mountain biking

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.

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

 

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Australian Team Reunites

So today we arrived into Tallinn airport at midnight and finding out that our bikes did not end up in the same place as us. Then finally getting to our hotel that was close by to get some sleep. It was good in a way that our bikes didn’t arrive. It meant they had to send the bikes to the place where ever we were staying and we didn’t have to organise a maxi taxi for bikes and pay extra.

Alex and I got up around a relaxed nice o’clock in the morning to stumble down to a hot breakfast which had unlimited plunged coffee! Back, eggs, boiled eggs, pancakes, cereal, fruit, salad, sausages and everything else that I forgot to mention. Then we had got to have a nice shower to clean up in.

Twelve euro later and we were at our next accommodation at an Academic Youth Hostel. Tallinn is fairly nice, perfect cycling temperature. We met up with Karl, Callum and Ricky at the hostel. Karl is on the Junior Australian Mountain Bike Orienteering Team, Callum and Ricky are on the Senior Australian Mountain Bike Orienteering Team. The same as Alex and myself. Tom Goddard arrived with his family, he is also on the Junior Australian Team, with Angus coming in with Carolyn. Carolyn is this years token female racing in the Womens Open. (Womens and Mens open just means you’re over 21)

Alex and I were told that our bikes would be at the Hostel in a couple of hours which was great news. First Alex’s bike arrived and then mine 10 minutes later. They came through safely and Alex had some clean clothes to dress into. It was good having all built up and seeing the rest of the team, since most of us are scattered through out the Australian States. Pretty even distribution. The Ian and Ricky are from Perth. Tom and Callum are from Tasmania although Tom is studying in South Australia. Carolyn, Angus and Alex are from Victoria. Karl and myself are in Queensland.

We were just waiting for Ian Dalton who is our Manager/Coach for the Australian team who was arriving in at 5:30pm and we can pick up the hire cars. While the people who were lined up to sign on for the cars headed to the airport, the rest of the boys went out for a ride through the beautiful Estonian forest that sat right outside our accommodation. Unlike Australia there was dozens upon dozens of small trails going through this forest, but you struggled to find a hill taller then a few metres high. Riding around here actually gave me a good understanding what some of the Estonian terrain will be like. Which means courses will be vague and tough.

Tomorrow we have a race in the afternoon at 3pm near us. So it will be nice to turn the map brain on properly and try and sweep out the cob webs. We don’t have many races in Australia for MTBO and there is only so much you can do between races. I don’t think I personally have done MTBO in a few months besides study maps. I have been focusing on regaining my fitness and confidence after breaking my collar bone. So lets see how this race goes.

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Victorian MTBO Champs – Long

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Today was the day to redeem my self from the middle. The Long discipline is a race about going hard and hitting the trails hard. This type of riding can get you tired real fast and you can easily make forced errors.

First off, I didn’t start well. I didn’t even get to the start triangle before I made my first error by thinking I had already reached the start triangle and turned off before I reached it. After the early blooper I was set flying still a little unsure of my navigational skills.

About a quarter the way around the course I chose a different route choice to most, which at the time I thought was the better route choice (6-7). Based on the information I had on the map it looked like the best way, as it turned out the other route even though it showed a lower grade of track was actually super fast riding. Everything after that was fairly straight forward until the end of the course.

Myself like many other people made a fatal error where you had to ride to a major road turn left then ride into an opening, which the control was sitting in. So I stopped at a major intersection, which was exceptionally sandy and lead towards a rather large mound that was also a clearing. So I ran my bike up and spent the next few minutes there trying to work out what happened. Losing about 3-4 minutes on the leaders spilt.

Like the middle I don’t know why I didn’t realize it was too soon the track junction that I made my huge error on. After the middle and the long I just sat there looking at the map trying to figure out what was going through my head and what I had done right in the sprint.

Still trying to work it out now. I definitely need to get fitter and build on my navigation skills.

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.

Garmin technology is lame!

I had this new post for my blog all written up about the rides I have done. This week I did some solid 2hr mountain bike rides and some short intense road rides. So I went to get some of the cycling files off the Garmin, but the site wasn’t recognising it at all. I have had problems like these before. I was trying to connect my Garmin to the computer to put a route on it for a long road ride I had to do over the weekend. I spent 5hrs trying multiple computers and reading forums on how to ‘fix’ the device. Until someone told me how to reset it and it all worked fine.

So I took out the small memory card from the Garmin, thinking that the data would be stored there? NOPE! Seems like I reset my device losing all my data which I haven’t uploaded to the site in awhile because it hasn’t been able to connect but I haven’t had a huge use for it daily. (I know I could of avoided this by backing it up frequently) So I just reset my Garmin losing all my data, but hey at least it connects to the computer.

Garmin products are good but frustrating at times. I hope I can get my powertap back up again.

Traveling to Taree

The Australian Mountain Bike Orienteering Championships are in New South Wales, Taree. I traveled down today with my father and mother. It was a pretty easy drive, only took approximately eight hours.

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I drove the first four hours of the trip, going down past the Gold Coast and along the highway out towards Grafton and through Coffs Harbour. We stopped in Grafton for lunch. I bought an over priced ‘wrap’ and had to buy a second lunch just to tame the grumbles in my stomach. The roads in between towns are nice, but they can be slow if you strike a slow moving vehicle.

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Kicking back as my father does some of the driving. I have had this sticker on the passenger seat since 2008 when I was on the Senior Queensland Orienteering Team. I think it will stay there indefinitely. As you can see my feet up on the dash, due to fact my legs generally ache on trips so I sit in odd positions on the trip to take the muscle aches away.

We are in Taree until Sunday for the champs. Tomorrow (Friday) is the Sprint distance in the afternoon then on Saturday is the Long distance with the Middle distance taking place on the Sunday. Should be good racing this weeked. Hopefully I can get some GoPro footage of the Sprint.