cyclist

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

asdas

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.

DSC01887

 

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.

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

 

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.

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…