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!

Vuelta de Costa Rica

The 51st UCI Vuelta de Costa Rica was some action packed road racing with a taxi driving into the pzone_twoeloton, a major brawl between the top teams resulting in broken bones, the top team boycotting the race due to the brawl, a dog taking down one of the top riders, cheaters holding onto cars getting expelled and doping allegations.  The German team and a few managers were shocked by the speed of some of the racers and did the calculations and figured out the top riders were riding faster on the climbs then Tour de France winners.  All in all it was what was expected of racing down here and is why I came to the race with zero expectation and used it as an interesting way to kick off training for the 2016 season 🙂  It was also a nice way to show off that Kona not only makes awesome Mountain Bikes but also some very fast and sturdy Road bikes to boot!
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After 11 days and 1500 km later the race  concluded on Christmas day with a hard Circuit race for the President on the outskirts of San Jose.  It was a nasty finish to a hard ass week as we circumnavigated a crowd filled 10 km hilly circuit 10 times through the concrete jungles of Costa Ricas capital city.  With a steep 3 minute climb every lap it sent us to our physical limits but even more it tested my mental limits.

I started racing to explore the world’s natural landscapes and to ride sweet single track on my Mountain Bike. Going cross eyed trying to follow the road wheel ahead of me around the suburbs of an overbuilt dirty city was a drastic change.  After launching an attack on the first lap, then getting dropped, I dug deep into the reserves to catch back up and eventually claimed my best result of the Vuelta coming in 21 st.  It was a satisfying way to end what has been a great journey through Costa Rica the past few weeks.  The organizers treated us first class with nice hotels, descent food and a great tour of there country going past the dry lands of the Pacific, into the monsoons of the Caribbean, past sandy beaches,  through dense rainforests and over chilly high mountain passes.Nicoya-Peninsula

Of the 110 starters of the Vuelta only 63 finished as many cracked, some missed time cut, some got caught cheating, a few crashed and others got sick.  Trying to keep things glued together over nearly 2 weeks of racing is a challenge as sleepless nights, upset stomachs, relentless courses and an insanely fast field of racers who are at there top form makes sure us foreigners have no easy ride down here as we show up straight out of the Canadian snow with a few extra pounds of winter insulation to haul around.peloton

Leading into the race it was uncertain what was going to happen as I had never trained so little for 2 months heading into a bike race before, averaging about 5 hours a week between a  combination of snowshoeing, breathing exercises and indoor training.  The first goal was to not crash on my broken finger in the opening week as it wasn’t 100% coming in.  The next goal was to use the race as a training block to kick off 2016 as it will start early with the Pioneer stage race and 24 Hour World Championships in NZL in February.

After a sketchy Stage 1 with many crashes and my body being tested to its limits as it acclimatized to the heat and efforts of hard racing things came around.  Bye the end of the Stage race I’d end up in the top 3rd of the field finishing 36th overall, 2nd white guy, and top mountain biker.  It was a good reminder that the body is capable of much more then your mind sometimes think is possible if your willing to give it a shot and put your cowboy hat on through the tough times.i

Lying in the gutter with my teammates battling heat stroke after the first stage was a low point as it was hard enough to just think of getting over to the hotel to check in for the night, let alone racing our bikes for another 10 days.  The highlight was dropping all the whiners in my gruppeto on Stage 10, the 2nd day we went over the Cerro de Muerte.  3 of us were doing the work for 18 riders, hauling them over the mtn, but when the whining started for us to slowdown, we cranked the pace up.  Hearing the guys start to pant hard and eventually drop off was great.  Soon I was alone with 2 guys from the Venezuelan national team and we  had a nice peaceful 80 km ride together over the mountain pass and then bombed down the epic backside descent to the finish line exchanging high fives once it was over.

As far as training goes for Marathon mountain bike racing, Road racing is one of the best things going.  140620worldcupitalycr01-1000x714It’s the perfect way to get in a pile of miles and at the same time stress the upper limits of our bodies as the peloton dictates how fast you go and often we got stretched beyond our limits trying to hold onto the pencil neck roadies heading up the relentless climbs.  It’s nearly impossible to push yourself this hard training, and yet we did this for 11 straight days, adapting the body to going into oxygen debt and working well past its limitations.  There are many question marks with road racing though, such as the whining when the pace is to hard, questionable ethics, and the fact your riding pavement next to crazy drivers, not on dirt in the tranquility of nature.  11889947_883215541766176_2883189449819386905_o copy

Day to day life in the Vuelta started every day with early wake up calls at 6 am, rice and beans for breakfast and then the 5 foreigner teams
(Venezuela, Argentina, Germany, Switzerland and us Canadians) would meet with the organizers to ride to the race start at 7:30 am.  This was on Tico time and we generally wouldn’t leave until 8 or 8:15.  We  adapted to this, except for the Swiss guys who seemed to be driven a bit squirrely by the tardiness and were often rattled before the race even started.  Once at the startline we would sign in, and then hang out for an hour before race start.  The race changed everyday, sometimes we’d cruise for the first hour, other days we’d be on the rivet from the gun as breakaways were established for the day.   The finish lines were always rad, full of fans and entertainment.  We’d hang out there for a bit post race and then go find our hotel for the night, get cleaned up, eat some rice and beans for lunch, nap, wash our race clothes in the sink and then go on a search for more food.  The obsession Costa Ricans have with  eating Rice and Beans is only comparable to Europeans eating Pasta for breakfast lunch and dinner at bike races.  They’re both fine fuels but variety never killed anyone 😉1614223_10153161004651193_8151361062818575236_o

Most hotels we stayed at had swimming pools which were the perfect way to cool the engines and loosen the bodies after a long day in the saddle.  During stage races like this you’d think you’d sleep like a baby, but often the body is too fired up on adrenaline to sleep or there is a rowdy dog or a rooster off his timeline which kills any chance of shut eye.  These are some of the small battles one must face when ending up in a new bed every night and trying to battle off fatigue.

Overall it was a sweet couple of weeks racing and hanging out with other riders and meeting the locals down here.  The high of crossing the final finish line was one of the best feelings in a while after having a weird fall up in Canada battling different ailments.   The best part of these races are often the friends you make, this year the German team was full of some great guys who really brought up the moral of the race and new how to kick back.  It’s now 3 days post race, most everyone has returned home, and I have made my way to my friends Ronald and Angelas home in a small valley on the edge of the mountains facing a huge green jungle.  It’s the perfect retreat for some rest and to spend some time practicing spanish and getting immersed into the Costa Rican lifestyle for a bit.10590505_10153166396276193_3384723367672609114_n copy

The first couple days after the race the body finally realized what had just happened to it as I layed in bed twitching out as the nuclear destruction which had just occurred was finally being assessed and damage control was moving in.     It will take a few more 10 hour sleeps and tranquil days hiking around in the Costa Rican bush to get over this one before getting back on the bike and hopefully heading down to Panama for a little bike tour to continue the build up for next year:)

Huge thanks to our support crew: Isaac Cruz, Victor Hernandez and Jonathan Barrantes for helping us out all week.  Also a big thanks to Kona Bicycles for allowing me to ride this race for the Ride for the Planet Team and to Jean Michael Lachance for organizing the team and the trip down here.

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