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Costa Rica UCI Marathon- Trans Costa Rica

Popping down to Costa Rica after the Whiskey 50 in Arizona was a bit of a homecoming after having spent so much time in the country from 2007-2015.  My buddy, Paulo Valle, who is the Kona Rep down here picked me up at the airport and off into the Latino culture we went.  The first stop was at the Chiropractor to try and get my back sorted out as it locked up good at the Whiskey 50.  Paulo dropped me off at his guy and I got cracked like never before.  At one point the Chiro yanked as hard as he could on my head pulling my spine straight, probably lengthening it a good couple inches.   The next two days I was pretty sore but my body felt back in tune. Next up we took off on a couple rides to acclimatize in the tropical environment.  One day on the roads of the central valley and another day on some rad jungle single track up in the mountains.  The trails down here are rad as they are basically tunnels through the jungle foliage which is very similar to Jurassic Park.

After a couple chill days up in the mountains, Paulo dropped me off back in San Jose to join 8 other Pro riders from Europe and Columbia that Dax Jaikel and the Trans Costa Rica had invited down to race.  They have us set up in a small boutique hotel with chefs, support staff, and a masseuse for two weeks as we prepare for one of the Americas premier stage races, the 4 day UCI Trans Costa Rica from May 9-12.  We’ve been treated like royalty and can’t say enough about how much this group from the Trans Costa Rica is doing for the state of mountain biking in there country. 

This past Saturday we drove down to Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast to take part in the Copa Endurance UCI Marathon series in a very hot a humid part of the country. Dax and the TransCosta Rica team organized the trip and had us staying in some sweet lodges in the jungle the night before the race.  This was the real Costa Rica that we all dream about as we all shifted into tourist mode for the night. For dinner we dined on Casados, Costa Rica’s typical food consisting of rice, beans, salad, plantains and either fish or chicken.  Race morning came early and soon we were at the start line with nearly 400 racers to tackle a fast 82 km course on some Paris Roubaix style roads with lots of cobbles and some rolling hills.  

It was a road race on mountain bikes as the large lead group slowly dwindled from the hundreds down to around 25 as we hit the final 35 km of the course which included some nasty short climbs.  The weather had been tolerable for the first half of the race but now the sun was scorching down and the max humidity had us all dripping like leaky faucets.  After a rough Whiskey 50 it was a pleasant surprise to be riding without back pain and the legs were firing surprisingly well for one of the first race efforts after a huge winter of dieseling around the Himalayas. The race was getting tough though as riders started attacking every steep climb, which came at us one after another like a series of max effort intervals.   Every descent we’d try to recover the best we could for 20-30 seconds before sprinting up the next wall.  This is the pain cave we racers live for although the first session of these efforts every year is damn tough!  

The lead group eventually dwindled down to 15 riders when a couple Ticos ahead of me overshot a corner, leading myself astray into the ditch. Luckily I kept the bike (Kona Honzo) upright but had to scramble back up to the road losing the lead group.  Chasing hard the gap came from 20-10 seconds but then sat there for quite a while as I was at the limit with no more gears in the legs.  Then came a tough decision as I came around the corner to a feedzone with 25 km to go.  Out of water I knew I should stop but it would also end my chances of catching back to the lead group.  Thus I aborted the effort to find water and sprinted hard to latch onto the leaders.

 

Once there my buddy Ole from Norway gave me a sip of his water but in the back of my head I new I had just made a kamikaze move as I was already dehydrated and racing another 45 minutes plus in the 37 degree jungle heat wasn’t going to end well without H2O.  I was a ticking time bomb and 5 km later my race in the lead group came to and end as my fuse ran out.  With 15 km to go the challenge was now to get to the finishline before any of the 380 racers behind me caught back up.  A couple Ticos from the 7C team did catch me and we would roll into together for #’s 10,11 and 12 on the day.  It was a rough last few km but having some company helped ease the pain of riding through some intense dehydration.  To save the day, Frans one of the support staff from 7C got me an ice cold bottle of water from his motorbike which was engulfed in 1 sip and helped ease the rough trudge to the finish.  It was weird as the body went from sweating profusely to nothing, and then to goose bumps.  It probably wasn’t a good sign but thankfully the race wasn’t crazy long.

All in all it was a pretty rad experience to race so hard through such a unforgiving environment in Costa Rica.  It was shocking how quickly the body went from feeling fine to barely surviving. Apparently the jungle environment isn’t very kind to a Canadian who’s used to riding around in the frozen mountains of Nepal and Canada!

After the race we got even more dehydrated as we tried to each lunch in the open air hotel dining room.  I went through two t-shirts and probably 3 litres of water while trying to get in some recovery calories.  Eventually we made the escape to a AC filled car as I joined my co patriot from Canada, Mathiue on the drive back over the volcanos to our base camp in San Jose.  The day after the race, Mathiue, Ole and I decided to treat ourselves to a 4 hour trail ride in one of Costa Rica’s mountain bike parks in Ciudad Colon.  It was rad, but left us dehydrated again and in need of a couple rest days. 

 

After 2 days of rest we are rehydrated and ready for Tommorow as we start the big one at the Trans Costa Rica!  Go go climbing legs 馃檪

 

Pura Vida!   

2019 Calendar

The 2019 race schedule is shaping up into a solid one.
 
After a great winter of training over in Nepal and surrounding countries the season is now focused around North and South America.  The idea is to keep the time zone changes to a minimum as the focus will be to transform the huge base built in the Himalayas into race form, tackling some Western Canadian classics a couple tough stage races in Central America and the 200 mile Dirty Kanza.  July-August will be prime time with the 24 HR World Solo Championships down in Brazil followed with some stage racing and the Canadian Marathon Championships in September.  After this the focus will shift to some adventurous stage races over seas to cap off the season.  Diversity has been key to keeping the mind and body motivated over the years and this year is no exception with the race split across a variety of disciplines:
 
6+- MTB Stage Races
5- Marathons
2- Short BC Style Marathons
2- Gravel road races
1- 24HR MTB race
1- Short Track
1- XCO?
 
 
Feb 13-16 Samarathon Desert UCI S2 (Israel) 
March 9 Walling 100 (Nepal)
April 26-28- Whisky 50 ST and XCM
May 5- Costa Rica Marathon UCI 
May 9-12:  Trans Costa Rica UCI S2
May 25- Nimby 50 (Pemberton, BC)
June 1- Dirty Kanza (Kansas, USA)
June 7,8,9- Race A-Xcross Hidalgo (Mexico)
June 15- Spakuwas (Squamish)
June 16- Ghost of the Gravel (Alberta)
June 29,30- Okanagan24 
July 5-11: BCBR ? Or Climbduro (Alberta)
July 27-28: 24HR Worlds (Brazil)
August: Breck Epic + Leadville or Mongolia Bike Challenge
Sept 7: USA World Cup?
Sept 14: Canadian Marathon Champs (Quebec)
Sept 26-29: Epic Israel ?
Oct: ?
Nov: Yak Attack?
 
 
 

Samarathon Desert (Israel)

Israel is a Middle Eastern country of 8.7 million people located on the shores of the Mediterranean sea.  It has a predominantly Jewish population and is regarded as the biblical Holy Land.  Racing a bike in Israel has been on my to do list for a long time as I have heard many conflicting stories about this country which has had more then its share of conflict since its independence in 1948.  Riding a bike around a country is my favourite way to feel its heartbeat and stage races specifically allow us to get deep into the countryside without having to think too hard.

The 4 day UCI Samarathon Desert was a great way to see the southern Arava desert of Israel. Their organization has built a great event which allowed us riders to just show up, shut off our minds and ride our bikes through a very beautiful part of the World.  Joining 300 other riders in the event鈥檚 5th year, we covered nearly 230 km through the desert with close to 40% being on nice single track.  Coming from Canada we are spoiled with the trails we have, but I was definitely impressed with the quality of riding that was offered to us in Israel.  The scenery was pretty epic as well, with cliffs, canyons, sand dunes and some great views of the mountains of Jordan in the distance. 

Race wise my partner, Soren Nissen from Luxembourg, and I weren鈥檛 too sure what to expect with our early season form, especially with the field being full of Israelis top XC racers.  Rolling into the 20 km prologue we were both pretty tired after a huge effort just to get to the start line.  My trip had taken 3 

days from Pokhara, Nepal and was highlighted by 2 delayed flights, a missed flight, 48 hours hanging out in Katmandu and eventually a 2 am arrival in Jerusalem. The next day we went on an 8 hour tourist trip down to the race start near Eliat.  At one point we rode out into the desert to visit a local Bedouin family.  The Bedouins are desert dwellers who are generally Arab Nomads.  A lot of them are urbanized now but make a living showing off their traditional ways of life such as camel riding and desert camping.  It would be cool to come back and explore this part of the culture a bit more one day as living in the desert seem like quite a tough existence.

In the prologue I did my best to stick to Soren鈥檚 wheel as we had to pass over 15 teams as we were given one of the last start positions in the time trial format.  The course was a ribbon of smooth single track through a very rocky and unforgiving desert terrain.  Luckily we escaped unscathed but lost over a minute on the Israeli leaders, signalling that the days ahead were going to be a tough battle.  After the stage we were told it was just 25 km back to camp, and there would be a tailwind, so we opted to ride.  It ended up being closer to 40 km, mostly into a headwind which left us both dehydrated and with some hunger pains.  The scenery was amazing though with the mountains of Jordan to the east and a high desert plateau leading to Egypt on the right.  This part of the country was really skinny with just 50 km

Credit: Zack Uchovsky

separating the 3 countries!

Heading to Stage 2 we missed the bus transfer back to the start as we thought it was 6:15 am not 6am.  At 6 we had loaded our bikes and then went back to our tents to gather a few things.  Returning at 6:15 we found all the busses had left so hitch-hiked with the Samarathon media team.  Unfortunately our bikes didn鈥檛 get unloaded with the other racers at the race start and were now on a bus headed towards Egypt.  Thankfully one of the volunteers chased the bus down and got us our bikes just before the race start!  

This day the race started with a big climb up to a desert plateau at 500 meters.  I set the pace dropping everyone except the Israeli team in the leaders jerseys.  Soren sat back and analyzed the situation.  He told me the Israelis had struggled to hold my wheel so we made a tactic that I would attack going into the next single track and he would sit at the front letting the gap grow.  He would then attack and bridge over to me.  This tactic worked brilliantly except once Soren caught back up he started to cramp up really good allowing the Israelis to close the gap again.  The riding this stage was awesome as we rode some trails on the edge of a ridge overlooking the dry desert below.  It was a very dry climate but the temperatures were perfect for racing, sitting in the low twenties.   Towards the end of the stage Soren and I would break away from our Israeli competitors and put 4 minutes into them by the finish to overtake the pink leader jerseys. The highlight of the stage was the final single track climb to the finish which switch backed its way out of a box canyon. This was also the KOM of the day in which there was a side competition to see who the best male and female climbers were on the day. A Russian rider won the overall, although I鈥檓 sure Soren would鈥檝e claimed it if he hadn鈥檛 stuck with me as a good teammate.

Once back at camp we settled into our Villa camp on the edge of a small lake in Timna Park.  It was a real oasis in the desert with beautiful rock walls surrounding us.  The restaurant on site served some great food for us racers and showed off why Israeli cuisine is so popular around the World.  The highlights were the Shakshuka, hummus, tahini and falafels- although pretty much anything after a long day of racing generally tastes good. The awards ceremonies in the evenings were entertaining events with one of the race organizers, Nimi, putting on a bit of a comedy show and the pictures of the day would allow us to see just what beauty we had missed while our heads were down pushing our pedals as hard as we could.  The awards would often go past 9pm, and the race days would start with 4:45-5 am wake up calls.  This combination led to some short nights!  I guess this is why the race slogan was 鈥淩ide hard, live Harder!鈥  Being a 24 hour racer these short nights probably played into our favour as I鈥檓 used to riding tired while Israeli鈥檚 XC racers are likely used to being a bit better rested!.

Stage 3 was the Queen鈥檚 stage and took us 85 km across a desert plateau before dropping down a cool canyon and then on some rough river beds back to the race finish.  This part of the race felt pretty wild and let us really soak in the outback of the desert.  We extended our lead a couple minutes  as the Israelis crashed at one point while trying to follow our wheels.  Being the polite Canadian I started to ease up to let them catch back up but Soren reminded me that they had refused to stop for a pee break earlier in the stage when things were calm.  Coming from a road racing background,  if the jersey leaders aren鈥檛 respected in the peloton then they will put the hammer down later on if things go sideways. He was right so we took off and we had 6 motivated Israelis trying to chase us down into a nasty headwind.  I was suffering this day but Soren single handedly held off the charging Israelis while I went cross eyed just trying to hold his wheel.  At the finish we were both pretty spent as we weren鈥檛 just battling the race but we had also both picked up a small flu bug somewhere in the previous days.

Credit Yoav Lavi

It was a rough night as we both got sicker and the early morning wakeup at 4:45 came much too early.  Going to breakfast there were only 10 other people there out of 300 riders which probably signalled we weren鈥檛 the only ones struggling with the early mornings.   With a 5 minute GC lead we had some time to play with but the 52 km final stage was suited for the punchier Israeli XC riders.  The Israelis got away from us on one of the early climbs but Soren would set the pace on the fire road sections and myself on the single track, which kept the gap from growing to big.  A few spectators on course would tell

Credit: Yoav Lavi

us the gap was 3-4 minutes, we think just too stress us out, when in reality it was just between 1-2 minutes. The riding this day was amazing as it was on a new purpose built single track through Tinma Park.  They sure have put a lot of work into the riding in the desert and it was a real treat to race on.  Rolling into the finish in 3rd, just over 2 minutes down of the leaders, meant we had successfully held onto our Pink leader jerseys and taken the title at this UCI S2 ranked stage race!  What a great way this was to kick off the year! It certainly wasn鈥檛 an easy victory, but that makes it that much sweeter.

The action didn鈥檛 stop the days after the race as time was spent in the city of Tel Aviv, and of course riding.  Tel Aviv is on the Mediterranean Coastline and is the country鈥檚 economic and technological hub.  It is also party central and has a 24 hour lifestyle.  We were pretty tuckered out from the race so settled on some more relaxing activities.  I tried a recovery ride on the coastal bike path but this turned into one of the sketchiest rides of the year as it was littered with out of control e-bikers and e-scooters.  Old men with beer bellies would overtake me and glare down as if to ask why I was going so slowly.  Because I鈥檓 actually peddling my bike while you guys have your e-bikes set up so you don鈥檛 

even have to touch the pedals!  I was thankful to make it back to the hotel intact.  In the evening my friend Yoram picked me up to take me up to his farm in Northern Israel for a few days of riding in the Carmel mountains. It was interesting how different the environment was up there with lots of greenery and rolling hills.  

To cap off the trip Yoram, teamed up with a local Kona dealer Erez Golan to take us on the famous 鈥淪ugar trail鈥 from Jerusalem down to the lowest place on earth at the Dead sea which is -430 M below sea level! It was a sweet ride as he flowing single track went past Mosques and some Bedouin settlements. One of the coolest things was to see the relationship that our Israeli hosts had with some Palestinians in the area as I have heard so much about their conflicts in the media.   To finish the day off Erez hosted us for a night of Steaks in which he BBQ鈥檇 up 5 different delicious cuts and opened up a cooler full of beers and champagne.  The hospitably of our Israeli friends is what truly made this trip one for the ages.

Credit Zack Uchovsky

 

The days in Israel ended by getting combed over by the tight Israeli airport security.  This was the toughest security I鈥檝e ever gone through as they took everything apart and even took my bike pump as they were afraid it was a weapon.   I escaped before they had time to probe me as I鈥檓 sure that was next. Now back in Nepal It鈥檚 time to rest up a bit before the next adventure up in the Himalaya鈥檚 as this trip to Israel was a tiring one.  My mind is full of great memories, especially from the Samarathon Desert which reminded me a lot of the laid back atmosphere we have at the BC Bike race and Singletrack 6 in Canada.  I鈥檒l be crossing my fingers for a chance to return to the Holy Land again someday soon!.

Credit Yoav Lavi

Annapurna Circuit 24 HR Fundraiser

The Annapurna Circuit is one of the Nepal’s most popular trekking routes as it travels 220 km around the Annapurna mountain Massif. Last December I set out un supported to ride this loop in under 24 hours as a fundraiser to help establish a new cycling training centre in Nepal.  Not being properly acclimatized it kicked my ass going over the 5416 M Thorong La pass as I crawled into Beni 23 hours and 57 minutes later. 2.5 k USD was raised. This was used to help open the NCRR training centre in Kathmandu along with help and support from Mountain Bike World Wide.  

This year the goal was was to raise 6 500 USD to keep the Nepal training centre open for another year, outfit it with some much needed equipment, and to further train some of the Nepalese riders into coaches.   Having learnt some tough lessons the year before I was keen to get some redemption on the circuit and made sure I would be better acclimatized this time around.  It probably takes 3-4 weeks at high altitude to fully prepare for a ride going over 5400 meters.  I would have 17 days, between a trip around the Manaslu Circuit, racing the Yak Attack and a week training camp in the Mustang, traversing over Tilicho lake to Manang with my buddy Roan.

The trip over to Tilicho lake from Tukuche turned into a proper adventure as Roan and I wold run out of daylight as we crossed two passes over 5200 M.  The 2nd one topped out at 5370 and left us trying to find our way down a steep goat trail descent in the dark.  It was an adrenaline booster as we eventually dropped down to Tilicho lake and found a shack to stay in at 5000 M for the night.  It was a rough night as we had headaches and slept lightly, waking up many times throughout the night.  The next day we were both tired as we first went searching for my Giro helmet that was blown off my head the night before as I unclipped it at the shack.  We found it 90 vertical meters down along the shores of Tilicho lake, a bit battered but still useable. Once on the bikes we hit some sweet trails down the valley to Manang for a day off.  This trip was a bit more then we were planning for so we opted to take an extra day off at Manang.  It was working out though as it allowed us to stay at altitude until the day of the Annapurna 24 HR ride, in which I would descend down from the mountains, rest for 12 hours in Besisahar and then turn around and start the ride at 10:50 pm on November 20th.

It was rad having support this year as Ajay, Okesh, Rajan and Gauravman were in Besisahar to help the preparations as well as support and film some coverage on the Manang side of the journey.  This first half of the ride is done in the dark to insure Throng La pass is hit in the heat of the mid day sun.  It is an amazing ride as the rough road twists its way up a tight river gully slowly climbing out of the tropics and into a high mountain hanging valley.    There are a number of creek crossings which are critical as wet feet down low will soon turn into frozen ice blocks up high as the temperature generally dips below freezing around the village of Chame at 2700 M.  This year I had stashed food at different locations around the circuit during the Yak Attack, and had also left a set of Shimano MW5 waterproof biking shoes in Chame to insure I’d have dry and proper footwear for the upper portions of the ride over the pass.  

The ride was going great until the last 10 km before Chame as my feet were soaked from an earlier mishap in a creek and were now slowly freezing into ice blocks.  Reaching Chame at 4:30 am it was straight to the New Tibet hotel to change shoes, and prep for the cold morning up in Manang.  G-man followed me in to film the change over and we accidentally made quite the racket waking up some trekkers.  The first trekker to come out of there room was an Austrian friend I had met a few days before at Tilicho lake.  She thought it was pretty amusing and was soon being interviewed by G-man, which incidentally woke up another trekker. This guy was pissed, fair enough, but it was good pay back for all the mornings the trekkers had woken us up at 3am in the teahouses as they set out at silly hours to try and get over the high mountain passes in the freezing dark.  

After Chame the road keeps climbing up to Pisang at 3100 M where it opens up into a wide valley with dramatic views of the Annapurna range.  It was a chilly part of the ride as the sun had yet to come up and the deep freeze of the night was still lingering and there were a few icy patches on the road.  I had to keep reminding myself that once the sun was up the body would start reversing the freezing cycle it was currently in as it was getting rather frosty.    G-man and Ajay who were following along filming via motorbike were probably alot colder but they toughed it out as they supported the ride all the way to where the dirt road ends in Manang. The sun finally reached us in Manang where I took a longer break to get ready for the toughest part of the journey, a stunning 21 km stretch of trail pitching up from 3500M to to 5416 M over Thorong La Pass.  First things first was to unload a giant dump that had been plaguing my ride for the last hour that I didn’t wan to deal with in the freezing night.  Next up was breakfast at the Alpine home teahouse, and reorganizing gear before hitting the trail again. 

The climb out of Manang was great but as the trail pitched over 4000 M the body de-energized and went into a limp mode.  One of Nepals top racers and good buddy Roan was waiting at Yhak Kharka to traverse over the pass with me.  Meeting up with him uplifted the ride and soon we were in Throng Phedi camp, the base of the 6 km, 900 M vertical ascent over one of the World’s highest commonly used passes.  Here I hit the bench hard and was ready to pass out.  The owners of the teahouse were great, giving us a huge plate of potatoes and some tea to get us over the pass. They thought it was amusing I was trying this ride again after seeing me in such a rough state last year at there teahouse.  

It was a bit longer break in Phedi but soon we were back on trail, hike a biking over the pass.  During the Yak Attack race we made it over the pass 1-2, in around an hour 25 minutes, but this day it took us 3 hours.  After 30 minutes of struggling I put the country music on to distract the mind as I creeped towards the summit of the pass.  It was painfully slow and pretty rough on the mind but we kept inching towards the top.  Roan was doing better then I, as I was going snails pace, but thankfully feeling alot better than the year before in which I had a pounding headache and could’t stand up straight.  Apparently the acclimatization was paying off, but still the body was struggling with the 4600 Meter vertical gain in 12 hours.  I guess there is a reason the doctors recommend not ascending anymore then 500 meters a day at high altitude. I’ll be keen to try another training regime in the future to improve this performance over the pass as there is no way it should take twice as long as it does at race pace.  What would be really interesting would be to have a doctor come along on the trip and take some tests every 500 vertical meters to see what’s happening inside the body as it’s something that is still a mystery to me.

Cresting Throng La pass ended one of the roughest stretches of bike riding/pushing all year.  We snapped a couple mandatory photos then hit the epic single track descent down a trekking trail with loads of line options to Muktinath (3700M).  It was rad as my Kona Hei Hei was finally back up to speed eating up the descent although the steep sections were a bit sketchy as my bike packing bags made it hard to get behind the seat.  Towards the bottom a Nepali trekking guide stopped us and asked if I was the Canadian bike rider. He then told us that our American buddy was waiting 45 minute further down the trail.  I was thinking wholly shit, where is Patrick waiting, he was suppose to be in Muktinath but if he’s 45 minutes further down then he must be in Jomsom.  5 minutes later we came upon Patrick who was waiting to capture the last part of the journey with his photography skills.  He’s been capturing our Kona Adventure team projects for the last couple years and has a cool website at https://trailhousephoto.com  .It was great to see him again as he had fallen ill a week earlier when Roan and I were taking off over to Tilicho lake.  

Muktinath is a sacred village for both Hindus and Buddhists as it sits perched high up in the himalayas and has a very sacred temple and shrines.   People travel from all over the World to be blessed under the 108 fountains in the temple and its two ponds.  We stopped in the village to reload on food and water before hitting a random 10 km stretch of pavement descending into the Mustang valley below.  Road construction is very patchy in Nepal and soon we were back on some rough single track, edging around a tight cliff edge before dropping to the valley floor below at 2800 M.  Here we hit a stiff headwind as we straight lined it towards Tukuche, another food cache at the High Plains Inn, and then onwards to the edge of the hanging valley at Kalopani. Our goal was to hit the insanely tough 47 km descent to our finish line in Beni before dark.  Unfortunately we ran out of daylight at the top of the descent and thus relied on our lighting systems for the last 2.5 hours of the ride.

For the past 5 years they’ve been working on this road but it seems to be getting worse and just busier with traffic every year.  It’s actually one of the truly amazing roads of this World as the rough surface, often covered in running water, snakes it’s way around some very precarious clif bands, descending through the deepest gorge in the World with a 8000 meter + mountain flanking either side.  It was nice having Roan and Patrick for this part of the ride as we kept each other in check and made sure nobody got knocked off any cliff sides while trying to get around the late night traffic.  It was the ideal testing conditions for our full suspensions as it took us over an hour to descend 1500 vertical meters to Tatopani via some very dusty, wet, and rocky road conditions.

 Rolling into the Tourist village of Tatopani we were ready to call it a day, but the finish of our ride was another 22 km down the gorge in the regions headquarter of Beni, a bustling dusty and dirty Himalayan town.  Rolling through Tatopani we came around a corner to a finish line celebration that Usha and her friends had set up to congratulate us on our trip.  They wrapped prayer shawls around us, tied prayer flags to our bikes, gave us flowers, put tikas on our foreheads and blessed us on our trip.   After a few pictures we managed to pry ourselves away from the first comfortable condition we had been in for days and continue our dark and bumpy ride into Beni.  Rolling into the Beni bus park was as anti climatic as could be.  I pushed the stop time on the gps to record the Strava time of 21 hours and 26 minutes from Besisahar, pretty much exactly 2.5 hours faster then the year before.  After a couple finish line shots we rolled over to the Yak hotel to celebrate with Dhal bhats and settle in for the night.  Having left pretty much everything in Besisahar except for some warm clothes, I rolled to a local shop to buy underwear, sandals and a toothbrush so I could have few comforts for the night.  

As like the year before, it was a big relief to be done the ride as the body was battling between being tired but was uplifted by a good adrenaline rush.  Checking the GoFundMe link to see that $7000 USD had been raised for the NCRR Training Centre throughout the ride was awesome to see.  It’s unbelievable the great support this project has received and I am very grateful for all my friends, family and sponsors that helped make it such a success. Kona Bikes made a big donation to the project and has always stood behind me.  7mesh supplied some great riding clothes for the project, Blackburn design outfitted my bike with Bike packing bags and our team sponsors, Shimano, WTB, ClifBar, MRP, Giro, Julbo, Jakroo and Squirt lube all make this all possible. This ride also signifies the end of another successful race year as the body is over due for some proper rest.  Some time will be taken trekking around the Himalayas to let the season soak in and then the planning will start on what is to come for 2019!

Interesting Facts on the Annapurna 24:

Route: Annapurna Circuit:  Besisahar Bus Park(800m) Chame(2700m)-Manang(3500m)-ThorongLa Pass(5416m)-Muktinath(3700m)-Jomsom(2700m)-Tatopani(1100m)-Beni Bus Park (800m)

Distance: 220 km

Bike: Kona Hei Hei with Shimano XTR drivetrain, brakes, pedals and hubs, WTB Ci24 carbon rims, Ranger 2.25 tires and Silverado saddle. 110mm MRP Ribbon Fork, Blackburn Design bike packing bags. Squirt lube on the chain and sealant in the tires.

Clothes: 7Mesh Guardian and Oro jackets, Outflow Primaloft Hoddy, Recon shorts, Compound shirt, Jakroo bibs and jersey, USWE Vertical 4 action pack.

Shoes and Helmet:  Shimano MW5 Waterproof shoes and XC9 racing shoes.  Giro Synthe Helmet

Elevation gain: A lot, likely 7000 Meters +.  Strava quit working mid ride.

Time: 21:26:45

Funds Raised for NCRR Training Centre: 5622 pounds = 7210 USD = 9545 CAD

Fuel for the ride: Clif Bars, Clifblocks, Corn bread, bowl of oatmeal, hemp seeds, moong dall, energy balls.

Lowest temperature: -8 celsius

Night riding: 9.5 hours

Calories burned: estimated at 11 000-13 000
Jersey Winners…
Most accurate time: Derek Melvin: 21:47

Kona Bikes for highest donation: $ 1000 Pound.

Over and out!

  

  

 

Scotland- World 24HR Championships

Scotland is part of the United Kingdom and covers the Northern third of the Island of Great Britain.  Having some bloodlines from Scotland and having watched the movie Braveheart and William Wallace battle the English for Scottish Independence I had a dream of going there one day. This past week this dream came true as I flew across the Atlantic to the small Island nation to defend the World 24 HR title I won in Italy last year. 

Mom joined me for the first part of the trip as we did some sightseeing, got some rest, and then watched Braveheart to get fired up for the weekend. My support team flew in Friday, with Leighton and his girlfriend Candace coming from Canada and Hiran, from Radical Lights, coming in from Australia. We worked great together in Italy, ending 7X World Champ Jason English’s streak, and this year we had the added bonus of Candace in the pits and the cheering from my Mom and her friend Louis in the stands.

The race started off hard with European 24 hr champ, Matti Takhola from Finland going off the front.  Josh Tostado (USA)  and a couple others would counter
attack after I brought back Matti and they would open up a small gap.  Keeping tabs on them, eventually bridging up on the 3rd lap,  we鈥檇 ride a few laps together until I upped the tempo a bit as two of the race contenders,  Jason English (Australia) , and USA strongman Taylor Lideen were still behind and I wanted to keep the pressure on. Surprisingly Josh backed off and I鈥檇 go solo off the front for the next 7-8 hours.  Usually it鈥檚 nice to have company for the first half of these 24 hour races but I didn鈥檛 care and just kept on the offensive as I was in the position I wanted to be and I thought a good offence is a good defence!

Racing for 24 hours people have all kinds of philosophys.  Some say the real race doesn鈥檛 start till 12 hours in, some say don’t go above your threshold or certain wattages, some say pace yourself, etc etc鈥  In my eyes every 24 hour race is unique and the foundations of the race are laid in the first 12 hours, hours 12-18 is when a lot of riders self detonate, then the last 6 hours is a shoot out with whoever is left standing.    There’s no hiding in a 24 Hour race, your weaknesse’s will be exposed and whoever is able to best cover them up usually wins. 

At one point in the night the Americans, Josh and Taylor came back up to me.  It was nice to have company as it was getting boring riding alone after 8+ hours. Being all together our pace slowed down a bit, until the long bermed out downhill on course in which they put there droppers down and seemed to push a bit harder.  The 2nd half of the downhill was a bit gnarlier with wet rocks and roots, just like the West coast riding we have in Canada each winter.  I came around them with my high post and decided to set the pace a bit higher, and incidentally dropped the other boys in this half of the descent . Wanting to ride with these guys a bit longer I stopped for a piss and joined back with them as they came by.  This wouldn鈥檛 last long as the next lap things would blow apart and pretty soon Taylor was 4 minutes back and Josh, over 13.  He would eventually succumb to the cold wet conditions and pull out,  our Finnish friend Matti was having a tough race with a broken chain and we soon lapped him, leaving Jason as the other main contender not accounted. He was apparently drifting backwards which was a good sign as often he turns the diesel on in the middle of the night. 

With just Taylor standing in the way of my title defence, I kept on the offensive and road my pace, pitting a bit longer each lap to take precautions of any potential late race meltdowns.  The body and legs were feeling good, so the key was to keep the stomach happy, the bikes safe, and to keep lubricating the eyes as they have gone blurry in the later parts of 24 hour races before due to dryness and dehydration.  Luckily dryness wasn鈥檛 a problem in Scotland as it ended up raining or drizzling for 20 hours of the race.  The weather man called for a low of 10 celsius which sounded great for jersey and shorts riding, but he must’ve been drunk as it dipped almost down to 4 celsius.  It could’ve been worse, but I know from past history that anytime it dips below 6 degrees in the rain,  you need to be careful as the core temp can drop dramatically very fast.   My pit crew was great, making me stop twice to put on a dry jersey, and at first a light rain jacket (7Mesh Oro), and then a heavier one (7Mesh Revelation).

My pit crew was doing an amazing job with my buddy Leighton handling the bike, clothing and food, Hiran from Radical Lights looking after the lighting system and using his 24 hour experience to read the race, and Leightons girlfriend Candace taking pictures, updating social media, helping in the pit and finding a shit load of potatoes to keep the engine running the last 12 hours of the race.  Generally I can last 16-18 hours before my stomach goes sideways, making it difficult to eat anything but this race at hour 12 it started to get weird.  Asking for french fries, Candace came back with an even better option from the local concession, small potatoes with oil and salt on them.  This turned into the fuel of choice for the last 12 hours as i’d be given a zip lock bag full every time through the pits. More research is needed as the stomach is still the weakest link in these races but every time it’s getting a bit more refined.

The two Kona Hei Hei’s I was running were set up great with Shimano XTR drivetrains/brakes, WTB wheels, tires and saddles, MRP Forks, and Squirt Lube on the chains. 1 bike had a bit lower handlebar and 105 mm of travel for climbing while the other with a wider/higher bar and 120 mm of travel for a bit more comfort.   The course was one of the best 24 hour courses I’d ever raced as it was real mountain biking with some tough climbs, fun descents and a bit of fire road mixed in to recover on and pass people.  It definitely took it’s toll on the riders making it a hard ride for everyone which is what you want for a World Championships. 

It was a long night in Scotland, close to 13-14 hours with the lights on. Luckily I was running the best lights in the business, Radical Lights, and felt this was a clear advantage over the competition.  Hour 18-20 turned into the witching hours as the night dragged on and a solid Scottish storm blew in with rain and cooler temperatures.  It was on the edge of turning truly amazing but held off from going that far.  Knowing Taylor was from the sweltering deserts of the USA I figured this was playing into my favour and opted to keep it steady, and sure enough pretty soon he started to drop off in the final hours of the race.   This was a nice relief as it prevented having to go into overdrive to really put the nail in the coffin.  Dieseling around the last couple of the laps, taking longer pits, it was a great feeling knowing this one was nearly in the bag.  This was a bad thing though as I let my guard down too early and ended up crashing hard with just under 3 hours to go.  

There was a 8 foot wooden ramp near the top of the course on the first switchback of the descent, I had taken it successfully 24 times, but on the 25th attempt 

some of the chicken wire must’ve worn thin as the front tire washed out sending me 6 feet down into a pile of rocks.  My numb body couldn’t feel anything as I lay there in shock analyzing the body and checking the bike over for any damages.  I  had angels on this one as miraculously nothing serious happened except for a bloody knee and inside gash on one leg.  Before the race I had dedicated this ride to my fallen Nepali brother Narayan Gopal who had drowned in a river in Sri Lanka earlier this year while racing.   I told myself no matter what happened, I’d ride this one out for him and I swear he was watching over as a crash like that would generally result in a some serious bike or body injuries. 

Heading out into the last lap was amazing as all I had to do was not mess it up and I’d successfully defend the World 24HR title from the year before.   It’s times like these that all the hard work in the months and years leading into the race pay off.  Last year a dream came true in Italy, and this was the icing on the cake being able to defend the World title in Scotland!  Not sure what a 3-peat in Brazil next July would feel like but I’m starting to think it’s worth a shot to dig deep to try and find out.. 馃檪  

One of the highlights of racing these 24 hour races is being around so many other athletes from around the World that have the same interests and crazy minds.  Each race is full of drama, and pushes you well out of your comfort zone and into some far off mental states.  I’ve never done drugs of any sort but to me 24 hr racing is a one of the best drugs around.  Racing 1 a year is enough as it gives the body time to recharge and get all fired up for the next one and it also lets the nerves properly heal.  After this one I had a hot shower to warm up and then was walking back to my pit area when my feet start to feel like fire balls.  Throughout the race I was shocked the feet didn’t give me the normal grief with hot flashes and numbness. This must’ve been because they were too cold as once they started to get circulation back it was like I was walking on burning coals.  Limping into the concession area I sat on a couch for an hour eating french fries and having my buddy Leighton try to massage some life back into the feet.  The leg was also swollen up like a goose egg as I was worried I had re-injured it after having a big crash on the same leg in BC Bike Race back in July.  It had taken 3 months to feel normal again after that one and now it was back to square 1 it seemed. 

The first 24 hour Worlds I did in 2008 in Canmore left my body in a state of shock for 2 weeks afterwards with my resting heart rate being elevated to 70 beats per minute vs the normal sub 40.  Overtime the recovery has sped up after everyone one of these races and the body seems to come around quicker every time.  For some reason it seems the body bounces back to a stronger state then it was before the race, about 10-12 days afterwards.  This must be some sort of super compensation, I’ll have to ask the smartest coach I know when it comes to analyzing a persons body, Luke Way, at Balance Point Racing.

Last year we celebrated the World title with champagne on the beach in Monaco and this year we took a steam engine train ride out to the Scottish coast for Ciders and fresh seafood.  Scotland is a gorgeous country, the weather is crap, but the people more then make up for that and the rich history is intriguing.

Next up is Nepal, first to rest/acclimitize up in the high Himalayas for a week and then onwards to try for a three peat at the World’s highest mountain bike race, the Yak Attack. A week after this will hopefully be another attempt to ride the Annapurna Circuit in under 24 hours too fundraise $5000 USD to keep the newly formed Nepal Cycling Centre open another year.  Details of this will be online soon, until then it’s time to eat some more Indian food as I have 20 hours to kill here at the Dehli airport between flights.  Someone needs to introduce the 24 hour transit visa to India as this is ridiculous.

Huge thanks to all my family, friends, supporters and sponsors who have stood by me all these years enabling me to keep chasing these far fetched mountain biking dreams around the World 馃檪 

Over and out!

Picture credits: Candace Mihalcheon