europe

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.

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.

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.