You are hereBlogs / Antsonline's blog / National Elite XCM Champs

National Elite XCM Champs

Antsonline's picture

By Antsonline - Posted on 18 May 2015

I wake up, and test my muscles whilst still in the safety of my bed. Tense my thighs – ok, tense my calfs – ok, roll my neck – feels good.
I push back the covers, and stand up.

I collapse, I feel like I have had my lower back punched by Tyson for 5hours. I go to the toilet – darkest urine ever.

That’s right – it’s the morning after the National Marathon Champs! This is how you are meant to feel!

A ‘season’ is a hard thing to define in MTB, but you can pretty much bet your house on everyone targeting the National Champs with their training. That’s why I love it. There are no excuses, no ‘I am training through this one’, no-one is racing with anything other than their best possible preparation. The event ha a different feel to it. Super friendly as always, but a slightly more intense edge. Car park conversations are a little shorter, a few more people are wearing their iPods to warm up with. There are a collection of people on rollers warming up. It smells of the Champs – tiger balm and warm-up oils fill the air.

Derby is a TINY town about 90mins from Launceston. It has received a huge grant to build trails and reinvigorate the community (which was once a mining hub). The World Trail crew have come in, and built trails everywhere. The scale of the development of the MTB areas has to be seen to be believed. Scratched into the heavily wooded hillside, there are miles and miles of perfect bermed, swooping trails built on soft, loamy soil. Grip-tastic.

Age-group races took place on the Saturday, and having pre-ridden the course, all the talk was of how hard it would be. The race loop was 30km long. Most age-groups would do 2 loops, with an additional 10km ‘starting circuit’ – of variations of this. Typically, you can be sure that 20kph is a reasonable guide to speed. Meaning a 90min lap.
Not so. We had ridden the loop a few days previously and it was taking us 2hrs at a pace that whilst not ‘race’ speed, was still sold.
My good friend Wayne ‘Dicko’ was off in the Masters 2 category, which is always competitive, and as I watched him climb the long, open, bitumen ascent that marked the ‘starting circuit’ he was in good shape. Sat in the bunch probably in 6th or 7th wheel.
After 40km however – with one lap to go, it was clear that it wasn’t Waynes day. I was waiting at the feed zone for him – to give him a bidon, a few gels and a pat on the back and send him off for the final 30km, and he wasn’t where I thought he would be. Category leader came through, looking good, a few minutes passed. Then a few more came through, another few minutes. Then Waynes normal competition – Darren came through in a 1hr 53min lap time – and no Wayne. Another 2 or 3 mins and Wayne was in (1hr 55mins), looking exhausted. He pulled the pin – which is very unusual for him. He looked at me and just said “Mate – three laps of that tomorrow will kill you. It’s the hardest loop I have ever raced”

Thanks mate!

Race day arrived, and I lay in bed excited. Unusually, not nervous, just keen. I had prep’d well, my bike was riding perfectly, tyres were right – I just wanted to go hard and race well.
Champs is different to one of the series rounds. In a series race, its about getting a good result – and securing points. Typically you might race it with a conservative start, and then ride through the field at the end. You wont win the race that way, but you will finish nice and high with your best result.
At Champs (at least in my opinion) you are there to try to win, not to race to avoid trying not to lose (if you follow). Its better to die trying, as the difference between 7th and 12th (for example) means nothing at Champs…

Warm up, music on, everything is perfect. Startline, jacket off, and wait. To give you an idea – starlines normally are a casual affair of jokes and laughing. This one was so different. Not much chatting, no laughs. Riders at the side of the road having their leg warmers taken off by others (presumably to avoid using too much energy!!!) – game faces everywhere.
Gun goes, and so do we. Straight up the bitumen climb.
The temptation is to go super hard. Your legs feel great, but you know it’s a 5hr race ahead of you.
A little group of 4 go clear – Tupac, Trekky, Blair and England. I am fine with that. I don’t want to go that hard, and would really box myself if I did. So kame up a second group of 4 – myself, Marc Williams, Ben Mather and Ben Bradley, with Tom Goddard just there too…

4km in – and straight into the singletrack that would make up the next 26km. that right – 26km of pure ST. No respite. Up, down, around – so tight and twisty. After 15km or so Shaun Lewis joins us and moves past and into the lead of our group. We are a congo line of 5 or so. No-one talking, just quietly riding realising how fast we were going. Tipping down one of the amazing tight descents, we were flying along. I was right on the edge of my ability just keeping up. A little gap opened, and I tried to close it through a super fast section of berms and bumps. I rode beyond my ability, and quickly realised it. Mistake – tipped into a berm and was thrown from my bike. I was rag-dolled down the trail and was stopped by my helmet hitting a tree (always wear a helmet kids!). The riders behind me literally had to jump over my bike and legs (they were travelling way too fast to stop) and just shouted “jeez – are you ok?”
I was.
I got up and dragged my bike from the bush. Bars were twisted, there was a tree in my rear mech, and my brake levers were pointed sky-ward. Quickly straightening that out, I jumped on and as usual for the next 100m rode like Bambi.
I got back into it, and put some real speed on. I rode back to my group after a bout 10mins on my own – burning matches that I knew would cost me later – but it’s a race – I’m here to race.

Through the first lap, and I am feeling fantastic again. 10th place, 1hr 31mins. Holy smokes. I grab a bidon (realising I had drunk one single sip for that entire lap – such was the intensity of concentration and effort) and headed off.
Myself and Marc Williams rode together for the whole of lap 2. I took the front on the long climb and really drove it hard. I wanted to try and bridge to the group ahead and knew that I had the legs to do it. Full gas, and by the top they were insight.

Into the dark ST in the woods and they were gone again. A very clean lap, no crashes this time, and a bit more drinking – I was comfortable and feeling good. A little twinge of cramp on a steep pinch, but that nothing to worry about. Towards the end of that lap, I realised I had lst Marc at some point – he wasn’t behind me. I pushed, and rolled through the feed feeling really positive in about 6th or 7th place.

Some great encouragement from what was a big crowd in the feed area, and I was stoked. Wayne told me afterwards that of all the riders coming through, I looked the most motivated and fresh. I felt great.
Out onto the big climb, and went to push on again. Nothing. That moment when you are late for work, and you turn the key in your car and nothing happens. You shake your head, and try the key again. Right?
I did that. Nothing.
I pedalled up the hill with what I could find. I got over the top and into the ST and realised that my lights had just gone out. Completely. I kinda giggled to myself as I don’t often REALLY blow. But this time I had. I knew the only thing for it was to eat as much as possible (deep inside, I knew it was too late) and take 20mis easier, and hope that something came back.
The first two chasers came past me like I standing still. I wished them well, congratulated them, and pushed on. At about 15km into the lap (15km to go) James Downing came past on fire too.
Good luck James – you have a hell of a chase on your hands.

Then alone. Silence. I rode on my own, in the woods, with no one in front, no one behind for what felt like an age. With 12km to go, even my Garmin left me. It too had suffered a hard day out, and shut down. Not even digital company.
I recognise where I am and with 5km to go I feel a bit better. One more chap flies past – I just shrug and smile.

I had gone there to ride as hard as I could, and not go home wondering ‘what if’. I did that and very pleased to have ridden as fast as I did for as long as I did. It was by far the hardest day out on a bike I have had for a long time. I wasn’t quite fit enough, and quite eat enough. But that’s ok. 12th is fine.

So – the first ½ of a season comes to a close. Time to take the honeymoon I didn’t have in September, time to ride my trail bike in baggy shorts, and not use my Garmin for a month or so. No training, just pleasure riding.
A huge thanks to the three ‘teams’ that support me with great product, encouragement and also time – Cyclery Northside: my epic was and is fantastic. Thanks for looking after it. BTW – it’s a bit f8cked-out after yesterday, so you’ll be seeing her soon Eye-wink PureEdge Nutrition – I worked really hard leading into this race, and I knew my weight would need to be as low as possible. Their products have helped me eat less, but ensure complete recovery from sessions – to get me back out there the next day. I cant imagine not using them now – and that I from a previous position of ‘sceptic’. And finally Attaquer cycling clothing – sure, they good and snazzy and loud, but the technology is incredible. The chamois padding in the shorts is as good as any I have ridden. If you need some plain shorts for general MTB riding – take a look at their ‘Normcore’ range – the best cycling shorts I own.

I'll pop some photos up soon - once they arrive in my inbox....

Here is a Strava file of the race (with the final 12km missing)...

Brian's picture

Great write up and it sounds like a tough course. I thought you might have turned the garmin off not wanting to know... Smiling

mike95's picture

great write up mate.

doc's picture

Well done Ants ! Great wrap up and hope I can get down there for a lap or three

Antsonline's picture

Well @Doc - dont mention it too loudly, but I think we might try and arrange a bit of 'team' trip over there at some stage in the summer - with the Northside crew + extras.
Details at some stage. Its a great venue and the trails are super fun for an XC bike with a bit of travel.

Everyone else - thanks for the messages on here, and the ones direct to me. It means a lot.

Pete B's picture

Well done Ant, still a cracking result and there's always next year to have another crack at it. Massive kudos for catching back up to the pack after your stack, not only a big effort physically but mentally too.

Have a great honeymoon, you've deserved it!

Antsonline's picture

Thanks Pete - its funny, I find getting back on after a crash real easy. So much adrenalin!
As I get older, I am not sure I will ever be Nat Champ (actually, I know that to be a fact) but I am happy to be right up there. I am very happy with a nice race. I loved it all - even blowing up.

I am 38yrs old, so next year will be my last as 'elite'. After that, I will be 40, and that means terrorising the Masters categories Eye-wink

Brian's picture

I've just marked the 2017 XCM Champs in my diary Eye-wink

Antsonline's picture

Is that a challenge Bri?
You want to race in 2017 Eye-wink

Bring it on!

sly_artichoke's picture

Great write up as usual. Sounds like a bit of a hell-trip but, ultimately, worthwhile.


doc's picture

Summer camp to that sounds tempting

And for a 2017 challenge, go for it boys !!

Antsonline's picture

Thanks Simon @sly_artichoke - It was just a hard race, as it should be. A great trip. wonderful place.

GarethP's picture

Love a good race report and great hearing how things are at the pointy end! Good hurting!

Blades_Utd's picture

Top effort Ant, sounds like such a hard race! It's great to be able to get these insights into what's going on mentally for you as the race progresses. Not looking forward to your 'graduation'(?) to Masters in 2017.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Best Mountain Bike