To the Other Side and Back.

Heading down to Sri Lanka for two weeks of resting and racing the 4 day Rumble in the Jungle was a great wind down after the World 24HR Solo Championships in Italy early June.  Capturing a dream I’d been chasing for quite some time created a high which I managed to ride through the tough 4 days of racing across the jungles and mountains of Sri Lanka to take the Victory.  It was a nice redemption after coming up short in 2014 during my first attempt in this country which is as far away from Canada as I think you can go and interestingly produces 90% of the Worlds Cinnamon and some of the purest tea around.

The Rumble in the Jungle is put on by the same group of organizers as the Worlds Highest mountain bike race, The Yak Attack in Nepal.  Both these races are pretty low key with 40-60 riders which creates a family atmosphere although the racing is some of the wildest adventures one can have on a bike as we cross some very remote areas of the World.   Starting in the Southern Jungles of Sri Lanka where elephants and Leopards rome around, we soon climbed up 1500 M and spent the next 3 days riding in a pleasant climate under huge waterfalls, through spotless tea gardens and into the heart of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon) is often called  the tear drop of India as its an island nation south of India.  It’s a small country with 20 million inhabitants but is one of the most diverse places on earth, famed for its ancient Buddhist ruins, wildlife, beaches but most of all its welcoming locals which give the island a nice charm.

The race itself was harder then I was hoping for after racing the 24hr Worlds the week before as former UK National champion and double Olympian Nick Craig but the hammer down on day 1 taking the victory by nearly 8 minutes.  It was a rough day for everyone as the 35 degree heat plus jungle humidity caused everyone to melt down pretty good.  Twice on the 1.5 hr climb out of the Jungles I had to get off my bike to have a breather as the body was having a full meltdown.  It was a rough couple hours but thats racing and sometimes you have to put your head down and push through it.

Stages 2 the body came back to life but I had a bunch of time to make up on GC.  Sprinting off the line I gained a minute lead in the first 10 minutes of the race but would wreck a tire going over something sharp. Stopping 5-7 minutes to patch the tire and pop a tube in was a small hold up as I slowly sunk to the back of the race and now had a big gap to make up. Luckily the legs stayed on fire and after 20 minutes of going down one of the roughest descents I’ve ever done it was back to work to catch up to Nick.  I’m lucky Nick is 47 years old and past his prime as he made it tough enough on me as I had to dig deep to eventually catch him mid race and subsequently put 8-9 minutes into him to erase the deficit from day 1.

Stage 3 started with a epic climb, first going under the highest free falling waterfall in Sri Lanka and slowly working our way up a rough cobbled path through the tea plantations, eventually topping out on the Hortons plateau at 2000 M.  It’s one of the hardest and coolest climbs I’ve done with epic views over the jungles as the local villagers were out working the plantations looking at us in confusion.  From here we ripped across the elephant habitat of the Hortons plateau, down a single track jungle descent then back up a nice climb over a secluded pass in the backwoods before dropping into the hill station of Nuwara Eliya for the night.   It was tough racing but every night was spent in a nice hotel and we would cruise around town on our bikes after the stages to feel the culture nd look for our favourite street snack, egg hoppers.  Hoppers are made from fermented rice flour and coconut milk and then cooked in a round pot to create crispy bowl like creation.  Sometimes they crack an egg in the middle making it an egg hopper.  Being a religious country it’s ok to eat hoppers anywhere but the egg hoppers are apparently dangerous to eat by a temple!  You learn something new every day when your travelling the world

 

Stage 4 was a sweet way to finish the race with a 30 minute climb out of the gate before hitting a rolling descent for the next 40 km into Sri Lankas 2nd biggest city of Kandy.  The diversity of the riding was awesome with everything from rough local paths, cobblestones, pavement and gravel mixed in as we’d skirt in and out of the jungle and through little villages.  There is never a dull moment racing in Sri Lanka as every corner had a surprise around it.  Post race we had a nice unwind with a traditional train trip back to Colombo for a banquet and some first class treatment from the races title sponsor Sri Lankan Airlines.

Heading back to Europe I had a 2 day layover in London and decided to ride around the city for the day.   This 21st century city and capitol of the UK exceeded my expectations with its rich history stretching back to Roman Times, it also stretched my energy thin as I didn’t realize how damn big the city was to ride across! Being a curious traveller I opted to fly into Italy so I could have a drive across Switzerland to check out the country on the way to the Industrial city of Singen in southern Germany for the UCI Marathon World Champs.   Switzerland looks alot like the Canadian Rockies although paying 9$ to fill my water bottle up with fizzy water at a gas station and seeing a burger cost 30-35$ I quickly put my wallet away
until crossing back out of there boarder and into reality again.  

The UCI Marathon Worlds was a tough race as the course was 50% on pavement and the rest on hay fields or gravel roads going around hayfields.  A Cross bike would’ve been perfect as the most technical part of the whole race were the barriers around the start finishing area which required a bit of maneuvering of the handlebars.  Otherwise it was a road race, going up pitchy 2-6 minute climbs then bombing straight down hay fields as fast as you’d let your bike go. Somewhere along the line somebody forgot this was the Mountain bike Worlds and not Road worlds.

 Getting called up 174 out of 188 meant I had some work to do to get up to the leaders as this race was all about position.  Unfortunately right off the gun I got taken into the barriers and was in dead last place trying to chase onto the peloton as it roared 50-60 km/hr down the highway to the first climb.   My 36T-11 chainring was fully spun out losing even more time on the peloton before it eventually hit a hill and I could start picking riders off.  The next 1.5 hours was spent chasing groups down, recovering then trying to bridge across to the next group.  

It was a form of island hopping as I worked my way up towards the top 60 but came up short trying to bridge across to a large group of 30 riders.  Having ridden over my limit trying to get back to the front of the race I ran out of matches and started going backwards for the rest of the day.  It was an experience to say the least and will certainly make me enjoy heading back to Canada to race on real mountain bike trails that much more!  One of the intriguing things about MTB racing that keeps me going every year is the huge variety in courses we come across as it can make it seem like a whole different sport at times.  

With the 24 HR Worlds being the season focus and coming so early in the year it through a wrench in the normal preps for the summer racing but it’s a new challenge to try and figure a solution too.  I figure it’s all doable if you treat your body right and have the mental focus to deal with the little challenges along the way. The last 10 days were spent in Victoria visiting with family and trying some new recovery techniques to get the body back on line as there’s no time to rest right now. With the BC Bike Race starting tomorrow it’s time to kick start the system as there’s a title from last year to try and defend!

  

 

 

 

 

 

World 24 Hour Solo Championships Race Report (Italy)

After coming within 3.5 minutes of the World 24 HR Solo Title in New Zealand last year I went back to the drawing board to figure out a way to end Australian Jason English’s 7 year domination of the sport.  Having raced a bike for 17 years and chasing this 24 Hr World title since riding my first World champs in Canmore in 2008 it was time to get this job done.
 

It has been a rollercoaster ride through 10 different 24 hr Solo races with some catastrophic meltdowns.  From a dislocated shoulder, foggy vision, exploding stomachs, big crashes or just plain exhaustion there have been some trying moments. There are a plethora of x factors which play into every race as you can have the best form of your life but even not having a good sleep in the days leading up to an event can derail things pretty fast.

This year the race was a gongshow for the first 6 hours with over 350 riders on a short 9.5 km course causing some intense traffic jams.   Australian Jason English, USA champ Josh Tostado and a couple Europeans went out hard on the opening laps but I’d reel them in and was soon pushing the pace.  Gaining a small gap I was feeling strong but also going through the matchbox pretty fast.  This effort was aborted as the traffic on course was blocking any big gains and the mid day sun was starting to roast my Canadian blood. The decision was to drop back and cruise for the next 4-6 hours waiting for the air temperature to drop and the course to open up.  

It was a sweet course with a nice mixture of singletrack and fire roads with a solid 12-14 minute power section on the back side which I could really diesel through and hurt the other riders.  The Italians had organized a huge party surrounding the race, in particular on one bermed descent they had a beer gardens and loud speakers. The large crowds were blowing off horns, throwing beer around and smashing carbon bikes against the barriers to make noise.  It resembled a rowdy hockey stadium and brought back some good memories of my junior days at the rink.

 Mid afternoon some cloud cover came in, the trails were opening up a bit so I upped the tempo, slowly pulling away from the other riders, just leaving Jason and I to ride a few laps together before I dropped him on the long diesel section.  Just  8-9 hrs into the race, it was early, but I was confident I was the strongest guy in the race and decided to go for it before while the going was good.

The gap grew lap by lap and soon there was word  Jason was just 8-10 minutes from being lapped.  Starting to feel the early efforts I was a bit cautious but opted to keep the momentum and try to catch Jason as this would be an emotional lift and put him on the ropes.  Around midnight I closed in on Jason, “How’s it going buddy?”,  “Hurtin a bit mate, how are you doing?  You must be loving this!”.  “For now I am..”   Jason has probably lapped me 7 or 8 times over the years so it was nice to get one back on him.

The thing about 24 hr Solo racing is there’s no easy way.  The best thing I do is only race one of these a year so I forget how hard the last one was.  With 6 hours to go the stomach went and the feeling of being poisoned quickly sunk in.  It was alarming for a few laps as I likely overdid my home made electrolyte mix and was overdosing on something so switched over to water to flush the system. It was like trying to ride a bike with the worst hangover ever mixed in with numbness and weird body aches all over the place.

The diet was now down to 50-100 calories of Clif shot blocks an hour and maybe 50 calories of cardboard.  My pit crew made up the cardboard by combining buckwheat crisp bread and sketchy herb goat cheese and then putting it in my back pocket to marinate in all the dirt, sweat and sogginess before I’d try to stuff it down my throat.  It was shocking how little went into the body the last 6 hours but it kept ticking over as there was no way I was letting this one slip away. There was a certain level of suffering going on the last few laps but I kept thinking of my Uncle Dale who passed away this spring after years of going through cancer treatments.  This suffering I was dealing with was nothing compared to what I saw him fight through, always with his head held high, as he kept on living his life to the fullest.  

Having a 40-50 minute lead on Jason was solid but that can dissolve away pretty quickly in 24 racing as the meltdowns can be game ending. Eventually the hours ticked down and I was on the homestretch.  Normally I’m  stoked when I’m in the lead and can see the finish line in sight but this seemed surreal to finally be closing in on a goal I set so many years back. The Italian race organizers (24hfinale) had spent most of the weekend organizing the party around the race and it made for a hell of a celebration coming across the finish line to claim my first World Title!   The journey I took to get here, over nearly a decade, is one I will never forget and possibly the best part of the whole thing.

After a solid 2 month altitude training camp in Guatemala this spring and a restful month at home in Victoria BC dialing in the fitness, the mind and body were better then ever this year.  The pit crew was A+ with my buddy and 24hr veteran Leighton Poidevon and Hiran from Radical Lights manning the pits.  I can’t thank these two enough for volunteering themselves and coming over to Italy to build our dream team.   Running Radical Lights during the night kept my eyes fresh as these lights are untouchable. Also having two nearly identical Kona Hei Hei full suspensions in the pits made a huge difference as we’d swap bikes 6-7 times throughout the race with both bikes running great.

Some interesting notes on the race:

In total Jason and I stopped for around 5-6 minutes total over the 24 hours.  Most laps we rolled through just grabbing bottles. There were two stops of about 1 minute each to put on and take off our lighting systems.

The body went through 42 water bottles, and around 8000-9000 calories.

I had lazer eye surgery 2 years ago but it left me with blurry vision so I wore one contact lense to see clearly in one eye, and kept the other eye free to decrease the risk of having both eyes cloud over.   12 vials of eye drops were used to keep the eyes moist and functioning as this has derailed a few races.  

Total kilometres were approximately 380 km, about 40-50 km below normal which I would contribute to all the traffic on course.

The total vertical meters climbed were around the height of Mount Everest at 8500- 9000 M. 

Huge thanks to all my family, friends, sponsors and supporters who have stood behind me over the course of all these years to pull this dream in as it takes a full team effort to pull something like this off.

Photo credits: @24hfinale

World Solo 24hr Championships 2017- Italy

The World Solo 24hr Championships are taking place this weekend on a scenic plateau above the Italian Riviera near the border of France.  After coming within 3 minutes of the title last year in New Zealand I’m grateful and excited to be back for another shot this year!  It’s shaping up to be quite the battle with riders from over 30 countries showing up to Italy, including 7 time World Champion Jason English, USA Champ Josh Tostado, a number of Europeans and some dark horses.

My friend Leighton Poidevin will be managing the Pit area with help from Hiran who is here with bags of Radical Lights to make sure the night riding is brighter then the day.  Leighton and I have been racing each other for years at 24 hour races around the World. He’s one of the most accomplished riders to ever come out of  North America and one hell of a friend to volunteer to come over to support this effort.  For this year I’ll be running 2 full suspension Kona Hei Hei’s which should help soften the blows on the rocky and short 8 km course.

Huge thanks to my friends and sponsors who have supported me over the years and have enabled this trip back to the start line at Worlds for another shot at the title.  Kona bikes has always had my back, local bike shops Freewheel Cycle in Jasper, Straight up Cycles in Victoria, and a huge thanks to Hiran at Radical Lights for flying over with the brightest and best lights in the game. 

Live results from the race can be found starting at 10 am on Friday Italian time:  which is  2am Friday morning mountain time in North America on the www.tds-live.com website.

Off to work…

Nimby 50- Onwards to The World Solo 24 HR Champs

  1. If there was one race to represent Canadian Mountain biking  it would have to be the Nimby 50 in Pemberton BC.  Set in the sun drenched Pemberton Valley surrounded with snow capped mountains it makes for the perfect location for a weekend out on the bike to take in the raw beauty and ruggedness of our country.  

 

Meeting up with my Oregon buddy Sean Babcock and his crew from Sellwood Cycle  we set off for a night of camping under the stars at Mosquito Lake.  An early jump off the dock into the frigid waters fired up the bodies on race morning then it was off to join the 225 other racers to tackle one of Canada’s rowdiest XC courses. 

The early morning swim paid off as Sean and I worked together to ride away from the rest of the field on the switchback riddled Nimby climb ascending to an eagles view of the valley below.  Sean would drift back a bit as we headed over the top and onto the gnarly overnight sensation descent tossing us straight back down the mountain over some rocky ledges and steep dusty chutes.  It’s a rad descent but also nerve racking as its a good way to wreck yourself and your bike if you get to rowdy.  The final portion of the race through the steep undulations of the Mosquito lake trails is a great place to totally crack.  The rough course winds itself around and over small rock outcroppings with pitchy 1-3 minute climbs between some rock rollovers.  Hearing the gap was 3 minutes back to Sean I kept the gas on but lowered the risk level to prevent any catastrophes.  

After 35 km of rough and gnarly riding it was a relief to hit the last 2 km fire road to cruise into defend my title from the year before and the $1000 to go with it!  Finally taking a chance to look around at the beautiful surroundings and soak in the warm sun rays  I was in a state of peace figuring the work was over for the
day.  Not quite… Kaboom!, my rear tire detonated, not sure what the hell it hit but there was no air left in it that was for sure.  Figuring Sean was only a couple minutes back at that point I made the call to ride the rim into the finish.  It was squirrely with the tire acting like a rutter sending the back end all over the place as I set a steady tempo for the finish line.  Half way down the finishing straight with 500 M to go I took a glance back and depressingly saw Sean right there closing the gap quickly just 30 seconds back.  Damn, what was suppose to be a nice cruise to the finish line quickly turned into an all out sprint trying to cling on for dear life.  There was one tricky dog leg to make going across the highway then a drifting corner into the finish line as I’d get there with 9 seconds to spare and the highest heart rate I’ve seen all year!

When the dust settled it was quite the relief and a good reminder that no race is ever over until the fat lady is singing.  The rest of the day we had a great little party/bbq at a scenic farm under the snowfields  of Mount Curries standing tall above us.  Eventually we started to over heat and all the pasty white Canadians started to burn red like lobsters as the sun hasn’t been scene like this since last September.  The only cure was a lake swim to cool the engines and relax after a pretty epic day to start the Canadian summer!  

I’m already looking forward to this race weekend next year, but right now the mind is focused on getting two bike boxes full of Kona Hei Hei’s  and gear as I head off to the World 24 HR Solo Championships in Italy!  Flight day is today and game day is June 2-3. 

For info on the World 24 HR Solo Championships check out:            http://www.wembo.com.au

Picture Credits:  Terry Evans

Canadian Double Header

In Canada we have some of the most dynamic bike races in the World with most courses dominated by awesome singeltrack with a bit of fire road mixed in to gain elevation or to link trail networks.   Races like BCBR, Singletrack 6, anything near the Alberta Rockies and all over the West Coast have spoiled us.  There is a problem though as most the races tend to be between May and July often causing overlapping weekends making it tough to hit all the great events.

This past weekend there was a BC Marathon Series race on the Sunshine Coast Saturday and the ever popular 6 HR Salty Dog Marathon in Salmon Arm on Sunday.   It was tough to decide which one to do so I started looking at schedules and calling up friends to figure out if a double header was in the cards.  On paper things started to lineup so I pooled resources and prepared for a weekend of racing across BC.

Friday afternoon, my Kona teammate, and race organizer of the Race in Sechelt had his pilot buddy Rod Powell drop into Victoria with his float plane.  This cut the travel time from 8-9 hrs down to 45 minutes and was a rad trip in itself finally getting to see Vancouver Island from there Air after riding my bike across its landscapes of the past 10 years.  The rest of the day was spent pre-riding half the course, which was still pretty wet but contains some of the best riding on the west coast as the trails snake through the lush rainforest.  Post ride I  met up with my Dad and Eileen who were on a road trip through BC and were down to watch the race.  A huge feed at Kris’s and Kates house and it was off to the couch for some rest.

The Sunshine Coaster BC Marathon was a sweet 40 km race on Kris’s hometown trails and incorporated a bunch of the BC Bike Race trails into it.   There was a $150 suicide prime on top of the first climb just 2 km into the race.  Squamish’s young gun, U23 World Cup racer Sean Finchman and I sprinted each other into the ground with him taking it by 2 inches.  It took the next 1 hour sitting in 3rd place to come around again, eventually catching the leaders Sean and Quinn with about 15 km to go which lead to a solid 3 way battle.  I’d up the tempo and dropped them on the VFR climb to cruise in for a hard fought W .  It was an exciting way to start the weekend, and then the next race started as it was back to the Sneddons to shower, eat, wash the bike and hop in the car to race to the 2:30 pm ferry back to Vancouver.  This was the key to the weekend, we made it and then off to Salmon Arm it was with my Dad and Eileen as Chauffers, rolling in at 9:30 pm to our homestay with Ron and Sue.

Sunday morning was pretty relaxed hanging out with my buddies Leighton and Candace before rolling down to the start of the Salty Dog with a bag of treats.  The bag contained clif bars, corn cakes and 8 litres of electrolyte water bottle mix as I was testing some new formulas in prelude to the 24 Hour World Solo Champs coming up in Italy June 2-3.  The race itself was rad, catching up with a bunch of Alberta friends as we lapped the entertaining 10.5 km course over and over again.  Things were going great until a small hail storm rolled in at hour 4. This turned the track into a slimy mud fest and tested my Kona Hei Heis resilience but it didn’t give a damn.  This hampered the lap times for a couple laps but it also chased a bunch of riders off course leaving a wide open track for the last lap to chalk in a 10th journey around the course and another W on the weekend.  Getting an early lead in the Solo race I shifted into diesel mode and was happy how the body responded as it seems primed this year after a good winter of training.  The new nutrition formulas worked out well which Is exciting heading into the 24 HR Worlds as the stomach is often the limiting factor

Huge thanks to everyone that made this double header weekend happen, especially my Dad and Eileen that weren’t only the chauffeurs but also looked after the feed zone duties for the weekend 🙂  2 flights, 1 ferry, 8 hours driving, 2 races, 2 wins, 171 km, 4200 M Vertical, 11 feed zone visits = 1 successful kickoff to the Canadian racing season!

  On monday Dad and I rolled into Kelowna to re-tune the body with Dr. Shannon at Valeo health clinic and to get some testing done with Luke at Balance Point Racing.  The results were pretty shocking as it appears the 2 month training camp at altitude in Guatemala combined with Lukes science is starting to pay off. 🙂    

P/C:  Thanks Braison Images for the Sunshine Coaster picture in the lush forest and Eileen for the one of Dad and I.