Heading into the Wembo 24 Hr World Solo Championships I had one goal. Take the belt from 3-time champion Jason English. The form was there, the lead up to the race was A+ with good sleeps, good food and good company chilling with Leighton and staying with fellow Canadians Todd Nowack and Kim Picard. The stars were aligning as I woke up from a 9-hour sleep on race day and headed out to the race site at Stromlo Mountain. My great support crew was already there ready to rock. Tarren Sohier is a 24-hour vet in the pits and had all the food and gear aligned. Todd and Gary from the Bike Shed were the mastermind mechanics, Dad, Eileen, Tim and Darro had everything else covered and kept the atmosphere light. Too top it off Hiran from Radical Lights was there with brand new promo lights and was also a huge help around the pit area.
As the gun went off, 290 of us took out onto the 17 km single-track course around Mt Stromlo. In 2010 at Worlds we raced a great track here, similar but it had a challenging technical section and a big fire road climb up the backside of the mtn. The track this year was 95% single-track, fun to ride but hard to pass other riders and was all about carrying your momentum through twisty single-track. It was a perfect track for beginner and recreational cyclists but didn’t offer the physical and technical challenges you’d expect to see in a World Championships course. Part of bike racing is dealing with a variety of different courses and I knew I would have to adapt really quickly if I was to take down English on this track.
The first 6 hours I sat back in 6-8th place and conserved energy. It was hard as hell not to let it rip but I had come in with a new game plan to beat Jason. At hour 7 I started to up the tempo and soon found myself rolling around in 2nd place, 6 minutes back from Jason. The new Radical Lights were unreal in the dark, equivalent to Canadian mounted Police searchlights. In the next couple hours the gap to English would stay between 6-9 minutes. I knew Jason was riding very smooth on the back half of the course, which was a flat twisty track through the shrubs. This was the area I would have to pick it up if I was to close the gap.
Pushing the pace into the corners I was starting to cruise but soon went over the limit and crashed hard sending my light battery off into the woods and my knees, face and shoulder bouncing off the hard dusty ground. Picking myself up I was stunned and could feel something wasn’t quite right. Looking at my right should it was a shocker to not see it there. Oh shit…! I’ve partially dislocated my shoulder before but this time it was right out. In the blink of an eye I went from an elated state thinking this could be my night to win a World Champs, to standing there bloody and with just one functional arm.
I tried pushing and pulling it in all directions but couldn’t get it back into the socket. At one point I must of pulled it the wrong way as it hurt like a real b*tch. At his point I decided to shift my focus to finding my lost battery in the bush. This went a lot better as I stumbled right over it. From here I started walking down the trail towards the finish which was 5 km away. I hiked for 15 feet when a lady came riding up asking if she could help. I was excited and asked her to help get my arm back in. She took one look at my arm, freaked a little and took off to find a medic. Shucks, not quite the reaction I was hoping for. Hiking was really lame though and the shoulder was starting to tingle a bit so I went back to my game of human tetras. Eventually I made the right pull on the arm; pop!, back in the socket it went. Wahoo!
Back on the bike I cruised into the finish area to finish off a very forgettable lap. After getting checked out in the pit area I headed back out to try and get back the time I lost on English. There was a problem though as the shoulder was pretty tender and didn’t offer a lot of confidence in its ability to stay in place. I soon also found out I was incapable of getting food out of my back right jersey pocket where it all was. Using my left hand to pull a gel out I nearly bit the dust again but got a foot out just in time.
From here on my race went downhill as the momentum was lost and I had to ride like a panzy as the shoulder was achy and not stable. The cameraman kept hassling me for taking the bail out lines on all the mini jumps on the course. I just smiled and rode by.
I managed to hold onto 3rd for a while but would soon lose this as well as my eyes started to fog up around 6 in morning. By the last couple laps all I could see was the outline of the trail, unable to make out any obstacles on course. I had this happen once before down in Arizona at a 24hr race and was saved by putting my eyeglasses on. Unfortunately I had wrecked my eyeglasses the week before in Malaysia and didn’t have that bail out option. I thought I had figured outwhat caused the foggy eye problem and was hoping it was a thing of the past but I will have to look into further and get it fixed properly for future 24’s. Somebody had mentioned it was due to low sodium levels and dehydration but that shouldn’t of been a problem this race. Either way it was a rough end to the race as I rolled in at 11 am to claim 4th overall. Congrats to Jason on another win, Andrew Lloyd for an impressive ride for 2nd and Andrew Hall for coming around and hammering out some great laps in the morning to claim 3rd.
It’s always a big relief to finish a 24-hour race but this one was a bit of a disappointment with the good form I had coming into it. At the same time I also felt lucky to be able to finish and that the injuries weren’t any worse. Jason is a tough character, a real champ. I have no idea how he stays so consistent and never has a bad 24-hour race. I don’t think there’s a rider in the World outside of 24 hour racing which could beat him right now. Not a medicined up Lance Armstrong during his Tour de France reign or even a XC star like Julian Absalon.
The day after the race I woke up like a ko’d boxer feeling a little rough around the edges. Hopping on my bike to roll over to see fellow Canucks Leighton, Craig and Linda I was soon welcomed to the day by an angry magpie dive-bombing my helmet. Not sure what his problem was but I had no fight left and lost another battle.
Humbly rolling across the beautiful capital city of Australia, Canberra, I had a bit of time to reflect on where I want to go with my racing in the future. Coming into this 24 hour I was pretty sure it was going to be my last one for a while. This all changed after the rough race and I came out of it more fired up then ever to get back and nail down a rock solid 24 hour race like I know I can. Wether this is at Worlds in Scotland 2014 or California in 2015 is yet to be determined.
Until then I have a short recovery time before tackling the 9-day Crocodile Trophy stage race across the Northern Outback. The shoulder is better but will be taped for the race to help stabilize things. After the race I will look into recovery options to make sure it’s solid for the future.
Huge thanks to my pit crew, Kona, The North Face, Freewheel Jasper, Russ Hayes Bike shop and Wild Mountain for helping get me over here to race. Also a huge thanks to Todd and Kim for taking in a fellow Canadian and giving him the ideal lead up and post race recovery base! It was great to have some Canadian company in the midst of this 2.5-month tour.
Off to the drawing board to figure out a game plan to take down the Croc…