Sunday, October 30, 2011
Race Report: Kanangra Classic 100km Mountain Bike Race. 16th October 2011. The day was off to a slightly awkward start with some fun and games driving into the race start, as I miscalculated a creek crossing and managed to get the Landcruiser stuck, leaving a long line of anxious competitors queuing to get in for close to 20 minutes and one disgruntled NPWS ranger. Ooops. Lucky we left at 4 and not 4:30am hey Ben Artup? The obligatory queue at the port-a-loos made for some more awkward anxiousness. The race started very quick, and got faster along the 11km of road before the firetrail began. Definitely the longest run in I’ve ever ridden. I never managed to bridge the riders at the front who quickly started working together, one by one those that couldn’t hold on dropped off the back. I counted 2 cyclocross riders and 1 Surly Fat-tyre beast who passed me along the road. By the time I reached the fire trail, I was in about 7th position. I passed Sleep Train on the back side of a creek crossing followed by a steep and muddy ascent around the same time as I picked up cyclocross #2 as he struggled on the descents. We would yo-yo as he climbed quicker and set a good pace on the flat (there wasn’t much of this at this stage). This first FT section had quite a lot of climbing, broken up with some steep and at times not very well-defined downhill trails with plenty of drainage lips to keep you on your toes and behind the saddle. I thoroughly enjoyed these. Quite often at the bottom you would find yourself crossing a cold creek of uncertain depth. We arrived at the first major intersection as we had to navigate our way on to what was called the “inner loop”. At this point Cyclocross #2 and I joined up with Specialized S-works Stumpjumper #1 (Mike Hernan) who was unsure of which way to go. Presented with 3 options and no marshals at the aid station at this stage, after some discussion we took off in what appeared to be the right direction. Chatting along we reached the conclusion that we were probably first out of the 100km riders, as Mike was under the impression the guys up front were 50km riders. The pace they were setting up till the inner loop intersection was quick. The trail climbed gradually back up to the road, passed the second aid station, and then doubled back along mostly hard-packed dirt road. I had managed to put a hundred metres or so in to Mike climbing up to the road, which he promptly caught back up along the return on the faster road surface. We stayed together for the most part until we reached the finish of the first lap and had to pass through timing. We were told we were second and third placed 100km riders, and that first was just ahead of us. Mike picked up some more water as I kept moving, coming back on to the road with about 300m on him. First place was in sight about 500km up the road. Again Mike caught me about 1.5km short of the first turn on to the FT section. First place was not in sight at this stage. We almost missed the turn off, as Mike was concentrating on the road, and I was concentrating on his wheel in front. I gave him a shout as I took the turn, I would have felt bad if I’d let him ride on past while I took off. Again we climbed and descended along the FT. It was certainly a little trickier to climb the steep section after the creek crossing this time, as it was considerably muddier. I couldn’t get any traction in the back and had to jump off. Mike would have made it up, but got stuck behind me. We ran up the hill and jumped on again. At the next turn-off at the top of the climb, I had maybe 20m on Mike and decided I had to go now if I was going to stay away this time. He was a little cautious descending, so I knew I could pull away. We passed first place half way down the hill who had apparently suffered a flat tyre. A quick call of “you alright mate?” as I passed, and confirmation that he wasn’t in need of any medical attention and it was down and across another creek. I managed to look back over my shoulder and saw Mike not far behind as he crossed the creek. Head down I put the hammer down and tried to get out of sight quickly. I pulled away from Mike slightly and would catch glimpses of him on the long straight sections, each time just that little further behind. Buoyed by this and the fact that I (thought I) was in the lead, every time I started to fatigue or battled up a hill I would remind myself that I could in fact do this. I could pull away and put some more time in to Mike. As I knew I could climb a little quicker than Mike on the longer climbs I had to keep the pace up the whole way back along the first section of the inner loop. A quick collection of a cup of jelly beans at the aid station before the road caught the marshall by surprise. I don’t think he was expecting a rider to take the cup from his hands without stopping. I thought I was out of gels, and still had about 12km to ride at this point. Two mouthfuls of jelly beans down and I was about to head back along the inner loop road section, when the volunteer at this point directed me to keep going straight along the road and out to the far turn-off. This didn’t make a lot of sense, and wasn’t what I was prepared for, so I backed myself and told him he had it wrong. As I swung back around, I heard him comment he probably better look at the map again. I wasn’t going to wait around while he worked it out for himself and Mike caught me back up, so I put the hammer down and tried to keep the pace up. This section Mike had caught me up last time, so I got as flat as I could on the bars and kept the legs turning. A few quick glances back reassured me as I couldn’t see Mike. I passed a few guys who were about to head on to the inner loop as I took every corner as quickly as I could. The marshals cheered me on as I took the sweeping right hander before dropping down to the deepest and widest creek crossing of the whole race. The road down to the creek was fairly steep and eroded, and I was approaching it too quickly. Momentum carried me right down the middle of the road, where there was some deep ruts, and I had visions of me heading straight over the bars and head first in to the creek. Some quick maneuvering and a few expletives later I was still on the bike. The first time around we carried our bikes across, but this time I was prepared to cross it on the bike, as I could avoid the deepest section. Making it through safely I was back on the gas again, trying to stay out of Mike’s sights, thinking he was just around the corner behind me. I knew if he caught sight of me he would find that kick he needed, and the last section to go had too many flat sections for my liking. I was of course experiencing mixed emotions about this, as my legs were fatigued and the climbing wasn’t easy. Every time the legs protested I told them Mike’s were probably doing it tougher as he was likely 10kg heavier than me. They quietened up and got on with the job at hand. The last FT section back up to the road felt about twice as long as it did the first time, and I was getting a little worried. A few times the inside of my hamstring almost cramped up, and I was worried that if it did cramp up I would have to stop and stretch it out. I took it easy on the climbs and was careful not to bump the inside of my thigh against the saddle, as this would almost set the cramp off each time. A few more creek crossings some short climbs, and mostly undulating gentle climbs took me up the road finally. It was on like Donky Kong for the short 2km section of road back to the entry into the campground and perhaps the worst section of the entire course, as I made the very short climb across a bumpy paddock to the finish line. There were no finish line celebrations planned, as I was a little tired, but as I crossed and the commentator called “Well done Dr Phil, second across the line in the 100km” or something like that, I was a little surprised. The last 25km I had battled through the cramps and fatigue simply because I believed I was winning. And that was all the motivation I needed. To discover that I had done so under a false assumption made me just a little embarrassed, but I hid it well. Ben and Rod were quick to congratulate me and fill me in on the controversy of the circumstances in which the first guy had finished. Apparently he had been directed the wrong way at the start of the second lap, doing the inner loop earlier before he went out to the far turn-off. He had apparently also missed the section back into the campground on his first lap, and so was informed he still had a lap to go by timing. After some brief discussions it was decided he would need to ride back to the road in order to ride the total distance of the race, before he could finish. He managed to do this, and was still home a good 5 minutes before I came in. Either way, rules or not, I presume he completed the total distance and did so in a quicker time than I did. He was most certainly a better rider than I was, and for that he has my respect. I was happy to be informed that the race organisers had decided to award the win to both of us. To be honest it didn’t matter. I was pleased I had a good race and had given it everything I had. I’m not so accustomed to winning now that I get disappointed with anything less than victory. All in all, the inaugural Kanangra Classic 100km was a fast and flowing race with undulating firetrails and hard-packed dirt road. Just enough steep rugged descents to keep the cyclocross guys occupied, and enough climbing to give the roadies a bit of trouble. The pace was set from the start and it came down to a battle to hold on to that pace over the entire race. Well done to Sean, Mel and Jo and the rest of the Mountain Sports Crew for a professionally organised race. Hats off to Jono and Priscilla at JP Photography for a long day at the office and some great photos.