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.

  

 

Season Preps in Guatemala

Marathon Mountain Bike racing is similar to being a smart investor as it requires a pile of time invested into training during the offseason to prepare for the payoff later in the season when the big races come around.  It can be easy to lose your focus in the middle of Winter when the weather is challenging and there’s no real immediate pay off for the hard work but this is when seasons are made and lost.  It’s common to be putting in 25 hours + per week on the bike so its nice to have accommodating weather!  

Having raced for 15 years it can get monopolous putting this time in every winter so I’ve found it beneficial to mix things up to keep the motivation high and mind and body raring to go year after year!  Travelling so much I sometimes get asked if I don’t like Canada or if I’m not close to my family and friends there.  It’s actually the opposite as Canada is my favourite place in the World as the more I travel the more I appreciate it.  I’m lucky to have a very solid and supportive group of family and friends and a team in Kona which gives me a home base stronger then can be imagined.  This gives me the courage and ability to ante up and explore the farthest corners of this earth, knowing theres always a safe and welcoming home base to return to.  It’s an important to tool in being able to let go and roll with the ups and downs that come with exploring this World.

Having spent parts of 8 winter training on the West Coast of Canada in Victoria BC it’s created an amazing training grounds with endless trails, plenty of road options and always a group to ride with.  The weather is even alright most days, averaging between 6 & 8 degrees, cloudy with possible rain but the air is always clean and fresh.   Its no surprise many of Canada’s top athletes call this place home.  It’s a gratifying place to train but there comes a point in which you stop really expanding your mind and the spirit starts to dwindle a bit.  Thus I’ve opted to mix things up and have spent past winters training in Australia, Asia, Central America and Indonesia.  

This winter Guatemala was chosen, partly to take part in the El Reto de Quetzal race, partly to study spanish,  and partly to try out an experiment and to see how training at altitude would payoff.  Having good succese riding at altitude in India and Nepal last fall and the amazing feeling of having 3 lungs after returning to lower altitudes it gave me the inspiration to explore this avenue a little further.  Doing a bit of research and with past experiences  I’ve come to my own conclusions to what should work and it seems living and training at altitudes between 2200 M and 2600 M seem ideal Anything lower and the concentration of oxygen in the air is still high enough that it may limit adaptations, while any higher and there is not enough oxygen to be able to push yourself hard enoughto keep your muscles strong.  

 

The idea is that the body will increase the volume of oxygen carrying red blood cells, become more efficient at using oxygen, and due to the lack of oxygen both the lungs and heart will have to work at an elevated intensity.  It also seems to be important to brake up the altitude training with retreats to lower elevations to help with recovery, to put in some strong efforts in oxygen rich air and once you return to altitude the body re-kickstarts the adaptations.  Time will tell but things are on track right now with the body showing nice improvements every week.

Guatemala itself is a compelling country shaking with the action associated with  being a developing 3rd World Country.  At first it can be a bit overwhelming but after awhile it all starts to feel pretty normal and you learn what is actually risky, and what just seems risky.  At first glance the traffic seems chaotic, which it is, but with all the dogs, chickens, people and other objects all over he roads the traffic is generally slow and everyone is aware.  Personally I’ve had more troubles in 1st world countries like Australia and America in which the traffic is travelling at high speeds on standardized highways and the drivers get complacent and often get distracted by there phones or have some issues with themselves and hate cyclists for some personal reason. 

There is a certain edge in Guatemala and some precaution is required, although 95% of the problems seem to be around tourist heavy areas and occur after dark.  Thus far this trip I’ve had a couple incidents with drunks while walking home at night through the backstreets of Xela.  We all get warned not to walk home alone after dark but often I get a false sense of security as I believe in the good  of the human race and am pretty trusting.  Drunks are drunks and can be losers all over this World thus should be watched out for wherever you are!

Riding bikes over the course of 5 years in Central America I’ve never had a problem (knock on wood) down here  except with the dogs.  Overtime it seems that 9 out of 10 aggressive dogs are found near there homes as they can be overprotective.  The thousands of sketchy wild dogs wandering around the countryside rarely cause any issues as they’re typically occupied searching for food or just hanging out with there buddies.  The moutainous topography and rough roads in the country are ideal for a mountain biking and require a bit of time to figure out but little by little it’s possible.   Up to now the locals have all been very welcoming when I come across them in the middle of the countryside which is a relief as it can be intimidating seeing them with there guns and machetes.

As beautiful as the countryside is with volcanos, lakes and pine forests, it is also pretty disgusting how poorly the locals treat there country by tossing litter all over the place.  In such a poor nation there aren’t alot of options to dispose of rubbish and the locals are often so engaged in just trying to get by day to day that garbage is the least of there concerns.  It is a big turnoff for everyone, a health hazard, and is hopefully something the government can start to find a solution for in the years to come as it would certainly help attract more tourists and make the country more appealing for everyone.    

Every day its intriguing to go out on training rides as you never know what you might come across.  Some days random street lights blow up, other days vehicles roll by that are falling apart, and sometimes roads are blocked due to random markets or parades which are a spectacle in themselves.  On days that I feel a bit slow or in need of some security I’ll ride a route I know from before, on other days in which I wake up in need of adventure I’ll ride off into a new frontier.  The local riders are great to ride with as they know the area and have been welcoming and ready to show off there countryside.  On occasions when I want to put in some big miles I’ll put on my Apidura bike packing bags and head off into the countryside. It’s easy to put in 4-6 hour days when your in in route to a destination exploring the lands of a new country. These tours are generally done solo but back at basecamp in Xela there are always riders to go with as cycling is the 2nd biggest sport in the country after Soccer and the growth of the support seems to be taking off here!  The crew at Xelas top bike shop, Bici Casa have taken me in as one of there own and have given me a home away from home and an in road into the local Guatemalan culture.  Pictures are one thing on these trips but its the new friendships that one will never forget.

As the weeks roll by down here life is getting easier as I get accustomed to the surroundings and grow more confident and courageous.  Every day there are opportunities to get into trouble but it’s also easy to avoid.  You start to learn that cars rarely use there signals, and that chicken buses and microbuses don’t give a damn about cyclists or pedestrians, and thus you adapt to it.  Getting lost in black clouds of smoke from unmaintained chicken buses is a low point but with a MTB it’s easy to find alternate routes off the main highways.   

After yesterdays big ride to the top of Central America on Volcan Tajumulco (4220M) it is a rest day in Xela.  These days are generally filled by studying Spanish, organizing travel and race plans for the year,  buying fresh veggies and fruits at the local market and checking out tourist sites in the surrounding area.  One of the biggest problems is sitting still and properly recovering as there is an endless supply of things to do. I nearly burnt myself out a few weeks back but am slowly learning to manage the energy levels better and to save it for events and adventures that really matter!

Heading home on April 20th after 8 weeks down here I will certainly miss the energy and excitement of day to day life but Canada and its natural beauty and fresh air will be a welcome sight.

Off to the market to reload on fresh fruits and veg for the next round of training days!