The Convict 100 is a great event. I think I have done them all except for in 2008 just after breaking some vertebrae For me it's only a 5-6hr drive which makes it one of the closest marathons. Camping at the venue is easy with lots of food options available and I'm now always prepared for how cold St Albans can be at this time of year. It's one of the few marathons I don't drink much in the day before as I dread getting up in the middle of the freezing night to visit the toilet!
Last year the Convict 100 was part of the XCM series which attracted lots of Elite riders from around the nation. This year there was still over 40 in the Elite category with around 700 riders attempting the full 100km distance. From the start I was surprised the pace was so strong. A small group broke away early and I was sure they would be caught before the first climb at the 10km mark. I wish I had of been part of this group. Some of these lead riders took it easy up this climb and then jumped on the back of the main group as we came past. I found I was getting light headed at the pace I was climbing even though I was dropping off the first few riders. I have been doing some slow hill training as part of a bigger race plan but I was sure I should have felt better! At the top I had a bit of work to do to catch back across. There were a few strong boys on my tail but they seemed quite happy letting me drag them back up to the main group. At around the 30km mark I was comfortably controlling the pace on the front until Andy Blair moved past. Once this happened, the 2 remaining riders up the road were caught quickly. A group of 5 of us rolled through the 50km drink station together but in the next single track Andy flatted leaving just the 4 of us to battle through the last 40km. Shaun Lewis and I had a small gap after the 70km drink station and I was keen to try and put some time into the rest of the field. With his team mate off fixing a flat Shaun was quite happy to get towed around the rest of the course. At the 80km mark, Brendan Johnson and Michael Crosby caught us on one of the last big climbs of the day. Shaun once again had an easy day as the three of us took some turns out the front. With 10km to go Michael went back for a dropped drink bottle and left 3 of us to battle for the podium positions. At the 95km mark is a sandy crossing that I knew would help decide positions. I was on the front and took the left 4wd track down towards to water. Once you commit to a 4wd track in the deep sand you can't cross sides as you lose momentum and stop. Shaun sprinted across in front of me just as the sand was about to get deep to limit his losses if he couldn't make the crossing. A smart move but I managed to jump back across to the right side just as it got deep. I managed to make it across and had developed a small gap to the boys behind. I put the pace on and held back slightly to encourage Shaun to jump on the back. I had the thought the two of us could swap turns to stay away from 3rd and lock in the top 2 positions. Shaun's plan was to sit on and roll me on the line as I worked to keep Brendan at bay.
Still a fun day out and it was good hanging out with my Dad who raced the 50km and didn't do too bad at all for an old fella!
Monday, May 6, 2013
The race started at the bottom of a fire road climb which gave people a bit of sprinting time to see who hit the single track first. Ed McDonald was explaining how he had pulled up poorly from the Marathon Nationals before exploding off the start line and sneaking in front of me! He set the pace as a small group tried to keep with him. Ed got caught in some bunting part way through the first lap which gave me a chance to lead the charge. I found it very hard to get into a rhythm. I felt like I was riding really inefficiently. After three laps the top solo boys who were keeping the pressure on dropped off slightly. I then backed off the pace and really started to have some fun. I started to look further down the track so I could ride more efficiently. Looking around a corner can help decide how hard to hit the brakes and can assist in maintaining speed.
For the next 3 hours I just focused on riding efficiently as I started to maximise speed around blind corners and gullies. The Taree tracks really reward the efficient rider. The more you pedal, the more you have to break. The track almost forces you to find a happy medium. There aren't many places to put the power down and riding fast is all about maintaining speed over the course. It did take me a while to learn how to ride the 29er on single track but I am sold both on how good the bike performed but also on how good the trails are around Taree. The Merida big 9 is a great bike. A superlight bike is a big advantage when racing but the light weight Stans Race Gold wheels allow a greater benefit as the bigger wheels are easier to accelerate.
During the last 2 hours of the race I though I should start putting the pace back on as I was still feeling too fresh at this stage. I wasn't getting any lap splits to the overall positions but on my last lap I was catching a fairly fast rider who kept checking over his shoulder. I found myself a carrot and started to chase. In the last 1km I rolled past and apparently finished in front of all the teams. The top overall team ended up getting a time bonus for helping an injured rider so I slid back to second overall just ahead of Ed McDonald riding solo who came in 3rd overall. Maybe next round of the Chocolate Foot 7hr series a solo rider will win overall?
Saturday, April 27, 2013
With so many races as options for this weekend and the logistics required to get to Atherton with a bike I was almost tempted to do an easier race. With a surprising result and feeling strong after racing the Wombat 100 I would have been silly not to make the effort. Logistics only became possible with the support and organisation of OnTheGo riders Jason McAvoy and Garry James who were also racing.
On arrival in Cairns we put off having lunch until we got to Atherton around 2pm. After food and rego there was time for a quick lap which we were all expecting to be super nasty from the feedback we were hearing. We had been warned that we would be riding part of the downhill track and that there would be a ridiculous amount of climbing. We only had time to see the first half of the track which kept us guessing what we were in for over the whole lap.
With a start on the front row my only race plan was to be in a good position leading into the first single track. I also didn't want to go too hard on the climbs as there were heaps of them. The race started as per normal at a stupid pace. I was struggling just to hold a wheel but I didn't want to get held up in the first single track. I must have snuck in around 7th. After a few mechanicals and minor crashes by other riders I had worked up to 4th. Before the first big fire road climb I was up to 2nd. By the top of this climb I was no longer in the top 10. I wasn't far away from the main pack however Andy Blair and Pete Hatton had a small gap on the rest of the field.
The back section of the course that I didn't pre-ride wasn't as bad as I had expected. There were some steep climbs that you really had to think about but the fire road downhills were quite straight forward. There were some fast descents which is where some serious time could of been made or lost.
I jumped into the next single track first and started to wind up the pace a little. I started to put a gap into the group I was riding with and caught up to 4th place. I was starting to get some lap splits to AJ and Pete who were around 1.30 up the road. I managed to catch them half way through the lap and was informed Andy wasn't far up the road as I rode past. I was starting to get laps splits at this time that seemed to vary from 30 seconds to over 2 minutes. Heading out on my last lap I was 1.45 behind. At the 10km junction I was still 1.45 behind! With still 20km to go and another 600m of climbing I wasn't going to give up yet. I had my first glimpse of the leader up the main long fire road climb. I seemed to be catching him fairly quickly and I wasn't sure how much he had left in the tank. I was felling fairly good from taking a more conservative approach to the race and as I punched up some of the shorter steeper climbs I took the lead. I was a little torn between keeping sensible with my pace and trying to create a buffer. I opted to be fairly sensible, stopping for a final bottle with 13km to go and rode in a mostly controlled way down the final downhill to the finish.
While I wasn't expecting to take the win it was great to back up from a couple of weeks racing to take two National Titles in three weeks.
I have heaps of people to thank for this race. Logistically it was quite tricky.
OnTheGo team mates Garry and Jason for putting up with me on the weekend. I'm grateful for you guys helping me get to the airport just in time...
I am really starting to enjoy my 29er, thanks Merida.
JetBlack's Stans Race Gold wheels saved some serious weight on the climbs. The Shotz electrolytes kept the cramps and bay and still taste good after being frozen! Pump n Pedal in Townsville for posting my bike back to Port Macquarie after it missed the plane...