Thursday, May 29, 2008

Anaconda MTB Enduro

(More Photos to come)

Alice From the air.

Some of what I raced over.

Anaconda Enduro Stage 1 (37km).

I suppose the thing that surprised me the most about Alice Springs in May is the fact that it’s freakin’ freezing. I left Toddies at 8:30 am to start stage 1 of the race at the Alice Springs Velodrome, luckily I was wearing my new Ground Effect Frostie Boy otherwise I would have frozen!!!
The stage started with a neutral lap of the velodrome and then a short bitumen run before we hit the track. It was off the bikes almost the instant we hit the dirt as we all had to get around a fence and over some boulders. Talk about a bottleneck. The top 10 seeded (pro-team) riders were long gone before the main bunch made it through.
Then the real race started, a few long steep hills on fire trail before we crossed the train tracks and hit the ‘Hell Line’. It sucked. Sand, boulders, ruts and short sharp pitches. I suppose the biggest hindrance was trying to get around riders who had dismounted. But this was the least of my worries.
We hadn’t even ventured 5 km and I, in all honesty, felt worst than I have felt in the final hours of a solo 24hr race. My ‘mystery virus’ had hit hard and all I could think about was lying down. To make matters worse, the ultimate degradation, I was getting overtaken.
For a good hour all I was thinking about was abandoning the race and booking new flights out of Alice, then something happened. It was as if I had killed the virus (or whatever it is) through sheer will power, I began to feel normal again and started working my way back through the field. Eventually I reached my goal for the stage and passed the leading female!
The second half of the stage was a lot less technical but hilly all the same. Thinking back to last time I competed here I was comforted that this was the most masochistic of the stages. I eventually came 40th, out of a field of 220. Very poor but as long as my form remains and I should be able to salvage something.

Stage 2 Hill Sprint.

This stage was designed as a bit of a showcase for Alice Springs to see the riders up close and personal. It consisted of a single hill sprint up Anzac Hill in the centre of town. Winning time was 45 seconds. The hill doesn’t look like much but it sure was nausea inducing. I made it up in 58 seconds and placed 19th.

Stage 3 (46km).

I woke feeling great. Stoped for a coffee on the way to the start and had high hopes. I began mid field and slowly began working my way through the riders. The course was well designed will lots of walking and dirt roads in the first five km, really stretching the field out and ensuring that once the single track started, there wasn’t too much bunching up.

I was feeling great, better than I have in the past six weeks, although in the back of my mind I was still uneasy, wondering if I’d hit a brick wall again.
The single track arrived and I said goodbye to the roadies (the guys with the legs on the flats but who suffer a little in the technical stuff). For the remainder of the race I overtook riders. I would see them in the middle distance and aim to catch up, sit on their wheel until it was safe to pass and drop the hammer. It was a constant parade of riders I saw yesterday sitting in the high 10-30 placings. I was feeling great and having an absolute ball on the windy and almost constant single track. The extremely technical bits were a godsend as the 29er wheels helped me up and over boulders and through rock gardens at a far higher sped than others.
I slowly got my bearings back and realised that we were nearing the Todd River again, and more importantly, the finish. Still overtaking riders, albeit slower than I was before, as these guys were the high ranked position holders. I crossed the line in 16th position, what a change of circumstances. Considering the top 10 riders are trade team pros, the fact that I hadn’t trained for the last six weeks seemed not to have taken that great a toll on me. I was ecstatic. Again praying that the form would stay with me for the 95km stage of the next day.

The usual after ride cafe, Bar Dopio.

Stage 4 (95km)

We packed out bikes onto a road train the previous evening and arrived at the start point (100km from Alice) by bus at 6 o’clock in the morning. I can’t remember being so cold EVER and it was only 1 degree, I suppose the lack of preparation had caught me off guard. After an hour or so of preparing bikes and pottering around we headed off in a cloud of dust. Through the first sandy creek line the pace was too much and a couple of crashes occurred, yelling and crashing sounds the only sign of an incident through the blinding dust cloud. As we eventually settled into a tempo the race turned; we’d been riding through a beautiful gorge for the first 5-10km and now were traversing kilometres of sandy and unrideable creek beds. We walked through rocky sections, stumbled through sand and carried bikes over fences.

As we hit the roads again the pace picked up, and so did the unbelievable views. I was awestruck as I reached the summit of one particular plateau. Kilometres of flat and open desert punctuated with graceful rocky plateaus. The landscape was a mix of harsh brown and red stone, yellow and green foliage and blue skies; unfortunately I didn’t have the time to stop or the room to carry my Nikon to capture the view.
As I rode on I was feeling fantastic. The 29er tyres allowed me to overtake other riders effortlessly on the sand and I kept a constant pace on the roads. I figured I was placing somewhere in the 20s and was confident in keeping my placing. Then I flatted.
I felt the back end get a bit spongy, then saw the tyre bulge. I stopped to replace it and lost count of the number of riders that passed me after the first 15. I dropped my skewer in the sand and then couldn’t get it to tighten after I had replaced the tube. As I rode off the rear tyre was rubbing on the frame as the tyre un-beaded itself. It was all bad and by the time I was back on track I’d lost at least 20 places.
I hit the 24km bitumen stage alone, not ideal as the best way to travel was in a bunch, rolling off and taking turns at the front. I saw a couple of riders catching me so I soft pedalled until they arrived and we started our fight for positions. We made impressive time and took at least 7 places back.
I rode the remainder of the race with Ricoh, one of the riders that caught me on the bitumen. Riding with another rider on such a long stage is an invaluable advantage as you chat and keep each other moving at a higher pace than a lone rider.
We eventually hit the last 15km of single track and the race was back on. Although we were completely exhausted we were flying through the singletrack, attacking rider after rider until we made up at least another 8 positions.
We then hit the Todd River at the Gap in Alice Springs and jogged together through the sand before the short ride to the finish line. Position

Stage 5 (23km)

I was looking forward to the time-trial. I could redeem myself after the flats and race against the clock to see where I truly sat in the filed without being held up by other riders on the singletrack. 3km into the race I flatted. Again couldn’t fit the skewer and lost over ten minutes.

Stage 6 (23km at Night)

With my Ayups fitted I hit the trail, found myself up front with the lead group again and very confident in a great finish. It was important to be up front before the single track as it’s almost impossible to overtake with the lack of vision at night. I seemed to be motoring through the singletrack and slowly overtaking the field. I suppose at night time you have a psychological advantage in the fact that you can’t see the hills!
Then I flatted at 18km, lost about 20 positions and was pissed off again.

Stage 7 (50km)

What a great mix of terrain. The race began with some impressive singletrack, putting and substantial gap between the technical and non technical riders before the long flat kilometres started. I was again firing on all cylinders and found myself in a great position before we hit the desert plains. I was riding with other riders who were constantly finishing in the top 15 and was confident in a great finish.
The most memorable section was through an open plain, bounded by rocky plateau. There was no trail, or even tyre tracks, it was a find you own adventure section where you rode aimlessly toward a gap on the horizon and the occasional orange cone!
Then I flatted, lost about 15 positions and took the easy ride back in.

Final placing

I ended up 46th. I assume I lost around 20 positions everytime I flatted, so I’m going to take the liberty of claiming 20th!!!!

In the end I had a great ride. I was never expecting to race as well as I had after six weeks of non-training time due to my ‘mystery illness’. The flats destroyed my placings but I know what could have been and that I could have placed in the top 20, I’m really happy with that.

The entire Alice Springs race experience is always great; a race that is spread over a week, traverses a beautiful landscape, reunites you with long lost friends from around Australia and exposes you to long painful stages that reward you with the satisfaction of knowing how far you can push yourself day after day.

The bike

The Enduro was the maiden voyage for the Slingshot and for the Rohloff in a race. They both performed flawlessly. The Slingshot ironed out the trail chater and remained surprising stiff on the climbs and singltrack. The Rohloff saw me overtake derailleured riders day after day as they tried to find the small ring at the base of a climb, while I twisted my shifter and powered passed them!!!


My saviour was the Belgium Budder I smeared on my arse and nads every morning to avoid chaffing, the best cream I have ever used and I’m looking forward to seeing perform at my next 24hr. Similarly, my OS nutrition powders were fantastic. I used their Endurance powder, concentrated, in a bottle on my frame (while I carried pure water in my camelback). I never felt like I needed Gu satchels and could easily find time for a quick squirt without taking my eyes of the trail. With 100gms of carbs per bottle this was a godsend. After each stage I consumed their Re-charge powder and saw a noticeable difference in my recovery immediately after a stage. My Skins were on my legs any time I wasn’t on the bike, and even though the customers at the Mediteranian CafĂ© may have thought I looked a bit odd, they were used to cyclist by the end of the week. I was previously sceptical of Skins, but have seen the benefit in reduction of muscle aches time after time.

Oh, and I like to call this Stage 8 (The celebration).

Sometimes a t-shirt says it all!!