2017 Schedule

Feb 23- March 30: Guatemala Training Camp

March 8-12:  El Reto De Quetzal (Guatemala)

April 28-30: Whisky 50 (Arizona)

May 19-21:  Grand Junction Off-Road (Colorado)

June 2-3: World Solo 24 HR Championships (Italy) 

June 11-18:  Rumble in the Jungle (Sri Lanka) or Beskidy MTB Trophy (Czech)

June 24-25: UCI MTB Marathon World Championships (Germany)

July 7-13: BC Bike Race (Canada)

July 16:  Canadian Marathon Championships (Quebec)

July 22: Canadian XCO Championships (Alberta)

July 29-Aug 3: Singletrack 6 (BC)  or July 30- Aug 5: Legend of El Dorado (Columbia)

Aug 11-13:  Glacier 360 (Iceland) 

September-October: TBD

Nov 5-15:  Yak Attack (Nepal)

 

2016 in the Books

When 2013  happened it looked like it would go down as the biggest year ever with 79 days of racing.  

2016 eclipsed it by 2 days.  81 is the new personal record which will likely stand till the end of my career… but who really knows.12717370_993857927328794_3163842700367276642_n

It all started road racing down in the jungles at the Tour of Costa Rica, a race full of brawls, crashes and insanely fast Latinos riding like Tour de France champions. Post race a couple weeks were spent staying with my friends Ronald & Angela and training in the Latin mountains before hopping a flight over to Australia and New Zealand.  Racing the inaugural Pioneer through NZL’s Southern Alps with my Kona teammates was a trip to remember.  This was topped off with a week with some buddies in Queenstown before heading North.  

Following this was a road trip with my friend Tarren through NZL to the North Island to take on the 24 HR  Solo World Champs.  Riding 450 km of single track, finishing 2nd, 4 minutes off the title was one of the rides of my life as Jason English set a new record, winning the title for a 7th year in a row.  There were hot springs, beaches and a couple more races in NZL before launching to Vietnam to defend the title at the Vietnam Victory Challenge.  

Next up was a bike tour across northern Vietnam-Laos and Thailand with my buddy Simon.  We ate loads of fresh fruit, got sunburnt and had some good times enjoying the Asian gong shows. After 3 weeks Simon went back to work in Canada and I caught a jet to India for a crazy adventure in the foothills of the Himalayas.  Eating some sketchy curry from a kitchen built in a chicken coup turned the stomach inside out for a while.  After three weeks of recovery with my friends Martin and Julian in Australia it was back home to cap off this solid 4.5 month road trip to start the season.

Back in Canada things came back on track with a win at a wet and gnarly Nimby 50.  This was followed with  4 stage wins and the overall title at BC Bike Race as my teammate Spencer Paxson and I worked well together to finish 1-2.   Up next was a tough battle with Geoff Kabush at Marathon Nationals in Eastern Canada in which he nipped the title from my grasp by under a minute.  Back to Back wins at the Alberta XC and Marathon Championships closed out the Canadian portion of the season before heading off to Asia for round 2!13710438_1219533761398207_6199163205165734886_o copy

Asia round 2 started off racing across the land of Ghengis Khaan in Mongolia.  After 5 times to Mongolia it feels like i’m just starting to know that pristine nomadic country.   Up next were 4 days of missing flights and losing my bike tying to get to Bhutan from Mongolia.  This is harder then it sounds. The next 10 days in Bhutan were out of this world, winning the 250 km Tour of the Dragon, visiting the Prime Minister at his residence, hanging out with the Prince, and hiking to monasteries in the mountains with my buddies/guide DJ and Jigme.  

Next on deck were 5 scorching days at the Tour of Timor in which my skin started to melt.  Timor is a great place to ride a bike but you need to be up in the mountains or else it’s too damn hot!  At this point the trip was suppose to end but I missed my flight back to Canada and headed to Singapore to stay with my friends Ken and Laura.  They helped reload supplies, gave myself a place to rest a few days and helped fix the bike before hopping a jet to India for round in the Himalayas.  

India round 2 was another solid adventure with a great crew.  1 day in India is like 1 month in North America in regards to sensory overload as the action is insanely intense 24/7.  After racing 8 days across Northern India the adventure was topped off with shaking hands with the Dalai Lama in his home @ Mcleod Ganj.  

The next 2 weeks were spent beaming from this encounter and acclimatizing in the mountains surrounding the hippie village of Dharamkot as the Worlds Highest MTB race was on deck in Nepal.  These 2 weeks were eventful with lots of hiking with my friends Zina, Ashish and Gurman a bit of riding and a fall off a mountain, dislocating my shoulder.  This seemed like a trip ender but visiting some hippie doctors fixed things up and the trip continued…IMG_6036

Nepal will go down as one of the all time greats, kicking off with 10 days of training up in the mountains with my buddy Peter. Next up was the Yak Attack with 11 days racing through the largest mountains in the World and into the forbidden Kingdom of the Upper Mustang bordering Tibet.  Capturing the title to become the first foreigner to do so in the races 10 years history capped a memorable season.  With time to relax my friend Usha and I headed out trekking in the mountains for 10 days before it was time to call it a trip and head back to home soil.  

Work was calling in Alberta so it was off slashing down hazard trees in the frozen north for a while.  As of now I’m still up there refreshing the mind and filling the bank, waiting until a little bird flys bye and chirps that its time to re mount the bike for 2017 🙂

Here’s some numbers from the past season.

14 Countries Visited: Canada, Nepal, Australia x2, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Singapore, India x2, Mongolia,

Bhutan, East Timor, China.

81 Total Races:

70 Mountain Bike Races

  • img_7380JetBlack 6×6, Australia: (2nd)
  • The Pioneer, New Zealand: (2nd)
  • World 24 HR Solo Champs, New Zealand (2nd)
  • Kiwi Crusade, New Zealand (DNS)
  • Karapoti Classi, New Zealand (3rd)
  • Vietnam Victory Challenge (1st)
  • Uttarakhand MTB, India: (5th)
  • Convict 100, Australia: (4th)
  • Rocky Trail Grand Prix, Australia: (DNF)
  • Salty Dog 6hr, Canada: (3rd)
  • Nimby 50, Canada: (1st)
  • Cumberland Marathon, Canada: (2nd)
  • Test of Metal, Canada: (4th
  • BC Bike Race, Canada: (1st)
  • Canadian Marathon Championships:  (2nd)
  • Alberta XC and Marathon Champs: (1st x 2)
  • Mongolia Bike Challenge, Mongolia: (3rd)
  • Tour of the Dragon, Bhutan: (1st)
  • Tour of Timor, East Timor: (7th)
  • MTB Himalaya, India: (2nd)
  • Yak Attack, Nepal: (1st)

(more…)

Racing The Highest MTB Race on Earth

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By far this was the most scenic race I’ve been to as we rode through the heart of the largest mountains on earth and into the hidden World of an old Buddhist Kingdom. A region rarely visited with stunning mountain peaks, true mountain people and a mystical sense of being on a different planet.

The Yak Attack kicked my ass in 2014 coming to Nepal in great shape, but unprepared for the x-factors that racing here comes with.  Being found ill in the ditch in Stage 6, I had the gutted feeling of waving the white flag and DNF’ing the race.  Fast forward 2.5 years later and my 2nd shot at the Yak Attack, this time the race was bigger and better then ever before celebrating its 10th anniversary taking on the Annapurna circuit and also 5 days in the Forbidden Kingdom of the Upper Mustang!   

  

The Annapurna Circuit: Stages 1-5.

This is the classic portion of the Yak Attack as we started at 800 M above sea level in Besisahar, the gateway to the Himalayas, crossed over Thorlong Pass at 5415 M and then onwards to the Upper Mustang.  The first stage turned into a gongshow racing a 32 km time trial in the jungles and rice paddies surrounding Besisahar.  The day before I had spent hours patching and glueing tires together as the new ones ordered from India 3 weeks earlier never arrived.  They said they would take 3-4 days maximum to deliver, but first they sent them to Kolkata, India, instead of Kathmandhu Nepal, then there were some holidays and who knows what else but 3 weeks later still no tires. My head was left wobbling side to side.  On race day, the front tire went flat 5 minutes before  the start, and the rear one 1 km from the finish. It was a full on gongshow and to top it off the body was backlashing from the race efforts and requesting for a few more days off.  img_7265

Already down 7-8 minutes from the 3 leaders and heading into the Yak Attacks  toughest stage it was a rough sleep.  Arising at midnight after 2 hours of rest I would lie awake for the duration of the night feeling ill and having flashbacks to my race ending meltdown on this stage in 2014.  Running a tube in the front tire and an extra patch in the rear my Kona Honzo and I tackled the 65 km climbing stage on an insanely rough and scenic jeep road to Chame. The route was amazing following a tight gorge, hugging cliffs and steadly climbing into the heart of the Himalayas. 4 riders (Thinus from South Africa, Ajay from Nepal, Yuki from Japan and Peter from Australia) set a steady pace from the start as I dangled about a minute or two behind for the first first hour. My fingers were crossed as I repeatedly told myself “don’t meltdown, don’t meltdown, don’t meltdown, no more flats, no more flats..”   Seeing the race flash before my eyes the body suddenly started showing signs of life and by mid race the system was back online. Soon catching the leaders, I  dropped them and put  7, 10 and 18 minutes into the top 3 in GC as they seemed to lose some gas towards the end of the big day.  Game on!

Chame is a cold little town tucked into the shadows of 7000 M glacier covered peaks vertically straight above.  From here we climbed along more roads snaking along cliffsides before breaking out into the broader and sunnier valley leading to Manang with views of the huge Annapurna mountain range above. It was pretty epic with loads of trekkers out on this route as it’s the 2nd most popular trek only behind Everest Base camp in Nepal.  We tried not to scare the hikers to bad as we ripped by on our bikes but some of them seemed to be suffering from AMS and off on another planet.  Up at 3500 M now we had a scheduled rest day in the old Tibetan style Nepalese village of Manang.  This place is a proper old school western town with Yaks wondering around the dusty streets, loads of tea houses for weary travellers, a “Yak Theatre” to watch movies on Himalayan adventures, and a surrounding mountainside full of glaciers, monasteries and hidden valleys to explore.img_7542

Stage 4 from Manang to Phedi had 17 km of single track heading up to 4500 M.  The Nepali boys went hard out of the gate this morning but thankfully blew up a bit as Thinus and I dieseled past them and onto a tough battle for the next 1.5 hours.  With 5 km to go I put in a good effort over a small hill which put both Thinus and I in the red zone and on the verge of tipping over as the thin air up above 4100 M was like trying to breath through a straw.  Thankfully we ran into a heard of Donkeys portering stuff up the mountain and were blocked for a few minutes on the tight trail.  Soon after we hit a heard of Yaks and then another heard of Donkeys.  In a normal race this wouldn’t be ideal, but we both enjoyed the small pause in racing, giving us a chance to catch our breaths and look around at the stunning mountain landscapes before  gasping our way to the finish line with myself claiming a narrow 2 seconds victory to make it 3 in a row.

Stage 5 is the classic “Pass day” as the race starts with a 5 km hike a bike over Thorlong Pass reaching a dizzying 5416 M before launching down a crazy singletrack descent down to the village of Muktinath.  The organizers had a wild idea of starting the race at 4am to try and avoid the “wind” up top.  I lobbied for a later start figuring a proper sleep, daylight and the warmth of sunshine would trump any amount of wind we may have to deal with.  I lost the discussion, so after a couple hours of sleep we were awoken at 2:30 am to prep for “the pass.”   The Nepali boys traditionally own this day and set a high pace from the start.  I tried to keep up and suprisiningly did alright, eventually passing them as I found a few areas which were rideable.  The combination of pushing, and riding left the other boys in the dust and after 1.5 hours was cresting the pass and onto the epic descent.  It was still pitch dark, cold and sketchy as hell as I couldn’t see a lot with my pocket headlamp.  The body started to chill pretty good after the sweaty climb so I stopped to dig a puff jacket and thicker gloves out of my pack but was denied by my numb hands fumbling with the zipper.  Figuring the process would take too long I resorted to Plan B, hopping back on the bike convincing myself the faster I descended the quicker the temperature would rise.  Arriving in Muktinath at 6:10 am the finish line staff were still sleeping.  After riding around in circles for a bit I made my own finish line and started time keeping for the rest of the riders. It’s always interesting racing in countries where bike racing is still fairly new as some of the locals don’t realize just how fast wheels can be, especially down hill as they can turn a 3-4 hour hike into 20-30 minutes!img_7307

A big part of the Yak Attack Experience is trying to stay warm and healthy as the living conditions can often be a little dodgy hygienic wise and rest can be tough to find some nights between barking dogs, giggling trekkers and roosters .  Every morning we would hand our luggage in to the porters between 6-7 am and then proceed to drink litres of hot drinks to keep warm before race start at 9 or 10.  After racing we would continue our sessions of drinking pots of tea, and eating loads of Dal Bhat (rice, lentils, curried veg).  Sometimes our luggage would show up on time, other times we’d be in our bike clothes for a long time as some of the porters seemed to enjoy lolligagging and being tourists themselves.  All in all everyday turned into a proper adventure somehow.

The Forbidden Kingdom, Upper Mustang Valley: Stages 6-9.

The Upper Mustang was a restricted, demilitarized zone until 1992 which has kept it isolated from the rest of the World, preserving its people and tibetan culture. It’s just recently opened to the public but a $500 USD visa just to enter the area keeps the tourist numbers low.   My tires from India finally showed up as we had re-supplies come in from Kathmandu after the Pass.  Unfortunately the Indians sent the cheapest possible paper thin wire bead versions which would self destruct within seconds on the rough ground up here, not the tough Tubeless ready Maxxis Ikons which were ordered.   After confirming 3 times with them the Tubless versions were being sent, it was a bit of a shock but not really.  Those tires are in the hands of some local Nepali kids now, while I lucked out and borrowed some tires from Paul and Tetsuo, 2 racers who had spares and kindly offered them up.  Running tubeless again was important as the terrain in the upper Mustang was rough as hell. 

img_7602Stage 6 started with a sweet climb overlooking Dhaulagiri (the 7th highest mountain in the world) up to a pass where we crossed into the Upper Mustang and dropped down a kick ass single track.  It was like a line was in the ground as the topography changed drastically with steep cliffs, dry dusty roads, and snow clad Himalayan peaks in the background.  The racing up here was out of this world with roads full of thick bull dust, boulders and sections of ice where waterfalls crested the road.  Thinus road great this day as I suffered through a rough last hour, finishing a couple minutes down.  At the finish line in Ghilling I looked at the race organizer Phil  “this is it, where’s the 5 star resort?” as we stood in a wet grassy area with a couple rough looking mud covered guesthouses in the background.  It was a different world up here,  mud floors, rock walls, no heating and layers of dust everywhere.  The locals were tough as nails, you could see it in there eyes that they were the real deal as far as mountain people go.  They were also very hospitable, cooking up some great buckwheat meals as we all adjusted to the surrounding region and tried to keep our bodies in race capable form. 

The next 4 days we headed up to the headquarters of the region in Lo-Mantang “The Walled City”, spent a rest day exploring cave dwellings up on the edge of Tibet and then had a couple stunning days racing back down valley to the lower Mustang.  Up here the living was simple with the locals piling fire wood and dried dung for a long cold winter ahead and butchering Yaks to fill there food stores.  Seeing the butchering of a Yak was an experience many of the racers turned there heads too.  It was brutal, but probably important to experience for anyone that eats meat so they can understand the process that getting a burger on your plate requires.img_7638

  Racing wise I went into a conservative mode trying to avoid any catastrophies, soaking in as much of the upper mustang as I could while keeping an eye on my strong south African competitior.  Thinus was a real sportsmen and great to race against, racing hard he would win 3 straight days with Nepalese hero Ajay winning the final stage.  After 11 days up in the mountains and a rather epic journey I would take the overall title by a comfortable 13 minutes to become the first foreigner to claim it in the races 10 year history 🙂 

This is a race which will go down in the books as one of the all time greats.  It’s rough, hard, and a struggle at times but the payoff is big in the form of insane views, an inside look into some ancient cultures and the experience of seeing how the mountain people of Nepal make a living in such a harsh environment.  I’ll be crossing my fingers to have a chance to return to this region again someday soon

The season is officially over after 12 months:)  A couple weeks of downtime in Nepal lies ahead before transiting back over the pond to Canadian soil for a taste of home over the holidays.  

Over and Out!img_7372

 

 

 

Racing in Nepal- Yak Attack Round 2!

The Yak Attack is the highest mountain bike race on Earth as it traverses through Nepals grand Himalayan mountain range. It starts out on the World famous Annapuyakattack_logo_2016rna trek, taking us up over Thorong La pass at 5416 M. From there we’ll drop down to 4000 M and head into the tourist restricted area of the Upper Mustang Valley, eventually reaching the border of Tibet.  Over the course of the 11 days, 8.5 of those will be between 3500 M and 5416M with the temperatures anywhere between +25 and -20 degrees celsius.  It’s part race but more so a proper mountain adventure!

In 2014 I came here unprepared and had my ass handed to me, getting sick on the first day and never recovering.  The combination of turbulent food, rough living conditions, high altitude and tough riding has meant the local Nepali riders have dominated the race winning everyone of the 9 previous editions.  As far as a race goes, it’s the most scenic MTB race in the World i’ve been to, and per kilometre one of the toughest.  The days are short averaging 35-45 km but they can be deceptive, often requiring some hike a bike,  extremely rough and unforgiving terrain, cold temperatures and thin air.  img_7385

Trying to ride up around 3000-5400 M above sea level slows things down considerably.  The oxygen level of air is still the same as sea level at around 22%, but there is less air being inhaled every breath as there’s less pressure in the atmosphere. By the time we hit 3000 M the effective oxygen will be cut down to 14.5% and by the time we hit the top of Throng La Pass at 5416M it will be around 10.7%, half of what we take in at sea level.   This means alot of long slow breaths and trying to diesel our way through the days instead of bursting efforts which would surely leave us gasping for air and in a world of hurt.img_7083

Since the last race ended in India, MTB Himalaya, I set up base camp in the Indian mountains at 1950M for 2 weeks, with  3 nights up around 2800M.  1950M is on the cusp of being good for acclimatization, as 2200-2600M seems to be the desirable level but after having a decent crash, it seemed smarter to stay down a bit lower in higher oxygen levels to help with the recovery.  Since coming to Nepal my buddy Peter Butt and I headed up onto the race course and stayed in the town of Manang for 5 nights at 3500 M.  The first 3 days we felt the effects of the altitude as our heart rates went up and our sleeps were disturbed as our bodies acclimatized.  By the 4th night the bodies seemed to have come around and everything shifted back to normal although our rides during the day left us gasping for air, especially once we hit over 4000 M!  

The lead up to the race has been a real experiment and will be interesting to see if the pre-altitude training has any positive effect once we start racing.  One thing which has been a bonus has been living in the India-Nepal region for the last 6 weeks getting use to the sketchy food/water and adapting to the cultural differences.  Its starting to feel a bit like home which should help control these Nepali mountain goats in the coming days. Theres also a handful of fast foreigners here which are wildcards and should keep the race interesting as it always a battle trying to race over here.img_7380

Kona has a new distributor in Nepal and one of there shops, Panc bike helped sort out some last minute gear and fixed the bike.   It’s great to see the Kona brand come into the Nepalese market as these guys have some perfect terrain for mountain biking and they certainly need bikes which are durable and can take a beating!

Stage 1 of the Yak Attack was a bit of a shocker today with  flat tire just before the start and one at the finish.  In between the body was running really hot and misfiring after feeling pretty good in the leadup.  It seems the curse of the Yak Attack from 2014 is still lingering around but there’s 10 more days to go.  Hopefull things will turn around and I’ll finally crush this demon.  After this it’s officialy game over on what has been a solid 12 month race season starting all the way back in Costa Rica last December.

Race Results can be found here for the next 11 days of the race:  Yak Attack Leader Board

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Himalayan Riding- Onwards to Nepal

After long periods of good fortune it can be easy to forget how delicate this life is.  After a pretty relaxing week following the MTB Himalaya race my headimg_6724 was still a bit tired and I tried riding my Kona Honzo up the 8 km Triund trekking trail.  The first 3/4 of the trail was mostly rideable but the last 2 km is steep and full of rocks as the trail winds itself precariously around the mountain side with big drops all around.  The local Indians at the Chai shops along the route kept telling me it was impossible to get to Triund by bike and that I had to turn around. Being stubborn this just fueled the fire and I eventually topped out at the campsite along Triund ridge which was an alright place to ride.  There were a few surprised Indians up there and after making myself available for a few selfie requests I turned the bike downhill and started the sketchy descent.  

It was a rough go but my Kona Honzo is a fully capable trail bike and we were making good progress until I came around a corner and there were a pile of Indian Trekkers coming up.  Having to slow down, I lost momentum which caused the front wheel to lose the force needed to get over some big rocks on a steep pitch. The rear wheel coming up as an endo was inevitable. Unclipping I managed to eject from the bike, hopping over the handlebar.  The landing was too steep and very rough, causing a summersault as my body barrelled over the side of the mountain.  Reaching out for a rock I made contact but it was an awkward position for my shoulder and the force caused it to dislocate which lead to tumb
le down the mountainside.  Using my good arm to try and slow the fall it was a losing battle and pretty soon I landed fairly hard on the trail below.  Thankfully the trail switchbacked which made the fall only 15-20ft, otherwise it could’ve been a real good one.  
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From there on the next 4 hours was a bit of a pain in the ass.  When the shoulder dislocates I generally have about 1-2 minutes to get them back into place before the muscles start to tighten up and spasm making it nearly impossible. I failed in this two minute window and then immediately started walking down the mountain t0 try and make use of the adrenaline I had fired up and before the pain set in.  Luckily one Indian picked up my bike and took it down the mountain for me, while 3 Trekkers stayed by my side to support the long 7km hike out.   The first 2 km took forever as I had a good dizzy spell and was having a tough time figuring a way to hold the arm without too much pain.  Eventually we found a pretty good system as one of my newly found friends would support me from one side and I’d lean over with the arm dangling.  We tried using a sling but that wasn’t working.  It was a solid trek, stopping often for rests, but eventually we made it to within sight of the bottom in which the plan was to hire a taxi and head down to the nearest Tibetan doctor to try and get the sore wing fixed.img_3704

This is when Stephi stared talking about the Dalai Lama and how special his powers are.  Within twenty seconds of this my shoulder miraculously slipped back into place.  This rarely even happens and has made me a big believer in the Dalai Lama and his Holiness.   The recovery the past 2 weeks has been really good with the Shoulder feeling normal again, although the wrist is taking a while to come back.  The past couple days I could finally start riding offroad again with the vibrations not causing to much discomfort.

Landing in Nepal on October 21st it has been a great few days riding around visiting tourist sights in Kathmandu and training up in the surrounding hills with my ever welcoming Nepalese friends.  With the 11 day Yak Attack race up in the big Himalayas starting on November 5th the plan was to arrive early to acclimatize to the turbulent food, reload on supplies and then head up high to acclimatize to the altitude.  Tomorrow a friend and I will head up to the town of Manang at 3500 M for a week to finish our preps for the race and hopefully we’ll ready to rip by November 5th!img_7081

 

http://triund.in/triund/TRIUND.html