Friday, October 14, 2011

Australian 24 Hour Mountain Bike Championships

Today's entry is a guest-post from my mate Jesse Carlsson. Below is his report on the 2011 Scott Australian 24 Hour Mountain Bike Championships which took place last weekend in Canberra. Jesse raced in the Open Pairs division with my other mate, Alex Denham.  And not only did they race, they won.
After Dan broke his elbow a few weeks ago, the Orbea team was down to two for the 2011 Scott Australian 24hr Championships in Canberra. There was only really one option – enter the pairs category. So that’s what we did.

Jesse...seeing double
Last Friday we loaded up the car and made the long drive up the Hume to Mt Stromlo on the outskirts of the bustling metropolis of Canberra. We left home nice and early and got to our destination early enough to set up our transition area and do some last minute shopping. Unfortunately our favourite Canberra carb-loading joint no longer existed. The iPhone led us to Belconnen where we ended up having a nice romantic candle-lit dinner at a waterfront Italian restaurant. It was clear that Alex was suffering from a bad case of man-flu and I’d been fighting a sore throat for the week. Not ideal – but we weren’t going to let some phlegm get in the way of the race.

Alex burming

Our super support crew (Bron) arrived on a Saturday morning flight and made sure our pit area was in good working order – we even had a spot for the trusty foam ITB roller and glute ball.

Sure enough, midday Saturday came in a flash and Alex was off on his first lap. Before going any further I’d better tell you about our race strategy. When we studied the results from previous 24hr races we found that pairs teams would often race one lap on, one lap off with perhaps some longer shifts overnight. This usually translated to an hour on the track with an hour of rest before heading out again. I could not think of anything worse! Neither could Alex.

Given Alex’s recent stage race experience in Mongolia and Timor, and given that the only hour-long rides I do involve commuting to the office, we decided to do things a little differently. Our strategy was to start with a 6 hour shift each. This would take us from midday to midnight. From there we planned to swap to 3 hour shifts. This would mean that the second rider would only get a 3 hour break after their 6 hour shift – but if you think about it, how much more are you going to recover from a 6 hour effort in 6 hours than in 3 hours? Not much. We figured 8 laps would take about 6 hours so we decided on a lap count for each shift. So that was the plan – 3 shifts each: 8 laps, 4 laps, 4 laps. Easy.
So that’s what we did. Alex cruised around for his first 8 laps (about 110km). I was worried he was going to keel over with pneumonia every time he headed out of transition – the trail of mucus and phlegm behind him was impressive. Alex rode well and finished his shift early, despite some cold and wet conditions. 7 minutes before Alex finished his shift I saw the leaders racing through transition, their support crew excitedly talking into walkie-talkies. Despite the enthusiasm, the results suggested they were tiring – going lap for lap, which seemed to be their strategy early on, is going to wear you down slowly and painfully. Alex was able to match them by himself with mighty man-flu – impressive!


You’re probably wondering about the track as well. This year’s event returned to an hourglass course. Riders were required to do a “red lap” and return to the transition area before heading out on a “blue lap”. The blue and red laps were very different in style. I could say that the blue lap was more technical with varied terrain while the red lap started with a long climb before a fast and flowing descent… or I could be completely honest and say that the blue lap was terrible – boring rocky single track linked up with some nice traversal sections (Willo's Link was great), and that the red lap was awesome – a long steady switch back climb followed by a high-speed, flowing, bermed descent that left you wanting to climb straight back up again for another hit! The red lap was shorter – about 12km, while the red lap was roughly 14km. If you were in a team of 6 and only did blue laps I feel your pain and hear you screaming. I'll leave it at that.


I headed out at about 5:45pm with fresh legs for my first 8 laps. It must’ve been painful for the leaders to watch their lead rapidly disappear with our experimental race strategy. I didn’t see them when I passed, but finished my 8 laps with a lead of about 25 minutes. After we grabbed the lead we decided to cruise, conserve our energy and health, but keep our lap times consistent. We weren’t fussed with overall rankings; we just wanted a win in our category.

Alex headed out again for another 4 laps just before 11:30pm and grew our lead to 38 minutes; almost a lap. While Alex was out on track I was eating slowly but constantly. Soup seems to work well for me at these events and Bron had a bottomless pot of hot starchy goodness on the boil. I often think that a 24hr race is an eating competition with a bit of riding thrown in for fun. The challenge is to eat enough without over-eating – there’s nothing worse than trying to ride a bike while your stomach is demanding extra blood for digestion. It’s important to eat the right foods at the right time as well. Often it’s a challenge to get it down.

Our lead continued to grow and eventually our opponents in second place called it quits. This meant I got to finish a lap early, just after 11am – this was fine with me as the rain was rolling in again. All in all it was a successful weekend. Alex and I can't wait to see if more teams jump on the 6-6-3-3-3-3 bandwagon in future!
I’ve got to finish with some comments about our kit:
Firstly the bikes worked a treat – despite being super stiff, they were comfortable over 11+hrs in the saddle
We saw plenty of people fixing flats along the rocky course. In some places the rock arrangements seemed purposely design to maximise the chance of side-wall tears. Punctures were a big concern for us. Our Schwalbe Racing Ralphs didn’t let us down – the Snake Skin version works well for longer races where you don’t want to be putting a tube in at 4am in the cold, when you fingers no longer work properly
My Exposure lights were fantastic. I had riders on course calling me through well before I was ready to come past. I ran a Six Pack on medium on the bars and a Diablo on the helmet running with a 3 cell piggy back - perfect!

Here be gold!

Thanks to our super pit-boss Bron for helping us in transition once again – it’s a cold, boring job but we couldn’t have done it without you. Thanks also to those who have been helping us this year: Orbea, Bike Force, Jetblack, Bikebox / Schwalbe and Monza Imports!

Oh… and an honourable mention must go to the Canberra weather – particularly the nasty wind gust that took out the entire Orbea marquee followed by the downpour that wiped out the race set up. Thanks for that.
Happy riding!


No comments:

Post a Comment