dirt

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.

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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.

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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

 

Finally Mountain Biking!

Sunday was an actual MTB ride. 
 
We headed into Pinerolo to meet up with some friends of Liz’. Liz is who I am staying with in Mazze’ in Italy. We had to drive up and over Sestriere and down into a valley where we pulled up to a huge mountain glaring down upon us. 
 
The people who we were riding with said it was about a 3hr ride. Roughly 2hrs up and 1hr down the other side. So we set off cruising with the group for about, 30 seconds when Alex and I rode off at our own pace which was about… four times their pace. 
 
This was a solid climb with sections reaching 18% with a 8% minimum on the whole climb. We hit the top at 54min and waited… and waited. Not realising I was getting toasted by the sun because it was really really cool up onto of this ridge. 
 
Whilst Alex and I were waiting we were sitting down, looking down into the valley where we rode from when this huge March fly landed on my leg and bit me. Semi-shocked, I whirled my hand down onto of it. Missing it. But what I had forgotten was my point and shoot camera was attached to my wrist and it followed my hand and swung straight into a rock, Now the lens won’t retract and I can’t take pictures. Now I have to venture into Turin to see if it is fixable. Bugger.
 
When everyone arrived we hung around at the top with the other riders taking pictures. I tucked my camera back into it’s case and they showed us the track heading down the hill that we were taking. It was steep narrow and looked like a hell of a lot of fun. 
 
I jumped onto my bike and stormed down. Flicking my back wheel around corners and expecting the unexpected. About a third of the way down I couldn’t pedal so I stopped. My chain had over lapped it self. So I unkinked it. But it had already damaged it self with bent links. I have only done about 100km on this chain. Brand spanking new chain pretty much and now it is trashed. Luckily I have a spare chain but it is a bit a bummer having to use it so early in the trip. Things are going up and down at a serious speed on this trip.
 
Oh well, could be worse. I am still feeling 100% besides a little bit of sunburn and a little back pain. Nothing like a bit of sunscreen and stretching can’t fix.
 
I would be uploading more photos to the blog but I am using a friend pocket wifi internet and I don’t want to use it all up. So only text posts for now. But here is a link to one of the guys facebook group that we rode with. https://www.facebook.com/bicibikers/photos

How many Dingos?

I had too much fun doing repeats of a track at Gap Creek today. Going up and down a technical section of a trial on Mt. Cootha, Gap Creek.

One repetition was going down then back up. And I was to do 20. Twenty of these I did. Loved every second of it getting fast through the rocky sections and going fast over wet roots and rocks then hooking into berms before spinning the bike back around and climbing back up again.

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Where art thou confidence?

March 28th was the date of freedom.

Cheekily I rode to the doctors appointment on the Thursday morning to get the O.K. to cycle again. The doc said, first week light road riding, then the next week I can do more and try light mountain biking. The following week after that I can do the amount of road cycling that I was previously doing as well as a bit more intensive mountain biking, finally third week I should be able to ride the mountain biking normally.

Riding road I slipped straight back into the groove of things and feel like I did before the crash. The collar bone feels a little odd but nothing that bothers me. I can pull and lift through the shoulder so bumps and sprinting are fine.

I have ridden the mountain bike on the trails but I am not all there. It doesn’t help that there hasn’t been dry dirt out on the trails since I crashed but through corners and even down some simple descents, I feel shaky. Shaky isn’t good when you’re on the mountain bike. You need confidence to hit something to control what is happening.

Even today I was out on the trails with a friend and we were just rolling down a trail I have done a heap of times. Admittedly it wasn’t an easy trail since it’s aimed for downhillers. Never the less I could usually ride it all but today I felt as if I was going to hit the ground hard.

Prior to riding this track I went and had a look at where I crash or at least where I thought I had crashed. The way I remembered the crash didn’t fit the area where I crashed. This has me a little worried. Seeing where I crashed wasn’t anything spooky but riding down to it was weird and I felt vulnerable.

The plan for now is to ride more and more on the single tracks and build up my shoulder strength and confidence, not much strength was lost, but enough to make me feel weaker.  The confidence has taken a big hit though. The way I have learnt to get faster and improve is to do a lot of small steps to get to bigger steps, not giving it my all and then crash and spend another week… or month sitting on the sidelines.

There is no point in trying something ‘big’ in order to improve. I have seen too many crashes of inexperienced even experienced riders trying jumps or drop offs and eating so much dirt. Sure there is some crashes that are unavoidable by random variables but in reality if there is something you want to do, work up to it.

For a small tip I will use an example. If there is a jump, small gap or lip you want to get air off or jump over and you know there is a good chance that your skill level really isn’t appropriate then this is what you should do.

If you can’t roll it don’t do it. By ‘rolling it’ I mean if you can’t ride over the obstacle then don’t attempt it at high speed. Try smaller jumps or similar obstacles that will help you practice the skills you’d need to tackle your goal. Once you can do those smaller things and you feel as if you know what will happen when you hit your desired challenge then grab a couple of mates and go try it.

I would advise body armour and obviously a helmet. It’s really important to have friends because if you do hurt your self you don’t want to be dragging your self to the road alone.

Social Dirt

Most Saturday mornings since I was thirteen I have meet up with a small group of riders, who over the years have become my friends. We start our ride from a car park close to the mountain bike trails at Gap Creek Reserve. Most of my training rides are over two hours of pedalling and 98% of my training rides I am riding by myself. So this ride is a nice easy ride where I can socialise and muck about with a few of the other riders.

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These riders aren’t super men, some ride a couple of times a week. Even my father attends these rides and he is 60! Occasionally the main rider who sort of runs the social ride brings out his downhill bike and I have seen him ride the 18kg downhill machine up some slopes that I have seen people push their carbon cross country bikes up. For me it’s an easy ride, for some it’s a good Saturday morning work out.

I feel it is important to have this ride to slow me down and refresh my attitude to cycling. One can slip into a training mind where you feel like you are forced to get onto the bike and train. This ride makes you jump on your bike and makes you want to feel the dirt under your wheels and grin ear to ear as you pump a jump, bunny hop over dips in the track and flick out dirt as your tear up a berm.

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Today we were riding down a trail called ‘Lost’ and we came across a natural jump/dip and we did some gremlin work to set up a small jump with sticks. I didn’t feel comfortable attempting it but a couple of the other riders who come from a downhill background gave it a whirl.

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