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92015Apr

DOING IT DIRTY, DOWN UNDER


Racing down under means dodging 'roos and pedaling hard!


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There are three lessons one learns early in a “race career, “ especially racing mass-start events. First, never line up at the back. Second, never underestimate the competition. And third, if you don’t feel good, look good—an essential to intimidating that same competition. Racing here in Australia is no different.


But there are, of course, some differences. For example, see this tall, strong, pouched animal below, he and I had a full-on stare down while I was descending a technical dirt track at the Stromlo 100km mountain-race last month. Fortunately, I am here to tell about it. Normally frozen with fear, this Kangaroo decided it was better to move, then take my Enve, carbon handle to the face.


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At the end of the day, however, bike racing is bike racing. Hundreds of spandex-glad riders line up at too few porta-potties at the painfully early hours of the morning. Once ready for the start whistle, over 350 racers line up to challenge themselves and others in a long day in the Australian heat. Over the past two months, I have been “lucky” enough to participate in two of New South Whales top mountain bike events: The Stromlo 100 and the James Estate Winery 4-hour solo mountain event.


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Full Race Report: 



James Estate Winery 4-hour Solo

As noted above, I learned the important of starting at the front, especially in a mass-start event. This race had over 300 racers, with multiple 2-man and 4-man teams which meant racers were going to hit it hard for the first “hole shot” and never look back. I knew this and unapologetically came around the front of the mass pack, spun my bike around and ignored the hissing from behind.  Bike racers, with their bad attitudes and bad behavior (mine) are no different the world over.

 

Within minutes, the official reminded us of the rules and we were off.  And off we were. Due to the lack of an appropriate warm-up, a totally no-no in mountain bike racing, I was on the red and hurting so badly that I couldn’t hold the wheel of the top 10 guys going into the hole shot. I knew it was going to be a long day.  If Strava says it was “Epic,” was it?  I think the below states it all. Red-line for more than 2:30 hours of the total and I can assure you that the other 90 minutes were just inside of the 162 HR zone, not at 145!

 

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At the end of day, it was all about believing in myself and my ability to suffer for long periods of time. Little by little I crawled my way back to the lead group, one lap at a time. By the 3-hour mark, the race director announced over the load speaker that I was only 2 seconds behind 3rd place in my category, which I knew had to have been near the top 10 overall. Incidentally, Masters age here is 40-49, at least for me.  Emboldened by the news, I stopped to grab two fresh (warm!) bottles from my cooler and hit the gas. I must have simply passed 3rd place rider, about half-way around the 25-minute loop, as by the time I can around again, at 3:25 minutes, I got word that I was now in 3rd place. At about 25 minutes per lap, I knew it might be 2 more laps, not one, to finish this beast of a race. I was tired but I knew I had a chance to stand atop the podium again. I was determined. 

 

By the time I came around the final lap, just within the 4-hour mark, I was off for my final lap of the day. The announcer mentioned that a group of 3 (see below) were chasing (and boy were they ever), but I was confidently in 3rd. Though I did not know who was in 1st or 2nd, nor did I know where I stood in the overall, I believed I could hold off the group behind, and get my self another prize. 

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By the final lap, I had ridden 47 miles and climbed 5,610.   I’ll take a leap of faith to think that my estimated watts were not 201w!  163 HR average and a lot of pain and suffering, but in the end, I stay away from the group above,  passed number 2 in my category plus a few more guys to finish 2nd in the Masters and 4th overall!

 

Shocked. The final lap was one of my fastest and it paid off. I was only 2 minutes back from 1st place in my field and just 4 or so minutes from the winner, a 20-something who obviously had the legs of the day.  It was an amazing day on the bike and a hard-fought battle. It has reinvigorated me like few other events in a long time. Maybe all the swimming is paying off, after all?

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Many of my esteemed Studio Velo / dZi Foundation teammates, all training and racing at full speed already back in California, asked me about the level of the competition here in Australia. While I would like to say it’s similar to Bay Area competition, I can’t say stepped upon a top podium spot in a long time. Standing atop (well, nearly atop) the podium here at both events leads me to believe the good-natured Australian must just be playing nice to their visiting mate (i.e. I understand we are also called Seppos).

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At the end of the day, who knows if my success down here is due to the good-nature of these fine Australian blokes, the luck of the roos giving way, or simply some good, focused training, day-of nutrition, and, as noted above, following the critical 3 rules of race-day lesson. I can’t think that by unapologetically forcing my way to the front of the pack, taking the local competition as seriously as the competition back home, and showing up “looking good” in my Studio Velo / dZi Foundation kit, helped me find my way back to the podium, On the Dirt, Down Under.




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