Singletrack 6 (TransRockies)

The Singletrack 6 was born when the legendary TransRockies went dormant a few years back and is turning into one of North Americas premier races.  Each year the host communities change as the organization seeks out new riding areas to showcase 6 days of the best of what Western Canadian singletrack has to offer.  The days are typically around 40 km (3-5 hours for the average racer) as the riders navigate a great brew of single track riding which includes big climbs into the alpine, panoramic views and epic timed descents.  In the evenings we all come together for post race bbq’s, slideshows, and story telling from the days racing. Often some locals are on hand to give us some history of the riding areas and how they became what they are today over years of hardwork and ingenuity.

This year the race ventured into the Kootenay towns of Rossland, Nelson and Kaslo in South Central BC.  It’s a riding area few of us had ever ridden as it’s tucked away from the rest of the province. It is a well known as being the hippie outpost of Canada, especially the town of Nelson which you can smell from miles away.

Stages 1-3 took place in Rossland, the self proclaimed “Mountain bike Capital of Canada.”  There are a number of towns that could claim this and Rossland certainly didn’t dissapoint as there is an extensive trail network surrounding the town 360 degrees which offers some exciting riding.  Coming off a racing hangover after winning the World Solo 24 HR Champs in Italy back in June I was fired up for an intense week of racing and used the first steep climbs of Stage 1 to spread out the field and kick off the bike tournament in style.  Leading half way through the stage and still well within normal operating levels the body disturbingly started to show signs of the past few weeks as the watts started to plummet and the system overheated.  From here a couple USA boys, Justin Lindine, Taylor Lideen,former French Marathon Champ Frederic Gombert and one of Canada’s rising XC stars Evan Guthrie  took over and set a blistering pace down the rough timed descent on the day.  It was a short day of racing at just over 2 hours but we all felt the mid 30 degree heat and 1500 M of climbing.

 

The next two days were pretty similar as I’d kick off the racing to make sure the tempo stayed high then would settle into my 24hr hangover pace while the boys off the front through haymakers at each other in the Canadian wilderness.  On day 3 we apparently rode one of the most beautiful trails in Canada as we hit the high alpine 7 summits trail.  They say there are 360 degree panoramic views up there and some beautiful wild flowers but we’ll have to go back another day as our attention was 100% focused on the rocky trail so we wouldn’t end over the bars and eating alpine dirt for breakfast.

Stage 4 in Nelson was another beauty as we climbed for nearly 15 km off the start on a great mixture of fire roads, overgrown quad trails and singeltrack.  Eventually we topped out in the high alpine before hitting a series of sweet descents back to the start.  Every stage had a timed descent which was great as even if you were having snail legs on the climbs you could still fight for something and rail the downhills.

Stage 5 in Kaslo was the highlight in my books as we road high up on the mountain slopes above the sleepy little lake side town before hitting a great sidehill trail traversing across the slopes and eventually leading down another single track gem to the glacial river below.  The racing at the front was great with 10-12 guys jostling for position everyday.  My friend Ian Murray and I had a nice battle going on the last riverside decent as the trail rolled up and down the banks of the Kaslo river.  I opened up a gap but was clobbered by a weird overhanging tree that caught me in the back, digging into the right Kidney.  It was like being blind sided into the boards at a hockey game as I tried to keep riding but had to get off for a minute or two to let the odd numbing feeling pass through the body. Oddly enough Ian never passed by which I couldn’t figure out but later heard he also got clobbered by a overhanging tree and ended up on the side of the trail with a charlie horse.   We both limped across the line and then headed straight to the Kootenay lake to chill the bodies and provide some relief to our aching bodies.  

Stage 6 was back in the Hippie capitol of Canada as we raced another short but challenging stage high up on mountain slopes above Nelson.  It was a hard morning as  we hit a mixture of fast flowy trails and some real brain rattlers which really put our xc bikes to the test. It was a nice cap to cap a great week as the rest of the day was spent like the other days, cooling off in the fresh mountain lakes and hanging out with our riding buddies sharing stories from the days action.

Compared to alot of the other racing around the World, the ST6 really feels like a biking holiday as there is alot of time to chill after the stages as we’re often done by around 10 am and have the rest of they day to soak in the culture of the surrounding communities.  For someone who wants to have some adventurous and challenging days on a bike but still have loads of time to hang out with family or friends then the ST6 is tough to beat.  Next year it will be back towards the Rockies as the race will tackle 3 days in Golden BC then head over to the Okanagan for some riding in Revelstoke, and Vernon.  I’ll be looking for a chance to return again as these weeks stand out in the memory books every year!  

 

Photo Credits for the two race shots + the high alpine:  John Gibson @gibsonpictures 

Hitting a Wall and Bouncing back up

The past 3 weeks have been a bit of a lull as the body seemed to need a bit of R&R after hitting one of the strongest stretches in my racing career.  In hindsight a few weeks of proper recovery was probably needed after digging as deep as I did to win the World Solo 24 HR Champs in Italy.  Testing the limits of the body is a favourite pastime of mine and I certainly found the limits this time.  Apparently trying to race a World Marathon Champs in Europe, a 4 day stage race in the jungles of Sri Lanka, the 7 stage BC Bike Race, and then a Marathon Champs on the other side of the country all within a 1 month period while fighting jet lag, the flu and the built up fatigue from 24 Hr Worlds was a bit much.  

If everything went perfect the race schedule could have worked out but that isn’t how life often goes when your travelling around the World as wrenches generally get tossed into the plans. A few too many got tossed in this time which lead to a weak immune system and ultimately the body catching a flu the week before BCBR.   The body came around for the first 3 days of BCBR battling a high flying Geoff Kabush and Stephen Ettinger but it was skating on thin ice and I paid for it. Mid week another flu went through the BCBR camp hitting a few of the top racers including myself.  The proper decision would’ve been to pull the pin on Stage 6 in Squamish but my stubborn mind decided to try and ride through the high fever/sickness to try and finish off the week.  Things got worse and after sinking nearly a a half hour behind the leaders in the first hour of racing in Whistler it was time to stop the damage.  There are times to push through the pain and suffering but also times to look after your health and body as you only get one of them in this life.  

A much needed break was in need but with my final big goal of the season, the Canadian Marathon Champs taking place in Quebec just 3 days after BCBR finished I tried to wind it up one more time to bring home the National jersey for a 3rd time.  My team Kona was great and suggested resting instead and told me there was no pressure but after training all year for the Marathon Champs I had to at least give it a shot.  Getting on a plane friday morning, run down, and with a high fever was a stubborn and sketchy call but all the travel plans, plane tickets etc had been arranged beforehand. Figuring if I used every trick in the book and slept until the race on sunday there was an outside chance of a miracle.   Worst case I’d not be able to start the race but still get in a small visit with my good friends out there. So, my buddy Simon and his girlfriend Mari Eve picked me up at the Montreal airport and we had a perfect 2 day lead up to the race with over 24 hours of sleep in that time period and miraculously I awoke feeling somewhat alright sunday morning for Nationals.  

 

The race was unfolding as planned with young U23 National champ Alex Vialle 30 seconds up the road and myself in a good rhythm behind waiting for the last big climb of the day to put in a late race surge. After that it would be a sweet 50 minute enduro type decent to the finish which I figured my trail skills could pull in the Maple Leaf Jersey for another year.  Unfortunately the reserves ran empty 2.5 hours into the 4 hour race and the body went into a full  shutdown.   It was survival at this point to finish the race which included walking a couple of the steep hills.  I managed to fight through it the best I could but lost a huge chunk of time to Alex in the final hour of racing and barely hung on for 2nd place.

After a feed of Quebec poutine it was back across the country to my buddy Leightons place in Canmore to get ready for XC Nationals.  It was just what the body needed with a week of good recovery and hanging out with some great friends including a 5 course protein feed with my friend Stephen and Debbie which definitely helped the recovery!  

It was also one of the roughest weeks I’ve had in a while trying to come back to life. Come race day the unfortunate decision was made to not start as the body was in no state to push its limits.  It was a race I had been looking forward to all season as its in my backyard and would be in front of loads of friends and families.   It was the right call though and heading up there to watch definitely lit a fire inside as it reminded me just how much I love racing and that now isn’t the time in my life that I want to be sitting on the sidelines!    If there was one quote to sum up the past few weeks it would be  “One can accomplish practically anything, but one may not be able to accomplish everything… choose wisely!”  

 

With the Canadian race season dwindling down I’m stoked to have the opportunity to be racing the Single Track 6 by TranRockies this coming week in the Kootenay region of BC.  My old work truck blew its transmission a few days before my buddy Anderl from Germany and I were to head out on our road trip. Looking into the options it was decided a last minute mini van shopping spree was the best solution so it was off to Calgary to purchase a $900 soccer Mom van to drive around for the week to keep this journey alive.  It’s a bit of a beater but the luggage storage is great and we figure the cops will leave us alone if were speeding as they’ll figure were just driving the kids to soccer practice.. 

 

 Along side BCBR, the ST6 is the other major stage race in Canada and consists of short but sweet single track riding as we’ll race 220 km over the course of 6 days.  It’s a real mountain bikers dream holiday but I can guarantee the racing will be hard at the front as we’ll be pushing our bodies to the max.  Shorter days just equals harder efforts!

Back in the saddle tomorrow as Stage 1 in Rossland will kick off at 8 am.  Race results and reports should be found here throughout the week:  Zone4.ca

 

 

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…