Pleasure and Pain

My life nearly changed forever on the 11th November 2012. Sitting on the start line of the Half Highland Fling with 1000 other amped riders, the countdown to the start was on.  The adrenaline was pumping, the Divinyls song, Pleasure and Pain was belting out through the mega speakers with a chopper flying overhead. It couldn’t get any better than this. Pleasure and Pain, however, was very much my anthem of the day as I went from being involved in an event such as this-

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TO THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!

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The day started off in brilliant fashion, as it always seems to do, for the Fling. The dire warnings of extreme rainfall hitting the area were way off the mark . After the past three years of competing in the Full Fling of 110km, this year I had opted for the sprint (55km). After concentrating on road racing for the last six months, this was my first major MTB event for a while so I was excited to race in such a big field. In previous years, the most popular and most prestigious format was the Full Fling. That race still holds its mantle with the majority of elites choosing to race the course in its entirety. This year, however, the Half Fling was by far the most fashionable and like the Full Fling, certainly had some riders who were in the elite class and who had chosen this style of racing over longer endurance distances. With some fast guns battling for the prize money in the Half Fling and the fact that the elite Full Flingers started with the Half Flingers, the pace was always going to be furious from the start. I held on for as long as I could although when those initial rolling hills hit, it was time to find a rhythm which would sustain my own race. It’s funny how races start, full of noise, colour and flare. Then all of a sudden it’s nothing but the sound of drive chains and wheels. There is no talking among riders as everyone is in their own little world of hurt. On cresting a hill, the helicopter came swooping past at low altitude. No doubt it was finding it hard to keep up with those elites driving the train at the front of the pack.

From the lush, green, farmland pastures out of Bundanoon, the course heads into Penrose Forest for an early bath. That is, off the bike and through a creek crossing. Out the back of the forest there is some steep climbing to be done although being in my own backyard, it’s nothing I’m not familiar with. Before breaking out of the Forest, three of the Southern Highlands young, speed brigade had caught up with me. From here, I rode with these guys for the rest of the way in one combination or another. It made the race much easier working with guys you are used to racing against.  It was also great to be able to keep up with these guys as I know that I may struggle in future years as these young-ins are getting very fast. On approaching the first checkpoint, I was hoping to break the one hour mark at Wingello. I just missed out on that mark  although it sure felt fantastic to turn left still feeling great,  rather than turning right and heading into the depths of Wingello Forest like the Full Flingers.

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 After the checkpoint, it’s back on the train again swapping turns in a group before we hit the first section of singletrack for the half fling course. Through the appropriately named tunnel vision obstacle (tunnel with a mirror at the end) and then back into Penrose forest. One of the most difficult parts of the course is always Brokeback mountain, a prolonged and steep grassy switchback climb. Most of the back-markers of each race are off and walking at this point although the rewards are there when you reach the top as you dive back into singletrack. This singletrack is only able to be ridden once a year as its on private property. It’such a pity as its a pleasure to ride the trail swooping in and out of the rock outcrops.

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The Argyle road fire trail signals the end is in sight so it’s all about unloading what little energy is left. On cresting Your Call, it’s time to turn left and then head the 4km back to the finish. On the road, I was left with a rider who looked like he was in my category so I stayed on his wheel with the plan to try and sprint over the top of him close to the line. It was a cunning plan, although it was awfully executed. He was too strong and got me in the sprint.  The feeling was still positive. Home in a time of 2.35 , 34th/946 and 7th in my category. Results are here. Usually I would be still out in the forest grinding away for maybe another three hours in the Full Fling. Now I was able to ride home with my youngest, have a shower, watch a movie and have a snooze before returning for the presentations and helping the Exeter P&C pack up all their equipment. They had the biggest challenge of the day – feeding the masses of hungry riders.  How good was this! There is more to this short and furious racing after all.

Where did it all go wrong? How did the pleasure turn into pain. On the way back to Exeter school with a ute load full of gear, a car had crossed its lines on a corner and clipped the door/tray of my ute. The hit was like being pulverised by the biggest front row forward playing in the NRL. This forced me into a 360 degree revolution and into the culvert. I was amazed that I was okay although in my mirror I could see the other vehicle had flipped onto its roof. After being pinned for some length of time, the driver was thankfully freed by emergency services. The accident looked like a war zone with debris everywhere although when everyone walks away from an incident like that, you have to feel lucky. This was especially the case when my family were in the car in front on me. So, from the high of a most enjoyable 2012 Half highland Fling to the low of a major vehicle accident which has completely destroyed my ute, the day of the 11th November was certainly a memorable one. Just like on a piece of singletrack, you never know whats around the next corner. I guess life is exactly the same.

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Willo MTB race

In the Spring of 2009, I had most definitely caught the mountain biking bug. I had really started to become an exuberant  mtb racer and had even written a letter to my now favourite MTB mag, Enduro. My letter, which ended up being published, focused on the  positive growth of the sport and as an example, highlighted the difficulties of trying to enter the 2009 Highland Fling due to overwhelming demand.  I received an email back from the editor of Enduro which was just as spirited and passionate as my newly found enthusiasm for this sport. The email was from one, James Williamson or Willo to his mates. At the time, I didn’t know much about Willo although I would later find out he was triumphant in the 2008 World Solo 24 hour championships at the age of 24 and he was a young fella making big waves in the MTB community. He was also a Southern Highlands local. Unfortunately, Willo, while competing in one of the hardest MTB races in the world, the Cape Epic in South Africa, died in his sleep from an undiagnosed heart condition. His passion for mountain biking lives on through the creation of the James Williamson Fund which fosters young MTB talent. The fund also aims to showcase what  riding a mountain bike is all about. The James Williamson Enduro race at Wingello was formulated to achieve this goal.

The inaugural running of the race was 2011 and I had missed riding in the race to help out the Southern Highlands Cycle club with the running of the junior dash and other duties on the day. This year, however, was a time to sample the race itself. Coming off a 24 solo and a large base of training, my mentality for the coming months is to focus on short, sharp races, so the 50km race fitted in brilliantly with my plans. Besides, just 10 days before, I had taken 20 minutes to get off the floor due to back spasms so I wasn’t keen on completing anything more than that distance. What didn’t fit in brilliantly, was the absolute freezing weather on race day that greeted approximately 500 riders on the start line.

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 In contrast to the inclement weather, the singletrack had been well groomed by all the hard working volunteers so the weather was pushed to the back of the mind once the racing began.  From the get go, it was hard and fast. I started within my category and found myself in a group of about 7 which had stayed intact from the early flurry of punches thrown in the first couple of kilometres. The roadie tactics once again came in handy as staying out of the howling wind on the firetrails, proved a necessity. Local knowledge also paid dividends as I knew an approaching turn would have me flying with the wind so I attacked hard for a few hundred metres before that point and swung around with an instant acceleration from the gale now at my back. This reduced our group to four which was reduced to two on the King of the Mountain climb. This climb is a shocker. Not overly steep, but constant. The worst of it is the nature of the ground beneath you. The soft soil seems to just drag you down. It was a  real energy sapper with my legs not being strong enough to stay with the leader who I will name  “Red jersey”. By this time, we had caught the younger brigade in front of us who had started earlier as well as some of the 75km racers. For the rest of the race, zipping in and out of traffic became part of the game, with all whom I passed, pulling over tolerantly. Just before hitting the final piece of singletrack to finish lap one, a fella came up and around me at good speed. He looked like he was in my category so I hooked on to his wheel. I stayed there for a while until I hit the bottom of a sandy gully where I duly lost my chain. The short stop was enough time for him to disappear up the trail. Bugger, down to third.

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Passing through transition meant one more lap of 25km. For a large majority of that lap, I rode with another rider from a younger category. He would catch me on the descents and I would make up time on him on the slopes. We actually worked together at various times which was great to keep the pace pushing along. Some of those back climbs like the Wildfire gully climb and Fern gully climb are taxing on the body a second time around although I obviously hit them alright placing 12th/260 for the Wild Fire gully climb on Strava. Although I was only racing half the distance,  Jason English(Solo 24hour World Champion) was only 5 seconds quicker on that climb in the 2011 Highland Fling giving me an indication that the legs are in good climbing shape.  On reaching the summit of one of these climbs, I found “Red jersey” off on the side of the road with a marshall. He had yelled out that he had smashed into a tree and that was his race. On wishing him well, I set off to see if I could reel in the guy who had motored passed me previously as he would now be in first place. Half way through the last section of singletrack, I heard an approaching rider coming up behind me. Time to put the foot down and make sure I secured second. Luckily, I had escaped nicely through some traffic and had come out onto the firetrail clear of any immediate danger behind me. I had failed to catch the leader who was just too quick although I had claimed second in my category with a margin of 23 seconds back to third. Here are the results.

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With the smiles of all who came across the line, you knew the organisers had achieved their goal of creating a race for all to enjoy and being true to Willo’s legacy. Congratulations to Meg Patey, the main workhorse of the race organisation and Willo’s aunty. There is, however, a rather large team that helped her put it all together. Super effort! Check out those grins on the fantastic video clip below.

2012 Australian 24hr Solo MTB Championships

In the classic movie, Dead Poet’s Society, Robin Williams urged his students to abide by the philosophy of Carpe Diem. That is,  “seize the day”. For someone competing in a 24 solo, this saying is just plain soft, for a rider competing must be able to seize the day, then night and then seize the day again.  After the Australian 24hr Solo MTB championships, I can say I didn’t quite seize the day, had a good stranglehold of the night and then the day came back to kick my arse. This is how my second 24 solo unfolded.

The Course-Majura Pines, Canberra

Majura Pines has been the traditional home of solo 24 MTB racing.  The course this year was a mixture of fast, flowing single track to technical traverses over  rocks, roots and logs.  There were some speedy descents and just to finish off the 11.6km loop, some brutal climbing up the Majura switchbacks.  The preview of the course shows a very wet Majura, three weeks before the actual event. On the day, the course was perfect due to some brilliant weather and some hard work by the dedicated event organisers. All in all, a tough course although a course very befitting of a national standard.

The Event

There is also another saying that I can relate to in solo 24 racing which sums up my first segment of the race. You can’t win a solo 24 in the first 6 hours(category, overall etc) although you can definitely lose one in this time. This was probably the case for me as I went out too hard and didn’t ride my own race. This led to two factors that affected my race. One, my nutrition plan went out the window. I found myself eating and wanting more than I should of and paid the price with stomach issues around about the 6 hour mark. I couldn’t handle any gels or powerbars very early on and was just craving real food.(see appendix 2 for the full roll call of my 24 hours of feeding frenzy)  And lastly, because I was pushing myself to stay with competitors in my own category, I had a rather large OTB(over the bars) crash which could of been much worse. This was probably a blessing in disguise as I vowed to ride my own race after this and let those I was following go on their way.

Around 7pm I was very close to pulling the pin due to the way I was feeling. One of the great things about MTB racing is that many of the elites of the sport will always offer you encouragement as they fly past you. Ed McDonald, one of the challengers to World Champion, Jason English’s crown, reminded me that if I ride through it I will be okay. This is what I did, as day turned to night, everything  felt better. The singletrack became fast and I felt I was back in the race.

the event

 During the night, I moved up to 4th in my category and was feeling on the improve both physically and mentally. I was hanging onto the back wheels of riders moving fast in the forest and setting the pace at other times.  The forest was starting to become quieter and transition not the bustling avenue it was during the daylight hours.  The confirmation of a tough course was confirmed through numerous DNFs and some just taking a break through the witching hours. This muted silence was pierced by a lone supporter at the top of the switchback climbs. He had brought his own version of hydration and was giving all that passed a rousing reception to keep going. Even when there were no other riders around, you could still hear him having a great time in the middle of the forest by himself. I am glad he woke me up as I was starting to become a little tired. I had just sworn I had seen a gorilla on the side of the road. (and no, I hadn’t stopped to share that lone supporters choice of fluids either!)

Daylight broke with the course all of a sudden becoming busier. My motivation had dropped a little as a realised that it was going to be tough getting a hold of 3rd in my category and the first 6 hours of the race were probably catching up to me. It was a good time to start to chat to other riders as my focus shifted to defending my 4th position. In the final few hours to finish, I crawled around the course. This is probably one reason why I have recovered so well after the event. Apart from numb fingers on my left hand, I feel I could easily hop on the bike for another stint.

My only other 24 solo was the Worlds in 2010. In this attempt I finished with my own fatigued version of a wheelie across the line. Here is the photo. I thought I would keep up the tradition and do the same here.  The overall results show Jason English being crowned again a well deserved men’s champion and Liz Smith being crowned Aussie solo Queen.  Lap times are here. I got that 4th position and placed 18th overall punching out 290km over 24 hours.  Happy with that!

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Thank you’s

    • Steve (brother in law)- the best solo support going around. He is the master at solo support!  With Steve around, the logistics are always perfect! Thanks mate!
    • Kym (sister in law)- Organising and entertaining kids, making top notch pasta bakes the night before, running out for a pizza and helping pack up. Thanks for all Kym.
    • Tim from Bong Bong Cycles for prepping the bike and making her purr around the singletrack.
    • My little fan club of Issy, Lucy, Camo, Kai and Gabby. Stu on the mic said I had the best fan club of all.
    • And lastly, to my understanding and incredibly supportive ally, my wife, Amanda. Love the way you get behind me for these events. Thanks for letting me go off on the bike for 130 hours since January 1st this year to prepare for this one. I couldn’t imagine doing one of these events without you and my two girls in my corner. You are my inspiration.

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Appendix 1 – a graph by Russ Baker showing laps to time taken. It demonstrates that Jason English starts strong and finishes strong.

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Appendix 2 - The hydration and nutrition that was consumed by myself in 24 hours.

  • 7 litres of Shotz Hydration
  • 2 litres of Endura Optimiser
  • 4 bottles of Gatorade
  • 700mls of Coke
  • 1 awesome Pizza
  • 3 bananas
  • 1/2 bacon and egg roll
  • 2 hot cross buns
  • Packet of salt and vinegar chips
  • 6 cups of fruit salad
  • 1 orange
  • 1 apple
  • 4 slices of banana bread
  • 5 slices of salt and vinegar rice cakes
  • 2 bowls of pasta
  • 6 pikelets
  • 2 ham and tomato sandwiches
  • 1 endura bar
  • 1 powercookie
  • 1 packet of 2 minute noodles
  • 4 gu gels

Could I be related to this creature?

Ahhhhhhhhhhh! Bye Bye! Until the next solo!

My inspiration

Rocky Trail MTB Cruise

After a solid training base, it was time to have a crack at my first MTB marathon for 2012. The Rocky Trail Cruise at Mt Stomlo, Canberra, offers four race distances. These are the 33km, 66km, 100km and the 100 miler. To test the legs early in the year and have a full day on the bike, I gave the 100 miler a crack. All up, the event attracted some 300 riders although there were only 20 riders on the 100 miler starting grid. Each lap was supposed to be around the 33km mark, although my Garmin was reading 28km per lap. The large lap length enabled competitors to ride much of the famous Stromlo singletrack such as Skyline, the Luge, Party line and Double Dissolution. Names of trails such as Deep Creek and those around western Stromlo I had never ridden or really heard of, so the race was a great opportunity to become familiar with some of the not so famous Stromlo singletrack. There was plenty of gut busting climbing per lap as well. The trunk trail was included full of 1001 switchbacks, Heartbreaker was in and just to make things a little more difficult before transition, the Blackberry climb was thrown into the mix as well. So the course was a good one with something for everyone. The bonus for me was doing the 100 miler meant that I would ride this fab singletrack over 5 laps.

Lap 1- To make sure the 100 milers finished with the rest of the pack, we were called to the line at 5am.  We would get a full four hour head start on the other race divisions meaning that the singletrack ahead was clear and fast. Off the start line, the guns of the endurance mtb world took off never to be seen again. I tried to settle into a nice rhythm and parked myself behind fellow masters competitor, Phil Welch. Holden’s Creek was in the midst of a burn off so racing through the gloomy and smouldering vegetation created an eerie and surreal environment.  My form on this lap wasn’t great as for one reason or another I had rarely been out on the mountain bike since the Highland Fling. It was lucky I had Phil to follow for the best lines and guide me through the dark. On climbing back up to the top of Stromlo, sunrise burst across the Canberra  skyline which was just magnificent to view. However, the rocky, tight and demanding Stromlo singletrack meant that I couldn’t rubberneck at the brilliant colours the break of the day was throwing. Small lapses in concentration from the trail could mean a possible catapulting from the bike onto the unforgiving surface. On coming into transition for the first time I was met by my two young daughters. Under the guidance of their Mum, they knew exactly what to do. A change of helmet, lights taken off my bike, water bottles given, as well as a variety of sustenance.  A , “good luck Dad, you’re riding well,” and I was off.

Lap 2- Phil had sped off so I was on my lonesome and this is how it stayed for the entire loop. Lap times for me were around 1 hour and three quarters.  I don’t think I have ever travelled this far in a race and not seen another soul apart from the local jumping marsupials. In any case, it gave me the chance just to focus on my riding and slowly, my MTB mojo was  coming back. The lowered temperatures meant that hydration was never a worry although that was soon  to change.

Lap 3- The transition centre was a hive of activity now with the 100km riders soon to start. It would be another hour of riding by myself before they would catch me up. Finally I had some company although this party wasn’t hanging around and they zipped through one by one. It was at this point that I was actually thinking how well I was riding. I was feeling very composed and uninhibited. Perhaps a little too uninhibited because I proceeded to lose the front wheel down a rut and found myself being blasted over the bars with the right side of my body taking the full force, especially my hip.  After giving myself a good cursing, I picked up my tangled body which was now feeling a little worse for wear and dragged myself into transition covered in a mixture of dust, sweat and blood.

Lap 4- This is when the day really started to heat up. I was carrying two bottles on course and even though this was adequate in the first 5-6 hours, the temperature was rising and it just didn’t sustain me anymore. Temperatures into the 30s meant that the water in the bottles was turning warm very quickly and subsequently, my pace was slowing. I was also still very sore around the hip and found some of the uphill rock gardens becoming most difficult. After passing Phil at the end of lap 3 who was having troubles with his bike, he subsequently zoomed passed me half way into lap 4.

Lap 5- After a very quick feed of pasta and some time getting rehydrated, temperatures on that final lap were becoming very uncomfortable. For those that don’t know, Stromlo was stripped of its vegetation in the 2003 bushfires creating a lunar landscape of rocks and sand. The greenery is starting to return, although it is very bare in places and most open to a scorching Summer sun. Riding in these naked sections was intolerable. During this lap, I was no longer being passed from behind, but rather passing the struggling riders in the other races. Some were out of water, some were performing stretches to stave off cramps, although all were bloody hot. This last lap wasn’t the enjoyable early jaunt under a sublime Canberra morning glow. It was an incinerating environment which crushed the hopes of riders and meant that there were large numbers of DNFs throughout all race categories. In any case, I wasn’t riding this far without finishing, and managed to reach the terminus in a time of 9 hours and 44 minutes with a total ascent of nearly 3000 metres and third in my category. Results are here. Like last years experience, this race is no cruise!

rocky trail

Deans Bank-Lake Wanaka, New Zealand

My last blog stated that it was time to put away my bike for a while and have a rest.  I have stayed true to my word as I haven’t ridden my mtb or my roadie for exactly one month.  This is a record for me although I have surprisingly found it very easy, with a family holiday to the beautiful south island of NZ keeping riding from my mind.  This was a family holiday although I was graciously given a leave pass to sample the beautiful trails of Wanaka for an afternoon using a hire bike from Outside Sports. It was an awesome day in Wanaka to sample some singletrack so I was directed to warm up the legs around the shores of Lake Wanaka. This track is family friendly as it gently winds its way around the lake and then follows the Clutha River. The track is a shared facility with walkers although you won’t want to blast around here anyway as the spectacular scenery has you off the bike and taking in some awesome sites. The water of the Clutha River is an amazing turquoise colour and looked very inviting on a warm Wanaka day.  With the backdrop of the Southern Alps, the ride around the Lake and up the river is amazing in itself.

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Crossing the river at the bridge brings you to Albert Town Camp ground located on highway 6. This is the location of the best singletrack I rode in the short time I had at Wanaka. It was the Dean’s Bank loop track consisting of 11.5km of flowing trails. This area is ridden only one way and is clearly marked.

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At the start of the trail, you gain altitude by climbing up an awesome set of tight switch backs to take you along the ridgeline which now follows the other side of the Clutha River. It’s an easy to intermediate trail although it does have some techie features to it at times. The soil was loose and a little rocky at times and it reminded me of Stromlo, Canberra which was the last thing I was expecting when riding NZ singletrack. After about five kilometres of following the river, the trail descends and then swings back through the edges of pine forest. The ride back to the camp ground was the most exciting part of the trail as you could really build some momentum and hit the perfectly spaced berms at speed.

All up, the Deans Bank loop track takes about 45minutes to one hour to ride.  I would recommend hitting the loop again as your knowledge of the trail would allow you to ride the course at a higher speed. This was a fantastic trail which is well thought out and maintained. Well worth a blast or three!

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 The short time I had  meant that I wanted to find Sticky Forest which is always featured in Aussie MTB magazines. The entry  into the forest for someone who doesn’t know the area is a little tricky. I got lost and I think I crossed private property to get there. In any case, on arriving in the forest, it is clear that there are a plethora of trails to chose from. I only sampled maybe 8 or 9. To be honest, I was a little disappointed with what I rode. It just seemed that trails were built, not in a holistic, organised fashion. One trail might be criss crossed by another 3 or 4 times with little sign posting.  There was also massive amount of debris with some  harvesting of pines taking place.  I guess local knowledge means everything here.  All in all though, it was a great afternoon to get out and enjoy New Zealand from a cycling perspective.

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PS-  There was many a time when driving the hire car around NZ that I wish I had the roadie packed in the back.  Some stunning scenery and climbs would make some excellent riding. This photo is the road switchbacks up the Crown Range with Arrowtown in the background.

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2011 Highland Fling

Lethargy, languidness, languor, lassitude and listlessness but most of all, just bloody exhausted. These words all describe my mental and physical condition after a tough weekend on the bike. The best way to describe my state is to compare it to a big night out with the hangover lasting seven days. I gave it all in the last race of the year  and it  comes after a period of solid and sustained racing as well as  clocking up some big mileage on the road and mountain bike. It’s now time for a prolonged rest although before I do, I better complete my final race blog of the year. The 2011 Highland Fling.

The event organiser, Wild Horizons, kicks off the weekend on the Saturday with a celebration of mountain biking. The first event on the schedule is the junior mountain bike clinic to foster the talents and skills of up and coming whippets. On arriving as an instructor for the session, a few things struck me. One, was the amount of children who had registered, well over 50 with some having to be turned away. This is a great sign for the sport with so many youngsters keen and so into their bikes. The second was that these kiddies were fast and had obviously been inspired by their Mums and Dads.

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The Bundanoon Dash is then on in the afternoon and consists of two races. The first is the Wacky race-The Battle of the Businesses. The Ant Hill mob, Penelope Pitstop and Professor Pat Pending in the ‘convert a car’ wouldn’t be out of place in this line up. It consists of local riders riding for local businesses and racing(or mostly riding) for charity. Bikes and riders are dressed up in all sorts of spectacular get ups.

wacky-races

The second race is the serious race. It’s a contest full of guns who are ready to fire. Blair, McConnell, Carlson, Fay, Cooper and Henderson are just some of the speedsters who lined up intent on grabbing the cash. It’s a cracking race the Dash. This year, I got myself into a good position early and was top six and out of the wind for most of the first four kilometres. However, as we approached the turn around point, I kept getting shuffled back with no way through. When an incline approached, the group accelerated and that was enough to see me off the back with 3 others just short of the tar. On hitting the road, I had the wheel of another, although the rider behind me literally took my wheel and went cart wheeling into the air. It was a nasty incident although he looked okay. The abrupt gradient then takes you up Constitutional Hill and throws you into the crowd of spectators encouraging you up the rise. Daniel McConnell took victory in a time of 10minutes and 11 seconds. I stopped the clock at 11minutes and 56 seconds.

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dash-1

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The next morning presented perfect riding conditions for a 110kilometre Fling. It was cool and fresh although the forecast was for hotter conditions later in the day. The race was a good one for me, although my legs felt dead in the first 30km of the event, probably due to the energies I spent on Constitutional hill. Riding along the Great Wall singletrack in the Wingelo Forerst, the first tinges of a cramp hit me. This wasn’t a good sign and with 70km to go I thought that I might be in a little trouble. Throughout the race, however, I seemed to get stronger. Coming out of the steep valleys and hitting the open firetrails of the Wingello farming lands, the rider in front started rallying riders to work together. It was the familiar face of Paul Bruce who had signed up not only to do the one lap of the Wingello loop but two. He had entered the crazy 100mile event (160km) and was sensibly, not keen on hanging himself out in the wind. At this point I was starting to sense the elite riders would be steaming through as they had started a half an hour after us. You can always gauge your progress on this mark. In 2009, the train came past me at about the 25km mark. Last year, they got me just before tangles, which was at the 55km mark. This year, however, the guns wouldn’t get me until the 84km mark.  A group of 4 came through leaving my bunch in the dust. A little later, Dylan Cooper arrived by himself. I remarked to one of the guys I was working with that he would be lucky to win from that position. He subsequently made a goose of me by winning the event by the smallest of margins! It must have been an awesome effort because he was some distance behind the lead train. He won in a time of 4 hours and 11minutes. I arrived home in a time of 5 hours and 16minutes bettering last year’s time by 40 minutes. Results are found here.

fling-start

So, as I have said, it’s time for a rest. I plan to spend 3 to 4 weeks totally off my bikes and hopefully come back stronger next year ready to tackle a major stage race like the Mountains to the Beach or Tour de Timor. It’s been a big year with my highlights being the Otway Odyssey race in Victoria, my first category win in the Tathra Enduro and a ninth overall at the Back Yamma Bigfoot in Parkes.  Happy trails to all for 2012!

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Highland Fling-Your Call

One of the biggest races on the Australian MTB calender is nearing start time. The 2011 Highland Fling. The Highland Fling is an MTB enduro with three options. The shorter 55km race, the most popular 110km journey and the 100miler for the riders who want to grind themselves into the dirt.  All three options come across a section of the course with approximately  five kilometres to go named Your Call. Your Call gives you a choice of two options and is always well discussed regarding which option is the quicker.  Go left, for a shorter and steeper passage or right, for longer and leveller journey as the route description provides.  There has never been any doubt that exit stage left is the quicker option, although today I thought I would find out by what time and whether it was worth going left up the more difficult option at the end of a 110km race.

In any case, I gave the right option a go first at an effort close to my maximum.

Going-right-1

As can be seen, going right gives you a more gradual gradient(maximum gradient-5.2%) and a smoother surface, although it is 870 metres in distance. This is 380 metres longer than going left. The gradient does give a little kick nearing the top of the hill as well. The time taken to ride this was 2 minutes and 40seconds at an average speed 19.5 km/h. Starting altitude was 669 metres and finishing altitude was 712metres.

 Next up was going left and the more trickier option. The route  has challenges all the way up. It’s steeper with a maximum gradient of 10%, double the incline of the first option. However, what makes it tougher is the loose, stony sections. One mistake and you are off pushing the bike. In addition, there are tree roots to avoid as well as rock step ups to navigate.

Going-left-11

On today’s effort,  I stopped the clock at 2minutes and 20 seconds with an average speed of 12.6km/ph. The real positive of this ride is it is only 490 metres in length and as can be seen is faster by a good 20 seconds.

I had heard that going left was still faster even when you walked it so I put in another run although this time I got off the bike  at approximately the half way point. This would be the point when many riders would have to get off and trudge to the point of the hill. This run was timed at 2minutes and 51 seconds.

Conclusion

What does this mean? In the end, probably not much as far as time and places are concerned. These efforts that I have given were all completed when I was relatively fresh, not after 105km. My last 110km Fling, I suffered a little on the way home with cramps. I chose to go right as I preferred to spin the nasties out of my legs.  How much time would I have lost? According to this result, probably not much. I guess if you can finish like you start, then going left is the way home.  However, I reckon, the majority of riders are better going right, although in the end it comes down to personal preference. For me in 2011, I’ll let my legs decide for me. See you out Flinging this weekend.

Race note-This was tested under race conditions in the 2011 Highland Fling. Even if you get off your bike half way, going left is faster by a good 15 seconds.