Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dirtfest 2012 - QLD SS Champs

After last years mudfest at the same venue and after an extremely muddy race just 7 days before, the prospect of a dry race and strong SS field should have had me a little more excited than I was feeling going in to this years event. Getting my gear ready on Saturday afternoon, I realised that the bottom bracket on my Superfly SS was on its last legs, but I really wanted run the gearing(34/20) and tyres I had setup on it.  After some cleaning and extra TLC, I was fairly confident it would get through the 50K of Dirtfest.  I'd also had to recover a saddle from my "spares" pile after breaking the seat rail on my much loved Fizik Gobi in the previous week's race.

I had everything ready the night before, and was on the road by 6am to get a good park fairly close to the event and save lugging my stuff too far.  The traffic on leisurely drive up the coast was fairly light, but somehow there still managed to be an accident that closed the highway and we were forced to take a diversion.  I realised at this point that I was about 5 cars behind my mate and sometimes pit crew Andy.  Luckily the traffic in general seemed to know where they were headed as my phone GPS was playing up.  In the end we arrived only a little after 7am and were able to park about 200m from the track.  Andy and I found a good spot right on the track.

One of the peculiarities of this event was deep down in the rules(as found by Andy), it stated that changing bikes excluded a rider from the placings.  I still decided to take my back up bike in case I changed my mind about things before the race.  I decided however, to leave it on the car.

An announcement was made that the race start was to be delayed by at least 30mins due to the accident on the highway.  Potentially a problem as I only had pretty much the amount of fluid I thought I'd need before and during the race.  My plan was to be well hydrated at the start of the race and go with 2 bidons on the bike and if necessary stop for one bottle at the 5 or 6 lap mark.  This was another reason I wanted to race the Superfly, it had 2 bottle cages where my Ti Inbred had only 1...even though it would turn out I would notice pre-race that one of the mounting bolts was loose, and I used duct tape to make sure the cage would not come loose.

Race start finally came around, and it was wave starts with Elites off first, then Open and then single speed.  Including the SS girls, there were nearly 20 riders, a sizeable field.  I started on the 2nd row, but with the first row being about 7 or 8 riders wide, I found myself around 10th after getting through the start/finish chute and on to the fire trail.  I settled in behind FTR riders(Tim and Isaac), who were going just fast enough to make passing difficult.  On the first bumpy descent, I lost both of my drink bottles as they bounced out of the cages(Oh the irony).  I decide to push on and hopefully pick them up on the 2nd lap. With the tallish gear I was running, I managed to get past on the flatter fire trail.  Memories came flooding back of the circuit last year all muddy.  It was so much fun in the dry.  I started to catch and pass the open riders who had set off ahead of us.

When I got back to transition, I had to stop and get my one and only spare bottle, and got passed by Tim and Isaac.  I sat just behind them again so that I could get my dropped bottles which were still lying in the middle of the track.  With only one cage available, I drank as much of the 3rd bottle as I could and threw it off to the side of the track.  I eventually caught up to Tim and Isaac and rode with them for a while.  Then again  1 bottle bounced out of its cage!  This was somewhat bewildering as I have done many hundreds of ks with these cages and bottles and never had this kind of issue.  In lap 3 I was able to run my own pace and hit the climbs fast. On one of the descents nearly halfway round the track I hear a crack and the saddle disappeared beneath me.  I figured the stand-in saddle had suffered a broke rail like its predecessor, but when I looked down the seatpost is gone.  I rode on, trying to decide what to do.  Riding with no seat is way tougher than I thought, especially on flat ground with the low gearing of SS.  I decided that I would probably hurt myself if I pushed on in the single track without a saddle and turned around.  There was still a substantial amount of single track before the I got back to the start/finish, but I still make OK time and even found my lost bottle.  On the way back I changed my mind on pulling out of the race and got my spare bike and turned a disastrous race in to a fun training session on a fun track that I can't ride at any other time.

When I got back to my gear, I couldn't find the car keys only to discover I had them in my pocket.  I eventually changed bikes.  I stupidly decided to reset my bike computer, and headed back out on track.  The Ti On*One rides beautifully as always.  I found the bottle that I threw beside the track and stopped to pick it up.  With no spare cages I had to carry it in my pocket.  The rest of the race was fairly uneventful except that I was never really sure what lap I was on.  I also had to stop to fix my down tube mounted pump that had come loose and started rubbing on my crank.  I also had to stop on the last lap to re-mount my chain which was derailed by a stick when I passed a rider by going a bit off track.

In the end I did 7(+3/4) laps in 2:52 and finish well down in my category.   Its funny how the short races seem to be the most exciting and have the most drama.  As always, the event was well run, and it was a an awesome track in the dry, and no bike clean-up afterwards is always a good thing. Hat off to all the DirtMasters and DirtMistresses on a tough weekend.

Monday, April 16, 2012

2012 Super Series Race 2 - 4hrs of Mud(just for something different)

This must be first lap because I am so clean.
Race 2 of the Tailwind Promotions Super was to be my first race in the series this year after missing race 1 for a number of reasons.  The outlook for the race was good.  There had been some light rain during the week, but nothing to worry about.  Having ridden LunarC 8hr only a few weeks before using many of the same tracks, I figured that I would go with the same gearing, and basically the same bike setup in general.

My wife, Ali and friends were racing in various teams, and we went out on Saturday afternoon to get a good spot in transition.  Ali went out for a test ride and found that the track was bone dry other than a few puddles. Excellent news.   I knew it rained over night, but still expected the track to be OK and stuck with my Gary Fisher Superfly SS.

At race start, I lined up 15 or so riders back.  There was only about 30m or so of wide trail before a massive bottle neck as it went to single trail.  I managed to merge in with fellow single speeders Nick and Peter, but I knew "Matt Dog" was ahead somewhere.  The first part of the lap was the same as the 6hr last year, and while it was a bit wet, it was OK until the first climb.  It was at this point I realised my rear tyre choice(Maxxis Crossmark) was not the best and combined with my tallish gearing resulted in wheel spin.

I managed to get ahead of Nick and Peter somewhere early in the lap and caught Matt about midway.  The crossover point was a bit confusing, and I think in wee hours of a 24hr race might cause problems.  The descent through the new single track (which was unrideable uphill at LunarC) was very technical, but fun.  I pushed on the fire trail and had a small gap when a poorly marked turn had me go the wrong way for a few seconds.  Second lap Matt came back past me up the first hill running where I initially tried to ride but got too much wheel spin and had to walk too.  I sat behind Matt, but had a shocking series of corners where I got wheel slip on some roots then had to give track to some geared bikes which then held me up, and I didn't see him again.

It started to rain and some parts of the track became very tacky.  The new single track was particularly so with the top layer coming up and turning tyres in to slicks.  Steering was incredibly unpredictable and I drifted off into the trees a couple of times.

At some point Peter caught me back up on the first mud climb as I walked and he rode.  He got away from me for a while, but I pushed to catch up and followed him until he got a puncture.  With my bike sliding all over the place, I managed to break the rail on my seat when I went in to a G-Out awkwardly.  It didn't really slow me down too much, but was thankful that this happened on the lap that the single track was closed, and when I got back to transition I changed to my On-One Inbred Ti.   Which cost a few minutes changing over race number etc.  Mostly it turned out to be a good thing because I had lower gearing and Maxxis Ignitor rear and was able to ride parts of the track I could not previously.  The mud clearance on the front was not great though, and I had to stop on some laps to scrap mud away.

As the track dried it became a lot faster and more fun, and I realised with a lap to go that I was going to be close to squeezing in an extra lap and pushed hard.  By my clock(which I started on the gun), I crossed the line with just over 10s to spare(results have me in with 20s to spare) and expected to head out for 1 more lap, but was told the course was closed.  I was bummed to say the least, as I felt that I was starting to feel quite strong punching out a sub 28min final lap.

In the end I managed 8 laps, 62k and 2nd in SS and 10th solo(if I read the results correctly). Congrats to Matt and Nick, tough luck to Peter(punctures suck).  I always wish these races were a bit longer.  I just can't seem to pull these short races together and seem to be coming on strong as the race ends.  Well, maybe next time.  Good result nonetheless, and had fun, catching up with heaps of riders and it was not nearly as lonely a race as LunarC.

Thanks to helpers, Darien, Caeli, Flynn, Ben, Lee, Andi and Ali.  Also props to Shannon Duggan and his daughter who rode for 2.5 hours on a tandem bike, you guys looked like you were working hard, but having fun.

View full results here

Picture credits go to Alan Uthmann(heaps of great shots here), Imagewerks, Tailwind and Riley Taylor

Sunday, April 1, 2012

8hrs of LunarC III

Time again for what has been 1st race of the season for me for the last 3 years, LunarC 8hr.  The unique thing about this race is that it starts at Midnight.  Perfect for its scheduled time of late summer.  This years event was scheduled for 24th/25th of February but was cancelled due to high rainfall.  The race was eventually held on 30th/31st of March after a week of almost perfect weather.  With the rescheduled dates, it was almost 5 months since my last MTB race.

This was my 3rd LunarC event, with the first one in 2010 at Slickers my first ever Single Speed event, and I was entered in the SS category again.  Last year's event was moved to Murrenbong and great for me and I loved the track.  This year was a slightly modified version of last years track, so I decided to go with similar gearing of 34/20 on my Superfly SS.  With my back up On-One Inbred setup with lower gearing of 33/21.

This year I decided not to get to the event too early' learning from the last 2 years that midnight seems to take a long time to roll around.  Leaving home, I was not very keen at all to go race, and wondered why I do these enduro events.  I got to Murrenbong about 8:30, and the dirt road in to HQ was like a little adventure in itself, but I eventually dropped off my gear at the gear drop and parked the car.  I'd also learnt from last years event to pack light, and this year all I had was my food, a box of tricks and my bikes and no Gazebo.  At sign in, the SS entry list looked pretty slim and as it turned out of that list a number had changed to teams or age group category, leaving only 5 riders in SS make category.  By about 9:15 I'd found a place to set up.  I made my way around the transition area catching up with everyone I've come to know over the last couple of years racing.

Race briefing rolled around and we were told to line up with solo riders on the left and team riders to the right.  Cue, dramatic music as a devil masked character rolled down the hill with a burning torch befitting the Darkside LunarC theme.  The race eventually started and with a slight uphill, it suits strong SS riders, because the fast geared bike get out of the way leaving a bit of space when we get to single track.  I knew most of the track from last year, then we hit the new stuff, which was too steep for me to ride, even on lap 1....I knew I was up for a looong night.  I briefly considered changing to my spare bike with lower gearing, but think I may even have struggle to ride it on a geared bike, so slightly lower gearing would not have helped.  The course as a whole was in great shape, but was muddier in placed than I would have expected. Most notably in 2 spots.  One, a soft muddy climb that deteriorated through out the night so that I sunk deeper and deeper each lap and it just sapped the energy.  The second was first grassy climb under the power lines which last year was my favourite climb, but this year was a wheel spinning affair that actually found me heading in the grass to get traction.

In some ways the first 3 hours of the race were the hardest.  I hated not being able to ride the whole track, I had some knee pain and I realised my pre-race meal which included some beautiful salmon was not ideal.  Once my stomach got settled again and the pain in my knee went away, I got in to a nice rhythm and the laps just kept on ticking over.  I even knew when was the best place to unclip on the bit I had to walk, when to get back on the bike.  All in all I had quite an uneventful race, I had one soft fall at the top of the afore mentioned soft muddy climb when my mud clogged tyre slipped on a diagonal log. I almost had an OTB in a muddy G-out that had developed a deep groove that gobbled the front tyre.  I had a couple of closed calls when slower riders in front had moments in various tricky parts, but I managed to sneak past.  I had to stop and tighten my rear quick release at about the 6hr mark.  Through out the race, I had no idea where I was, I didn't see many SS riders or anyone really, so it really was a matter of ride for 8 hours and see where I was.  I finished the race in 8hr16mins and according to my GPS I was only stopped for 3mins.  I really think these 8 and 12 hour races are the right length for me.  My last lap was only 30s slower than my first and fastest lap.  That was partly due to me pushing hard and the fact that it was day light and the track was much clearer than on all other laps.  When I check the result listing at the end of the race I still had no idea where I had finished, because the results were from 6am(This was my only complaint of the whole event, I'm not sure what has happened to the electronic timing that I2A usually have), and riders I expected to see were not even listed.  So I was not sure of the final result until the presentations.  In the end I managed 14laps(117K) which was enough for 1st in SS and 2nd overall, and according to posted results, only 1m28s down on first over all.

All in all passing was not a problem and the track is quite good because there are regular fire trail sections that allow for passing.  The track was definitely tougher and therefore slower than last year, I did 2 less laps, mainly due to amount I had to walk.

Thanks again In2Adventure, the Marshals, to everyone that rocked up to support, to all the riders first timers and veterans alike.

My Superfly SS was flawless and AyUps lights were fantastic as always.

Detailed results here.

Hopefully I'll get some pics to post soon.


About Me

QLD, Australia
My interests include Mountain Biking, Rockclimbing and Photography