New Zealand Trip Recap

Well New Zealand was amazing as it is always. I only wish I had performed as well as I would had of liked to, but the riding was awesome and the competition was fierce.

This is the link for  the information on the event, click here. At the top of the page you will find the results tab for each day. If you want to find a detailed report of the week click here for another wordpress blog from NZ, just click this link.

I haven’t done any Mountain Bike Orienteering events or practiced my Nav training since World Champs, and at the moment I am a bike down and my road bike has been cracked

(oh yeah, I didn’t end up writing about how my rear derailleur on my road bike popped off into my spokes as I was cruising up hill and got spun around and cracked the top stay. Plus the hanger is built into the frame so I have to get the top and bottom rear stay carbon fixed with the hanger build into it.) 

so I am using my fathers mountain bike and the single speed we own. I think I did ok, but nothing special. The second day that I won, I had a fairly smooth ride. I was hoping to repeat that effort but I never did.

Some of the problems through out the carnival I struggled with, especially in the sprint was the huge light changes coming out of a dark forest into blistering bright sunlight which would reflect off my map board cover and blind me, then you would head back into the dark forest. I rode past a few controls in the sprint because of this. Also I was looking for controls on stands like I have been all competition until now, where they were strapped to the trees.

I looked at the split times for the sprint and I was in the lead until I rode past the control that was only a few meters from me.

In the bulletins for the Australian versus New Zealand they had mentioned that there would be green dotted tracks that were able to be ridden, also white on the map which is generally forest and you’re not allowed to ride through it was the reverse in New Zealand, which is cool. Also since one of the days was on Rotorua they marked directional arrows on the map so we didn’t ride down tracks the wrong way, since most of the tracks are one way only.

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Most of these rules were fine, but I didn’t like the fact that they were only used in some parts of the map to open up route choice. I missed a crucial route choice in the middle because there some specks of white to allow people to cross onto a track and there was a huge part that didn’t register in my eyes for me and I lost a heap of time, but I can’t complain since I seemed to be the only person to be tricked up by this.

There was a big  down side to this competition which was the long distance. The organisers were very unlucky, it was on and off rain and sunshine. Usually this isn’t so bad, Only that the ground soil was clay base. Meaning that getting to the start up the hill was extremely hard for 80%+ of the competitors. Not only was the track up to the start almost impossible to ride, the whole course was practically impossible to ride. The first track you road along was bogged down and would seize up your wheel. Turning someones 10kg light weight bike into a 20kg+ bike.

Again, you can’t criticize the coniditions since everyone else had to ride in them. So I tried to be fairly persistent. Until I chose one route choice which was bad considering the conditions. After banging out my wheel 4 times and clearing the mudd off my bike I had enough, so I decided this wasn’t a race, this was a course to survive not show who was fastest.

When I got back I realised that I would have been disqualified anyways, since right at the start there were two tracks paralleling each other. One being a smooth, wide fire road. An off road high way almost, and running beside it was a shitty undulating fire road that was bogged so badly that when I was riding past I saw dozens of people walking their bikes.

On the map there was small tiny arrows showing you could only go up the shitty fire road and back along the high way like fire road, and I had gone up the wrong way. Also there was no other route choice unless you wanted to add another 3-4km of shitty clay track riding. Competitors found out later that the course setter had only done this for a dog leg for lower courses, and didn’t want them riding on the high way fire road.(!?) I think many were a bit bitter about this course setting.

The best and worst thing was decided on that day. The Long Distance wouldn’t count in the Aus/NZ challenge and instead they would use the last race, which was on Rotorua, as the long distance event. “Great!”, everyone thought, but the poor choice to follow, I think was allowing people to be given awards for winning their course when a lot had taken the illegal route choice.

Also I had forgotten to mention that NONE of the bitumen roads were marked as no ride/out of bounds on the map, yet they had put tiny text around the out side of the map saying it was out of bounds (because in MTBO everyone stops to read the super tiny text during a high intense race…). Many people took bitumen roads, I don’t blame them and I don’t think anyone should get disqualified but I don’t think you could call any of the race fair or legitimate, especially with no marshals watching the key areas where people could get disqualified. Oh, and yes, they did have a sign at the start of the race saying that roads were out of bounds, although I think everyone was too stuffed and concerned about the sticky clay like mud building up on the soles of their feet and bikes.

In the end, I think the long distance could of been avoided by seeking a map that had far better tracks that would provide more route choice and avoid using arbitrary direction arrows just so people don’t ride on the same track in different directions.

Besides buggering up a route choice heavily on the Rotorua race there wasn’t much else to comment on.

All of the days, besides the long distance, had superb courses, lovely tracks and maps as well as fantastic competition. The event areas were well set up for the numbers that showed up. The people were amazing and the vibe of the whole carnival was excellent. I think the New Zealand folk did a top job and I can’t wait to get back and ride some more trails.

I know there was a lot of talk about the bad things, but it is what stuck and to me at least, was interesting to think over and see what could be avoided next time or how to minimize damage to the competitive side of the carnival.

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Off to New Zealand Next Year

Just leaving a small blurb here on what has been happening right now.

I have been doing heaps of mountain biking lately, trying to find my groove back from being off the bike for a long time. Definitely been finding my flow out on the trails.

Unfortunately my road bike has given up on me and it’s derailleur just dropped off while climbing up a short easy climb, so hopefully that can get repaired ASAP, but it might cost a lot if it doesn’t get covered by warranty. So if you have a large road bike frame you want to pass on to me I would much appreciate that.

Christmas holidays are coming around and so is the New Year. I head over to New Zealand on the second of January. It’s a multi-day event starting in the North of New Zealand and finishing up at Rotorua. Should be awesome.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic. I don’t know where to start. I am fortunate to know some of the best, most talented and driven cyclist from Czech. The cyclists in Czech, to me, are the most pure and show that rare love for cycling. Having spent almost a week in Czech I don’t think I could ever forget the good time I had there.

I think this week was the stand out week out of all the time I spent in Europe. My friend Vojtěch went above and beyond as a friend. Not only did he come out late at night to collect me from the airport (after some confusion of what day I was arriving), he also let me stay at his place in Prague that he only just moved into.

He also showed me around his home town and organise for me to race in a local race. Vojtěch really made me feel at home, he also organised a bike for me to ride through another one of our friends, Kryštof who is the best Mountain Biker Orienteer-er in the world and is climbing up the ladder on the World XCO (Coming 3rd in the WMTOC Sprint and 1st in the Long and recently racing in the Noway World Cup round for XCO getting 12th and racing the XCE) . I got to ride his winter bike for my time in Czech. This kid, lives and breaths bicycles and mountain bike. It’s refreshing just to be riding with a guy with so much passion and talent.

Czech’s know how to ride. The first ride I did in Czech was just a 100km ride with Kryštof, riding back to Prague from collecting his bike from his place. I faded pretty fast in the last 20km. I hadn’t touched a bike since my ride in Helsinki and I was suffering. Luckily the last 20km we were zig-zaging our way in to Prague.

One of the funniest things I remember from my ride with Kryštof to Prague is when we briefly stopped half way through our ride because, Kryštof didn’t know where we were. Couldn’t help chuckle and smile hearing that come from the best Mountain Bike Orienteer-er in the world. Although to be fair, I was completely lost and we didn’t have to wait more than a minute or so to work out where we had to go.

Not only did I get to ride with some great friends, I got to race and attend a cool uni-party/concert sort of part in Prague and roam the street with Kryštof. Again, this was so amazing and was a real high light of my trip. Thank you Vojtěch and Kryštof, I will definitely come back next year and ride some more with you guys.

Professional Cyclist Dieting Technique (Advanced)

I arrived in Berlin on an emotional low after having dealt with the bike ordeal in Helsinki. Soon the memory was wiped away by the stunning and interesting city of Berlin. I think I had some of the best weather during my stay. With warm sun and a picturesque park to lay down in and soak up the beautiful park close to my Hostel.

I was a bit lost and unsure with what I was going to do in Berlin because I had planned to ride out by some trails I had discovered in my google searches. So I signed up to a few guided tours and see the sights that were to be seen. Best idea I had and is a great rule of thumb for any travelers that are heading overseas and have a few uncertainties with the places they are going. Find guided tours. They are sometimes free!

In these guided tours learnt a lot about Berlin and all the politics and war behind it. It felt like I knew the city a little better even though I felt out of place. During these informative tours I met some Australians on the guided tours and they suggested that we go out and see the awesome clubs Berlin has to offer, since the guide had suggested many places to go visit, some of those places being some well know clubs.

So Berlin, is fairly awesome (really awesome). The guys I met on the tour and myself went to some famous clubs and some really chilled places. No other place parties like Berlin does. The city never sleeps and the city knows how to have a good time. The music and the people were just down right awesome. There isn’t much else I should say besides seeing and hearing some awesome things in these clubs.

I was getting fairly tired by 6 in the morning so I made my leave and headed back to my hostel, flunked into bed and fell asleep almost instantly. Only to wake up 4hrs later with a headache that felt as if someone was dropping boulders on my skill whilst kicking my guts. Not only that but my mouth was watering up as it does when it wants of vomit so I couldn’t sleep because my mouth would just fill up with spit – yes I know it was gross.

I felt like death for 4-5hrs in this shared hostel room. My body was overheating and I felt a little distressed. I am so glad no one was in the room when I was going through this painful experience. I was written off for the next 3 days right up until I had to leave. This was a great strategy to keep my weight down whilst traveling without a bike. So, it’s not recommended, but if you need to lose a couple or more kilograms fast. Get gastro!

I recovered enough in time for my departure by train to Denmark. That was a fun 7hr train trip…

Dude where’s my bike? (Part 2)

Obviously having your bike stolen isn’t the best thing the world to happen to you whilst traveling, especially when most of your trip is focused on MTB. Although later in my travels, the silver lining to this incident became very clear to me.

When I was traveling to and from airports/train stations and onto trams I imagined doing it with my bike [which was in a bike box]. I would have had immense trouble moving my bike around and onto and off trains, trams and buses because they were almost always completely full. As it was, fitting my self and my carrying bag onto transport troublesome enough. It saved me a lot of money on planes as well. I was planning to purchase a lot of additional luggage on this trip for my flights but now I didn’t have to!

Since I had packed mainly summer clothes I had very little clothes for cooler climates like Austria. I had always figured I would just purchase some warm clothes while I was there. I did just that, but after when I had to leave my carry bag was very full and if I had all my bike equipment and bike clothes I would of had so much over flow and extra baggage.

There are a few things I learnt from my bike being stolen is; always try and ask hostels if you can keep your bike locked up inside. I had a problem with the Hostel in Helsinki because there were narrow hallways and very little space to leave our bikes and you had to head up stairwells and go through a few doors. When traveling with bikes always have more than enough money for taxi’s, because traveling with a bike box, a big carry bag and a backpack on public transport really isn’t a viable option. Cheaper, but one shouldn’t rely on it.

Always have insurance on your bike, especially when it’s valuable. The reason my friend Karl and I didn’t really freak out was because we were covered by very good insurance. I have been overseas to 4 of these events now and I have never needed the insurance until this trip. [My friend was covered adequately enough by the insurance claim, I am waiting to do mine until I get back into Australia] So even though it is expensive or an added cost to have your bike+belongings covered, definitely worth the peace of mind. As corny as that sounds. [I had Chubb insurance, I can’t say to what type or cover of insurance since we paid for it through the Australian Team]

There were down sides of not having my bike, obviously. I was planning to use my bike to go for rides in all the places I had chosen to visit, as well as use it to commute to accommodation and avoid paying for public transport in the places I was visiting, also to keep some fitness. But since I planned my trip ahead of time and I have some of the best international friends in the world, they helped me get a bike to ride in their countries or changed the plans so I could have fun off the bike. So the experiences were just as golden. I did feel like as if something was missing for the whole trip. RIP bike, may the new owner have its forks explode and the wheels fold whilst they are heading down hill in to a busy intersection.

Interesting side story to this. My friend was contacted about two weeks ago from the Helsinki Police saying they had found my friends bike but not mine. They caught a criminal and in their basement was the bike, along with other stolen belongings, but my bike wasn’t anywhere to be seen.

Dude where’s my bike? (Part 1)

How would I personally describe Helsinki? – One massive university with high cost of goods. The city is scattered with lovely forest and rad trails. Nearly everyone spoke English all the time rather than their main language and there were so many people from english speaking countries.

With all this said, it was fairly boring in parts for what I was expecting. Riding around the streets were fun, yet still dangerous (not really dangerous) and I managed to dint my helmet severely after smashing my head into a low hanging branch of a tree that was hidden by a bunch low hanging leaves.

Karl and I road around and found trails close to our accomodation. We met up with a group of some awesome MTB guys that I had e-mailed before coming to Europe. I contacted these MTBers through a bikeshop/forum and told them what I was looking to do some riding in my time in Helsinki. So we met up with them in the Helsinki forest/park and went for a spin.

The trails were absolutely amazing. So many roots and rocks. Slippery surfaces and muddy ruts. Everyone but Karl and I were riding free-ride bikes, they had a nice amount of suspension on the front and rear of their rigs. It was more free-riding terrain but we gave it our best.

There were many steep pinches and damp root covered climbs on this fairly flat bushland, but with the constant up and down we managed to get a fair amount of climb on this 2-3hr MTB ride. We saw these guys ride some insane drops and bomb down some loose chutes.

It was coming towards the day that we were departing Helsinki. We had been locking up our bikes outside this hostel, around a corner and out of site with a decent lock. The hostel was apart of an old stadium in Helsinki. To get into this hostel by car you had to drive for 300-400m in from a road. Drive into a large fenced off gate area. Also there were plenty of other bikes locked up out front of the hostel. So we felt fairly confident of the security.

The day before we are suppose to fly out we went down the stairs and out side and around the corner to get out bikes. That weren’t there. Gone. I was kind of shocked that this actually happened as well as my friend Karl was. Luckily we were still covered by insurance and so we called the insurance company up via the hostel and filed a case. Went to the Helsinki police station and got a police report for our bikes.

To be continued.

In Estonia, Bicycle is Car

So this journey starts in Estonia. The World Mountain Bike Orienteering Championships had just finished with the Long Distance the previous day to our departure. This meant there was a heavy night of drinking and partying and celebrating with the winners. It was great fun and I had heaps of fun with all the competitors.

The next morning was a little rough and Karl and I were heading to Helsinki by Ferry. So we all jump in the van to head to Tallinn. Boarding the ferry should have of been as easy as walking on board with out bikes that were packed up in their boxes, but no. Instead I went into the ferry terminal area to ask the lady at the ticket booth where Karl and I should board since we have our bicycles with us. She told me to go back out side and go through a side gate where we will head past the booths that allow cars into the area to line up to board the ferry that way.

So we did just that. We walked around and down to the booth where the girl that I was trying to talk to sounded really really confused, asking why we were down here. I explained what the previous girl said in the ferry terminal had told me to do. So she printed out some boarding tickets for us and told us to walk in.

Walking in meant, walking into a huge open ship yard where you had cars lining up in multiple lanes forming a huge sea of cars and then there were cars driving off the ferry. There were many shipping crates everywhere in this huge shipping yard. Karl I were standing out in the open with no one to ask what to do and with the sea of cars to our side just staring at us.

After about 15minutes of standing around looking stupid we noticed some of the cars started to move and driving into the ferry.  We spied the guy directing the cars in. We decided we needed to talk to this guy. So we hauled our bike boxes and baggage in front of the sea of stationary cars that were getting ready to drive on. Came up to this guy and explained everything that we had been told to do. He inspected out tickets and asked where our bikes where. We pointed to our bike boxes and he just laughed and talked on the radio for a couple of minutes and told us to walk up the huge car ramp and walk into the hull of the ferry.

In the hull we were directed into some stairwell with an elevator and told to go to the seating area and just stay there. So it turns out we could of walked out bikes straight in the normal way and avoided this whole situation!

And that’s how the awkward journey to Helsinki started.