As I waited the start line in the 36 degree heat one of my team mates stood next to me and learned over,”Just aim to keep in the middle of the pack and you will be fine”. I felt OK but a bit apprehensive. A year ago I was being dropped in our local D-Grade criterium races and I was now lined up in Division 3 of the Orica Kermesse.
I spent the morning watching the girls and juniors race. The division 2 womens race turned out to be a bit of a non event with the Central Coast Cycling Club (CCCC) women being outnumbered and not having the opportunity to have a hard race. The CCCC Juniors took out 2 other races available.
It’s been almost 6 months to the day since I started work with Mick Curran as my coach. I am sometimes confounded by where we end up, not so long ago I would never have dreamed of even riding my bike to work, let alone being under the guidance of a World Record Holder and multiple National Champion.
This was the first time I was competing outside of Central Coast Cycling Club and was one of my 2016 goals. The nerves where there but I knew I had trained hard and just starting the race ticked off that goal. The longer I could hang on to the race, the further I had come in my training.
With the heat I was mindful of the 2 bottles I had and spoke with somebody to try to get a refill mid race if needed. Once we were off the pace went out at about 40kph for the first lap. A 3 man break went out but my goal was to stay and finish with the bunch. It was both awesome and a bit daunting racing in a group of 60. The HEZ roads had us at 3 abreast most of the way.
The break came back about half way through the second lap. I was just feeling good because I had ticked off 1 full lap. There was some surging but nothing to drastic, just lots of 20 second 300-400w bursts. I found the hardest part of the course the start/finish straight but I think so did most of my division as they mostly coasted after the roundabout. The sprint out the entry roundabout proved to be the biggest repeated effort.
I was still there by lap 3 and the group seemed to have fallen into a rhythm. I’m not sure if this was a good or bad thing but many around seemed to be tiring. Passing the lap board I thought “one more down, maybe I can hang on here”
I’m not sure what happened but on lap 5 the group got split into three just after the round-about a 4 man break had gone and a small group behind had formed. Somebody had let a gap form and within seconds it went right out. I wondered if this was the race done but moved up the front of our group and worked with another guy to bring it back. Didn’t take long and the group was back to one.
A second rider went off the front but the group let him go, having said that they smashed it out of the turnaround at the entrance and it took a bit to make sure I did not get a gap. I was bunched in and moving with 3 other CCCC riders about half way back when I heard a motorbike. Thinking that we had to let a faster group through I turned around and I was on the back. I looked back at the group and it seemed like that last surge had wiped out half the group. I could be wrong but we started with over 60 and there was not 60 here…
Coming back to finish area, down the hill we were on the second last lap about to tick over for the last. I was feeling a bit more confident with the race, and even trying to make a few plans of how I would approach the last stage and straight. I came around the bottom right hand corner onto the straight and just as I was straightening the bike back up I hear a bang and the front wheel goes into the air as it comes down I get the bike back under control and all I can hear is a hissing noise. I put my hand up and pull over. I’m not sure what happened but I’m pretty sure I hit something and hit it hard. (On examination after it was a pinch flat with a nice big snake bite) The motorbike behind me stepped and got some debris of the road but I was at the bottom of the hill by this stage. I looked around but with no team car with a spare wheel I was stuck in no mans land and begin the kilometer or so walk back to the were the club was soigneuring in the feed zone. I thought well at least I can have a drink, look down and my bidon is gone…
Taking the positives away I kept up for the bulk of the group and am confident I would have at least been with the bunch at the end. At the end of the day I was down the price of a tube and I did not have an accident. It was very cool to be in such a big group and soak up the atmosphere of such an event. And even got to through my bidon of to the side (Managed to land it next to my car)
I took the opportunity to take some pictures of other CCCC & MCC riders before heading down to watch the final finishes.
Big kudos to HDCC for putting on the event, CCCC for supporting us all and of course Mick Curran for getting me to a stage to tick of another goal. Did you attend or get some pics? Drop me a line and let me know how you went.
And as always big thanks to the Pushy Galore crew.
I have known of the boarding house dam for some time but had never really had the chance to go looking for it. I always figured it was one of those non-literal things like the name of a rock formation or something. The last time I did the MT Faulk road climb some people in a 4WD stopped and asked me if I knew directions. I went home and googled it only to discover that it actually was a dam. On top of that the parks service had built some woodern boardwalks close by. Figured “Epic Gravel Adventure to find the dam” was on the cards.
The route was pretty simple, go up Mt Faulk rd (Cat 2 climb) past Heaton lookout and follow the road till I found Slippery rock rd on the right. It was about 11k from the start. I dawdled my way up the hill, still sore from the previous days climbing just trying not to push the the red too much. This climb is where my Avanti Giro comes into its own. With the CXKing tires on it just eats its way up the hill. I have done the same climb on my XC bike and it took me 4-5 more minutes to complete it. Cresting the top I veered past the lookout turn and headed for the dam.
I reached a fork in the road which I thought was too soon from what I had seen on the map. I checked my phone but no reception so I elected to stay on what I thought was the main road. Turned out it was the main road but to Cessnock. I headed for some kilometers down the road before i wondered. I knew there was a slight descent before I got to the turn but the road went away faster then I had expected. I was now descending looking to my right for the turn when I around a bend and all I could see was farm land. Oops… A check of the map, as I know had phone reception, showed that I should have turned at the earlier fork and I was several kilometers of course. TO add to this I now had to turn around and go up the hill I had just come down. The return gradient was 21% at times and my garmin was showing 4.1kph. It was a slow grind back up to the top of the hill then the trip to double back to where I had come.
I found the original fork and went down the right way. It was now raining however for what its worth the rain was cool and actually quite nice. The descent was more what I expected and went on for about 2k before I finally see the right hand turn and the first of any sign mentioning the Boarding house dam. A small rise for 200m and then a quick little descent saw me in a picnic area and the dam in plain sight!
The dam itself was small but really awesome. There was a small set of steps leading down into it and a pathway that ran along the left side. I followed this path down to a small bridge that had been built over the creek that the dam flowed into. A few pics later then it was back to the gravel as I was running behind the deadline I had. The climb back out was a constant gradient for about 2k. Then back onto the undulating Watagan road for a short while.
Finally I passed Heaton lookout turn for the final 4k decent and time to test out the new brakes. In short the work! Its a rough decent at the best of times but on a full rigid frame it will shake the crap out of your arms. The actual track is not too bad part form about 1k down for 200m and the final 1k, which is the steepest and the roughest. Sometimes the back would skip and the brake would grab which on landing would be a quick slide. The relief of hitting the tar was welcomed before a quick dash back to the car and sitting down. Now I feel hungry.
Yeah come for a ride with us on the weekend, oh its you first time? Yeah we will just do an easy roll…
Ok I’ve adlib’d how I’m pretty sure thats how the conversation went to down but April organized a quick roll down the old road on Sunday with a “Oh by the way the way I have somebody coming its her first time so an easy roll”.
When she meant her first time, she really meant her first time on a bike since being a kid! So a 65k round trio with 1500m climbing? Yeah sounds as good as any to start.
Anyway it was fun cruisy day out and she smashed it.
For the past 10 years there has been a gathering of the clans in the southern highlands. The small town of Bundanoon gets overrun with mountain bikers preparing to undertake the Camelbak highland fling. This epic mountain bike rise has comprised of a 110km and 55km cross country race. These 2 races are known as the full fling and the half fling. Recent additions have included the insane 100 mile race, the shorter 23km (Some fling) and the flinging threesomes (team race).
I have some friends that have done the full fling and half flings in the past had informed of just how hard the ride actually was. Honestly how hard could it really be right? We had planned to go down the morning of but some last minutes changes meant that we went the night before. In a hastened rush to get packed I discovered that my Scott Spark had lost all the air from its rear shock. Rapidly running out of time I grabbed my CX bike (Avanti Giro AR2) and put it on the bike rack. That was plan B (or plan CX if you wanted to give it a cool code name)
We arrived on dusk to Bundanoon to what was a very busy little town full of people, bikes and a giant blue box. I went to find the shimano mechanics to regas my shock whilst Mick (who had come down with me) went to find the registration building. After 3 pumps (actual pumps, 2 were broken) the Shimano guys had my shock back and working again. Heres to hoping it would hold. We got rego done then in the falling light raced over to the pony club to setup camp. This actually proved to be quick and painless exercise. We got the bikes packed away and luggage stowed before heading back to town for something to eat. However by this stage the town had shut down. I swore I had seen a club on the way in but it turned out that the only place we could find was a small little Chinese restaurant. Quaint is the best way I can explain it, right down to the thick plastic on the table cloths. This however turned out to be in the favor of the staff as Mick and I seemed to get the bulk of the rice all over the table. We returned to camp and were asleep before long.
05:42am My phone starts to go off. I see a big picture of Will on the screen. “Hello” is the sleep induced response I give him. “Were you asleep?”, “What the $^% do you think”, “HAHAHAHA, where do I register?”. Will had gotten up at some stupid hour and had just arrived. He headed to find the rego location whilst i lay there trying to come to grips with th reality of sleeping on yoga mat all night. Suddenly I hear a strange noise like a cat preparing to to die before the roar of “Scotland the Brave” being blasted through the valley by a bagpiper. Yes there was a guy in a kilt, in a paddock playing the bag pipes. Really don’t know why I bothered to set the alarm…
We regrouped, got prepped, ok I got coffee, before getting the race plate on the bikes. We had a brief time before the start of my race, the “Half Fling” 55k. Mick and Will had entered the “Some Fling” 23k race. We wandered the exhibitions including the specialized truck and getting my free GU energy gel (pineapple for those playing at home) and rock and roll lube. The “Full Fling” and “100 Milers” set off as we were wandering around the start. Insane to think there were people out to ride 161k! Not just dirt but single track!
By this stage we had gotten into our riding gear and I was cold. Around me everyone had started to do some warmup rides and I elected to follow suit. A lazy wander ended at the back of the starting grid before I found the most awesome April, looking well tired and cold. We had a quick chat, selfie and wished each luck before the half fling field set off. The field for this even was huge. 503 riders set off and all tried to channel into a small chute. Yeah that was slow, but the moment we were onto the dirt it was all on. I had lost April in the mix but just set about finding a good tempo as we had a long way to go. My goal was to finish the race in 3 hours and finish high up in my age group. Mind you I had no idea at the time how many were in my age group.
We round the corner and found some riders of similar pace to mine. As we work our way forward through the group I found April and did my best to say hello and get a picture. The road started to drop away and I realized that I had not put my glasses on. At this point I also remembered I had forgotten to get more food and just had the GU gel squished into the bottom of my pocket under an inner tube. No more time to think, glasses on and up the first short hill that went through a dairy farm. This was the first slowing of the group as some rider struggled even here on the first climb. I followed another rider on the right before cresting the hill to a rapid set of grassy undulations and just as quick a second climb.
Now I had overheard Will say that if there was water he was not going to ride through it. At the time I thought really? I mean how much water could there be. This was answered quite quickly as about 2 km into the race I discovered what was the first of several deep creek crossing. Even if you wanted I don’t think many would have attempted to ride across it, I just didn’t want to get me feet wet but I’m precious like that. The next few kilometres was mostly fire trail and the pace was high. Heading down one of the hills i noticed that my front wheel appeared to be wobbling! Some quick onboard diagnostics revealed that the quick release had come open and I was forced to pull over and reset it. This was quick but getting back in the train of riders cost me precious seconds.
For now the road remained basically fire road, winding up and down. We weaved through the pine forests and took on some fast descents, one of which proved to be really sketchy towards the bottom as it was all loose gravel. Our first and somewhat brief experience of single track and then on to what appeared to be a very long flat road with the most amazing views. I pulled my phone out to get a shot before realizing that the road dropped away, fast! I stuffed the phone back in to my pocket just in time to start the descent. The road ramped quickly up before turning left and into some think under growth. We were only about 15k by this stage and we hit the first of an insanely steep short climb and rough terrain. Most of the riders dismounted and I was forced to do the same, hunkering my way up the hill with my bike. Over the crest and down through some thick bush before an insane of camber left hander brought us to the bottom of a gully. Thick deep black mud awaited there and no matter which line you took it was tough. Bikes were going everywhere and you just had to keep peddling. The tires became heavy and full, the only thing left was to pick a rut and hope for the best. Thankfully I did not come off but others around me where not so lucky. Luckily for all involved we were met by another creek crossing. You would think that riders may want to get some mud off their bikes but hey…
At this point we entered a paddock and followed a trail winding up the left towards a farm house. This met up with some hard pack road were I was overtaken by a rider trying to catch up with his friends. I felt it best if i was to stay with him for company. By this I mean slipstream and get a tow. This work for a k or so before he caught his friends. I went around trying to make up some more time. We turned back off the road to some simple single track which wound on for a short period before arriving in the first transition area. This was a relief as in my head it was the half way point. It wasn’t really turned out I was not good at math and riding at the same time.
The road he was slightly down high and hard packed. I got down as low as I could, put hands in close to the bars and went into my best impression of a TT rider. What I neglected to realize was that I picked up a couple of passengers as i kept pace at 42kph. When i finally rolled off they came through and we took turns till the road turned back to the left and rolled down through a vineyard. More quick fast hills ensured before all of a sudden in the middle of a paddock everyone has stopped. It turned out a heard of cows had strayed across the course and we where being held until it was safe. I took the opportunity to go to the toilet and take a picture (Of the line and other people going to the toilet). It was a few minutes before they started letting us go again and we headed down another hill. And yet another creek crossing.
Coming up the other side we had about 4k of winding uphill single track. This is where it started to hurt, I could here all the people around sucking in the air as the climb just kept going. When cover finally broke we were back in the pine plantations we had visited about an hour before. The road headed up a few hills before doubling back to some long negative inclines. I was following the group here in the picture including the girl in pink, holly crap can she bunny hop! The road became tighter again before hitting single track that wound its way along the creeks. Man there must be some big wombats around here, the burrow entrances were huge. The trail run up slightly before the longest but shallowest of the river crossings. After this it was a looong climb that worked its up an too the left. I think this is were the entire field came to a grinding halt. Little did I know that this is where the hard stuff really started!
The moment we crested the hill and went past the carolers (yeah I’m confused too. If anybody knows what was going on please let me know) the trail dropped fast before a tight right. The rider in front of me hit the deck hard as his back wheel caught a root. It wound around rooty and rutted before a quick opening saw us enter a field with some rock drops, had a picture taken and then onto brokeback mountain. This climb just kept going and going. I was just about out of energy now but I couldn’t get my only energy gel out to use. Trying on the climb provided to be impossible. As I got to the top the guy in front let me past and I headed down the descent. Halfway down my back well hit something and bounced the bike in the air. No idea of how i did not crash but I became unclipped and landed on the top tube. Owwwww.
The track became really tight, the ups were steep and so where the downs. By this stage a lot of people were getting of their bikes to get off. Often you would not have the choice either due to the line that would form or if a creek crossing was evident. The track got tighter and more mud. This time I did fall off. Getting back up, one shoe undone i pushed on, doing ti up as i went. We crossed back through the original water crossing, dinosaur still in attendance. The final single-track beckoned on a few kms to go. By this stage everyone was exhausted, just kept pushing, over rocks, logs and bridges. People coming off, footing being lost and genitals being cupped. Finally it came out on to fire road, i don’t think I have ever been so relived riding. I pulled out the tube from my pocket, slung it over my head and enjoyed the best energy gel that has ever been created. the GU energy pineapple! With about 7 to go I pushed for what i could but with the slowing for fuel and the exhaustion a number of people passed me.
The trail ran past the 5k to go sign as two riders fought for the line on some fire road before coming off in the wet. I swerved to the right and got past as they started to argue with each other. We pushed on down a long hard packed road. I was pushing as hard as I could but could still not catch the rides in front. We turned and went through another vineyard before headed up a hill, 500m to go! At this point there was a free beer tent, I resisted and pushed on, under the road bridge before pushing as hard as I could with what was left up the hill and under the final banner.
I rolled over to find Will who took a pic before rolling slowly back to the tent for beer. The went and found my burger and cookie, then more beer. Finally we packed up and went home, the soundtrack of which was mostly me complaining about have sore quads and relegating each other with stories of how awesome we were. The real questions, would we go back. Yeah for sure, the others are already planning how many days they want to camp for next time.
Finish Time: 03:06:08.1
Overall: 135 / 503
Gender: 131 / 458 (Male)
Categ: 35 / 93 (Veteren Male)
Just a couple of weeks out from the highland fling I figured I should probably put some more k’s in on the dirt.This was a pretty simple challenge. Get the Giro with some knobby CX tires and ride it up Mt Faulk Rd before my friends turned up to do a lap of Awaba. I rode out on the fire road on the CX bike, the narrow bars proved to be a bit twitchy but otherwise felt good. Turning right out from the Awaba entry saw a tared piece of road that started a steady climb up and to the right. I knew there was a bit of climbing being a Cat 2 climb, but how hard could it be right.
Turns out, hard. The first half was probably the worst. After turning that first corner the tar makes way for gravel and the incline picks up. It was at this point I regretted not having completed a decent warm-up and really my overall decision that this would be fun. The first 1.5k just stayed constant, hot and dry. After this the road eased in its gradient and the foliage offered up some coverage from the sun. The road was hard packed and I found I was able to shift back up a couple of gears.
The road turned sharply to the right in a uphill hairpin. The road here kicked up to its steepest gradient for about 200m. My heart rate picked up to its max and my saving grace was that I was over the halfway mark. Standing seemed to be the best way to balance power and traction as I just keep pushing.
The road turned back again to the left and I was now afforded the views for the 300m I had climbed thus far. This did last long as the trees became thick and the road continued on its now gruelling 8% average. Finally the last climb came up and I was greeted with a short but welcomed downhill section before another brief rise.
The road forked at a rather black looking dam and I headed down a road towards the Heaton Lookout. This was gravelly in sections but mostly hard packed. At this point I encountered a few 4wd’s who were exiting the picnic area. I arrived and was greeted with a spectacular view from Newcastle down to the top end of the Central Coast. I stopped briefly to take a pic before heading back.
The descent was sketchy at best. My cable discs did not like the descent and trying to handle a CX bike on the drops, at speed, on loose surface proved challenging. The brakes them selves required a lot of pressure to get good modulation which just lead to hand cramping.
I got to the bottom and met up with my friends before doing some single track on the CX bike. It was fun at the start but the appeal wore off pretty quickly. Mind you I set a PR up the camel back climb so must have been doing something right.
Hanging out with April. Laughing and talking about socks. And eating.
We are very much on baby duty now and when it came to the crunch we torn as to go to the penultimate round of Newcastle Cyclocross. the kids were desperate to go and ride their Cyclocross race aka the velodrome as they missed out the last round. So we packed up the hospital bags and the bikes and set off to Adamstown.
The cool and overcast day turned out to be quick bright and warm. By the time the kids where lining up to start their “citing lap” any trace of warm clothing was well and truly removed. Both kids even took the opportunity this time to do some warm up and practice. The lead out for the kids was by event organizer Shannon Lister. The course went anti clock wise around the velodrome before pulling of through the middle with a sharp left hand turn then around back onto the velodrome. The kids had to get off at this point on to the grass and get their bikes over 2 100mm high barriers. Most kids struggled to get over these, the design is probably somewhat flawed (yes I made them) in the end I had to laugh as Emily just kicked it over and walked her bike across. Both kids did great Connor was on the bike/off the bike incredibly fast and was constant throughout his laps. Emily took a bit more getting going on reach remount but to watch her take the sharp left of the track was amazing, she was regularly scraping her pedals as she stuck it in each lap. I suspect her ambition got the better of her as I turned round to find her off the bike, she stated she had tried to ride up the steep embankment that this velodrome had and come off as result. The last lap sounded and massive credit to her she got back on her bike and finished the lap out. Incredibly proud here of both my kids, who at the beginning of the year were struggling to even ride their bikes, let alone race in close quarters. (Watch out Emily will but a racing move on you to get past… 🙂 )
When it came to the my race I had chosen again to compete in the Elite Mens race. I had contemplated doing the B-grade race but I did want to say that I had completed all the CXNewcastle races at this level. As we were lining up to start they widened the entry onto the course. This last-minute reshuffle had me sitting further forward in the line then I had been in the past.
On the start it was on and either I read it right or a heap of others read it wrong because I was all of a sudden at the pointer end then I am used too. I did my best through this first lap as I was well within my rights to hold my place so I thought wide thoughts and pushed on as hard as I could. Attrition showed that with in the first lap and a half I was back towards the back-end where I normally would sit however I was doing a decent job of holding my own against another rider. #111 We pushed on for a lap with him right behind me before finally catching me after going to deep into a muddy hairpin and getting my handlebars caught on the bunting on the way out. I pushed on behind him, entering part of the crit track which allowed me to have a moment to catch a slip stream and get me breath back. With in moments we hit an unridable embankment and I was able to get the better dismount and grip to run up the hill. A clean remount and clip in saw me gain a vital few meters and cleared him for the next lap. However coming out of the same point on the track only on the next lap I was unable to clip in, took a to aggressive line through the corner and was spat out wide. Problem was this is also were a ditch was located and I did my best to ease the bike back onto the road whilst maintaining traction and clip back in. This loss of momentum meant that he was right on my tail, heading up one of the fast hills with much more momentum then me. I pushed as hard as i could but the gap had blown out to about 20 meters, with time i could close it but coming into the section that I had earlier run up to over take him I elected to ride up. Got to the top I did, before not turn quite right and not unclipping. I tumbled back bike in the air before 3 rolls down the hill had me trying to get back up. Well I can proudly say that it’s the biggest cheer I have ever got racing ( that wasn’t my family). I sheepish picked my bike up and tried to catch back up but he was no longer in my sight for this part of the lap.
About this time the leaders had caught me and it happened to be on the crit section of the track again. A quick push saw me in their slipstream trying to ride their speed. Within one embankment they had gained a few meters and by the time we had crossed past my earlier discretion they had put 50m into the distance. They would pass me 2 more times before the end of the race. From this point on I focused on the technical aspects of the track, bunny hopping the logs just got better each lap, and the vertical descent with the 180 turn back up proved to be a challenge but one I was able to complete faster and with out getting off.
On the last lap call I was able to keep in front of the leaders by a lap of the veldorome meaning that I could do the final lap and not too far down. Well 25/26 and “22’00” of the lead.
Our baby is now only a week or so away, so the opportunity for my goal of completing every fondo this year started to look a bit uncertain. However as luck would have it, the first weekend of the month here in NSW was a public holiday so it was decided that we would tackle this months 115k fondo straight out of the gate. The original plan had to been to do a repeat of a previous ride but at the last-minute we decided to head up to Mangrove Mountain Dam. The crux of this ride was Bumble Hill, a cat 3 climb that leads up to the Kulnura.
Winter has kicked in and the day started out cold with the discussion primarily centred around who had what warm gear and who needed to harden up and just wear shorts. We left Budgewoi at 0715 and wandered along the lake edge trying to get some heat into the body. Thats except for Mick, he had been on the go for the last hour already having ridden from Gosford to the meeting point. The lake edge turns off to the old pacific highway and from here we followed the roads out over the M1 motorway across to the Buttondary area. It was still cold, and stopping for toilet breaks proved a steam producing exercise.
From here we turned and headed south, the sun was starting to make its way where we could feel the warmth coming through. We wandered down till we hit Alison road and turned right to start the winding road out to Yarramalong. This is a classic winding country road with wooden fences, autumn leaves and some weird elephant statues. The road meanders till you reach the little Yarramalong Village and a sharp turn up the 3.5k Bumble Hill Climb. We regrouped and took a moment before embarking up this climb. 300m over the next 3.5k, talk to me in 20 minutes….
The climb started out ok, but pacing is the key. I started behind Jye and worked my way up till we were side by side, Mick had made a cracking start and the last I heard from Drew was that was going to walk up it.
The climb was step in section and ok in others. It was not has directly punishing as Sugarloaf but it seemed to go on for longer. Grind them out seemed to be the key. I lost Mick soon into the climb and Jye about half way up. The ride up was worth it, it’s a big hill and a good climb, got up in under 20 minutes which i was happy with. We waited at the crossroads for each other, trying to keep warm in the sun. Once done we continued through Kulnura, across the road and down to the dam. I really enjoyed this part of the ride. I had never been down there before and the hills were great. Would have liked to get closer to the dam but stupid gates were such. The way back was a dawdle, turned out on Strava to be a Cat 4 climb. We meandered up the hills before I hear a profanity from Jye behind me, my wheel got shunted and the bam! I turned around to see him laying on the ground still attached to his bike. looks like i was going to slow whilst he had his head down focusing on the climb and had clipped my back wheel. A few scratches and a banging back of the hoods later we were back on the road. We went ahead to order some lunch. This point it was a bit later than we thought so it was off back home. It was a long ride back although going down Bumble Hill was a lot faster than going up it. We made it back as the temp was dropping again. Ended up on the freeway before some slight rises and undulations.
After the last few months of racing in crits and training and falling off, it was finally the day of my first Cyclocross race.
The kids were excited and we arrived at the day for registration. Emily wanted to go tin the participation event, Connor the kids race and I had elected to go into the Elite Cyclocross division. The moment I had signed up I started to regret doing it. Looking around I saw some face in the open division that I knew and had raced against before.
Emily went first in her participation event. For this the kids rode around the velodrome and out up the gate, around some cones and back in. Within a lap most kids had abandoned the push up the side of the velodrome and just rode around and around. Em went for the full ten minutes before getting upset that the event had not lasted longer.
After cheering his sister on Connor entered the kids race. He set off with as much enthusiasm as I have ever seen from him. However it became clear quickly that the kids twice his age were over twice as fast. Given the difficulty of the terrain he pressed on pushing his bike up and down the sections more then riding. With a great amount of confidence he rode of the dirt embankment with a flurry of pedals and speed. Halfway up the hill something happened and before anybody knew what happened he was over the side of the bike with his foot stuck under the seat. After some deliberation he decided to retire and fight again another day.
Finally I lined up at the very back of a 35 pack race in the Elite Cyclocross division. Matt who I met at the training session a week before lined up next to me and said hi. We joked about just finishing but I really had no idea of what was before me. The start bell went and all you could hear was the clacking if cleats and chirps of garmins. The dash up the first short hill was fine but the concertina into the first sharp bend took some work. A female rider was along side me all through these 180 degree turns before finally getting the better of me. After this was a short downhill with a sharp fast right hander into Newcastle velodrome. As we entered the velodrome the leaders were already exiting! I tucked in behind Matt and aimed to stick with him through the race. We exited the velodorme and headed through the tree section, down and around before attempting what the lead riders had deemed “the shortcut” around one of the trees. I stuck with it for the first few laps but kept getting caught up in my cleats. After this came the hardest part of the course. The aptly named “Stairway to heaven” 4 telegraph poles laid out up a step section of hill to form unridable stairs. This is really the first time you need to shoulder your bike. Run up the stairs around the top, down the hill, around a bike tree and back on the bike before returning to the crit course. A slight deviation up a steep hill with a 180 degree turn at the top before trying to control you descent back down to the crit course. This then gives you about 100 meters of tar to regroup, get a drink before going up a fast and steep embankment, down the other side then leaving the velo grounds. Into the park lands for what is effectively a 100m dash up and back on the grass. However its never that simple in cross right. Halfway along the out section was 2 x 400mm barriers. This is where the running dismount came into effect. Its an amazing hard on you body to run and hurdle whilst essentially throwing your bike into the air, land the do it again! Once back in the grounds of the velo was 2 of the shortest but steepes sections on the track. I, as most riders, chose to dismount and run up and down both parts. (I did attempt to ride up it later in the day but well fell off at the top, much to the amusement of other riders. From here it was a remount and a short dash to the start/finish before another 180 degree turn and back past the pit area up that first hill. Be the end of lap 1 my heart rate was over 180. This is basically where it stayed. I tried to set pace behind Matt where I could. Coming from the back I got to 28th position and felt that I was making slow inroads on catching Matt. Heading towards the commentary hill was sleeper buried in the ground. Most riders including me had been riding over it all day. I continued on in this fashion hitting it hard due the massive amount of speed i had coming of the last down hill section. Up around the tree before I noticed I was about to be lapped again. (I was lapped by the leaders by the start of lap 3) as we went over one of the hills i looked back to see where they were. As I did i saw that my rear tyre was now flat. It was halfway through lap 5. I returned to the pit area with the intention of retiring. Disappointed I did not get to finish but kind of relived as i was shattered, but no it was not meat to be. A kind hearted person in the pits found a spare tyre with the right disc and cassette on it. It even had air in the tyre so it was a sight better then mine. We bolted in the new unit and I was back out into the race. Desperately trying to claw back the places I had lost. By the last lap those stairs seemed huge, my legs were burning and I could barley breath. Determined I pushed on and crossed the line. 30/35. I didn’t come last and had a great time. I went back to the family, sat down and tried not to vomit for the next ten minutes before borrowing my daughters bike so that Connor and I could do some warm down laps before we headed home. Exhausted but what a way to spend your 36th birthday.
And did the vegan diet make a difference? I don’t know is probably the short answer. I finished the race which I am proud of. I did not eat a great deal and probably could of fulled better. I did not feel heavy and gluggy. I have raced my bike before and had an upset stomach. Being that I have a cold/flu I don’t feel its fair to look at performance. Being on a vegan diet for the last 2 weeks and succeeding at finished would say to me that there is no obvious performance deficits in being a vegan athlete.