bike

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.

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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.

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.

Life Experienes

So I haven’t been updating my blog for quite awhile now, and there is are reasons for that. But I can’t list them all at once so I will say  that I think I need to do a quite a large cover of where I have been since WOC. This will be a quick post about places I have been to.

After the Mountain Bike Orienteering World Championships I traveled to Helsinki by ferry with a friend of mine, Karl. Helsinki was certainly a life experience all on its own for many reasons. After that I flew to Berlin in Germany and my mate Karl flew back to Australia.

In Berlin I went on a few guided tour walks around Berlin. Berlin has very interesting history and fantastic vibe to it’s always buzzing city. I did a secret diet in Berlin too! After Berlin I took a short seven hour train trip to Arhus in Denmark. There I stayed with one of my good Mountain Bike Orienteering friends Camilla. I had probably some of the best days on this trip in Denmark.

With a short flight to the UK to stay with some relatives. It was nice to have a bit of down time, which I could of used to write this blog, but I was enjoying not having to move my stuff every second day and not having to be and adult. After my nice break in UK I hopped onto a plane and was flown to Czech where I stayed with another good Mountain Bike Orienteering friend of mine, Vojtěch. I had an unbelievable time in Czech. Definitely a place I would come back to and stay for awhile, there is fantastic riding there in Czech.

Then I spent almost a month in Vienna in Austria trying to learn German. This was a mixed experience and another life experience of sorts. Finally I am now in Nice and hanging out with my parents. My project from now will be writing about each places I have visited and what has been good and bad. Knowing what to avoid and what to do better.

Berlin bicycle love.

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Sweeping out the cobwebs

Mountain Bike Orienteering is a very European sport and races are more readably accessible with more dense and competitive competition. In Brisbane, Australia, where I live. We are lucky to have such a great community and drive for MTBO. We can race MTBO once a month if we are blessed with good conditions and proactive organisers. Most of our maps are in low lying areas that have a decent track network, but the tracks can get water logged and it isn’t that nice to race on at times. A lot of the Australian team has probably done two MTBO races in the last two months into lead up to worlds. Almost everyone on the team is split up over Australia and getting to some races can be difficult.

This training camp really gives us a reality check to what we should be expecting at the World Mountain Bike Orienteering Championships. We have probably done more MTBO than we have done this year in this short week. The maps are more complex and foreign to us so we have had to improve a lot in such a short time. I know we have riders that have the potential to get into the top ten, but it comes down to; can they consistently race as hard and clean as they can under the WOC pressure?

Friday after the sprint training map in the morning. The selectors pulled Alex, Callum, Ricky and myself to one side and explained that this years WOC won’t be having a long distance qualification race but instead reducing the slots down to two riders to race the Long distance race. Since all four of us live far apart and racing together is rare to give them an idea of where we are in fitness and skill level, it makes it difficult for them to choose. The last time we raced was when the selection trials were on and I had only just recovered from my collar bone injury and there has been some time since then, where we have all done a lot of training.

So they said they would like us to race the afternoon training map to give help them some race information to help them decide who they will choose to race the Long distance. We had a decent four minute time difference for a staggered start. Alex was first, Ricky second, myself third and Callum leaving last. Everyone had some difficulties at some point on the course. Alex said he started off badly, not doing so well through the first few check points and said he just stopped racing because he didn’t feel like racing. Ricky raced well, fairly fluid with a minor error. Callum had some oxygen educed errors but held it together. He was only a couple of minutes behind Ricky. I had a fairly good race except for a couple of questionable route choices and doing a small 180 early on out of a checkpoint.

This doesn’t help the selectors at all since Alex has raced dominantly in the past and I raced well, and since my last efforts, it was a huge improvement. Ricky and Callum being close together also doesn’t make it easy. There are still some more training sessions and the Sprint and Middle to help them choose but for now it’s up in the air.

For more images and an active site for information on WOC and the Australian MTBO Team you should go look at the Australian Mountain Bike Orienteering Team Facebook page.

Technical!

Todays race was very technical. One of the most technical maps I have ever seen or ridden on. There was a 10km course on this map called Pirita. It was mapped at 1:5000 so everything was coming up quick. There was almost a track every 5 metres and the new thing to the Australian team was that we were allowed to ride anywhere we wanted.

I started out the course a little confused. The first route choice to one I did it fine but the first road you came across wasn’t actually really mapped correctly and almost everyone ended up coming into control number one the way you wanted to exit it. I faffed through the rest of the control up to number six where I rode straight passed it because it was tucked behind a tree as I came across it. The next few controls I lost a little time not being completely used to the maps and terrain.

I did a silly error to 14 and cut across the oval then had to head take the track leading out of check point 14. Turning over the map was interesting. Already thinking the first side was tricky then finding out the other side just made the previous area look like child’s play. I lost map contact on the way to check point 18 and was completely and utterly lost for five or more minutes until I found control number 31. I found it tricky to tell what was a main track and what was a small track. After that I didn’t have many problems navigating besides riding past a couple of controls that were either on the ground and hidden or just hidden behind trees.

The rest of the Team seemed to have similar problems and we all battled through the maze of tracks. The locals mentioned that this was one of the hardest maps they had and that the World Champs won’t be as close. I think most of us were around the 50-55min mark. The winner did 37. We didn’t know how. We know we made errors and felt there was around 10minutes of mistakes but to shave off almost 15minutes of our best time was astounding.

Free day tomorrow. So I think we will go for a gentle ride with a map and practice some techy navigation.

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