I'm writing this one from the Los Angeles airport on my way back to Australia. After 6 months and ~30 race days here in the US I can easily say I've had my best season of racing ever. Starting the season with a win at the Otway Odyssey, I came over to the States without any real expectations but a desire to show what I could do and have a good time along the way. Looking back on the past six months there have been definite ups and downs, but to be going back home with a couple podiums at the Epic Rides Off-Road events and third in the overall Pro series, an overall win and unreal adventure at the Mongolia Bike Challenge, competing in my first World Championships (Marathon this year) and having a solid ride, and doing some of the biggest days on the bike I've ever done. This year could not have been possible with the village that has supported me through the adventure and I can't wait to share how the rest of the year racing back in Australia goes (at the Cape to Cape and NRS Tour of Tasmania). Here are some photo highlights from the past couple months, and if you want some more regular updates head over to my Facebook and/or Instagram pages!
As always, thank you to everyone who's following along on this awesome adventure and I can't wait to share the upcoming adventures! Until next time ✌️
This one will get me up to date with all the racing and travelling that’s happened since the Soldier Hollow Pro XCT. I’ll briefly cover the Grand Junction Off-Road, Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, Missoula Pro XCT, and the Carson City Off-Road, and some new and exciting updates!
Grand Junction Off-Road
The second Epic Rides weekend of the year was set in Grand Junction, Colorado and is known for being one of the most technical and physically demanding marathon races of the year. With long, sandy climbs and rough, rocky singletrack descents it really takes it out of you physically and mentally. As usual, the Epic Rides race kicks off with the El Yucateco fat tyre crit on Friday night, then the amateur races on Saturday, and finishing with the Pro men and women racing on Sunday morning.
The crit this weekend was a lot different to the one in Prescott, with no hill to make it very selective it was set to stay together for the whole 25 minutes. It did stay together, and I was able to snag the first prime again with a sprint against Howard Grotts. The main goal for this race was to avoid the crashes because when the group stays together it tends to be just a little sketchier. With three laps to go I tried a solo flyer off the front, only to be brought back at the start of the last lap and dodge the last crash of the race, meaning no contending for the sprint at the end. It was good to stay upright and again a great opener for Sunday and fun to put on a show for a big crowd!
The 40 mile backcountry race on Sunday was an exciting one for me. I couldn’t quite ride with the top guys up the first climb but managed to find a good group to ride with and was able to bridge up to Jeremiah Bishop “JB” on the “butterknife” singletrack descent. From here we were at the bottom of the windmill climb, a ~12 mile climb with varying steepness with terrain varying from sand to rocks. I did about everything I could to sit on JB’s wheel up here and we eventually caught most of the front group containing Geoff Kabush, Alex Grant, Fernando Riveros-Paez, and Russell Finsterwald. It was the technical descent after this that I struggled to get into a rhythm and my upper body felt more fatigued than my legs. I rode with Kabush and Ben Sontag for as long as I could but as I struggled more and more to stay on the smooth lines I lost began to lose the time to them. I made it down all the rough stuff and rode strong down the paved road into the finish, losing a little time in the overall but keeping my 5th place, and 8th on the day. Things to do moving forward: incorporate more gym and core work to keep strength later in these long races, as well as doing longer MTB rides with more descending to also work on these upper body muscles!
Iron Horse Bicycle Classic (IHBC)
Back to Durango for one of my favorite races of the year! I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make it to this one but am very glad that I did. The weekend has a variety of races, from the classic road event racing the train to mountain bike events, a BMX straight rhythm down main street, and running events as well. For me it was all about the road and MTB races, hoping to make my way onto the podium like I had a few years before when Keegan Swirbul won the race.
The road race started early on Saturday morning, with the weather looking good and even a little tailwind through the valley and up the climbs. I was feeling good and didn’t want anyone to sneak away in the valley similar to what had happened last year. Once we started the climbing I realized that the good legs I felt in the valley weren’t going to carry me up the hill like I was hoping. I slowly dropped off the back of the lead group on the first steep section of the climb and as it flattened out just a bit I put in a big effort to bridge back up to the top 15 or so riders. With a little time to recover before the next climb up to Coal Bank Pass (10,640ft/3,243m) things were looking a little better and I started to get some feeling back in the legs. I soon realized that this really wouldn’t be my day as the pace picked up again and I started to go backwards through the group. I decided to limit my losses up this first pass and try to pick it up again up the next pass, Molas (10,910ft/3,325m). Before this one started I could see a guy maybe 45 seconds to a minute up the road and set that as my goal. I was able to catch him before the top and ride the fast descent (>55mph/~90km/h) into Silverton on my own to finish in 11th. Not the best day on the bike for me, but also pretty cool to be racing against some big names in the sport! Congrats to Howard Grotts on another IHBC hometown win!
The road race left me motivated to really have a crack in the mountain bike race and see if I could give Howard a run for his money, although I was a little nervous after the not so great sensations yesterday. I decided to keep things hard (and maybe too hard) up the road and into the singletrack, similar plan to the Soldier Hollow Pro XCT. This went well and everyone was breathing hard as we went around the Fort Lewis College campus trails. We descended “Lion’s Den” and prepared for the steep and rocky climb up Chapman Hill (the in town ski hill) which would prove to be a decisive part of the course on the next lap. Lap two went by at a good pace, and with a lap through one of the local brewerys called Steamworks. Up the hill and around campus again we went at a reasonable pace, with Todd Wells leading our group of 6. At the bottom of Chapman Hill Howard decided it was time to show us why he won the road race yesterday and turned it up so none of us could hang. I rode the front up to the top and back into town but had spent all my biscuits. The last lap through Steamworks I grabbed one of the beers being pushed my way and it was colder than the water in my bottle, which was nice and refreshing and got a ton of cheers! I limited my losses on this last lap and rode no mans land in to 5th place, a good result considering the fast guys out there!
Missoula Pro XCT C2
I spent the next week and a half in Durango, doing some big rides on the MTB with Howard to build the diesel fitness into the second half of the season. These rides were great and we added in a fun day on the Colorado Trail with a few more mates! By doing the long training rides it’s a good way to build a foundation of fitness that is hard to do when racing every weekend because of the high level of fatigue that comes along with it. After this week I was going to drive up to Heber City, Utah and then jump in the car with Sofia Gomez-Villafañe and Evelyn Dong to get up to Missoula, Montana for the next Pro XCT round.
The Missoula Pro XCT is well known for A. How late the start is (7pm), B. The classic “ski resort” style lap, with a long climb and quick descent, and C. The drop, one that looks scary from the top with the narrow landing between trees and high speed exit. Again, I had high expectations of myself leading into this race and wanted to prove that I could race at the front end of the field in the XC races. The race unfolded similar to the IHBC mountain bike race last weekend, and a strong start led to suffering legs in the second half of the race. Even though we were at lower altitude I felt like I didn’t have the top end I needed to ride with the guys at the front… This could definitely be a result of the week spend doing the “diesel” rides with Howard. I came across the line in 7th, still enough for a couple UCI points and a large dose of motivation to work on the high intensity side of my fitness.
Short track on Sunday was another interesting one, at the start line the clouds were light although the forecast was for some rain to come down. The first 10 minutes went well with a select group of ~six guys racing for the podium before the sky darkened and the rain and hail started to come down. This made the track get a little more slippery each lap we went around and I was reminded that growing up in Alice Springs didn’t really prepare me for rain making a track slippery, not tacky… I hung in there to finish in 5th and grab the last spot on the podium and a six pack from Big Sky Brewing which went down nicely after the race. Now it was time to get back to Heber City and do the last little preparations for the Carson City Off-Road.
ps. No sweet photos from this one because no Kenny Wehn... He was at GoPro Mountain Games instead.
Carson City Off-Road
The third race of the Epic Rides series in Carson City, Nevada is the only one that I did last year and I was excited to do their planned course this year (last year was a shorter loop with 3 laps because the high parts of the course still had too much snow to ride bikes). This weekend would also show if the training at higher altitude had made any difference to being able to race at elevation (the highest point on this course is around 6,700ft/~2040m). Howard and I also got to stay at the same awesome host house as last year, with Keith and Andrea lending us access to their house as though we are family. We loved staying with them and their family for this awesome weekend, and Keith is super rad and does the Saturday 50 miler and gives us inside tips for the course!! As always, Todd and the Epic Rides crew were going to show why their races attract so many people no matter where they are in the country.
The Fat Tyre Crit
This one was set to be similar to the Grand Junction crit as it was flat an didn’t have a whole lot to separate the field. They decided to have a prime on the first lap of the race which always causes some chaos which I decided not to be a part of this weekend, instead trying to save my legs to get onto the podium at the end. The race was fast and hard for most of the 25 minutes, and Keegan Swenson was alone off the front for most of the second half. With three laps to go, Garrett Gerchar and I bridged across, thinking that the group was not going to make it up to Keegan before the finish. I did everything I could to hang on for those last couple laps but dropped off the back and was swamped by the charging field, who also swamped Keegan and Garrett only two corners from the finish. Oh well, it was worth the effort and with the main focus on the 52 mile backcountry race on Sunday I was going to rest and recover to be firing on all cylinders.
52 mile Backcountry
It was tense at the cold start line on Sunday, with ominous clouds swallowing the mountain we were about to climb up and pretty much everyone wearing warmer clothes than at the previous events. Similar to Missoula, about ten minutes into the race it started to hail and rain and I was expecting a long and cold day on the bike. The cold didn’t last too long though, especially as Keegan and Howard cranked it up the fire road and into the singletrack climb, making everyone else chase. I was caught behind a crash in the first corner of singletrack and from there it would be chasing all day. After the first ten miles of singletrack we came out onto the long fireroad climb, one that suited me because it was mostly gradual and not too steep. I managed to get into a little group with Cypress Gorry and Sandy Floren and we worked up the climb to the first official feedzone where a big chasing group caught us, including my overall rivals Kabush, Riveros-Paez, and Alex Grant. I was still feeling pretty good at this point so twisted the screws as we climbed higher up to Marlette Lake before hitting the flume trail. Our group went from about ten riders down to four of us, again Cypress, Sandy and I were together along with Jerry Dufour. As we wound our way along the side of a big cliff overlooking Lake Tahoe, it was hard to focus on the racing and not get caught up on the amazing view (and miraculously blue skies!). Coming off the flume trail there was another feedzone and just after that I decided I needed as much time as possible on Kabush before the descent. I rode the top as hard as I could because the long descent would give enough time to recover before the last 3 miles of pavement to finish. To be sure Kabush didn’t catch me I was sprinting out of every corner on the descent, choosing to ditch the recovery because the downhills have been where I am caught at all the previous Epic Rides races. This plan worked and I maintained my spot in no mans land for the last ~20 miles into the finish. Similar to the Soldier Hollow Pro XCT, this race made me feel a sense of belonging near the front of the race, finishing 5th and about 2.5 minutes behind the winner I looked at the split times and after losing the initial time in the first hour, the next two and a half hours were consistently about the same speed as theirs. What did I take away from today? Even in the longer races I need to focus a little more on warming up so that I can stay with the front group of guys early in the race to be sure I have the opportunity to sprint for the finish.
After the race, Howard and I drove to Ely, Nevada to camp on our way back home. We decided to go for a little mountain bike ride and see if we could find some local trails... We ran into a guy riding the trails on his way home from work and he pointed us to the local 'secret' trail and we were treated to this view from the top.
What else is new?!
I’ve thrown in a local(ish) Colorado race this weekend called the Crested Butte Fat Tyre 40, it’s part of the CB Bike Week which looks super awesome and I wish I’d gotten my act together to be there on Wednesday. Oh well, I’ll just have to enjoy the festival atmosphere after the race tomorrow!
And last but definitely not least, the Selle SMP Mongolia Bike Challenge. This race is something I’ve looked at since Payson Mcelveen did it in our last year of college and Justin Morris did it last year. I’ve heard great things and it looks like a really tough race, with stages ranging from 45km to 145km and staying in a travelling camp of Gers/Yurts/Tents for the week on the Mongolian Steppes. There are still spots available, so if you haven’t gotten your adventure fix for the year (and are free from August 10-18) click here and check it out! If not this year then maybe pencil it in for next year.
That’s all for now, thanks for reading, and I’ll try to keep the next ones a little shorter
Here we are again, I kept telling myself I’d put up the race reports and then getting carried away with the travelling, training, and planning that comes along with racing and privateering. I’ll try and keep this one a short highlight reel covering the Whiskey 50 and Soldier Hollow Pro XCT in Arizona and Utah. I’ll work this weekend to get caught up on all the May races as I sit around all day before racing the Missoula Pro XCT tonight at 7pm MST (and no, it’s not under lights). Keep an eye out next week for the rest of the catch up.
Whiskey 50 Off-Road (Prescott, AZ)
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Whiskey 50 or any of the Epic Rides Series, these are some of the most fun races of the year. The Epic Rides team puts together races that embrace the MTB culture, mixing a party atmosphere at the Friday night Fat Tyre Crit, massive participation (and festival/concert action) all day long on Saturday with the Amateur racing, and the Pro men and women taking to the course on Sunday. This year was the 15th anniversary of the Whiskey Off-Road and it goes to show with Todd and his team making sure everything runs smoothly and everyone is having the best possible time.
On to the racing: The Friday night fat tyre crit is a twenty minute race plus three laps, and this one has a brutal hill to climb each lap, lined with people making a ton of noise. I started about third row next to Brian Matter who bet $5 I couldn’t win the first lap, so naturally I went for it when they shot the start gun and came around the first lap a bike length or two ahead, also taking the first El Yucateco prime. After that I was totally cooked and struggled around for 15mins till I was lapped by Howard and Keegan.
The backcountry 50 mile race was a bit of a different story on Sunday, with a hard start up the road and then into water-barred singletrack climb which sorted out the groups pretty quickly. After the climb I was a bit uncomfortable on the fast and loose descent, losing a little time to the lead group but finding my rhythm as we came back up towards the first feed zone and Skull Valley descent. After getting a little bite to eat I put the hammer down and took a couple risks on the dirt road descent to get back in touch with the lead group of ~12 guys. The second feed zone was at the bottom of Skull Valley and I’d had a chance to recover a bit from the chase back on and got another bottle in preparation for the next hour and 20min climb back out of the valley in the brutal heat. Feeling good at the bottom of the climb and with Howard doing most of the work in the group, we all knew it was going to be a matter of who could stay with him the longest. As it got steeper he started to turn the pedals harder, splitting the big group in to little pairs and threes with still 30min to climb. I was left with Geoff Kabush, a guy who I’ve always considered a badass and someone I wanted to put time into before the descent if I was to have any chance of finishing in front of him. That wasn’t the case as he sprinted to get into the singletrack first, and I hung as long as I could on the descent back to Prescott. Russell Finsterwald and Fernando Riveros-Paez caught me as I was cramping on cramp hill and I had to push my right leg around a couple times to get it to stop spasming. From here on I was able to pass Fernando and stay in no-man’s-land for the rest of the race to finish in 7th with a sure sense of belonging in the Pro Men’s category. It was now time for a quick couple days in Durango before heading up to Midway, Utah for the Soldier Hollow Pro XCT.
Soldier Hollow Pro XCT
After a couple days in Durango seeing all of my college/uni friends it was time to get up to Utah and spend a little more time with Keegan and Sofia, who along with Evelyn Dong, were going to host a bunch of us for the race weekend. It was a full house with about ten of us using the kitchen and bathrooms but it worked and was a lot of fun doing big dinners and lots of hanging out. This weekend consisted of a short track on Saturday followed by XC race on Sunday at Soldier Hollow, originially designed as the Olympic XC skiing complex for the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics but now with some cool MTB trails as well.
Short track was a short and hard lap with a paved start/finish straight and climb, with a grassy descent back to the bottom of the pavement. A very simple course but the bumpy grass caused a lot of chain dropping problems for different people which I was lucky not to. I made a little attack half way through and paid for it when the group caught me and I went backwards in the pack. With three laps to go I tried to move up but didn’t have the energy left to do it and rolled through in 9th, a little out of the UCI points but still happy with the ride.
The XC race on Sunday was set to be a tough one, with some of the fastest guys in the US as well as Nicola Rorbach of Switzerland on the start line. To avoid any first lap trouble I started hard and led the first lap until Rorbach came around at the start of the second. This split up the lead group even more as we all tried to follow but were left with a little chase group of six guys. As the laps went on the group started to get bigger but the gap to the leader stayed close to a minute. With three laps to go I put in a big attack to make some selection in the lead group and a lap later it was down to Keegan, Russell and myself trying to get some time back on Rorbach. Two laps to go saw Russell start to struggle and I knew it was going to be down to Keegan and I at the finish… If I could make it up the climbs with him. Into the last climb he had more power than I did and started to open the gap but I kept doing what I could to make sure I stayed away from Russell. I was elated to come across the finish line in third, I’d say my best result to date, and to continue to improve with my results is something that’s made me more confident with my racing and competing at this level!
Huge props to the Summit Bike Club for putting on the awesome event and to Keegan, Sofia, and Evelyn for letting a mob of bike people take over your house for the week!
Ps. I'm stoked to have a couple more sponsors (Time pedals and Schwalbe tyres) on board since my last post and still a few more in the works, head over to the sponsors page to check them out!
Once again, thank you for reading and keep an eye out next week where I'll get current with the race reports and share some more exciting news!
After three weekends of racing in California it’s safe to say I might be finding my cross country legs again. These weekends have all included an XCO format race and a Short Track, mixed in with some long weeks of travel in between. The week after Easter in the Alice I flew from Alice Springs to LA to race the Fontana Pro XCT, followed by a flight to Denver and return road trip with my awesome grandparents to LA again for the Bonelli Pro XCT. The race last weekend was the Sea Otter Classic, one of the most iconic weekends in the cycling world… Not so much for the racing but for the massive expo/village with most brands in the cycling industry showing off their products.
So, let’s go back and wrap up how this first few weeks of racing and traveling has been!
Starting with Fontana after the flight across the Pacific I wasn’t really sure what to expect with a lot of fast US guys and some quick Euro’s as well. Starting around 5th row seemed a little daunting and I knew I would need to start fast to make up positions before the race got strung out. I successfully executed this part of the race plan, maybe burning a few matches for the middle of the race but still finding a good position to move forward without too much traffic. Another aspect of the Fontana course that played out well for me were the long climbs and being able to find a good rhythm without too much punch. Why did this suit me? Since I’ve mostly raced marathons for the past year and a half my legs aren’t yet accustomed to the steep punchy climbs (which the second race weekend had a LOT) that are often found in XC races. Anyway, I rode a strong second half of the race, moving up consistently and finishing in 15th place – my best ever finish at a Pro XCT which was a much needed confidence boost to start the season.
The short track on Sunday I was given a front row call up which was a pleasant surprise but also made me want to prove I belonged there, blowing myself up in the front group for the first 15 minutes then suffering through to the finish in around 15th place again… All around stellar weekend and the best part was seeing all my friends from college and catching up on the past 18 months since I left to Australia.
In the second week of my US adventure I flew to Denver to see my grandparents and eventually steal their car for the next couple months. We drove west through the mountains and stayed a night in Cedar City, Utah where I found some local trails to ride before continuing on the way out to San Dimas in California. The second round of the Pro XCT series in Bonelli didn’t go quite as well as I had hoped after the successful weekend in Fontana. After a great start again the slow roast began and after two laps I was losing more than a couple spots every lap. There are a lot of things it could have been: the heat, jet lag, long days in the car, not enough water, late nights playing Rumikub with my grandparents… But I think the real problem was lack of time management during the travel, something I’ve since figured out! In the end I was pulled out of the race at the end of lap 6 out of 8, in 45th position, not what I was hoping for after the great race the week before. I wasn’t given the pole position start for the short track but made the most of it with a strong start and maintaining around 15th position for majority of the race. Things I learned this weekend: do the training on long days of travel - even though I can’t always fit in everything on the program it is essential to move the body and get the blood flowing, accommodate for the heat – cold water down the back or an ice-filled pantyhose, have fun and embrace the bad days because they make you more excited for the good ones, and spend some time with your grandparents if you can – we can all learn a lot from people who have a ton of life experience!
SEA OTTER CLASSIC!
Probably one of the most hyped up races of the year because of the expo and event that surrounds the racing. It’s not only a time to gauge your fitness for the early season but also meet with sponsors and put faces to names. I had spent the week leading up to Sea Otter in San Luis Obispo riding with Howard on the sweet trails they have there, a place I’d like to explore even more! The racing involved a short track on Friday and XC race on Saturday around the Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California. The short track panned out similarly to the past two weekends, getting into a small group and suffering for 25 minutes with a sprint finish for 14th place, which I finished in 15th. After the race I met with a well known seat company out of Italy called Selle SMP to get some test seats and find the most comfy for my butt to sit on all day (often a challenge with bike seats).
For the 8 lap XC race we started on the Laguna Seca race track for a long and consistent climb to start which didn’t really split the big bunch apart. Coming around at the end of lap 1 there were small groups of 4-5 guys spread out by ~15 seconds and I was sitting around 30th position and feeling good but wishing I’d started harder. Through the next few laps I leap frogged from group to group till I was in a small group of three racing for 11th. Just as I was getting comfortable and ready to bridge the next gap I fumbled an extra steep climb, having to run and cause my legs to scream in pain (since they never get used for running) and fall back to the next group racing for 15th. In the last two laps I managed to get back to my little three man group but had no energy left for the finish, coming across the line in 13th with a tired but happy smile with what I thought was a strong ride.
The Saturday afternoon and Sunday were my time to talk to more brands about the coming season and solidify some new partnerships. A few of these include Knight Composites (wheels), GU Energy Labs (Nutrition), Endura (cycling clothes), Met (Helmets), and a few more that are still in the works. I’ll have a little more information on each of them on the sponsors page once I’ve spent a little more time on the equipment!
Once again, thanks for following along! This week I’ve been in Prescott, Arizona with Keegan Swenson and Sofia Gomez-Villafañe preparing for the Whiskey 50 where I’ll once again get to catch up with a majority of my cycling world friends before heading north to Colorado and Utah.
If you had asked me towards the end of last year whether or not I’d be around for LEITA in 2018, I would have said I’d like to but I’m not sure where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing by then. At that point I had been planning to go back to continue graduate studies instead of hanging around in my hometown racing against some of the best riders in the country over the Easter long weekend… To say a lot has changed since then may be an understatement! I decided to stay at home with my parents in Alice Springs a little longer, focusing on training for a season of racing in the northern hemisphere while working full time at the hospital pharmacy and helping my mate Chris take over and find his footing with Ultimate Ride/Bicycle Centre (my local bike shop since I started racing 10 years ago).
On to the racing though, and in its 4th (?) year LEITA was bigger and better than ever before, with 230 riders from all over the country coming to ride/race/enjoy the local trails and beautiful Autumn weather in Alice Springs. For me this race is more than just the first round of the Australian Marathon Series, it reminds me of all the people who give up countless hours of their own time to assist in the organization, management, and maintenance of the tracks around town.
Day 1, the marathon stage, started off with the neutral roll for the first 5km which was nice before the mad scramble through the sand west of town and short brutal climb up “the widowmaker.” The first 15km were on fast fireroads and the four of us (Cam, Trekky, Blairy, and me) at the front were setting a cracking pace until calling a “pisso” (pee break) shortly after the first feed zone… Maybe we were all a little nervous. The next 40km was relatively uneventful, keeping up the high tempo and enjoying the singletrack as the temperature rose in the hot sun. Coming into the last feed zone at the telegraph station we were all still together which is when Cam decided we weren’t going fast enough and my own legs told me we’d been going too fast for the past 2.5 hours and I started to lose ground on the front guys. Across the plains of Mordor I was in the land of the fairies, seeing stars and telling myself to just finish my water and get to the finish. In the end I lost ~9 minutes to Cam who was definitely the strongest guy on the day, with Trekky a minute behind him, and Andy coming in 6 minutes ahead of me… Things to take away from today – do more racing if you want to keep up with people who do lots of racing!
Into day 2 I was super excited to ride the best of the rocky and technical Alice Springs trails, iconic tracks like perente, huffy, shitta, Carls, sink, Tabsy, and Jew Bear. I remembered from last years race and loved this stage for showcasing the variety of trails we have in Alice. I took the lead early, driving the pace to trying and get little gaps in the technical sections that I knew like the back of my hand. This let me save energy while the other guys had to power back on through the fireroads linking the technical sections. Close to the finish Cam and Trekky decided it was time to speed things up and put in a big effort up the three sisters putting me just out of contention before the last section of fireroad and river crossing into the Telegraph Station where I was ~10 seconds behind. Plus side today, getting some time back on Andy meaning the last day would be red hot with me trying to get another two minutes and him trying to prevent it!
Day 3 was always going to be exciting, with some of the fastest and most flowing singletrack Alice has to offer, and not much separating Cam and Trekky, and Andy and myself. Similar to yesterday I made sure to push the pace as we left the Telegraph Station and headed along the North Stuart Hwy before turning east and trying to remember where the tracks go as the sun was burning our retinas! As we tore along the larapinta trail, through wiggleys waterhole, down Grants track and avoided the barbed wire of the fence line, I continued the high tempo and put more pressure on as we got onto the helmet track. As we came along the ridge Trekky and I had a lead and couldn’t see the other two guys, which gave me a fleeting rush of adrenaline to keep me going for the second half of the stage. As we came down Stimpson Cam had caught before we turned onto the 1km of sandy fire road where Trekky made a little mistake early and I took that as a chance to use my local sand riding skills to my advantage and put some time between the others. This paid off and I was able to maintain the gap over the guys as we came back towards the Telegraph Station. I nervously checked over my shoulder as my legs were dying in the last 3km and knew from last year that Trekky can come out of nowhere at the end of a hard race! It was great to finally get a win at the hometown race against some of the fastest guys in the country and it’s stoked the fire to be competitive racing overseas this year.
All in all, the Easter in the Alice was an unreal long weekend of racing with good mates as always. Not only is it awesome to catch up with the other locals I don’t see as often as I’d like as well as meeting everyone from out of town who have enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and vastly different trails Alice has to offer. I hope to be back next year and can’t wait to see this event continue to grow and evolve each year.
That’s it for today, as I am about to get on my flight to LA . Follow along as lope across the US meeting acquaintances and such… (Game of GNAR reference) But basically I’ll be racing pro XCT’s (or US Cups, whatever they’re called these days), the Epic Rides Off-Road Series, a few World Cups, and maybe even a trip to Mongolia… Stay tuned
This one’s going to be more of a ‘Movies for your Monday’ kinda deal. Pete Harmsen put together some awesome daily highlight videos from the event down at the Kellevie MTB Park in Tasmania. After our week of road racing in Launceston, Tas (@tasman_nan) and I drove down to Hobart to stay with FTP coach Nick Morgan for a couple of nights before the Hellfire Cup started. The two days of fun MTB riding and exploring Hobart was a much needed rest, stopping at coffee shops and trying to remember how flat bars and fat tyres worked.
The rest of the Torq/Merida MTB Team arrived on Wednesday, and we got settled in to our cabins at the Airport Caravan Park. Next year we will have to look at camping at the event… the atmosphere at the event village had me dreaming of drinking beer and sharing stories from the day before heading to bed in a tent under the stars (or in the pouring rain). This was the fourth time the Hellfire Cup has been run, and Duncan, Sarah, and the rest of the crew really put on a fun event. With seven (+1) stages over four days, it’s a lot of starting and stopping with the races vary from 3km to 40km, and racing as pairs gives a unique and fun aspect to the race… as long as you get along with your partner! Luckily Tas and I have spent a fair bit of time travelling together and help each other when the going gets tough!
Thanks for reading and enjoy the highlights.
Well done to everyone who completed the event and also everyone who made it happen. I’ll definitely be back for the next edition, keep an eye on the Hellfire website for updates because I hear it will be even more of a party next time.
The other Torq/Merida riders are Holly Harris (@hollyharris_7) and Kathryn McInerney (@kathryn_mcinerney), Ben Metcalfe (@bennymetcalfe) and Mick Harris (@mick_harris98). Here’s some of the team’s equipment for the week and throughout the year:
Motion custom cycling kit and clothing
Merida Bikes with Ryan and Tas on the Big Nine Team hardtail, the rest on the Ninety-Six Team full suspension bikes
Torq Nutrition products, Grapefruit energy drink and banoffee gels are the favorites
Bicycle Centre retail stores for local support for each rider
Mitas Tyres Scylla and Kratos
Sram XX1 Eagle drivetrains and Rockshox suspension
Met Helmets rivale
Adidas Eyewear Zonyk Aero Pro and Evil Eye Half Rim
FTP Training for coaching
Flight Centre Active Travel for flight and travel bookings
The Tour of Tasmania has been running in some form since the 1930's and has seen more than a handful of its previous winners go on to the highest level of the sport, think Cadel Evans and Richie Porte. With 5 stages starting with a prologue, 3 hilly road stages, and finishing with a criterium in Devonport, this year’s edition was set to be a tough week on the bike. With the most dominant NRS team, Isowhey Swiss Wellness, giving it a miss, it was unclear how the race would unfold. Below is the quick ‘n’ dirty from my first NRS road tour with AMR Renault Racing Team.
Travel Day: Sun 5 Nov
First, I’d like to say how much I enjoy spending time with these guys, and this week reinforced that we are not only teammates but great friends both on and off the bike. Having arrived on Sunday night we got to our accommodation (Farm house), built bikes, and were off to bed.
Day 1: Prologue, Launceston, 0.65km 50m climbing: Mon 6 Nov
Since the prologue wasn’t ‘til later in the afternoon, the team got up and went for an easy ride into Launceston for coffee before the stress of the afternoon set in. Today was definitely a mountain biker kind of day with a short, 1.5 to 2 minute switchback climb ending in nausea, blurred vision, and a strong dose of “why do I think this is fun?” The results reflected the MTB dominance, with Cam Ivory (GPM Stultz) taking out the stage followed closely by James Whelan, Tristan Ward (Ultra), myself, and Michael Potter (Ultra), making it four of the top five coming from MTB. After racing it was back to the farm for pasta, garlic bread, and salad before the infamous Russell Menzies team meeting.
Day 2, Stage 1, George Town to Grindelwald, 115.9km 1784m climbing: Tue 7 Nov
The plan for today was to have two guys looking to get in the early breakaway (Ryan and Dylan), another two guys (Dan and Blake) looking after the main GC riders (Sean and Alex) and going back to the car for food/drinks and instructions, and Julian as the road captain, planning and making on-the-fly decisions about how the race was unfolding and what needed to be done. Dylan and I wore ourselves out covering moves and being active in the early part of the race and then switched to survival role as we did our best to stay in the bunch and conserve energy for some hard climbs at the end of the stage. By the finish at the top of the climb we were mostly spread out within the main bunch of riders, with Alex finishing the highest up and not far down on the GC.
Day 3, Stage 2, Launceston to Poatina, 103.8km 1529m climbing: Wed 8 Nov
Early break patrol again today for everyone except Sean, Alex, and Julian, but again we didn’t make it in the right move although it was sure to come back as we approached Poatina. With about 10km to the bottom of the climb we rounded up all guys and made our way towards the front of the peloton to set up Sean and Alex for a potential stage win and a real crack at the GC (this was the #1 plan for the day). Executed perfectly, by the bottom of the climb a little lull in the pace allowed Sean to go off the front with Ian Talbot (Ultra). The pace was now being set by the real climbers and the further up the climb we went, the smaller the group got. They were attacking each other, and I did all I could to hang on with the group (now down to ~10 riders.) With 4km to go Alex attacked, and I knew he was going with no intention of looking back. He reeled in Ian and took the stage win along with the yellow jersey and best young rider jersey. That night around the dinner table the atmosphere was electric as everyone reminisced on the execution of the plan and Alex’s ability to climb. This also meant that the next day would be a near impossible mission to control the peloton and protect the yellow jersey. Sean and I came out of the stage both sitting in the top 10 on GC, and everyone went to bed with a nervous excitement about the rest of the week.
Day 4, Stage 3, Ulverstone to Penguin, 108.9km 1800m climbing: Thu 9 Nov
One of the hardest days I’ve ever had on the bike. An early break went with another GC contender so it was our job to chase. We rode our rings off and eventually it was only Sean and I left on the front, holding the break around 1min. Things started to wind up through Gunns Plain before going into the second cat 2 climb of the day: it was going to stay hard till the end! The group split up the climb then we worked hard to bring it back together within 10k to the finish. The final 1.5km was a steeper climb than I expected and the work from the day caught up with me, losing more time to the front guys and dropping to 12th on GC.
Day 5, Stage 4 Devonport Crit, 54km : Fri 10 Nov
After a long night’s sleep, it was time to prepare for another attempt at the early break in the crit. The first break went early but was brought back by the teams looking for sprint points. Not long after the first sprint, I found myself in a group of about ten guys off the front of the peloton and the group stayed away the rest of the day. I was in a good position in that I was trying to slow the group down so Alex didn’t lose time, and just going along for the ride with a potential to finish well in the stage. I sat on the bunch and was in a bad position for the sprint, leading to a decision to go for the win from about 1k out. It was going well as I had a little gap on the others in their leadout for sprinters, but my legs decided they didn’t want to do the last 150m, and I was rolled to finish near the back of the lead bunch with enough time to move up into 11th on GC for the week. Congrats to everyone on an exciting race, and I can’t wait till next year.
Hill Climb Sprint: this one went pretty well, again suiting the mountain bikers with Cam Ivory beating Tristan Ward in the final. I’d been knocked out by Tristan in the semi-final with his mean kick at the top of the hill.
Criterium: This was another hard crit with an early break getting away with all of the favorites. I realized a little too late that I needed to be in the move and about five guys including me put in a huge effort to try and bridge across. This move lasted the rest of the race, and we caught a few guys who were dropped from the front group and managed to not get lapped. I finished 10th just behind MTB teammate Tasman Nankervis, out of only ~15 finishers. Overall this was a great week of racing and I was looking forward to racing at the Hellfire Cup starting on Thursday.
There is a ton of work that goes on behind the scenes to make these races happen and I'd like to say a massive thank you to everyone who's there along the way! Check out the supporters of the AMR Renault Cycling Team below, and give them a follow on Facebook and Instagram to see what they're up to with the Tour of Bright coming up on Dec 1-3
Cape to Cape was a couple weeks ago now but things have been a bit busy and I've had a chance to sit down and write after the Tour of Tasmania on the road last week... That race report will be up in the coming days! So here's some words and photos from Cape to Cape 2017.
Not having raced since the Port to Port in May, I was unsure of my racing fitness. I was excited to spend the week ‘campervanning’ with teammate Tas Nankervis. The goal for the week: racing for the top step of the overall podium against the best mountain bikers in the country while having an awesome time at one of the best run mountain bike races in the country. Here’s how it unfolded!
Tues 17 Oct: Travel day 1
My 11am flight to Perth delayed until 7:30pm. Organized for Tas and his brother Russell to pick up the camper. Made it to caravan park near Perth airport at 11pm.
Wed 18 Oct: Travel day 2
Started early to get to Margaret River for registration and to ride a bit of stage 1. Another Nankervis (Bron) let us park the camper in the driveway of her accommodation.
Thurs 19 Oct: Race day 1 Xanadu Winery 55km
This was a very fast stage and started on long rolling fire roads where the pace was very high and sticks were flying everywhere. I missed the front group and had to work hard to get back on the back of it. Once we got into the single track it settled down a bit as everyone enjoyed the awesome flowing trails in compartment 10 area of the pine forest. Sitting comfortably in the group abruptly ended as I hit a log rollover wrong and was catapulted over the bars. Once I got my bearings and made sure the bike was okay the chase was back on. About 5km later I reached the back of the front group just in time for them to start attacking each other again, ensuring that I wouldn’t be able to ride to the finish with them. At 55km I saw the ‘5k to go’ sign and with a sinking feeling realized they had told us the stage was shorter than it actually was. I rode the last 5k of steep goat tracks and fire roads with heavy legs thinking this was going to be a long and hard week of racing.
Fri 20 Oct: Race day 2 morning - Leeuwin Estate 63km, afternoon – fat tyre crit
Another awesome day of racing was lined up for today, Tas and I decided to drive the camper out to Leeuwin Estate so we could get home quicker before the fat tyre crit. Again the stage started out on fire roads with sticks and debris flying everywhere at high speed before enjoying the loamy single track of the Boranup Forest. Today the front group stayed together through the single track before getting onto the Highway to Hell. I tried to look up and take in the view of the ocean laid out in front of us without losing my line through the rocks and dust at 50km/h.
After the climb back from the beach there was another rocky and sandy fire road descent where Kyle Ward didn’t see a rock and flipped over the bars, it was not pretty. I stopped to help him up and straight away could tell his collar bone was toast, he wanted to get back on and ride and he seemed to not be in too much pain. That was until he could feel the two bones pieces scraping against each other. We walked for a little while as there was meant to be an aid station about 2km further. Mark Tupalski stopped as he was going by and took over the positive vibes coordination and got Kyle the rest of the way to the first aid tent while I did my best to limit losses on time. When I got to the finish I let the organizers know what had happened, and they arranged the best way to move forward with Kyle’s situation. He’s currently in full recovery mode, walking the dogs and riding the trainer starting to prepare for next season. The organizers gave me the same time as the group of guys I was with, a true complement to the nature of the event ensuring everyone is competitive but also out there to have a good time and help others if they need it.
The afternoon stage was a race for the top 20 men and top 15 women riding around the Margaret River high school oval for 15 minutes. A very fast and spectator friendly event involving a lot of fun and hard, high intensity racing.
Sat 21 Oct: Race day 3 Colonial Brewery 56km
Waking up this morning I could tell the legs were going to have a hard time on the stage. They were slow to get going and felt like they weren’t excited for this single track heavy race. In the early part of the race, again on the dirt roads for the first 15-20km Dan McConnell, Paul Van Der Ploeg, and Chris Hamilton went for the early breakaway and nobody chased them down. Going into the “Middle Earth” single track I had a lapse in concentration and ran into a tree, getting passed by a lot of masters riders. I used all the energy I had to get around one or two at a time and eventually ran out of steam and rode the rest of the race in their group, conceding about 2 mins on the main group of riders I had been with in the first two days.
Sun 22 Oct: Race day 4 Margaret River 50km
Finally found some legs on the last day of the race! I decided to attack on the road just at the end of the neutral roll through town. I put my head down and rode my legs off for the first 5k and then looked around to find Brendan Johnston and Tas coming up behind me. I got on their wheel, and we continued working hard together to keep ahead of the chasing group. The best parts of the day was riding through the Compartment 10 trails again and working well with the two other guys. I was confident that Tas had his second place secured and was there to help him in case anything happened. Luckily we both made it through the race accident free! Our trio missed a turn coming into the last 5 or so km of the stage and ended up out on the highway for a longer than we wanted. The lead moto guided us back to the trails and the race was on again (even though we added ~1.5k to the race). Brendan started to wind it up with 800m to go. My legs decided they had had enough for the day, and I watched him and Tas ride away to finish the stage in first and second, as I came through with my best result of the week in third.
Overall, I loved the week of racing, spending time with mates, and meeting so many new people. Finishing in 7th overall, I didn’t quite get the result I was hoping for although the week definitely reminded me why I love racing mountain bikes… It’s hard, but it’s hard for everyone else too, and once you get to the finish you have so many stories to share and compare over a cold beer.
I can’t put into words the professionalism and work that has gone into making this event as good as it is. I think everyone who’s had a chance to be a part of the event over the past ten years has had a similar experience and fallen more in love with the mountain biking community for the camaraderie and easy going atmosphere that these events attract. A huge thank you again to everyone who made this trip and event possible, and I look forward to being back again next year!