World 24 Hour Solo Championships

12728868_1151614664851096_7007378574034243578_nGoing into the 24 Hour World Solo Championships in New Zealand I knew it would take the race of my life to defeat 6 time World Champion Jason English from Australia.  I had that race and am still shocked at what went down in Rotorua during those 24 hours as it was in a whole new dimension.

Having finished 8 previous 24 hours, all containing some sort of massive meltdown, I had always dreamt of having a race in which the body fired properly for the whole 24 hours.  I told myself I would keep racing 24 hours until I had that ride.  That ride finally came as my lap times stayed between 50-60 minutes for all 27 of them with the last lap being just a couple minutes slower then the first few laps at 55 minutes.  My support team of Tarren Sohier, Jason Beacham and Justin Price came together the day of the race and magically the 4 of us melted into a well oiled machine over the course of the race keeping the pit stops all between 0 and 30 seconds with the average being about 10-15.  English pitted a bit faster but he is a Mongrel.12734151_992495494131704_2954489965895304196_n

Feeling fresh on the first lap I pushed the pace a bit to test out the field and felt strong but the course was pretty simple and had nothing selective in it physically or technically to split the field apart and 8-10 of us rolled through the start finish together.  At this point I new it was going to be a long race of patience and consistency on the flowing trails and backed off the throttle to settle into diesel mode for a while.  For the next 10 hours I rolled around the course between 4th-6th position with Adrian Retief from NZL as the keeners went off the front at a pretty mental pace.  It was a cruisy ride as the course wound its way through some thick green New Zealand foliage with massive silver ferns lining the course. The setting  reminded me of Jurassic Park and I kept expecting a velociraptor to jump out of the forest at some point.   Just after midnight the time splits were starting to near 15 minutes to the lead duo of Jason English and Swedish rider Tobias Lestrell which set off an alarm, if it grew much bigger the race would slip away.

Normally 1-4 am is meltdown time as the body starts to tire after 13 hours of racing and the mind starts to wander into a sleep deprived daze.  Knowing it was going to be rough no matter what  I decided to crank the throttle wide open in an attempt to get back up to the leaders and try to build some momentum to carry through the night. logo_radical The lighting system from Radical Lights was unreal and allowed me to put down the fastest night laps of the race and by 4 am I had worked my way up to Jason English in the lead.  Tobias had been riding strong but unfortunatly suffered a crash losing time and energy one lap  and the other guys in the top 5 seemed to be slipping a bit, feeling the effects of their early efforts.  It was a welcome sight to finally see English’s Australian jersey in front of me.   Not wanting to stir the resting giant I opted to hide my existence by  stopping for a piss stop, refuelling the body and then trying to attack him at the base of the only climb on the course, a 3 minute little burner.  Blowing bye English a the base of the climb I managed to gain a small gap but he would slowly close it on the endless flowing single track which followed and soon we were back together. This kicked off the next 10 hours of what was the hardest battle of my life.12744568_1272256446137210_258046917322841236_n

The 17.3km laps contained 15.5 km of singletrack and 1.8 km of fireroad.  It became clear pretty early I was riding stronger on the fireroad sections, and English maybe a bit more consistent on the rest of the course and also pitting slightly faster.  Unable to drop him out on course I rolled through the pit late in the night and told Tarren that next lap I was going to roll the pit stop and try and gap Jason there.  It worked brilliantly gaining a 10 second gap on English heading out of the pits.  Burying myself on the first part of the course which contained the fireroad sections the gap grew a bit bigger but somehow my friend found another gear and clawed his way back by the end of the lap.  I couldn’t believe the guy could come back from the effort and new it was going to be a race to the end at this point.

For the next 8 hours we would take turns attacking each other, Jason usually just after the pits and myself on the climbs and fire roads but it didn’t seem to matter what either of us did as the other guy would just grit his teeth a little harder and close the gap.  It was shocking the speed we were riding and I was concerned a massive meltdown was going to hit at some point and I would fall into the thick foliage beside the trail and start twitching out and need to be rescued by the medics.  Surprisingly that never happened and with 4 hours to go I noticed Jason was looking a bit shaky and put down another big effort on the fire12705258_992704380777482_898707456050461189_nroad and gapped him good, maybe just over a minute.   This was the time, I layed every ounce of energy into the pedals to increase the gap and to finally give Jason his first 24 hour loss in 7 years.  The speed I was going I figured I had to be gaining on him. It was a crazy sensation as the body was exhausted but feeling good although the legs were pretty numb and not quite firing at 100% anymore.  I kept getting glimpses of someone closing in and looked back at one point and saw the beast standing up smashing his pedals just off my wheel.  WTF?  How the hell did that guy close that gap, he hasn’t ridden that strong all race but now 20 hours in he’s finding another gear!?  I looked for another gear and fired another counter attack his way but it was of no use as we were both riding in a crazy state..12733603_1272256352803886_5288312920035249789_n

 

For the next lap we cruised together both screwed but trying to hide it.  I had a problem growing as my bladder was ready to explode so I asked Jason if he wanted a neutral piss stop.  He was fine and said no but offered to ride slowly and wait while I did my business.  It was a camel piss, but Jason stuck to his word and pretty soon I was back to within 5-7 seconds of his wheel as we both hit a long rolling descent.  The problem was we  were riding slow down it, refuelling etc and there was a small drop off at one point.  Hitting it slower then usual my front wheel snagged a root and I  found myself being launched 10 feet down a steep sidehill into a entanglement of ferns and plants.  It would’ve hurt like hell but the thick foliage broke my fall but also made it hard to get out of the mess.  Probably losing close to 45 seconds to a minute getting back up to the trail I had some work to do and chased down Jason for the next half lap, finally catching him.  Later this lap he would put in a small effort just before the start finish as he could likely sense I was a bit tired from the chase. He extended the gap a few seconds in the pits and all of a sudden he was just out of sight.

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It was go time but unfortunately the body was battling a low point and I dropped a few minutes this lap and had 3.5 minutes to make up heading into the final lap.  Yelling and dumping water down my back I tried everything to find any ounce of adrenaline or energy left in the body and pretty soon found myself cruising really well and getting momentum back.  I’ve had laps like this before in past 24 hours and had caught whoever I was chasing and figured that unless Jason was riding out of his mind I would surely be gaining ground. There was also another race on the line, if I could come in before noon there would be an overtime lap to decide the title.  Everything was being sent on this lap to get in before the cut-off.  I’m not sure what would’ve happened the next lap if I actually made it as my body was in a surreal state.  Too bad for me Jason is a monster and he was also having an adrenaline fuelled lap and put down one of his fastest laps of the whole race and even extended his lead by 30 seconds.   Fighting the clock now, I came in 40 seconds past the noon cut off time and thus ended my bid for my first World Title.

It’s been an emotional roller coaster the past few days, being so close to one of my major cycling goals yet coming up short, but also having the satisfaction of riding the best 24 hour race of my life and having reached farther and deeper then ever before.  I’m content with the effort and the race which occurred and keep reminding myself that Jason specializes in 24 hour racing and is the best the sport has ever seen, while I try to wing one once a year around my normal racing schedule.  There was a lot learnt during this battle and the limits my mind used to set on my body have been stretched.  That being said there is a gutted feeling right now and some unfinished business which I look forward taking care of in the future.

King-LASIK-logoOne big positive from the race was the fact my eyes held up for the first time in 5 races and didn’t cloud over early in the morning hours.  This I owe a big thank you to Doctor Joseph King @  King Lasik in Victoria for the PRK lazer eye surgery last October which has left me seeing 20/20 without the use of contact lenses 🙂

 

Huge Thank you to all that made this race possible as it has taken a lot of kindness and generosity from countless friends and sponsors to bring everything together so I could pull this sort of effort out while living out of a bag on the other side of the Globe.   The Kona Bicycle company has stood behind me from day one and with the use of my 2015 Kona Hei Hei Deluxe and a loaner 2016 Kona Hei He DL from Jonny Mitchel and the Bike Barn in New Zealand I had two sweet rigs for this race, with both of them putting in similar lap times and being used consistently throughout the race.  I can’t wait to get some more time to dial in the newly designed Hei Hei DL as it seems to just love eating up single track:)p4pb4808669

Off to check out more of the North Island before tackling the next race in 4 days time.  This one a 7 day stage race called the Kiwi Crusade which will take us through the rolling terrain of one of NZL’s northern Peninsulas!

 

 

Photo Credits:  # 1,2,4 & 6:  Russ Baker

#3 & 5: Jason Beachman

# 6:  Allan Ure / photos4sale

 

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24 Hour World Solo Championships Pre-View

p4pb4808669The WEMBO (World Endurance Mountain Bike Organization) World 24 HR Solo Championships are taking place this weekend on the world famous trails in Rotorua New Zealand!  It’s been a wet week leading up the race but the forecast looks good for the weekend.  The course is pretty easy but the setting is awesome as it feels like your in Jurassic Park with the huge ferns, thick green foiliage and steaming geysers surrounding the area.

Current 6 time World Champion Jason English from Australia is trying to break Chris Eatoughs record this weekend by winning his 7th title in a row. He hasn’t lost a 24 HR race in over 7 years and probably over 30 atteWEMBO-Inline-pos-300mpts.  There’s also apparently some fast Kiwis, a Swede, an Irish man and who knows who else might show up.

My friend Tarren flew in from Australia on wednesday to help in preparations and to run the pit with
help from Justin Price and Jason Beacham.  We have done a lot of races together now and she offers a huge boost of confidence leading into the weekend.   Th
anks to her and many others I’m better prepared for this 24 HR then ever and can’t wait to get out there to try and stop Jason’s bid for a 7th title and write some new history.IMG_2755

Live results from the race can be found starting at noon on Saturday NZL time:  which is  3pm Friday Pacific time in North America on the WEMBO website or at : Sportsplits.com

 

Huge Thanks to Erin Green, Tom, Jeff and Karen Collins, Marcus Peters & Cristy Little for the beds to crash on and travel support the past few weeks!  Also big thanks to the Bike Barn Rotorua, Squirt Lube NZL, Allsports Distribution, Hiran @ Radical Lights   and my Kona Teammates for leaving all there spare parts!  Last but not least a huge shout out to Jonny Mitchell and Kona NZL for setting up a Kona Hei Hei DL to use as a 2nd bike during the race 🙂 IMG_2746

Off for a big ride!

The Pioneer Recap

20908_eventimage_resized_792b69df5df849572638e86bea6543b4The inaugural Pioneer was a grande success as the Kiwi’s had all there ducks in line and treated us 250+ riders to a sweet 7 day race through the Alps of southern New Zealand.  As far as scenery goes its tough to beat the drastic Panoramic views NZL offers with its open landscape, turqoise blue lakes and glaciated mountains.  Riding wise the race turned out to be a bit tougher then the profile suggested as the Kiwi terrain was rough and slow going in many spots with many creek crossings and steep rough four wheel drive tracks through grassy fields.

Teammate Spencer Paxson and I had a solid Prologue finishing 2nd behind the World Class duo of Anton Cooper from NZL (U23 World Champion) and Dan Mcconnell from AUS (World Cup winner).  Stage 2 our race hit a road bump as Spencer flatted early on in the stage and the deep dish rim wouldn’t accept any of the 3 tubes we tried putting in as all the valve stems were a bit stubby for the odd ball wheel.  This created a dilemma as we finally got a small amount of air in there and limped to the first feed zone to find a proper tube with an extended valve.  We ended up near the back of the race after losing around 30 minutes and had a long day ahead as we slowly clawed our way back up to 4th overall on the day but lost loads of time on the leaders.

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From this point on our goal was a stage win which we would come close to in a couple sprint finishes with Dan and Anton but kept falling short.  Eventually we had our day on Stage 7 claiming victory and solidifying our GC position in 2nd overall with the other Kona team of Barry Wicks and Kris Sneddon taking home 3rd. It turned out to be a great Kona Team training camp with the racing just making up a small part of the good times.  Fellow Jasperite, Steve Brake joined us for the week to drive the van around between stages and added a good factor to the event with his wisecracks and free living attitude.

These sort of races are where its at as after every day of riding we would end up in a deluxe camp often by a lake and have the afternoons to swim, relax, eat and enjoy the company of the other riders as they came in.    Not only was it an international bike race but even more so it was week long camping trip with a bunch of cool people in a great setting.  Even though New Zealand is a English speaking country there was still a language barrier as apparently our accents are bit different.  Trying to ask the catering company for a bowl to eat my post race cereal one day in turned into an odd conversation as they thought I was asking for a IMG_2508ball.  Hmm, no sir, why would we have a ball, we’re a catering company.  The conversation went back and forth a while until I pulled out my phone with a picture of a cereal bowl on it.  Definitely a first world type of problem,
The days after the race in the New Zealand tourist mecca of Queenstown were solid as my friends Erin Green and Tom opened up there house for me to crash at.  We road our bikes a lot on some awesome trails, ate loads of food and did a lot of lakeside chilling.  This was highlighted with my first ever DH shuttle run as the local Kona shop, BikeAholics    leant a Process 153 trail bike so I could join them on there group ride down the steep slopes of Mt Coronet to Arrowtown.  It was rad, the Process trail bike ate up everything in its path, all I had to do was hold on down the steep ass slope!   By Wednesday it had been 14 straight days on the bikIMG_2543e so I left the rig at BikeAholics to get tuned back into race shape and took off to Wanaka to visit some friends for a couple days of hiking and SUP.  It was perfect to refresh the mind and pretend being a 14 year old again horsing around in the summer sun

On the way back through Arrowtown I made a pit stop to visit my friends Jim and Brenda Argan from Jasper.  They are the parents of one of my best friends (Dane) growing up and took us out as little kids on some of our first big bike rides and mountain hikes in Jasper.  They were at the Stage 7 finish line which was de ja vu to last year at Singletrack 6 as they watched every stage.  After wining 6 out of 7 races with them at the finish I’m trying to sign them up asa good luck charm in future races!

IMG_2532Now up in Christchurch, the final plans are being formulated to head up to Rotorua to take on the 24 hour World Solo Championships.   As of now all the pieces of the puzzle are scattered around a bit but they are all there to be put into place and make next weekend one for the history books.  As for now theres a whole lot of R&R going and I couldn’t of landed at a better place then my mates Marcus Peters house as his family has offered the use of there attached guest house to recharge the batteries for a few days.

I’ve always heard about the legendary Kiwi hospitably and have been blown away with all the kindness this trip.  It will be hard to repay all of you but there will always be a giant welcome mat layed out in Canada for any wary travellers!

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The Pioneer- New Zealand

20908_eventimage_resized_792b69df5df849572638e86bea6543b4After a week of visiting friends and racing the Rocky Trail Entertainment 6×6 in Australia I made it over to Christchurch on the South Island of New Zealand for the 7 day Pioneer Stage race.    A couple days staying with my friends Jeff and Karen was the perfect recharge to get the mind and body prepared for the 600 km race to Queenstown over the next week.

Friday my 3 Kona teammates, Kris Sneddon, Spencer Paxson and Barry Wicks arrived.  Kris and Barry are a legendary stage racing pair with numerous TransRockies and BC Bike Race victories to there names.  Spencer and I are an interesting blend with his World Cup XCO talents as he chases the USA Olympic team in hopes to race in Brazil this summer while I’m priming the diesel engine up to take a run at the 24 Hr Solo World Championships in New Zealand later this month.

Who knows how its going to unfold but its going to be an epic week racing through the southern Alps of this beautiful country!

Full results and live tracking of the race can be found throughout the week at :  http://thepioneer.co.nz 

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Costa Rica Training Camp

You know you’ve been on a solid adventure when you spend the entire 8 hour daytime flight back to Canada passed out in a self induced coma.

Following the Vuelta De Costa Rica it took 5 days of rest at my friends Angela and Ronalds oasis to reboot the system. Angela cooked us some killer local meals highlighted by Olla de Carne, Ronald and I went on a couple short hikes and the rest of the days were spent in holiday mode enjoying the festive season with my Costa Rican family. IMG_2250

In the past I have toured my bike down to Panama a couple times on a cool loop into the mountains.  I had some ambitions to reenact this journey but time was a factor as I would only have 11 days to do it vs the 3-4 weeks I had in the past.  On New Years Eve the mind and body  we’re back on line and ready to roll.

Not wanting to waist anytime I loaded up my Kona Zone road bike with some new lightweight touring bags from Apidura and headed south.  Looking for a good New Years party on the beach I set the radar towards Jaco, Costa Rican’s beach party destination and legendary for its New Years Parties.  IMG_1938

Showing up mid afternoon it was quickly determined the entire city was booked up.  It was a hiccup in the plans but after sniffing around, a new hostel on the beach was located offering to rent a mattress to put on there roof for the night.  Hell yeah a bed and free star gazing!  From there on it unfolded into a New Years for all time.  Running into the right group of travellers, some homemade cider, a party on the beach and fireworks going on for hours it was the perfect storm to cap off 2015 in grand style.

New Years day  had write off written all over it but my head can be pretty stubborn sometimes and defused this idea. Not wanting to lose a day of the bike trip I set off at high noon after spending the morning relaxing by the pool and eating fresh tropical fruits to try and knock off the night.     The ride wasn’t sweet as the flat highway was buzzing with traffic as it traveled between palm plantations in the scorching heat. The 130 km journey was slowed down by a flat tire and having to stop every hour to refill the water bottles.  It was a long ride but the last part was brilliant with the sun setting against the Dominical beach and then a refreshing and sketchy 30 minute ride through the dark to Uvita.IMG_1932

Again I found out there was no accommodation in town so road my bike up a gravel road 2 km to a hostel hidden in the jungle.  They were fully booked as well so it was back into town, and eventually I came across a dirty hostel tucked alongside a river with 8 Israelis partying outside.  The 5 bed dorm was sketchy, and at $25 a night it was steep but with no options it would have to do.  It was a fun evening having dinner with the Israelis but the night was a disaster as I found out the AC was broken, and there was only one fan for the whole hostel.  It was like trying to sleep in a noisy sauna and to make things more interesting the stomach started acting up, likely from some bad water.  In Costa Rica the tap water is generally good to drink except down along the be
achside towns.

Getting up exhausted and on edge of a meltdown I knew the body needed some recovery or else it would risk sinking into a grave and a subsequent long recovery process as I have learned a few times in the past.  It was a tough call but I opted to head back to Ciudad Colon to rest up again at Ronald and Angela’s. Trying to reenact the trip to Panama on a time budget wasn’t the right move.  I had a solid back up plan which was 100% new and was excited to launch that mission instead.IMG_1988

Having started a new training program based on 3 day blocks I had one day left to finish off this one.  After a 2 hour bus ride back to Jaco, I unloaded in the heat of the day and set off on a rough 4 hour ride on the backroads up to Ciudad Colon.  Sometimes you need to race when you’re tired and hungry (aka 24 hour racing) and this was the perfect opportunity to work on overpowering the mind and toughening up bit.

After two solid sleeps and a perfect rest day in Ciudad Colon it was off on a new adventure with my Apidura travel bags.  Heading up and over Volcano Poas there were some amazingly quiet roads snaking through the jungle and past waterfalls eventually leading to Ciudad Quesada 140 km later.  My friend Jonathan had helped our team out during the Vuelta and had left an open invitation to come visit him and his family. Ciudad Quesada is off the tourist trail and a very typical Costa Rican town sitting on a ledge between the mountains and the low lying flatlands heading to Nicaragua.IMG_2045

We went to some kick ass hot springs tucked inside the jungle, I had a nice ride to La Fortuna to see Arenal Volcano which was covered in clouds, and we ate Corn Bread at Jonathan’s Bakery for post ride snacking.  It was a cool 2 days staying up at there home in the mountains before heading 120 km back over the shoulder of Volcano Poas to Ciudad Colon to cap another 3 day block.

Heading down to the river below the house for an afternoon nap amongst the jungle was the perfect oasis for some recovery.  Falling asleep I eventually woke up to darkness as the sun had long since set.  It was a bit alarming as I’m not use to the jungle but luckily had my iPhone and used the light to start hiking downstream to get out of the river gorge.  Hopping off a rock I landed and heard something behind me.  Shining the light back my adrenaline shot through the roof as I saw large green and black snack no more then 2-3 feet from my legs.  It opened its mouth and launched its head back as if to strike, I hucked my t-shirt on it and jumped into the river. I was scared shitless and couldn’t see much as I headed downstream with my tail between my legs.  IMG_2151

Scrambling out of the river and up the riverbank I made it back to a gravel road and stood there shaking for a few seconds  regaining composure before heading back to Ronald’s and Angela’s. On the way back 2 rowdy dogs came after me in the dark to further escalate the evening.  While riding this is generally not a problem as you always have your bike as a shield and water bottles to toss or squirt the dogs with.  Walking is a different problem but luckily I had a long stick and was able to club one of the little punks on the nose sending them back to there house.  Costa Rica’s a great country but there’s a few people that need to take ownership of there dogs and get them under control down there.fer-de-lance

Finally back home I started sharing my story with Angela and she gasped as apparently there are loads of Fer De Lance Vipers around the area and after seeing a few pictures and reading some horror stories about them it was pretty blatant I had lucked out.   I checked under the blankets when I went to bed that night and was a little jumpy in the coming days.

After the snake encounter the plans for a recovery day by the river were scratched and instead I  loaded up the bike and headed up the mountains to see my friend Paulo Valle on the Cerro de Muerte.  Taking the backroads I discovered one of the raddest road bike rides of all time through the back valleys of Costa Rica.  The climbs were relentless with nearly 5000 vertical meters of climbing over the 97 km ride.  The further I went the steeper and quieter the freshly paved roads were. Eventually the surface turned to gravel and at the back end of the farthest valley there was one last 30 % climb leading to Paulo’s eagles nest perched at 2000 meters overlooking the countryside.  It was one of the coolest rides and destinations ever in Central America.  The next day Paulo and his girlfriend Nina offered a ride back to San Jose but I had to decline as the riding up there as too damn good.  It meant pushing the rest day back another day but sometimes life is too good to sit still.IMG_2110

After 5 days of stellar riding the much needed rest day finally came onto the agenda. This also turned into a bit of an energy zapper as my friend Seth Cox had arrived from Canada and along with Paulo we drove down to the coast to find some crocodiles and sandy beaches. Costa Rica just built a new highway to the coast so the drive home should’ve been quick but the engineers made some drastic flaws in the planning and created a 4 lane highway with many pinch points.  The 1 hour drive turned into a mission as we hit traffic backed up for miles.  When the tourist busses started backing down the on ramps to get out of the mess we followed suite and eventually got home to cap a long day

The final two days in the land of paradise were spent riding back into the mountains for another big day of climbing, a picnic at the valley of peace, and then a big ride towards the Northern Costa Rica town of Liberia. I had lucked out and found a West Jet flight for $150 USD flying direct back to Canada.  My buddy Ronald offered to be my support car for the day and loaded up the cooler with coconuts and papayas and followed me for the last few hours down the Pan-American highway towards Liberia. It was a pro roadie styIMG_2310le ride and the only safe way to ride on that part of the Pan Am highway with the crazy drivers and non-existent shoulder. Eventually the highway rolled out of the forest and onto the flat windy grasslands near Canas.  The cool riding was over, I hit my training threshold at  6 hours, pulled over, packed the bike into the car to end the Costa Rican training camp. We then drove to Coco beach for the night to cap the trip with an ocean swim and fresh seafood to start the recovery process.

I can’t thank my friends Angela, Ronald, Jonathan, Paulo, and Alejandro (thanks for the flat tire repair in La Fortuna!) enough for all the help in making this southern training camp. Pure Vida Amigos!

My 4 days in Victoria were spent cleaning out my condo for new renters, unpacking, repacking, and finishing off a big training block and trying to get the bike ready for the next journey.  After this there was just enough time to catch a boat over to Vancouver to have dinner with my friends Chris Ganeff, Dave and Thea and then hop a flight to start the next stretch of the season down in the Oceania summer 🙂IMG_2312

Big thanks to my friends Emile de Ros Nay, Dave Mcnaught, my cousin Tasha and Straight up Cycles for the help during this busy turnaround. Also a big thanks to Jon Watkin @ Russ Hayes bike shop and John Espley @ Accent Inns for setting up accommodation at the Accent Inn’s near the Vancouver Airport as it was the perfect place to catch some rest and launch the next leg of the journey.Accent-Inns-CMYK-21

Next report will be from Down Under!