Thursday, February 23, 2017

Nambucca Valley CC The Tulk #2

Nambucca Valley Cycling Club have been running a number of twilight races over summer and we were able to get along to one over the weekend. Held on private "MTB lifestyle" property near Kempsey the trail is continually being developed and the 8km of marked trail we rode was fairly flat, fast and flowing. 

While it was fast and flat, there were a number of man-made features, themed sections, natural obstacles and corners to keep the mind busy. Aptly named by some as "The Jellyfish" after it's gently meandering shape as viewed from space, the mostly 1m wide trail cut through bush and farm-scape.

All up the weather was hot, but some wind kept the temperature reasonable and the dust fairly low. We had received a good amount of rain the night before which helped settle the dry conditions. It was still dry and hard packed in most sections, the others just being dry/loose.

Our host, head trail master, landowner and all-round-nice-guy lead us out on the first lap, it was fast for a social race. We hadn't gotten out for a sighting lap, so the perfect person to show us round was the exact person on the front of our little group.

The first short open fire-trail section on the second lap we switched to race tactics to see who I was riding with. We slid to the front and put some higher effort in, pushing to the edge of grip through corners and getting up speed early on the way out.

At first the gap opened little by little, with all the corners it was hard to tell how far big gap was. But after a while and a couple of laps later it seemed we had control of the proceedings. As it went from dusk to night we tried not to drop the pace, keeping the pressure on ourselves to maintain our heart rate and general speed.

In the end we lapped just about everyone and it felt like we had kept a constant pace throughout the three plus hours. It was a small but dedicated crew in attendance, nothing quite like the normal events we go to. A massive shoutout to NVCC for putting it all together and giving me a chance to have fun at a unique location.

Our first outing in the new JetBlack MTB Racing kit with The Odd Spoke, Natural Balance and Rocky Trail Entertainment as partners.

We rode our Pivot 429 Alloy with custom wheels by Ascent Cycling Enterprises and X-Fusion fork from DIYMTB.

Friday, February 3, 2017

WSMTB Summer Series Twilight 4hr Round

We weren't able to make the first round of the series due to another riding engagement but with the calendar clear and the end of our summer holiday period almost over, the twilight round of WSMTB's Summer Series was good to go.

The holiday period had meant we were able to prepare nicely (a visit to Orange for XCO Nats included), with a quick check on Strava for the route and a multitude of visits to familiarise ourselves with the trails.

Of course the summer weather was punching pretty high with plenty on heat during the buildup and on race day, when we arrived at Yellomundee mid afternoon there was little getting away from the scorching conditions.

A few riders mentioned prior to starting that it could be a race of attrition, particularly if the sweltering heat stuck around into the evening, bottles of fluid were neatly packed away in eskies of ice, or in some cases portable fridges.

Riders at the starting line. Photo: CrummyMTB
As the riders launched from the start line dedicated support crews huddled beneath 3x3 shades with cool towels and water sprayers, after a short while all eyes and ears were peeled for the first riders to pass close to transition, signalling the start of the crew duties.

We weren't surprised to see BigDog pass by first, but what did surprises us was the gap to the following riders. A quick fix of some bunting and everyone was back on track, four hours is plenty for the leading teams and solos to battle out the difference.

It was that first hour of racing that hit everyone pretty hard, some riders stopped after those first one or two laps, rightly complaining that it was extremely hot. At this stage it was time for a couple of snappy laps after our team mate had been out on that initial lap.

The course was fast but every breath felt like breathing from a furnace, dry baking the back of your throat. Breath less, ride faster. The usual tough but short Yellomundee climbs were offset with rocky flowing descents.

A quick sub forty minute double and we were back at transition to check on our team mate. The conditions were not favourable and it took our team a while to recover and get back out on the trail. It had only cooled off ever so slightly.

Enough time had passed and it seemed like on our second lap we would be out during the "lights-on" period so we quickly fitted our Ay-Ups, gave the bike a once-over and prepared for our next double lap.

Our team mate had made they way around the track, we placed a cooled towel over their shoulders and leapt on our bike. Down the first descent the bike felt stiff, feeling like it was more than a tyre pressure check. It was quickly obvious that our most junior support crew, still in training, had done their own bike check, locking out the fork.

This second double was quicker than the first and it was pretty good to be out during the twilight. The trail was dry and fast, WSMTB had picked a fairly open climbing course, opting the narrow climb of Steve's Descent instead of the parallel firetrail.

Now was crunch time for our team, head out for another lap with the possibility of it turning dark while our team mate was still out there. This would be their first night ride, some encouragement and support from another rider, and they both headed out lights blazing.

Before long our team mate was back, a quick look at the time and we could head out for one more lap. Lights back on our bike and it was out for a casual night lap to wrap-up the 4hr up for our team.

Thanks to WSMTB for putting on a great 4hr event, it was great to see a wide range of teams and solos out on the trail. We had a helpful crew in transition, supporting multiple solos and keeping an eye on us too, cheers.

We'll see you at the next event!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

National XCO Series Round 1 & 2

Photo: Iona Reynolds
Orange hosted the opening rounds of the MTBA 2017 XCO National Series over the weekend, with all participants facing hot, dry and dusty conditions at Kinross State Forest. The first time National Series hosts put together a couple of short and steep loops, reminiscent of old classic XC loops for both days.

With a number of local Sydney based riders attending, given the chance to race Kinross again and catch up with riders from other areas, we sealed our trip to Orange with the race fees. It was busy at Kinross when we arrived, the Juniors and older Masters were finishing their round 1 race. Rego was a breeze and we were able to watch the start of the Elite Woman.

There were a number of big names in mountain biking in attendance, across many of the categories and riders had come from almost all states to represent. Did that mean that all racing was fast and furious? Thankfully no, there was some breadth albeit just a handful.

Photo: Iona Reynolds
With any XCO racing it was super fast paced, probably something we could work on after all these years of endurance racing. Those who could punch up the climbs had the time wins, but the trails featured numerous great descents plus a number of rough blown-out ones, putting smiles on dials.

A sprint to the first section of singletrack initially sorted the groups out, particularly on Sunday when there were some already heavy legs. Flowing trail took us up to the large rock climb and from there the trail differed for the each round. Saturdays round included the longish quarts-climb, previously used in a Ginja Ninja (2015?). From there we connected up to some firetrail before the epically good North Shore trail back to transition.

On Saturday our pace wasn't super fast and over the four laps we managed to pull a few riders back from our grouping. The older categories were hot on our heel though and the fastest of them caught us and in a couple of cases, just powered away.

Photo: Russ Baker
Sunday's route took us up a few climbs that felt like we had never seen them on previous visits, after turning right at the rock climb we continued to climb for what seemed like forever, some gradual but most of it steep or pinchy. This trail was only completed three times for our category, where as Saturdays was four.

We had a good weekend in Orange and were pretty pleased with our first outing at National XCO level. Bec Henderson and Anna Bec won the womans elite rounds consecutively and Dan McConnell made it all look pretty easy in the elite mens.

They were long hot days in the sun and dust so a big shout-out to our JetBlack MTB Racing team mates and our support crews. See you all at the next event!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Awesome Awaba and JetBlack MTB Racing Team

All good intensions, train, eat, sleep. Reality, work, sick, sleep. And with this level of preparation we headed into the final round of the RT GP. Initially we were disappointed that the location was moved from Mt Annan, only due to travel convenience. But Awaba, well, what can you say about this trail, a favorite of just about everyones, a trail that encourages flow. You know where we'd rather ride...

Finally a great start with limited hold-ups on the first lap for us. The trail has seen some rain and it was tacky in spots. Unusually we come across team mate, Browny, off the rivet on this initial first lap, we're feeling good and hammer up Camelback Climb (my fastest ever - Strava) but don't see Browny again.

It is on our second lap flyer we drop a water bottle after Camelback on a fast flat section, we silently curse our poor bottle handling and mentally note its location as to pick it up next lap. Thankfully it wasn't to far to transition, and we picked the near empty bottle up on the next lap.

Again it is a race where we are swapping places (for four hours at least) with 7hr team of two, Max and Charlie. Max would warp-speed his SS past us then, on the next lap, we'd come across Charlie as she was having a ball on a sweet section of trail.

We also spent some time with our JetBlack MTB Racing team mates, like Jason Hewitt, a man on a solo endurance mission. Jason has been making his mark at the top end of the 7hr solo for a couple of years. Can't forget our other team champion Dalene Pretorius, again a 7hr solo, who every time we passed her had a big smile.

Back in our race we catch up with Morgs from Shimano and once again we figure we're riding a little fast for our current fitness level. Morgs was going at a good pace so we hung out with him for a couple of laps. It was on the second last time up Camelback after leading Morgs for the lap we knew the pace had been to hot and we motioned to Morgs that this was it for us. 

Transitioning to what would probably be our last lap our team mates passed on info the team mate Kurt, also a 4hr solo rider, who had gotten away from us on the initial laps, was jus 30 seconds ahead. It was tempting to rush into the single track and chase Kurt but we didn't get carried away, catching Kurt in the first quarter of the lap. Kurt looks like he might be hurting, testing him we don't ease up as we pass but Kurt doesn't tag on the back of my wheel.

Reaching Camelback another of our team mates has caught us though, it was one of Browny’s team of 3 partners in crime, Shad. It was going to be a fair effort to climb Camelback and we tell Shad to take the lead, of which he declines. Ouch! No it was more than that it was double ouch this time.

Thankfully from the top of Camelback it seems like the trail is just about all down hill. Shad is yo-yoing off our back wheel as we make the final kilometers back to transition. As we get closer we hear the PA is alive with race updates, seems like the 4hr race has just finished. We have time to zip up our JetBlack MTB Racing jersey and be the first 4hr #rockytrailracer across the line.

It has been a great series in 2016, I've especially enjoyed the company I've been able to keep on trail. There has also been such a diversity of trails too, epic hills of the Glenrock region to the speed of Singleton. With Awaba being the final jewel in the GP Series crown.

Thanks to JetBlack MTB Racing and all our supporters for making this series of events as smooth as it has been. We'll see you at the next event!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Happy Trails at Ourimbah

We were super keen to return to Ourimbah in 2016 for another round of Rocky Trail's Shimano Grand Prix. The 2015 event had seen our good effort rewarded with a No.1 on the podium and I was frothing to do it again.

Being part of the JetBlack MTB Racing team is incredibly motivating and from the start whistle I could see team mates up ahead, team mates I wanted to follow into the single-track. I slipped onto the back wheel of Grant Shaw for the starting portion of trail, Grant was riding in a fast team of three for the 7hr and was a good wheel to follow.

It was incredibly cold, southerly winds had brought snow chilled air to many parts of NSW and Ourimbah it was no exception. Had our Gound Effect jacket on as not to freeze.

Keeping warm. Photo: Outer Image
Grant had worked hard on the initial section of the lap and he eased up over a climb. We took this moment to pass Grant, setting about to catch the next group in front. In this next section of single track we came across an unusual event, all-round shredder Kramer having an issue on a short down-hill section.

It was during the first couple of laps we were surprised to catch a couple of seasoned endurance riders, which gave the inkling someone was riding to hard. But it was so fun to ride at this pace we just pushed on, crossing our fingers it was sustainable for the 4hrs.

On the rivet. Outer Image
Ourimbah is a trail-riders dream, sweeping and short punchy climbs followed by fun rough descents, many of which seem un-proportionally long. It is rocky in sections, loamy in others, Ourimbah is a bonanza of mountain biking goodness.

When team mate Tom Morwood came whooping up behind us, our spirits lifted, just as there was a feeling of some fatigue. A few friendly words really helps out when all focus is on tearing up the trail. The same went for team mate Simon Ballard some time later, except this time all our biscuits were spent and we were about to start digging. It is so hard to see your team ride away at the pace you want to be going.

Working hard to maintain position. Photo: Outer Image
Another successful event run by Rocky Trail, no gripes here, everyone was super polite and there was plenty of rush and two-wheeled drift for an endurance event. We finished 4th, our best GP result this year. Thanks to JetBlack MTB Racing team for the friendly atmosphere, on-trail support and transition expertise. We have awesome sponsors, check them out! The team was well represented across all categories and delivered some top results on the day. You'll see us at the final Grand Prix if not before!