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Spring Racing Block - Evocities Wagga / Shimano MTB GP Mt Annan / Kowalski Classic 50km

mike95's picture

By mike95 - Posted on 25 September 2015

Winters has been a pretty quiet affair as far as racing goes.

Apart from a crit race at Heffron, I hadn’t done any racing over winter since the Bathurst round of the evocities series in May. Early on in winter the cumulative effects of fatigue crept up on me & i found myself falling ill twice in quick concession. I decided to make a few changes to my training. Tired of falling ill, I needed to strengthen my immune system. I made the decision to forgo the 5am wake ups & early morning training rides for evening indoor sessions on the trainer. Cutting out the junk km's, getting plenty of sleep, with targeted sessions on the trainer, & a few hi intensity park chop sessions.

As winter came to a close, It was time to kick off the change of seasons & get back into some xc racing. First up was the final round of the Evocities MTB series in Wagga. Peter Fisher & myself had raced the first 3 rounds, & with two first places & a 2nd, we had a nice little lead in the pairs category, but missing the 3 middle rounds in a best of 5 series meant it was going down to the wire in Wagga if we were to take the series win.

Evocities Round 7 - Wagga 6hr
Position – 2nd
Time – 5:22:14 – 9 laps ( we did 10 but final lap didn’t count )

Peter & I arrived in Wagga on the saturday before the race & wasted no time checking out the Pomingaralna Park course. Heavy rain in the days leading up to the race had left many parts of the course with heavy mud & standing water, but 90% of the track was hero dirt. It was a great course though & I was looking forward to riding it at full noise.

Race day arrived & I chose to do the opening lap. I got a good start & had a nice lead on our closets rivals by the end of the first lap. We slotted into 2nd place in the pairs to local team of Daniel Beresford & Todd Cuthbert. As the day went on, Peter & I managed to increase the lead to our series rivals & stay out of trouble. The mud was causing a few problems, & it was nice to be able to come in after a lap, & give the drivetrain a quick clean & re lube.

By the end of the race we had secured 2nd place with Peter missing the 6hr race cut on his last lap by seconds. We had done enough though, & secured a series win. Happy days & a nice return to the dirt.

After the beating my bike copped in the mud at Wagga, I had Tsz at MC Cycles, stripped my bike down, clean & degrease of the pivots, new front chain ring, chain, bottom bracket, brake bleed, I was ready for the next race, The Shimano MTB GP at Mt Annan. This time i would be racing solo in the 4hr.

Rocky Trail / Shimano MTB GP - 4hr
Position – 4th
Time – 4:16:11 – 8 laps

Id had a great result the previous year at Mt Annan, & its a course that suits me. A few weeks earlier id got some solid training in at Mt Annan & I was feeling good about the race. I hadn't done a 4hr in a while & i knew from the past year that the Mt Annan course slowly starts to beat you up after a few hours. This race was no different & with the course being extended with even more single track this year, it was going to be a tough day out.

The morning of the race i meet up with local boy & mate Trent Pons. We did a nice warm up & had a good pre race yak. I new Trent was going to be very hard to beat here, with Mt Annan, being pretty much his back yard, he's probably cut more laps here than anyone. A few other big names from Canberra had made the trip for this race & i knew it was going to be extremely hard to repeat last years result & get on the podium today.

The race started at a furious pace with Dylan Cooper, Lewis Cressy, Trent Pons, & David Loyd making up the first group. I slotted into the 2nd group with Andrew Finlayson & Ed McDonald who were racing the longer 7hr. I was feeling pretty good on the first lap & after catching my breath from the hectic start I was ready to push on & see if I could make up some ground to the front bunch. I went pretty deep for the next lap, trying to bridge the gap. Full gas you might say, but It was to no avail. I couldn't keep that pace up for the 4 hours so i had to shift back a gear & settle into a rhythm that would see me to the end. You never know what might happen in a 4hr race, mechanical’s, crashes can all happen, so I tried to stay positive & keep out of trouble.

The day was unusually hot for early september & with the temps pushing 26 degrees by 11am, I had to keep reminding myself to drink & get a gel or 2 into me every hour. It can be quite tricky on a course with so much single track.
The middle part of the race became a metal battle. I was tiring & was having thoughts of shutting it down early.
My lower back was starting to protest & i was questioning why i was out there. By the 3hr mark my spirits lifted somewhat with the end in sight.

Coming into transition on lap 7 at around the 3 hr 45 minute mark, Id had enough, but i couldn't get off the bike, Something inside me wouldn’t let me, "you can do another lap, just one more", so i grabbed a bottle & gel & went out for my final lap. That lap was really hard work, with my every small bump radiating thru my body. I was a wreck & was making a few error due to fatigue but I made it to the finish without crashing. Id finished in 4th place overall in the 4hr race. It was not the result i wanted but i was happy with the way i toughed it out & finished on the lead lap with some very strong riders. With Mt Annan done & dusted, my thoughts moved to the Kowalski classic. The final race in this 3 race block.

Good mate Anthony Shippard had ridden the course a few weeks earlier. He had had given me a heads up on a few sections that could make, but more likely break my race. The Kowalski brothers had a treat install for the riders showing off some new technical single track that they had built over 2015. The new trails Romper Room & Stairway to Heaven were on everybody's lips & they were set to test riders skill.

The Kowalski Classic - 50km
Position – 10th overall, 3rd in category ( Veterans 30-39 years ).
Time – 2:19:39

I had chosen to do the 50km half Kowalski, & with the last 10km or so featuring the above trails, it was going to make a tough but exciting finish to the race & it was imperative that you save a bit for the last 10km. Arriving in Canberra on the Saturday arvo with good mate Andrew Wells, we got rego done & headed straight to Kowen forest to do a recon of the course.

A nice easy pedal around the Kowen forest trails is such good fun. The trails just flow but also demand all your concentration to ride fast, & i find that its easy to push to hard & override them at times. The age old saying of "smooth is fast" really applies here, & i was reminding myself to try & freewheel as much as possible & only push on the pedals hard when it’s needed. Hold as much corner speed as possible. Smooth in, smooth out. Sounds easy hey. I was feeling really good after Saturdays recon. Riding the technical trails of romper room & stairway to heaven for the first time, I found them not quite as hard as expected. I was pumped & frothing at the bit to get racing. After a feed of Thai & a few laughs with the boys on saturday night it was time to turn in.

The morning broke to a typical chilly Canberra spring morning, but the light cloud cover meant it wasn't bitterly cold, which i was happy about. I don't seem to function that well when the temp drops below 7 degrees. Arriving at race hq, there are many familiar faces. I get a good warm up in, & before i know I’m on the start line & ready to race.
The race starts with around a kilometer or so of open fire road going up a bit of a climb, before entering the single track. Track position at the start of the race was going to be very important.

I get a good start & push on thru the first section. I crest the climb & with the start of the single track in sight a few attacks take place to get the hole shot into the single track. Mindful of the mistake i had made a week earlier at Mt Annan, i decide to ride at my own pace from here in & not go to deep for to long. I catch glimpses of the lead riders over the next 30-45 minutes. After around 1 hour i realise I'm catching one of the riders in front, & its not long before I've caught 2. we ride around in a group of 3 for around 15 minutes at a good pace.

About now the race exited the single track for an extended piece of fire road including a few stout climbs before the swithcback climb named "the escalator". I really push on the pedals hard thru here & break away from the group of 3. I also start to catch a few glimpses of the next group in front. With the vision of riders in front the temptation to go full gas was hard to resist, but i had to refrain from going to deep & save some legs for the final 10km.

Descending thru Kowalski sideshow & Ren, its then onto the rolling thunder climb. Over dinner the night before, we had discussed this section of the 50k race. If you could push hard & get track position here, it would be hard to get past thru Romper Room & Stairway to heaven. I push on the pedals hard & my heart rate goes into the red. I try my best to close the gap to the next group & maybe, just maybe pick up a position or 2. The move doesn't come off & I've burnt a few bikkies in the process.

By the time i get to Romper room I'm almost ready to blow & fatiguing badly. I somehow steer my bike down the rocky decent without binning it. Just one more climb & this one requires the most technical skill & some upper body strength. Its time for "Stairway to Heaven". I'm sloppy up the climb & i find myself dabbing & making silly mistakes that I didn’t make the day before when I was fresh.

As the climb snakes its way up the hill you get vision of the riders in front & behind, making you unsure if your gaining time or loosing time. I find myself missing a few corner apexes & just not getting the bike positioned correctly on the tight switch backs & step ups. I make it to the top without major incident though. One last section to go. A great descent to the finish. Anyone who has done the Mont 24 hour would know this descent. You can really pin it down here, railing the berms & launching off the jumps. My arms & legs though feel like jelly though & i play it safe, keeping the wheels on the ground. I hold my position & pass thru the finish line.

I see a few familiar faces on the line. Unfortunately its Wellys & Wayne Disckinson. Wellsy had had a solid crash early in the race & dicko had a double flat. They both had to retire. Dicko says to me "i think you may have got 3rd in your age group". Checking timing i had finished in 2:19:39. 10th overall & 3rd in the 30-39 years group. Stoked to sneak into the top 10, it was time to rehydrate, & soak up the atmosphere of the race, kickback in the event center while awaiting the arrival of the elite riders as they finish the 100km race.

The Kowalski brothers put on a great event, & i urge anyone considering this race to do it next year. You won't be disappointed. Great vibe, fun & challenging trails. The Brothers really know how to build some sweet xc trails & I'm sure to come back next year.

Time now to have a few weeks break from racing, Enjoy some pleasure rides, before Wellsy & I head to Tasmania for the 4 day stage race in November. The Hellfire Cup. Can't wait for that!

Blades_Utd's picture

Good block of racing there Mike! See you at the Hellfire.. it's a lot of fun.

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