Where’s Wally?

Or more to the point, where’s Mike been?  It’s been a little while since my last post, life got a little busy, but rest assured there has been plenty going on in the Israel household and if you know me at all, you’d have realised that I don’t do “chill” all that often.

VIETNAM

I went to Vietnam and built a house for a poor family with 12 of the best people I could ever wish to meet including my youngest brother who is the ROCK of our family.  Vietnam is a place you must visit, in fact if I had the slightest ability with learning a language I reckon I would move there.  The people we met and interacted with a quite simply amazing.  After the build, my brother had 4 days cycling in the mountains up near SaPa.  Unforgettable.  Some good friends of mine donated money to the building cause too.  Here is what you donation went to.

And here are a couple of favourite shots from cycling

PICTON ROCKY TRAIL 7 HOUR

So next up was ….a 7 hour ultramarathon MTB at Picton.  It had been about 2 years since I had ridden more than 4 hours and wanted to see where my endurance fitness was at.  The aim was to just finish.  I found out my race craft had dwindled somewhat when I forgot to check the Stans in my tyres, yes it had been that long since I had raced, the front tyre Stans had completely disappeared and it deflated in the first 2 minutes.  Thankfully Team Quantum came to the rescue and threw me a spare wheel.  I spent the next 4 hours finding a balance between chasing the field and not going too hard and spent the last 3 hours grovelling in the heat after not drinking enough.  Oh yeah, nutrition, I forgot how to do that too!  Well some grace was given and I still held onto 3rd place so that was a bonus 🙂

SPRING CYCLE

A good fun cycling event, and I cant resist the invitation from good mate and JML Racing team owner the Flying Scotsman to join him in a ride over the Harbour Bridge, we had a great bunch and the highlight was riding along side Robbie McEwen.  The course was made to measure for an old MTBer like me and I had to laugh when I asked Robbie what he thought of the course at around 60km in and he replies with a wry grin “It’s pretty … technical!” Well it was another long day in the saddle.

FITZ’S EPIC

I was certainly getting a taste back for long rides and another one on the bucket list had been Fitz’s so I saddled up with Velo2073 mate Martin, Graeme and a few others to give this a crack.  Again I didnt quite get the nutrition right and crawled up to Corin Forest, and re-discovered water really is quite useful when you swallow it.  Dave O’Connell also crashed our little bunch and smashed the whole ride with only a 39×25, while I was rocking a 34×28.  #strongman

And in the midst of all that we have renovated a bathroom, rescued a greyhound and Tommy finished his HSC.  (oh yeah I I did a little woodwork and repaired my deck coz I just wasnt already busy enough coping with a new demanding job)  My neighbours just look at me with an odd mixture of incredulation and concern.

THE MILE

Finally it was time to join the Mile High Club, no not that mile high club, I mean the club you join when you take on and finish the 100 Mile Highland Fling.  This has been a ride that has captured my imagination since I first met Mark Fenner probably 5-6 years ago.  I’d done the 100km Fling and suffered terribly, when next thing you know, Mark crosses the finish line after winning the 100 Mile and looking fresh as a daisy.  From that moment I swore one day I would give it a crack, and in the words of another 100 Mile winner Ed McDonald “It is a cracker of a ride!”  But let me warn you, that right hand turn out of timing to head out for a 2nd Shimano lap takes massive willpower.  Every synapse of your brain and body is screaming “TURN LEFT”, but the mind makes a decision and you turn right, you think to yourself “holy cow what did I just do?” and then you pedal like crazy to get as far away as you can before you see sense and turn around…..and it feels like you are the last cyclist on earth.
I’m not sure how I did it and I went in with the main aim of breaking 9 hours and just a tiny hope that a top 5 finish might be possible.  Well, the day just went by like clockwork, the heart, legs and bike never missed a beat and I smiled all the way to the finish in 8:42 and 5th place, it was just one of those days you dream of as a cyclist.

A friend commented on Facebook that “I’m back”. Well life continues to throw a few curve balls and cycling may still have to take a back seat from time to time but I’m never far away getting on board 2 wheels and just going for a pedal….maybe a very long pedal.  Thanks everyone for your love and support.

Keep Riding
Mike

#habitatforhumanity
#iamspecialized
#epicwc
#vietnam
#springcycle
#wildhorizons
#guenergy
#shimano
#rubena
#quantumracing
#jmlracing
#cyclerynorthside

Posted in cyclerynorthside, epicwc, guenergy, habitatforhumanity, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, iamspecialized, JMLRacing, quantumracing, Rubena, Shimano, vietnam, wildhorizons | Leave a comment

Where are all the Racers?

After a 3 month hiatus from racing, I decided a few days out to give the Rocky Trail 12 hour a crack.  It’s actually a race I’ve always wanted to do solo, but due to clashing calendars or injury has meant I missed out in the past.  This year it was a must do but a niggling knee injury put paid to my solo ambitions, so plan B came into effect and pairing up with one of the many competitors in Masters, Clayton Locke put up his hand.  Cool! So instead of bludgeoning each other for 12 hours, we’d team up, do some quick (old fella quick) laps, enjoy the event and actually talk to some people.
It was a great day, made even greater by the fact that a respectable contingent of fellow team mates from Quantum made the leap and were also racing.  There really is nothing like having a tent and a few familiar faces to chew the fat with between laps and when the southerly blew in at the 11th hour, Ondrej’s caravan leapt up the rankings on TripAdvisor to 5 star.  Imagine watching big fat freezing rain drops falling outside in a gale, whilst nestled up in a heated van with a warm cup of tea, reliving the day’s highlights.
 
This is Mountain Biking “gold”
So three things that I think made the day truly great and worth going back for.
1    1.) Lots of chicks
      I mean there were big groups of girls of all abilities racing.  One group in particular had CYCOS on their kit.  They all had matching kit and were riding SWORKS and they rode all day.  Not only that they had smiles on their faces all day, despite of few of them taking some bark off the smile remained.  It was really great to see and is characteristic of Rocky Trail events.  I couldn’t hide my rueful smile as I sat by a warm fire near the end of the event and listened to the chatter about the days racing and a few tales about faster racers who had done some strange manoeuvres trying to pass, like taking the b line behind them and so on.  There was no malice in the chatter, just a question as to why they did what they did.  Of course there was probably a bit of education required on both sides but that’s racing and the sooner everyone realises passing is just part of the game and a kind of nice way to encourage your fellow rider, whether you are the passer or the passee, the better.
2
      2.) Rocky Trail.  
      These guys go out of their way to make an event truly memorable and they are well prepared and experienced enough to make the right call when things don’t go to plan, like a thunderstorm rolling in after 12 hours of racing.  Nigel the DJ provided an intoxicating cocktail of continuous beats, Crafty, as always provided the witty often funny and engaging commentary, and Martin, Juliane and the team kept the race running like clockwork. 

3    3.) James Estate
      The trail, the event centre and the setting are simply awesome, and this is only possible thanks to the hard work and support of Graeme, Christine (the lovely) and the team from James Estate winery.  Recently there was some consternation about the lack of fodder in many race show bags, but when the headline sponsor hands over a bottle of their finest Rosé to every racer, and follows it up with 12 hours of free tasting well it doesn’t get much better than that, and I am pretty sure the racers are returning the favour with plenty of purchases of this top winemakers product.  I really loved the trail, at first it doesn’t seem like there is a lot of vertical, but the first interval up the fireroad to the very top paddock at the beginning of each lap was enough to warm up the legs again.  The soil is a lovely red loamy well drained mix; who knew winemaking and mountain biking thrive in the same micro climate!!  There was plenty of good flowy single trail, with A lines a plenty and enough to keep even a World Cup competitor like Cam Ivory and the Day boys interested.  The Epic relished the trail, from the tight technical berms and rollovers to the final flat and fast snake track leading back to timing.
In the end Clayton and I got the win in category, but More Caffiene riders Andrew and Scott never let up all day and pushed us to the very end.  Just over 300 racers competed at this event which I guess is pretty standard, but I wonder what it would take to get 600 or a 1000 riders and how that might lead to an even bigger festival of the bike.  There has been a lot of navel gazing over the last few months as to how we grow this community and ensure the viability of our favourite events.  Here’s three things I think would help:
      1.) Fewer events
      I’m no marketing expert, but it happens in most markets I dare say, the market grows, more suppliers starting crowding the market and suddenly it looks like demand in waning.  Eventually there is a rationalisation and only the suppliers with the best reputation and access to the best locations are left standing.  Noone wants to ride through some backwater moto-churned bike destroying mud bath to get from one sniggle to the next.  Will we see some merges in the event promoter scene and a culling of some of the less popular events?
2    2.)   Different events
      There needs to be some variety in how we race and it needs to be fun.  The endurance side is the first to suffer when entrant numbers drop because what is the point of the result being decided in the first hour of the race and then continuing to ride for another 23 hours to the finish line.  This applies equally at the pointy end of the field as it does to the middle and rear of the field.  With enough racers you end up in your own little sub-race no matter how “fit” you are.  Close competitive racing is fun and interesting but it needs a large field of racers.  Some stalwarts like “The Fling” will always be there, but newer formats like Hellfire cup and Duo Classic (not so new) offer more “Yeow” for your racing dollar.
3    3.)  Cheaper entry
      Land owners and councils need to realise that a MTB race is like Golden Goose.  If you grab the event promoter by the neck, before the race is even started, then you put that event viability at risk.  Instead take a longer term view of the benefits to your local community of allowing an event to take place your backyard.  By reducing the upfront overheads for the race promotor, you ould think that would enable cheaper entry fees, hence encouraging larger entrant numbers and a bunch of riders for potential sponsors to hock their wares to, ultimately leading to a greater spend in your local community.  MTBA can help to by endorsing races and leveraging their insurance infrastructure, so event promotors aren’t having to setup their own event insurance
Keep Riding

Mike
Riders head out of the start chute

Miles Watson our newest Quantum member had a great day, watch this space, former multiple NZ national XC champion, this guy can drop some serious watts!

Angelique had a great day riding solo and achieved something like a personal best result #inspiration

The beautiful James Estate

Clayton returning on one of our 25 laps

Mike and Clayton, our team ran like clockwork, apart from that one transition where Mike got a little too cozy in the caravan

Masters Pairs podium, thanks for a great race guys
Posted in cyclerynorthside, epicwc, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, iamspecialized, quantumracing, rockytrailentertainment | 2 Comments

The end of a very long race phase

The last three months have been possibly the busiest and most ambitious 3 months of my entire life.  When you roll together the XCO series plus a couple of marathons, training, one full time job and one part time job, a family consisting of three challenging yet gorgeous teenagers, one of whom is doing his HSC, you might say I bit off more than I could chew.

So it was with some relief and a sense of accomplishment when I slumped in my seat on the flight home Saturday night and looked back over the last 3 months.  It climaxed with a 4 day conference in Melbourne and then a quick detour via Forrest for the Otway Odyssey.  Actually I was just thinking, I made it, thank goodness I didnt miss that flight! I just need to get home.
Looking back at the last three months.
9 races in 5 different states
6 flights and 5 road trips (You Yangs, Toowoomba, Pemberton, Stromlo x 2, Forrest, Yellowmundee)
Car hires galore with a little bit of Uber thrown
AirBnb and hotels also feature heavily on the Credit Card statement
1 new bike + bike bag
countless bottles of Gatorade, gels, coffees
Capital Punishment was a race I love doing and am really sorry to see it end, but I guess the logistics of organising such a journey through the city of Canberra have taken their toll.  All the same I had a ball at this race, even if my form was a little down and managed to finish in just the same spot as last year overall and just enjoyed the banter and comeraderie and the simple pleasure of riding (semi-)fast through the Australian bush.  For most of the day we’d formed a nice little bunch, crucial for when you get to the fireroads and Trent Moore was showing the way on the climbs.  Ben May was also having a great ride, and a few of the Quantum boys featured in our mini peloton as well as some mates from YEOW-MTB.  It was a great day out.
I never tire of the Stromlo trails, especially Skyline/Luge.  Photo Talentspotter
Andy Lloyd and Michal Kafta of Quantum fame on the start line
Canberra MTB brothers, Grantley, Trent and Clayton
The Odyssey is a race of huge reputation and one I’ve always wanted to do, so when the chance came I jumped at it and it did not disappoint.  Arriving around 5pm Friday evening, I picked up my race plate and was struck by the chilled vibe to the whole event centre.  This vibe would continue all weekend, I dont know if it was the culture of Forrest or just the general chill-ness of all those Melbournites, but I appreciated it and soon began to wind down.  I had to decide, would I drive the 30 minutes over to Colac for a first ever green curry with JD, or would I be better served to relax, spend 30 minutes doing a little reccy of the course and then finding dinner at one of the two local pubs.  Common sense prevailed and the reccy of the single was just perfect as the sun slowly set.  
Keeping in mind my escapades a few months back when I got lost out at Back Yamma, I made sure to err on the side of caution and headed back in plenty of light to find dinner.  Surprisingly the legs felt pretty good, I’d had a cruisy week at the conference, only allowing myself the short rides on the town bike too and from the hotel.
OK I did let loose one afternoon and took my town bike on a loop of the Yarra, but that was just good fun and I enjoyed freaking out several roadies by sitting on their wheel and spinning away with the three speed hub.  I got more than a few smirks as I turned back and took a final lap up Swanston St amongst the trams, cafes and commuters.
The beautiful Yarra, at this point I was ready to sell up my Sydney abode and move us all down to more a civilised city where cyclists abound
Dinner at the brewery was awesome.  sometimes you manage to get it just right and the lasagne with a pot of stout turned out to be the perfect race prep, not to mention the slice of Lemon and Pistacio cake with ice cream.  All I needed now was a good sleep and Rishi and Ben had organised this trendy little cabin just 1km from the start line.  Also good meeting Andrew Ferg and Steven Fortuyn, a couple of more cycling blood brothers I’ve only ever known via the twitterverse.
On the start line with Pete and Trent
The race itself lived up to and exceeded all my expectations.  I was well rested and well energised/hydrated all day.  Strangely I only drank 3x600ml bottles of Gatorade, but that seemed to be all I needed plus the 9 Clif gels (5 caffiene) and one endura carb bar.
The start was surreal, as we headed up the first hill almost like a neutral roll out, we circled the town and headed north toward Barwon Downs.  It was the easiest start to a race in living memory, I was sitting in the bunch about 30th place, the guys were just happy to roll out gently and warm things up.  The sound of the rubber on the road and guys chatting and laughing was really cool.  There were a couple of little bergs that got the breathing heavier but the first 30 minutes was really just a river cruise.  Even the first bit if dirt road was pretty sedate, but a sudden right turn followed by a long descent and things soon got pretty serious.  
We were into it now for keeps and the first section was mostly fireroad with some pretty burley climbing.  I dropped a few places but kept my competition in sight happy in the knowledge that it would be a long day with plenty of tight single track for me to excel.  The motorbike trail was bizarre, like this freshly cut single track through dense bushland scrub, but it was heaps fun to ride and I was happy to catch Trent here.  He’d come away with the victory at Capital so one of my goals was to stick with Trent for as long as I could today.  In the end the tables were turned and the 1% favoured me today so we are tied at 1-1 in this race within a race after his win at Capital.
The next bit of euphoria I remember was a track called Slingshot.  Wow these trails were so beautifully honed.  I found you could go into a blind corner with a berm pretty hot and come out the other side with the same speed, safe in the knowledge that the corners wouldn’t bite, such was the flow.  I was a total newbie to these trails and loved every metre.  By the end of the race I was having to slow down, as not only my legs tired, but my brain started to fatigue from the constant processing of line choices and bike handling in the single track.
By the 68km transition I had overhauled all those who had passed my in the first 30km and still felt pretty fresh.  PVDP had pulled the plug early and gave me a big fist pump and a “Go get some!” as I headed out for the last 30 odd k’s.  This is where the rubber hits the road well and truly as you go straight into a 10 km climb with 400 vm.  Even the last 20km are pretty lumpy and you want to make sure there is something left in the tank.  I had a few twinges of cramp, but mostly felt good and continued on.  Ben May from Brisbane has been another constant buddy on the race scene, no matter where we ride, we always seem to end up chatting and helping each other out as we strive for the finish.  There were no words spoken now in our little in a rotating group of 3 or 4, it was just a given that we’d continue sparring to the finish.  Once you summit the climb you are rewarded with a dead straight bullet like descent on narrow single track called Short Fuse, I came out of the scrub to find a hard left hand turn and the bomb nearly exploded as it was all I could do to turn the bike with a massive handful of back brake to avoid careening off into the fast approaching ravine. In the end I was stoked with my result of 38th overall from 308 finishers and 10th in Masters.  It’s been interesting to see how much the XCO series has honed my skills and enabled me to attack harder when needed, but I still need to work on my climbing speed.
At the finish with good mate Peter Lister, does it look like he is holding me up?
So what’s next? A bit of time off the bike with a tour to School Football Tour to France and Spain, then ramp up again for the Convict and the 12 hour at James Estate.  
Keep Riding
Mike
Posted in Cyclery Northside, epicwc, forrest, giantodyssey, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, iamspecialized, mikejisrael, mtb, otway, XC | 1 Comment

XCO Mission Accomplished

When I targetted the XCO series late last year, the aim was to ride some new tracks, get a taste of what it is like to travel with a bike and make some new friends.  On top of that, I was hoping to improve an area of my cycling that was sadly lacking ie. the ability to go flat out for a relatively short period of time.  Well all that came true and a whole lot more.

The People 

I have met probably 100’s of people over the course of these 5 events from Mum’s and Dad’s supporting their kid’s cycling dreams to the riders, the commissaires, volunteers and trail builders. Even though I mostly travelled alone, there was always someone who was happy to sling me a bottle during the race.  I’ve already mentioned in other places the good mates I have made; Daniel Beresford, Peter Lister and Dave Harris to name a few. There is something about battling one another on two wheels with just your legs and lungs as weapons that forges respect and mateship.  Thanks as well to the Butcher family for your support and encouragement.

The start of the Men’s Elite XCO

The Travel and the Venues

I found it an intense experience just organising my own travel arrangements.  The mind boggles at the thought of organising for a team of 5 or 10 cyclists.  That being said it was a mindful experience arranging the flights, the luggage, the accommodation and car hire and I hope I can do it again in the not too distant future.
As far as the venues go, The YouYangs was probably my favourite place, a stunning landscape with challenging but well designed trails.  Stromlo is virtually my home trail and always rates a mention especially for being the hardest course bar none! But Pemberton and Toowoomba were also excellent and really well supported by the local clubs.  I’d liked to have seen more interaction between the long hair Downhiller bros and the lycra clad Cross Country freaks, but perhaps that’s why Enduro is growing so fast.  A meeting in the middle perhaps?

Pinning it! #airborne

The Cycling

Well, I find if you want to ride faster, the first step is go and find some faster guys to ride with and that was certainly my experience.  At every round there were atleast 5 really fast competitors in my age group who were in contention.  It would have been great to see slightly larger fields but understandably, not everyone can commit to such a big undertaking. It takes substantial resources to do this and MTBA being the peak body, the main game is the Elite racers.  Speaking of which, mingling with these guys, listening to them and watching them ride is a real privilege.  I often felt awkward introducing myself like I was some kind of MTB aged groupie, but these young guns are so friendly and always have time for a quick hello and good luck.  They possess incredible discipline and class as they focus on the prize of perhaps an Olympic berth or a ride in European circuit.

My racing here was pretty good, though not stellar.  Despite being fresh, my legs felt heavy in the Oceanias and I had to contend finishing one place away from a jersey.  Congrats to Paul Brodie, if you have to lose to someone, a nicer guy I couldn’t pick.  Saturday was a different race and even though the field was stronger I felt ready this time, you know the minute you open up the legs in the warm up even before the race starts what kind of a day you are going to have.  The start was insane but I held onto a good position until 5 mins in I felt the dreaded slouch of a deflating back tyre.  I nursed the Epic down through the rock garden and rolled into the techzone pleading for someone to hand me a track pump.  My breathing was heavy and my vision was about 2 feet in front of my nose.  Some very kind fella had an awesome pre-charged track pump and re-inflated by back tyre in no time.  A bit of wiggling to get the Stans to plug the leak and I was away again.  I’m pretty sure this is the first race flat I’ve had in 8 years, so I cant complain too much, here’s hoping my luck doesn’t dessert me altogether.  On the other hand it might just mean I haven’t been riding hard enough all those years!

My introduction to XCO at the YouYangs December 2014 seems like eons ago – Photo www.jaimeblack.com.au

It’s amazing to think back what went through my mind, now that the pressure was off.  Having given away any chance of a podium in the race, the idea now was just to race for fun and make sure I got enough points to achieve a series podium.  I rode outside of myself, reigning those that had passed me and enjoying every metre of track to finish just 3 mins behind 2nd place, not to mention the “Weapon from Wagga”, Daniel Beresford, who beat the field by a further 3 minutes to take 1st.

I’m not going to guild the lily too much, in 5 rounds I only stood on the podium once, but I finished all 5 rounds close to the pointy end and was certainly competitive. In a couple of rounds I had to dig deep to overcome some fairly burley obstacles and finish the race to claim some series points so finishing 3rd in the series was a great reward.

Series Podium for MTBA XCO Masters 3/4 2015

Can I get faster?  I really dont know, perhaps I have reached the pinnacle of my genetic potential, and the best I can hope for is to hold this form for the next few years, before age takes me down another peg.  In the end it doesn’t really matter.  Medals and podiums might be good for the ego, but the main game for me has been to enjoy doing something I love with some like minded souls, stay fit and healthy and do it to the best of my ability.  Life on this beautiful Earth was given to us by a loving Creator and I reckon riding a bike in the great outdoors with friends is a pretty good way of honouring that.

As always I continue to pinch myself with the wonderful support I have around me in my family, my team and my work (both Knox and Cyclery Northside).  Thanks for indulging my passion guys.

Keep riding
Mike

PS. One of my other passions is photography.
Click here for pics from Oceanias DHI 26th Feb 2015
Click here for pics from XCO Elite U23 U19 men 28th Feb 2015

Posted in cyclerynorthside, iamspecialized, mikejisrael, MTBAust, quantumracing, toowoombambc, XCO | Leave a comment

Blood, Blackberries and Bouncing off Rocks

You could well ask what am I doing up at 4am writing this post, call it a bit of blog therapy, but my injuries after today’s race are making it hard to sleep, so the best option was to pour a bowl of cereal and dump some of my thoughts down on today’s race.

I guess I’m a bit disappointed due to my poor result, I’ve been racking my brain trying to work out where exactly I went wrong.  Perhaps a better question is “How in the world did you finish that one??”.  I’ve never been one to give up on myself and I guess that’s a little of the appeal of mountain biking.  From time to time you are going to fall off, but can you get back on and master your fear?  Perhaps that was my victory today.

The start was pretty cool, there were some freakishly talented riders present all with postcodes starting with 26, not the least of which was Brad Morton, who went straight to the front, took a sneaky line right to the fireroad climb and set a respectable tempo.  At this point I felt great sitting two abreast in 2nd wheel.  I thought a top 5 finish today would be a good result.  But as the gradient turned upwards I started quickly going backwards through the field and once we hit the single track, I was a long way down.

The riders were good up Cardiac, it was the same for everyone, a mad scramble to the top of a climb that most would struggle to walk up but it’s the rock gardens and tight technical switchbacks that really test you.  In a train of riders I took the A line down Hammerhead and regained a few places to the cheers of many spectators.  On the next lap I really gave them something to cheer for as I went in a little unbalanced and hit a rock ledge half way down, sending me straight over the bars.  It was a pretty big off, but somehow I managed to roll with it and was lucky not to break my body or my bike.
The guys watching were already calling for the ambulance as I got up and remounted.  With the adrenalin still coursing through my veins I made another mistake at the tricky the little waterfall, the last obstacle before the easy descent, and went OTB again into a thicket of blackberries.
This one took a little longer to recover from and I’m still finding shards of thorns in places I’d rather not mention. I’m not sure if this is what Paul was referring to in in his letter to the Corinthians “a thorn was given me in the flesh, ….to keep me from becoming conceited” but at this point of the race just finishing seemed like an insurmountable challenge (credit: Peter Lister).  I rolled sedately down Luge, got my composure back, worked out what was still working, and where it hurt most and then set about completing to two further laps.

Top of Cardiac Arrest, don’t be fooled by the smile, I am in complete agony and this is just before my crash. Thanks Grantley, Liam and Riley for this photo and your cheers of support!

The real question bouncing around my head as I prepared for my 3rd assault on Hammerhead was would I have the guts to take the A line again.  I was pretty sure that if I crashed again my race would be over, I was feeling like one of those characters from Call of Duty whose life force is down to 25% and it’s close to game over.  The answer was yes, I rolled it pretty clean, passed one rider, happy that I only had 1 more lap to go.

It was a great relief to finish what was certainly the most technically challenging MTB race I have ever ridden.  I rolled straight to first aid and Paul did a great job of patching me up.  Thanks to Grantley, Kate and Kel and Martin Wisata who all helped me immensely in the lead up and throughout the race.  I couldn’t have finished without your help.  Also the many volunteers who give their time to make these events happen.  I mention Russ Baker who works tirelessly for the sport but there is an army of people who work beside him to deliver such a professionally run event and I thank every one of you for the time you invest in this sport.

Keep Riding
Mike

Posted in cardiac arrest, Cyclery Northside, Giant Anthem 29er, hammerhead, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, mikejisrael, mtb, Stromlo Forest Park, XCO | Leave a comment

About Pizza, Coming Second and a 3 Legged Dog

As I sat on the plane flying out of Sydney Airport, I could scarcely believe my luck.  I was heading to Pemberton WA to race rounds 2 and 3 of the MTBA National XCO series.  I had a full carbon racing steed packed in a rather fetching red bike bag, I felt I was in my best form for a long time and I had the blessing of my wonderful family.  It seemed that Cycling had pre-prepared an adventure made just for me and I was excited.

THE PIZZA

As planned, I rendezvoused with Peter Lister at a rather budget hotel near Perth Airport sometime around Thursday midnight and in the morning we picked up the hire car and took a leisurely 4 hour drive south through the gorgeous south west of WA.  Bridgetown, Donnybrook and Manjimup are just a few of the pretty towns we drove through on our way to the Karri capital, Pemberton.  Practice was perfect, and we fine-tuned our skills sessions some of the trickier sections including those huge wooden berms.

For dinner we hit the Pemberton pub and in hindsight my eyes were bigger than my stomach.  The pizza was delicious and I ate the whole thing bar one piece, that I donated to Pete who was ready to eat the leg of a chair waiting for his spaghetti.

It was here that we met our amazing support crew Geoff Rowe and Kim Ranson and young gun Zac with Grandad Merv.  We absolutely loved these guys, but more on that later.
The night was spent in fitful sleep as my stomach attempted to digest the world’s largest pizza and needless to say I wasn’t feeling top of my game in the morning. 

The race took off at a solid pace and Peter Lister jumped on the front to take us into the single track.  On return to timing, I jumped past to take a turn and lead a train of five riders through traffic to “That Hill”, a 1km steady fireroad climb.  
Photo credit; Mark of Pemberton MTB Park

At this point I was starting to get that feeling that it wouldn’t be my day.  The legs weren’t feeling good, and over the course of the next 4 laps I was relegated to 5th place.  That being said, I stayed with Peter for a lot longer than in Round 1 and finished just 90 seconds behind the winner, Nick Algie.  Not too bad for a 1 hour 20 minute race, I took the positive view and focused on the race the next day.  Briony won the prize for the most inspirational Facebook comment “I’m envisioning great success in the next one”

In the afternoon, we were enjoyed watching the Elite men’s race and it was an enthralling to witness the many twists and turns in the race.  My recovery consisted of hopping around the mountain taking photos and watching their skill, style and power.

Luke Brame styling it up on on of the many double jumps

COMING SECOND

Saturday night dinner was a who’s who affair in Mountain Biking and Pete and I sat starry eyed as we listened to luminaires like Paul Van Der Ploeg and Sarah Riley talk cycling.  Seeing Paul pleading with the waitress for some real ice cream with his apple crumble was surreal.  Dinner was great and having learnt my lesson from last night, I took it easy on the buffet.  Finally sleep came and I got a solid 8 hours to awake feeling refreshed and quietly confident that today would be a better day.  I followed the same morning prep with remarkably less visits to the toilet, and was back on the start line ready to give it another thrash.  
The start was different today, having seen each other race, and now knowing each other a little better, the first fireroad sprint was a series of jockeying moves for position and swapping turns.  Strategy it seemed had kicked in well and truly.  As we raced back through timing, yesterday’s winner Nick Algie sprinted away, with Pete Lister 2nd and giving chase.  Pete put the hammer down to hunt down Nick, whilst a race for 3rd developed between Dave, Damon and I.  At the fireroad climb I passed Dave and had a good gap at the start of the descent.  OK, this is good, I was feeling much more comfortable than yesterday and thought 3rd was definitely within my reach.
 
Having set about making sure that 3rdplace was safe, on the 3rd lap, I saw Nick up ahead walking his bike with a deformed drivetrain.  “Back luck Nick” was all I could say, as I saw the heartbreak written on his face.  His race was over. 
In the final two laps my legs were strong and I was really enjoying the trail.  The climb suited me perfectly, but even more exciting were the descents, I almost felt like a BMX racer as my confidence grew and I started to hit the berms and jumps just that little bit faster.  One of the ladies staying with us commented that I looked too clean as I fought for control through one of the most challenging tracks I have ever ridden, called “Bloody Mary”.  Sure enough I binned it in the dust just 5 seconds later, surely a Freudian slip to prove I was serious, but no harm done as I quickly remounted and half rolled, half slid the remainder of the segment.

Crossing the line in 2nd was one of the best results ever, after all the hard work to achieve this goal was incredibly satisfying.  It’s funny how a little piece of shiny metal in the form of a medallion can mean so much, but this form of racing is so raw and intense, I may just never do 24 solo again!  It takes every bit as much focus and energy and crams it into 90 minutes.
Sunday’s podium with Pete 1st, Mike 2nd and Dave 3rd


THE THREE LEGGED DOG

One the main reasons for entering this series was to meet new people and to ride new tracks and that mission was well and truly accomplished.  Added to that I have gotten to rub shoulders with some truly legendary riders and learn from them.  I have found it enlightening to hear them speak of racing and the lifestyle such talent and hard work affords.  Two of our favourite new friends this weekend were Geoff and Kim.  These two knock about sandgropers had us in stitches all weekend; and Geoff owned one of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever seen, with three legs.  These guys, stayed the whole weekend mainly to support young gun Zac Larrson from Pete’s hometown, but they gladly handed us bottles too and we couldn’t have achieved our great results without them.  Thanks so much guys for all your good humour and expert support, you made the weekend ever more memorable.  Incidentally, Zac came away with two silver medals in the U/15’s so there is another up and coming talent.  He also learnt an important lesson regarding chamois hygiene #chaffedbutchuffed
I have used the royal “we” in this post as Pete and I travelled together and shared accommodation.  Not only that, we were in direct competition as the only two east coast masters to make the trip west.  Pete is a step above me and had a stellar weekend of results, taking 3rd and 1st in the two races and cementing the series leader’s jersey.  We had a terrific weekend together spurring and encouraging each other on despite our competitive relationship.  Not only do we share a love of cycling but a common view on the claims Jesus Christ makes in the Bible so to share the podium with him on Sunday was one of the proudest moments in my cycling journey.
There were so many characters we met over the weekend.  The Tucknotts, the pregnant lady at the top Marshall Point, Mark and Paul (head of Pemberton MTB Park and Trail builder extraordinaire respectively), not to mention the many elite riders who cheerfully gave up some of their precious time for a natter.  There are so many stories of others who give their lives to this sport, like the commissaires and volunteers who give up a whole weekend to run the event.  Darryl from CORC is just one who comes to mind.  Peta Mullens was another inspiration on Sunday, beating the seemingly unbreakable Bec Henderson and adding MTB XCO series leader to her recent National Road champion title.  What a talent!

Peta Mullens taking the win on Sunday in the Elite Women on Sunday

Finally thankyou to my friends at Cyclery Northside for your support, and most important to Sarah and kids, thankyou for giving me the time and resources to pursue this passion and to see just how good I can get at this crazy sport.  It keeps me sane, just!  It’s now 3:27am and I’m on the red eye, looking forward to reuniting with my family for Australia Day
Keep riding
Mike

Pemberton MTB Park
Bicentennial Tree Pemberton – Pete and I climbed it before heading back to Perth for our flights home

Posted in Cyclery Northside, cycling, ellsworth, intensity, mikejisrael, mountain biking, mtba, pemberton mtb park, XCO | Leave a comment

Warm up at Yellowmundee

Christmas is over for another year and while most cyclists would be putting their feet up and enjoying a few extra guilt free calories whilst planning their trip to Adelaide for the TDU, I was sweating hard on a wind trainer somewhere on NSW far north coast whilst helping out on SUFM Beach mission.  Round 1 of the XCO last month was fun, but my 6th placing provided enough motivation to see if I could extract any more power from the old diesel.
Web site http://whats.todaysplan.com.au provided the challenge.  Some monster intervals to improve power and strength and there were times on that trainer in 30 deg heat with no fan where I came close to quitting.  The one thing that kept me going was the promise of a better performance in Pemberton.
In my final week of the plan, Quantum rider Michal Kafta was looking for a teammate to pair up in the WSMTB Stans 4 hour Summer Series Round 2 (Twilight Edition) http://www.wsmtb.com/v2/4hr_2014.html Michal is a very talented rider having won the Veterans in the Fling and placing very high in the Croc trophy last year and although I wouldn’t put myself in his league, I was privileged to join with him for some fun and give the legs a test before tapering for WA.
Upon arriving at Yellowmundee around 4pm, the sun was still blazing and temps were still 30+ degrees.  Classic Yellowmundee, it was hot and the track was dry, dusty and very ,very looooose.  Every track has it’s own character and this is just what I’d expect from this favourite track at the base of the Blue Mountains. An added bonus was that Michal had put up the marquee and we had 3 other quantum teams racing with Mark & Ollie, Jacob & Alex, and Aaron & Steve combining to provide some inter-team rivalry.
 

The banter begins at the marquee, just racing for fun right?

I volunteered Michal for the first lap and was both cheering and cursing as he cruised through transition after the start in 2nd wheel behind young sensation Matt Dinham.  Before he went out he said to me to take it easy in the heat, conserve energy and then light it up after the sunset and temps dropped.  It was great to see Michal taking his own advice, NOT!  Michal came back through timing in about 5th place just 20 secs behind Matt and tagged me in.  The sun was still raging but I felt great on the track. I’d brought my racing Anthem shod with newly renovated www.TWEBikeWheels.com.auArch 29er wheels.  They might be over 4 years old but these wheels still feel light and stiff and the Anthem was eating up the rocky trail. 
Meanwhile the legs felt strong.  I’d had a dodgy stomach for most of the week, even succumbing to a nap before heading out to the race, but once I was riding, all the cares and niggles just fell away and I opened up the taps.  I got finished the lap in just a minute more than Michal’s lap so I was stoked with that and we steadied into 4thplace overall.
The race continued pretty smoothly and 3rdplace was coming up on the radar.  Michal put in a scorching lap breaking the 19min barrier and then sent me out right behind 3rd place Velocipede with Jacob leading a train of three.  On the techy rock steps, the Velo rider made a mistake and I jumped past onto Jacob’s wheel.  We stomped to the base of the fireroad climb and half way up we’d established a good gap on Velocipede so I put my head down and recorded my fastest lap just missing a sub 20 min lap by 2 seconds.
The rest of the evening passed by without incident, the vibe on the track was very casual and as the 4 hour mark closed in, the traffic thinned, the temperature dropped and the light slowly disappeared to leave me riding in ideal conditions.  It was another good test for the www.NiteLights.com.au and the bright broad beam provided excellent illumination in the foreground, whilst the ever faithful www.ayup-lights.com narrow beam on the helmet lit up further down the track.
I ran Maxxis Icon EXC front and rear which gave a good sense of grip, fast rolling and protection from the rocky terrain.
 

Thanks to Riding Focus for this great shot

In the end we finished 3rdoverall with the Kaliba team of Glen and Fabian just 2 minutes back chasing hard.  1st and 2nd placed pairs were a whole lap ahead, made up of Matt Dinham (18), Luke Brame (17), Ben Metcalfe (14!!) and long time XC champion Matt Fleming now turned 40! Look out Masters category. And look out for these young guns, coming through the ranks.  They ride like greased lightning.
It was a well run event with some nice prizes donated by www.BikeMinded.com.au, www.BlackmanBicycles.com.auand www.PantherCycles.com.au so thank you for their support.
Thanks to the www.Quantum-Racing.com.au team for a great fun event and to Michal for the opportunity to race with you.  It was just great to feel part of a team and chew the fat around the transition as we waited for our partners to reappear all too soon!  Thanks also to all the riders who turned up to make it a fun event and the local RFS crew for the great BBQ.  It was great to catch up with part of the MTB family friendly and chatty as always.  Now it’s time to rest and taper and see what comes about in Pemberton next weekend.
Keep Riding

Mike


Posted in Cyclery Northside, cycling, Giant Anthem 29er, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, mikejisrael, mtb, Quantum Racing, stans, WSMTB, XC | Leave a comment

MTBA XCO Round 1 – You Yangs

One of the great joys of cycling is that it can take you to beautiful places you might not ordinarily visit and you meet top quality people you might otherwise never meet.  XCO (Olympic distance Cross Country) is something I hadn’t done before and since winning the 24 solo a little over 12 months ago, my racing has been getting shorter and shorter, so it seemed like a logical progression to give XCO a go.  I didn’t have high aspirations for this race, the plan was just to turn up and give it a good crack.  MTBA are working hard to offer a quality MTB race experience and with more and more choice for races coming onto the calendar, I figured you could do a lot worse than support the peak body.
So it was that Kel, Jesse and I loaded up the trusty Hyundai i-Load and hit the road.  We couldn’t have timed it better in terms of weather.  Sydney was still a maze of gushing creeks and drainways from the recent spate of storms and as we headed south, the clouds parted and Gundagai greeted us with perfect blue skies and mild warm weather.
We arrived at the track just after lunch Friday and had a leisurely cruise around the course, and what a great course it was.  Not unlike Stromlo, the soil is dry, dusty and loose.  I’d need every millimeter of the Curve carbon hoops and Rubena tyres and keep the rubber side down.  Not only that but the track was littered with a number of rocky obstacles.  Mind you, these are not like the random rocky ruts that you find at the dam.  These are purpose built obstacles to test your skill, balance and power, and on my first lap I probably had to unclip 4 or 5 times and go back and repeat to search for the ideal line.  One of those lines brings you to the top of a huge granite extrusion that seems to descend straight to the centre of the earth, it’s so steep.  But similar to the drop off at Ourimbah, if you get the line right and stay off the brakes, it’s a hoot to ride.  Satisfied with practice, we retired to the cheap little motel we found in Corio, loaded up on carbs and hit the sack.

The Elite Women’s start and Bec has her race face on from the start

Race day and again conditions are perfect, but already you can feel the temperature rising.  My Garmin peaked at 43 degrees for the day.  Poor Jesse went with the U/19 at 12:30pm for a 4 lap stint in the furnace.  Huge props to him for his first hit out in the higher age group, finishing strong and clean, well not quite clean, the heat bringing on a bloody nose.  The Elites had to do 6 laps and it was great seeing our nations best battle it out.  Not so great was the attrition rate, the heat was taking a big toll; Kel and I were in the feedzone and there were dropped bottles a plenty and that would obviously take a toll.  The Masters and Opens were delayed till 3pm, which was fine by us, perhaps the heat would drop off slightly.
The Elite Man’s start and DMac paced himself for 5 laps then lifted to another level to pull away in the final lap
Finally we were on the grid and it was great to chat with a few of the locals.  They were all built like bulldogs, compact, strong and punchy they looked, unlike “muggins” Israel all skinny arms and a diesel engine, but who cares! It was just great to be there.  The start as expected was furious and I’d had a decent warm up so to be 5th wheel going into the climb I was pretty happy.  Confession time, I dropped the wheel, but we’d dropped the main field and there were only 3 riders behind me and they were happy with my steady pace (diesel!).  I cleared all the main obstacles, it wasn’t pretty but the last thing I wanted to do was slow down my fellow competitors.  Nearing the top, one guy behind was calling to push hard and so I did.  By the time we crested I was on 96% heart rate and my throat was almost closed it was so dry.  I let the three of them pass and took a moment to get a few drops of liquid down my bile coated throat so I could breath again.  I caught one of the guys and he kindly gave me the track on the descent, and what a descent it is.  9 switchbacks, lots of flow and a great opportunity to just stay off the brakes, pick your lines and recover.  I got a gap and pressed on hard.  I took the B line when it came to the slippery dip, thinking there was no need to take risks just yet. 
Some of the Elite guys rolling into the slippery dip
We only had 3 laps to complete.  8km times three doesn’t seem like much but I must have been averaging 85% heart rate so heading up the climb the second time knowing I only had to do it once more was a good feeling.  The aim now was to keep up my pace and hold position.  The cheering crowd was great and I was picking up a few of the slower Masters 1/2 riders.  There was still no sign of any chasers, but then again there was no sign of any rabbits to chase either, so I enjoyed the final lap, took the A-line down the slippery dip and came over the line in 6thplace.  Not too bad, I have to admit I had dreamt of a podium finish but I can take away a lot of positives, knowing I was not far off the pace required, and pushed some pretty accomplished riders.
A great thrill it was to meet Peter Lister, another national level masters rider from Mackay, who had driven down for the Husky and then continued onto the You Yangs when the Husky got cancelled! Now that’s a road trip.  Peter is also a keen Christian who wanted to know more about JesusMTB.  Head of Missions for Mackay Christian College, he takes groups of students away to PNG and Africa to work on community projects and to give the kids some exposure to places not as well off as Australia.
The other day a mate of mine, quipped that believing in God in this day and age is a little akin to believing in Santa Claus.  For me, when I look around at this amazing creation we live in I don’t consider that a random accident.  The alternative that there is nothing after death and your life adds up to the sum total of the good things you did and the good times you had rings hollow for me, not to mention my own personal failings.  The story of Jesus Christ and who he claimed to be and the redemption he offers is the only thing that seems truly real to me.
I’ve been typing this as we head back north and am looking forward to getting home after a quick reccie of the trails at Bright.  That means I have a huge thankyou to Sarah and the kids for doing without me over these few days, I love you guys.  Also thanks to Kel and Jesse for the opportunity to travel and ride with you, it’s been just great.
Keep riding

Mike

It was great to see a bit of the downhill

Posted in 29er, curve cycling, cycling, ellsworth, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, mikejisrael, mountain biking, MTBAust, MTBNats, Rubena, XCO | Leave a comment

To Spin or not to Spin and why I would pay money to ride a WattBike

Earlier this year, when the weather wasn’t so great and I needed a change in my training, I purchased a block of ten sessions from the CycleStudio in Balgowlah.  I thoroughly enjoyed my training every time I went and had a great time meeting up with my mates and training hard this way.  If you are a seasoned cyclist, then you have probably done the odd spin class at a gym, just for something different or for when the weather turned “sub-optimal”.  But this place is something entirely different.  Customised and optimised for cyclists, CycleStudio has a warmth and an ambience that makes you fall in lovely with cycling all over again.  And if you ride to and from the Studio, it’s even better!

Here’s 5 reasons why I reckon you should give it a go.

The Weather:
Let’s face it, noone likes riding in the rain, it’s dangerous, it wrecks your bike and you spend the next 3 days trying to clean the grit out of every nook and cranny, so enter the CycleStudio.  Nothing is quite as nice as getting in a quality training session while it;s chucking it down outside. Spending time in a nice clean spin room, with the music pumping, a stage of the TDF playing and the lights tinted red, makes for a perfect training environment.  #gameon

Get Coached:
Getting coached in cycling is the best thing you can do if you want to improve.  No matter where you are at, a good coach will always have some suggestions on how you can tweak your training and get another 1% out of those heart, lungs and legs.  At Cycle Studio there is of course the world famous James “Chops” Lamb, but the other instructors are just as good and they are trained specific to cycling, unlike ordinary gyms.

Power and Technique:
The amount of data available on a Watt Bike can be overwhelming for some, but put those numbers to work in context and you get a very clear picture of your strengths and weaknesses and what you need to work on, even how to plan your next big event.  Training with power is the best known way to accurately measure your performance and it isn’t just for the pro’s.  It doesn’t matter whether you can ride away from Tony Martin or you are just a beginner, training with power (Watts) will give you the information you need to get better,faster, fitter.  And with the WattBike that power meter is always pinpoint accurate.  On top of that, the WattBike has this cool little graph that shows you your pedalling technique and teaches you to spin those pedals as efficiently as possible while you pedal.  The WattBike also comes with all the adjustments you’d want to get set up in your optimum position so you can play around with this a bit and see how your riding position impacts your performance and comfort in the saddle.

Numbers can be fun!!

Comaraderie:
There’s nothing quite like the motivation produced when cyclists get into the competitive spirit and starting competing on a numbers basis.  The WattBike doesn’t lie and there are no shortcuts.  No drafting and no hanging back at the start of a segment.  “Iron sharpens iron” was never so true when it comes to putting a bunch of cyclists into the same room.  Guaranteed, you will leave nothing in the tank and give every workout your best when there are bragging rights up for grabs. But you are not just competing against your mates.  You are competing against yourself, looking for that next best 20min average.  Another advantage is because you are stationary, you aren’t left waiting at the top of a climb, or worse, you will never have that feeling of holding back the bunch.  You can go along with whoever you like, it doesn’t matter what level cyclist they are, you all get to push to the max and you all finish at the same time.

Good mate Phil Welch building a bigger engine

Testing:
If you are using power to dictate your training levels, then you need to know what you are capable of when you are at your best.  A threshold test on power in a controlled environment is the only way to really tell whether or not you are making progress.  Whether the result is good or bad, you’ll know exactly what you need to do next, maybe take it up a level or maybe back it off for a few days and get a bit more recovery.  Either way you will have confidence that you are making the most of every single training session.

So there you go, just one way you can change up your cycling. Are you looking to get into cycling but not sure where to start, maybe this is for you and noone is going to abuse you from a car window either, nice and safe.  Why not give it a try!

Keep Riding
Mighty Mike

Posted in chops, cyclestudio, cycling, mikejisrael, power, wattbike, watts | 1 Comment

Highland Fling 2014

Driving down the Hume Highway at 4 in the morning, tends to brings things to a certain perspective.  Alone with all your thoughts, questions and doubts driving through the fog in the dark, dodging kangaroos with just a mountain bike in the boot.  And then you notice that thin line of sunlight starting to appear on the horizon and all that matters is getting onto that start line and riding your bike with and against your mates.

It had been another busy week, carefully planned to extract value from every minute and meet my current commitments to family and work, not to mention training and recovery and now it was time to see if I had anything to offer for the final round of the Maverick Marathon series.

Rego at 6am was simple and then a quick drive over to the event centre and before long I was kitted up and ready to race.  The temperature was perfect and in just a summer jersey I headed out for a nice easy warm up and back in time to stake an appropriate possie in the self seeded grid.  My preparation had been minimalist all week in all the wrong areas.  Training, sleep and relaxation had eluded me in place of a hectic routine, but the legs had that welcome fresh and hardened feeling.  I had a sneaking suspicion of a great ride.

The start was hassle free and I quickly jumped into a nice fast bunch.  The first false flat tests the field and I was happy to find I was holding my place, whilst a few others fell away.  Into the farmland and we formed a mixed bunch of the quicker vets and masters.  Rob “CD” Weiser and Steve “Bam Bam” Henry joined me, having fought through the traffic from further back on the grid.  Kudos to them!  My heart rate was on 88% and after the first hour reaching Wingello the avg was 86% That’s pretty normal for the first stg of the Fling, it is mostly fireroad and this year seemed to contain a little more vertical than usual.  Mike Blewitt sat up for us a few times and also pulled some turns.  We were spoilt to have an Elite rider to keep us all honest; Mike was having an easy day post Croc.

Getting to T1 was a relief in some ways and I quickly refilled my single bottle. The strategy for today was to go light and make the most of the available drink stops, a risky proposal but one I felt could deliver a slight advantage.  I went back for watermelon and lollies twice, emptied the sand out of my shoes from the river crossing and formed up the bunch to hit the Shimano stage.  I gave up a minute here, but figured it was worth it.  Two of my fiercest competitors in Mark “Iceman” Hardy and Gary “the Hammer” Harwood had headed out before me so in my mind I had two rabbits to chase.  Before long we caught their bunch and surprised myself when my legs went into attack mode and sped past them on one of the thousand pinch climbs we would crest throughout the day.  I gave the wall a good crack in the 34 front 36 rear but half way up realised my folly and took to walking.

running a little wide on an off camber corner, hang onto it Isy!

My theory is riding this wall might give you a few seconds at the top but you pay big time later in the race for this super effort.  I took a quick gel at the top and cut back onto the short single track just in front of Lewy and Coops.  “Sorry boys!” I got out of their way as quick as possible and got a 30 second coaching lesson from Coops before they disappeared.  Tupac, Brendan and two young TORQ guys had already sped through and the next to arrive in a screaming, shredding mess was Masters pin up boy James Downing shouting “TRACK PLEEEEEEASE” from 30 metres away, again the shout came so I pulled off and waited for him to pass none too happy to give up precious seconds near the end of the Great Wall of China, but that’s racing.  Next time I might not be so accommodating JD :).
It’s actually one of the things I like about the Fling even if it is a little weird starting the Elite guys last.  I had a nice little chat with English after his signature “How’s YOUR day goin’?” and Glenn Columbine also ambled past a little worse for wear after an OTB earlier on.  I’ll never forget the last time I did the Fling a bunch of about 10 Elites came through like a freight train somewhere in Tangles including Craig Gordon, what a thrill to see these guys ride so fast.

By the intermediate drinks stop, it was just Rob and I with a couple of others not far ahead.  At this point I should mention the Single Speed rider just behind, Stephen Tomczyk.  He’d been with us all day pushing a huge gear so the three of us hit Halfway Hill and the Kick and we got through that relatively comfort.  The next section I had a few demons to face, Outer Limits and Wild West are often where the cramps hit, but again the legs behaved and it was a great feeling to hit the fireroad and pick David O’Connell (fellow masters) and Sam Moffit (finished 3rd in the mile!).  Together with Rob the 4 of us pulled unspoken turns all the way back to Wingello, well three of us anyway we gave Sam a free tow #luckyman

This time I hit the lap button and we refuelled and used up 4:30 before heading out into the last stage.  At this point Steve on the SS had rejoined us, so the 4 of us rolled out and again pulled turns all the way to the private property.

At some point Dave got a little gap and thinking he was younger, I let him go (he finished one place ahead of me in Masters).  There still seemed to be no sign of anyone behind us, so I began entertaining ideas of a top 5 finish, and was looking forward to finishing the ride with Rob.  Brokeback mountain came and went with little fuss and by Baker’s Delight the three us weaved our way through trees, rocks and obliging half flingers.  Still feeling I had some juice left and keen to preserve my position in the field, I wound up the pace before Your Call, sensing a chasing group.

Thankyou half fingers for giving us the track

As I hit the bitumen, Ben May came by, we checked each others category, him Vets me Masters OK we can work together.  “there’s a group of about 4 behind and they are about to jump, let’s go!” Ben said who looked pretty fresh so I breathed in deep and gave it one last effort, the two of us swapping turns on the slight downhill.  “If we can get over this last crest alone we should be clear” I said as I noticed my HR was nudging 88% again, hmm not bad, so I still have something left?  Ben hammered the last km to the finish and I was only 50m behind, elated to finish in such good shape whilst at the same time wondering if I could have gone a little harder?  Rob pulled in just a minute later, it’s something special to complete such a tough race and to have shared the majority with a good mate.

Is that a smile or a grimace? Come on Rob!

My hopes of a top 5 category finish turned out to be as vague as the clouds of dust we’d endured for the last 5 and a half hours, but I was still stoked with my performance when I looked at the pedigree in front of me added to which were a couple of new names recently turned 40, including Luke Beuchat and Todd Sinclair.  Interestingly, the split on the top 34 riders was 14 Elite, 1 Open, 9 Vets and 9 Masters so age really is no barrier.

And so the MTB family swells again, with new riders, new rivals and most importantly new friends though I really think any top level triathletes crossing over to MTB need a big fluoro “T” painted on their quads or something.  Thanks especially to Rob, Dave, Sam, Steve (SS) and Bam for the company over a great ride.

Keep Riding
Mike

Nutrition
4 and a half bidons
9 gels, half a bar
watermelon, banana, lollies, oranges

Posted in curve cycling, ellsworth, highland fling, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, marathon mtb, mountain biking, Quantum Racing, rubena tyres, xcmtb | Leave a comment