 2014 I have hit a slump with training, relative to the amount I have been doing the past 3 years. So I popped the selection trails back onto my race calendar.

Long story short, packed up the bikes into the car, drove 9hrs to Newcastle with Mum and dad and competed. Unfortunately the first day I performed poorly, I guess I was still rusty from not having seen or raced an MTBO map since last world champs – thats the last time I can remember racing MTBO. Fortunately, I found my brain and won the Sprint and Middle the following day, which was enough to secure my spot with my mate from last yeah, Angus.

There was a lot that went wrong with my bike in the poor conditions, wet, muddy sandy crap. My poor bike had some TLC once I got back to Brisbane.

 

Kay, the high performance coach for the MTBO team briefly explained the high performance funding changes to me in Newcastle. It turns out this may be the last year Orienteering Australia (OA) sends a team that will be funded, since Australia is cutting funding from high performance programs and moving the funding and focus in to getting people to participate in sports. So we will have to seek funding from other means like sponsors or fundraiser to support our high performance teams in the future.

So Angus and I will be flying over in August to race in Czech and represent Australia in MTBO. This has been a big change for my race calendar and a hard choice to make to head overseas for multiple reasons which I will try and sum up.

Firstly, I had focused on mainly racing and training for ‘pure’ cross country racing (XCO). So my race season had been focused on just that, but since around December I have hit a training slump (it’s a bit more than that but I won’t go into it now). I am still training more than most people, but compared to the past 3 years it’s roughly halved. It’s enough training to keep me fit and racing in the state XC races, but not quite to keep me in the pointy end of the races. More on that in a little later post.

Flights are not cheap and I explained earlier this year to the selectors that I may not be able to go afford flights for this years trip. With funding being cut and having such a small team there will be no excess to travel with the team, so it will only be flights I will have to pay for which makes this trip more manageable on my bank account. There is also another issue of being focused and driven for these races which didn’t make the choice clear. Do I travel over and risk not being motivated and in poor form and spend all the money or do I stay home train and race and save my pennies.

In the end I decided it was worth one last trip to compete overseas. Through these weeks of racing and decision making weren’t made easy and was helped by my coach Ashley Druve who has been more than a coach, a mentor and a friend. I don’t think I would have competed at this level ever or gotten to these points without his help.

You Yangs National XCO Race

Thank you to fortheriders.com and Giant for the support. The Giant XTC felt fast and nimble over the course and handled the rocks flawlessly.

 

 

The first round of the Subaru Australian National MTB Series was held at the You Yangs in Victoria. This was my first national race I have competed in and boy it was next level racing compared to state racing. The venue was huge and the track was fast, laps were many and the competition was filled to the brim with great talent.

I am racing in the Elites category now since I turn 23 in 2015, and the national series is a 2015 series. I felt like I was jumping into the deep end of the pool once again. With riders like, Daniel McConnell, Scott Bowden (U23), Chris Hamilton (U23), Andrew Blair and Adrian Jackson (who finished in that order), you knew it was going to a tough and fast race.

Picture from flowmountainbike.com

Left to right: 4th Andrew Blair, 2nd Scott Bowden (U23), 1st Daniel McConnell, 3rd Chris Hamilton (U23)

The XCO course at the You Yangs was a mix of a long steady climb that included a couple of technical rock pinches that caused chaos to people at the rear. (I watched the chaos unfold in front of me) You were then treated with a fast flowing single track down the side of the hill with semi-sketchy corners where if you came in too fast you weren’t going to have a good time. The ground was hardpack with a thin layer of loose grainy rocks, i.e. traction on second and nothing the next.

For the next part of the course you had a tight, hair pinned climb section, again scattered with some technical rock sections on the climb. Once you had climbed up top, you more or less followed the ridge line which had its fair share of boulder rides and fast flowing single track into the final descent. The final descent lead you into a flat flowing section of single track, winding you through the forest taking you back to the natural velodrome where you went through for timing and to start your new lap.

Picture from youyangsmtbinc.com.au

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You Yangs Map and Course

This was a tough race and Victoria didn’t put on a famous heat wave, but it was  certainly burn friendly. I raced fairly poorly, I felt like I hit the wall on the first lap. During the third lap the focus was on finishing my first national XCO race. I felt my poor performance was mixture of having a bad day combined with I have to spend some more time pedaling my legs off. Regardless of this, it was a great experience and given me a point to work from and I know now where I stand, 21st it seems. Only room for improvement now.

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Dingo Duo

Dingo Duo!

First off I would just like to say thanks to Fortheriders.com and Giant for supporting me with bikes and racing kit which helped me take on this tough yet super fun race.

This was the first time the Dingo Duo has been raced and it was held at Spicers Gap at Old Hidden Vale, about 1.5hrs drive west of Brisbane. The Dingo Duo had a few race formats that one could enter. “Pup Dash” which was a run ride run for the younger kids. “Dingo Dash” had you running the 5km running course. “Dingo Howl” which was the mass start for the 37km MTB course and finally the “Dingo Duo” where you Run the 5km course, ride the 37km MTB course and finishing it off with another 5km run.

I decided to enter into the Dingo Duo and not the Dingo Howl mainly because I felt it was the main event and I can run fairly well for a cyclist. I haven’t really trained for running since my orienteering/school years but I have done the odd running race here and there throughout the recent years, so I felt like I could pull something together for the event. I had to dust off the runners and tried to remember I couldn’t coast down hills like I could on a bike.

Planning the race could have gone a lot better. Especially when I finished a solid ride on Friday evening thinking I had Saturday to have a bit of a cruisy recovery ride to be primed for Sunday. I hopped onto the computer to check out the event details and immediately felt a little stupid finding that the race was on Saturday. I had just naturally assumed it was being raced on Sunday like most races that I enter. Ooops! So around 10pm I was washing my bike, preparing water bottles and nutrition and making sure I was prepared.

Race day was pretty stinking hot. First thing I did was set up my bike up in the transition area, my little cooler bag full of lollies and water bottles sitting next to it and I was pretty much ready to go. I didn’t really know what to expect for the run and how my body would hold up especially in such heat. I figured I would cruise the run at my own pace and see how the race plays out. I was hoping that I could either make some ground or be able to conserve energy on the ride keeping up with some of the other racers.

The Dingo Dash and the Dingo Duo competitors all started at the same time. The horn went and I started running at a cruisy pace, thinking everyone would come up beside me or pass me and I could just tag on behind them top gauge the efforts. No one did. No one passed and I had a quick look around at half way and there was only fast kid doing the Dingo Dash behind me. I didn’t really expect this, but I came into transition in just under 20 min. I was first in and I jumped out of my running shoes into my cycling shoes, slapped the helmet on tore off. Hit the first climb and it felt like I was riding up a 20% climb with a head wind blasting into my face. My legs were heavy from riding and it seriously wasn’t fun for my legs the first 10min.

I had passed through the second (out of three) checkpoint and I had a full water bottle and a bit left and I felt like I would be fine getting to the final check point. Oh boy was I wrong. I ran out of water and it was all rough, steep, technical single track to the final checkpoint. The final checkpoint was atop of a hill where the air was still and you could feel the heat coming off the ground and surrounding every part of your body. To add some extra suffer points, the climb had soft water bars that were almost as bad as soft beach sand. This was mentally tough knowing I had to save my self for the run, so I plugged away slowly at the climbs. I was definitely feeling it by this point.

The third checkpoint finally came into sight, I could fill up my water bottle and recoup. The two people manning the station said there was only 7km to go so I figured one water bottle was enough. Nope! I drank it way too quickly, then accidently crashed/fell coming up a technical climb and my right quad cramped which wasn’t that much fun when you’re feel pretty tired and sore already. Riding over the last ridge I came into transition in the lead. For the run I took a water bottle and a energy gel. I had forgotten to unload my bike tools so I was carrying some unnecessary weight.

This run was going to be the hardest thing I have done all year. My left calf was cramping forcing me into a grandpa shuffle early on. The heat was just as intense as it approached midday. I had to walk a few times to drink water. About 2km in my body started to feel funny. I know I had energy but my body wasn’t working, breathing was hard and my stomach felt sick. I struggled into the half way checkpoint on the run where there was some water.

I forced myself to at least walk and continue onwards. Staying focused was just as hard as taking the next step. The very open course had you running/walking out in the Australian heat beating down right on your neck. My body was freaking out, my skin felt cold to touch. About 1.5km to go I was feeling wobbly and really sick now. I needed to get water out  that I had guzzled throughout the run. It relieved my stomach a little bit, then caused it to cramp up at the same time. I figured I couldn’t do much to improve my performance so I plugged on. More or less I ran and walked my way until I saw the final lump that took you down into the finish and I knew I could do it, just not fast.

Readying my game face as I jogged down the hill I had to find something in me to not run through as if I had been dragged through a fire pit full of rocks. I was pretty happy to just stop, sit down in some shade and cool down and collect myself. I was totally destroyed, every bit of energy I had was spent and left out in the sun. Now I just have to recover for Sunday where there is the 75km Bayview blast MTB ride.

2014 World Mountain Bike Orienteering Championships Poland Wrap-up

So this years WOC MTBO champs has wrapped up and fairly uneventful trip for me this year unfortunately. Wasn’t navigating fast enough and my long distance fitness/fire road riding wasn’t near what the other competitors were at. XCO fitness yes! But not this fire road belt power grinding.

The middle distance event was interesting, I had a mostly clean race after my fourth checkpoint which I managed to bugger up the simple controls by over analysing them. On my way to the fourth checkpoint I had a brief scare that I hadn’t punched at my second checkpoint so rode the next few controls with a sinking feeling. Fortunately I had punched!

10504980_10204530918662594_323281742305032544_oI rode the technical part of the middle quite well I felt, even with a Lithuanian yelling “GO! GO! GO! GO!” as I was riding down a single track with branches at my handle bar height and higher. Love riding trails like that… not really. He was an ok guy, but it wasn’t nice to be told to go faster when it would risk damaging my eyes or stacking it. I watched him flip over his bars as he passed me though. Then he would tear off on the fire-road and belt out the watts and then I would be behind him cruising. So I don’t know what was happening.

I made a slight mistake with a bush cut towards the end of my race which was annoying because I accidentally nailed the intersection I needed to go down but thought I had cut too high and I finished about 7min off the pace, which was apparently enough to get me into the A long final. Yay!?

Not much to say about the long final. I got tired, I wasn’t fast on the fire roads. Crappy tired making route choic10575445_10204545544028219_3513783738299518286_oes, second guessing my routes and I was super tired about half way through. I was 22min down when I came in. Wasn’t really surpassed I had a poor ride on all levels. I was glad to cruise back home and lay down for a few hours.

This was just a quick wrap up because I am traveling at the moment around the south of Poland in Krakow and Zakopane which has been good and a little stressful with traveling.

Ice Like Mud

World MTB Orienteering Championships, Poland 2014

The Australian and New Zealand team hits Poland! The town of Supraśl will be the home of all MTBO teams for the WOC week. There are training maps surrounding the town which was perfect for our team to get a taste for the Polish mapping and terrain.

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We jumped into training with a map starting on our back doorstep which was handy. Although the maps were quite out of date and a lot of the grading wasn’t accurate some tracks were ‘sometimes’ there. This didn’t make anyone feel too confident about their navigation ability. Especially when you were more or less running through the bush where the track should have been to get the control.

Each day the maps got better but still had inconsistencies, but they were building up our confidence. Well it was building mine up slowly. Almost everyone had slight mechanicals throughout the training week. No one had anything major or terribly expensive mechanicals. Best to get them done before the actual races and have your machine race ready.

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Approaching the official start of WOC we had ‘unofficial’ two man mixed teams relay where we could only create one official team in the masters for the ‘unofficial’ mixed relay. So Alex and Carolyn went out to smash the opposition. Which they did by taking out the gold. This was a perfect pre-race for the sprint on the following day. After the ‘official’ ‘unoffical’ mixed teams relay race. Everyone paired up with another team mate for the unofficial race of the ‘unofficial’ mixed relay.

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I had a good first leg and came in just behind Jorgen from Norway who would be in the top ten in the world for MTBO. The racing was fast and still chaotic with all the other teams zig zagging everywhere over the map. Tim (Timmy) Jackson had some solid rides but there were a couple questionable tracks which caused a little confusion but nothing major.

 

Unfortunately this was the day where the weather started to deteriorate and continued to get worse for the opening ceremony and on the day of the Sprint it got worse. Cold, wet weather created muddy conditions ou ton course. Luckily we could warm up inside a gym with out-of-use ice skating rink which doubled up as a warm shelter for the teams.

 

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I strategically used my long hair to keep my neck warm and since it was muddy it was going to increase my bike handling skills through the mud and the forest. The hair did it’s job, but I made a couple of errors during my race and a couple of not-so-optimal route choices. I can nitpick my course apart, but when it comes to it I just missed a few tracks and totally buggered a checkpoint losing maybe two minutes.

 

While racing, we had to deal with ice like mud and forest where you could cut through easily, but the forest would surprise you with slippery hidden logs. Cutting was essential and was worth it. If you could see the control in the distance, BUSH-BASH! Also knowing roughly in what direction the control was you barely had to navigate the tracks if the leg wasn’t too long.

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The maps were great, accurate and provided a great area for a sprint. This seemed to suit Angus who smashed out his course racing into third but slowly got pushed back down to tenth. Tim and Karl also had solid rides but just wasn’t quite on pace as the rest of the field. Alex didn’t have the best ride and was a little spun around by the new tracks created by the cutting through the forest and had a tiny brain fart on one leg where he did a 180. Not a day for him, but the middle and the long should suit his form and style of riding.

Our honorary Australian, Tim Robertson from New Zealand smashed the european dominated field to take out second place in his first JWOC appearance. He has talent and experience on his side. Before this major event he took out the Sprint Foot JWOC earlier this year and raced at WOC. Being the only New Zealand rider here we gave him our full support as he got up onto the podium. You legend Tim!

The middle will be next up then followed by a rest day. Let’s hope the weather clears up and we can get some of that sweet european summer sunshine.

Australian Champs, Middle Distance

So this years Australian Championships were held in Alice Springs. I wouldn’t say I performed well, at all. I would say I was the fittest one who rode hard enough to reduce the huge errors and bad route choices I chose.

Alice Springs at this time of year is sunny, cold and windy. When there is no wind the temperature is perfect, you can feel warmth of the sun on your back and you can wear shorts and t-shirts, but once the wind picks up you need to be covered with layers of clothing, although this is coming from a Queenslander where in a 15 degree day I will struggle to leave the bed because it is too cold. (Like I might put on arm warmers for 5 rides of the year in Queensland)

The middle distance race was the first race on the Australian Championships calendar. This one was probably my worst ride of the year, although it’s not hard to beat that since I have probably done less than six MTBO races this year and some of the other Australian Team members have maybe done two. Especially if you’re from Tasmania where there is no MTBO races all year round.

So I will dive into what tricked me up about the middle distance. The middle distance map was a double sided A3 page. This is usually fine with my map board which is a Autopilot which fits larger maps fine. It was way they decided to show the course on both sides of the map was a little annoying and pointless. On one side of the map they fell short of fitting the course and the map on one side to take the mens elite up north where they needed an extra 4-5cm of map. So they chose to make it double sided.

It felt like the mapper/course setter could have moved the map around to only show the necessary check points so it would fit on an A4 sized page and then fit the rest of the map on one side. So you wouldn’t have to refold. What they chose to do is to print the course on both sides, so at the start you were shown a 98% complete course and tried to fold the map to fit everything in. In hindsight I see that I could of just folded the map in half to start off with but it wasn’t so clear in the rush of the 1 minute pre start seeing the whole of your course bar one check point. Reflecting on it now I am not sure if I should have been smarter to realised this or if it was over looked when course setting or controlling.

So these next two pictures are my scanned copy of the Elite Mens Middle (Mens 21) Distance course to show you what I mean by having a double sided for just one control.

Middlea

Middle Distance Side A

 

Middleb

Middle Distance Side B

 

So I have drawn my course on in red. On the map PTO is there to tell the racer to flip your map over to the other side. I have stopped at that control and started to draw where to go on the next side.

Middleadrawn

Middle Distance Side A – Route Drawn

Middlebdrawn

Middle Distance Side B – Route Drawn

For the next set I have circled parts of the course with a green pen to show where I made the errors and where I use the green pen to show where I thought the optimal route was.

Obviously you can find the huge error on the way to the start, I was still folding the map and I felt un-organised and just rode past the turn off. The tracks were very difficult to pick up even though you had great visibility over the landscape.

Middleadrawnerrors

The biggest error is missing the 4th control after having troubles finding a track entrance to checkpoint 3 which more or less didn’t exist, there were a few scratches in the ground which lead you into the control. The same with the 5th checkpoint I picked up a track that lead me to the checkpoint but it wasn’t as shown on the map.

After those early errors I got into an ok rhythm but went to take the right hand track on the way to 10 and it was a gap jump and it wasn’t possible to ride up it. (I know what you’re thinking, “What Chris can’t do a gap jump up hill?!”) I only lost a few seconds. Heading to 13 out of 12 I didn’t look close enough and flip my bike around and road out the way I came in more or less and it was 10-20 seconds slow which is hurt knowing I could of just continued forwards out of the check point.

MiddlebdrawnerrorsYou can see around control 14 I nearly rode off the map, I think I actually did. I was feeling fairly puffed after the climb. I knew I had to turn left just after the top of the hill and it was on the turn. When you got there, there was no track off to the left. Nothing. After riding past, then returning to where the track should start, I rode across the ‘unrideable’ yellow. After 20-40m of riding through the open a track appeared and lead you to the check point. A few other people had this problem as well. In the end it didn’t matter since I completely missed check point 4 earlier in the race.

Here at the WinSplits for the middle distance:
Middle Distance Class Splits

Middle Distance M21/Elite Splits