Thursday, June 30, 2011

Midweek MTBing

So, with work encroaching heavily on life again lately and the Tour Divide coverage holding my spare attention, I finally was able to break free. I had an opportunity to take a roll around the Koala bush lands with Dean0 this week. It had been too long since the last dirt ride (12 days due to work) and despite a late finish at work, the plan was set. We would push off from Cornubia and head across to West Mt Cotton rd and the Eastern Escarpment. Then a lap of the Karingal track to see how it looked after the Sushine Series round there on sunday. From Karingal it was to be via the standard EE loop to Daisy Hill for whatever we felt like, then back across to Cornubia to finish off with a roll down Wallum Froglet to home.

Done with this....

                                                                            So, on to this.

After a bit of a chat and a good look at the view, it was..........




The Eastern Escarpment is as rideable as it has ever been. Would you believe it is fun? Er, how about rewarding? Er, then how about hurty?

A brief stop to appreciate the easterly view.

Then a slight diversion to take in the "new" westerly view.

From here you can see clear across to Daisy Hill and the Shailer family property.

We then put the hurt on ourselves a bit. In a good way, of course, with a lap of Karingal. The track is in perfect condition. Maybe I should have ridden in C grade as well as helping out after all last weekend?

The desire to take photos dwindled at about the same rate as the pain increased, so the only "stills" are now in my head. Until I can find the USB plug for that interface, I shall leave it to your imagination to guess how it panned out. Suffice to say there was no blood award but there was hurt for my legs.

Yet another great morning in the saddle with great company. It is what mountain biking is about.
Now to recover in time for the 6 hour this sunday.
Go "The Nigel"!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Thoughts from the Tour Divide

How hard must this race be?

From the blog of a rider currently testing herself...........

Conquering the desire to quit requires some mind games. Knowing that I am not even half way through this journey is daunting; thinking about what is ahead is too much for my brain to handle. So, I break it down into smaller pieces. Day by day is too large sometimes. Mostly, I look ahead town to town, meal to meal. When that is too much, I just look ahead to what my eye can see. And, when that is too much, I look three inches in front of my tire and watch the ground blur and listen to myself pant.

Too much work and not enough riding is making me a bit testy, but watching the Tour Divide is certainly helping put things in perspective. Work definitely looks the easier option, if not nearly as picturesque..

I have some leave coming up next month and I am hoping to put some miles under my wheels and also join in on normal family life for a week or two. Who is up for a ride?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Tour Divide Race starts tomorrow

Banff, Alberta, Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico, USA. One stage. 4418 kilometres. Unsupported.
This race (for some) or ride for other mere mortals begins with the "Grand Depart" from Banff tomorrow. The route follows the continental divide along the Rockies and involves over 61 000m (200 000ft) of climbing in it's 4418km distance!
Trailhead begins behind the Banff Springs Hotel.
I find the thought of doing this ride mindblowing. From the start, through Alberta and Montana, watching out for bears to the 12 000ft mountain pass crossings in Colorado I find it hard to get my head around how and why anyone would do this race, yet at the same time am excited at the thought of maybe doing it myself one day. I don't think I have any idea how tough it would actually be and I might just be in love with the romance of a ride through this amazing landscape. The idea of dumping the outside world for three or four weeks and just riding my bike in a foreign country isn't that it?
This year there are seventy riders attempting the race north to south and fifteen giving the south to north direction a try. This may be to give the snow on the Rockies more time to melt as it has been a bumper winter in the northern states. They are saying that the record will be safe, but who knows? What is known is that you have to ride about 240km per day, every day to get near the record. Remember, that is unsupported. You navigate, find your own food, accomodation, bike get the idea, as well as ride. There are no rest days. You just keep riding.

Ride The Divide Movie Trailer from Ride The Divide on Vimeo.

Here is the Caveate from the Tour Divide website-
Do you really want to race the GDMBR?

Self-supported Divide racing is based on an open, standing challenge (circa 1999) to cycle the Great Divide MTB Route as fast as humanly possible. Tackle it truly solo or as part of a common start, but do it all yourself; all the pedaling, navigation, resupply and camping; all the suffering. Indeed, with zero on-the-ground administration, Divide racing is not much more than a construct of the online community that follows it. To these voyeurs, it's virtual racing at its finest. To the challengers, it is ultimately just a really long, lonely and beautiful solo bike ride.

As all-American as racing is, ACA never imagined such a niche for their off-pavement touring route when they created it in 1997. But just as the interstate highway system is to RAAM, so too is the GDMBR to Divide racing. John Stamstad inaugurated the challenge when he blazed the the first self-supported Individual Time Trial (ITT) in 1999. In 2003 Mike Curiak was first to accept John's double-dare. Mike's ITT would end early, but he returned the next summer to organize a multi-up format called the Great Divide Race. Six other ambitious riders lined up for the masochism. When the dust settled, Curiak and runner-up Pete Basinger knocked 2 days off Stamstad's benchmark. Since then 'grand departs' (group starts) have been the fashion, but it's important to emphasize--like Stamstad in `99 and Curiak in `03--a challenger may race the route at any time during snow-free months in the Rockies. As long as an ITT performance is self-supported and strictly follows the route (see Rules), it is eligible for the annual General Classification.
Divide racing fundamentals look much like traditional touring: rider + gear vs. GDMBR + nature. It's the method that differentiates the racing: self-support + 'blitzkrieg'. Blitzkrieg is German for lightning war. It's how Divide racing is meant to be executed; move fast, send no postcards, 'take no prisoners' and 'hurt so good' (suffer well). To wit: Divide racing isn't your parent's 1976 Bikecentennial tour. Yes, the common denominator is to finish the route, but the inspiration is how quickly without cracking; to teeter on the edge physically and tackle headlong the emotional rollercoaster sure to coincide. Divide racing is not to be confused, even with fast-touring of today's ultralight set. It is exceedingly difficult simply by the sheer volume of daily miles, which are a primary reason it flaunts a heart-breaking 60% attrition rate.

Self-supported grand tour racing (ie. >2 weeks) along the GDMBR is like none other. Simply on scale, it's the hardest form of bike racing, period. To be competitive for the overall, one must ride ≥150 miles/day. There are no rest days. And if volume alone isn't taxing enough, one must also navigate, acquire resupply, clean/wrench the bike, find shelter each night, bathe when possible, and keep one's wits about it all. No entourages follow athletes. It cannot be compared to today's 100-milers, 24hour racing, or even 3-5 day stage race events.

Many wonder if they're capable of such a true solo blitz. At some point there's an inevitable leap of faith into grand tour racing. One thing is for certain: 2-3 weeks of back-to-back 16-18 hour days in the saddle are certain to bring about changes in body, mind and equipment of even the world's most seasoned ultra-endurance althlete. Are you the type to roll easily with this painful transformation? How well do you suffer for days on end? Are you prone to depression? Can you be happy sleeping in the dirt as it rains all night? Does post-holing through thigh-deep snowdrifts over a 10,000-ft pass sound like fun? A robust Rockies winter + late spring can leave behind just such mid-June diversion on the GDMBR.

It's easy to be attracted to the romance and camaraderie of a 'shared' cross-country MTB adventure. The rugged Divide backcountry is not the place to learn solo 'racing' is not your speed or style. Are you a seasoned multi-day bikepacker? Have you ridden back-to-back off-road centuries? Are you an expert level mountain biker? Are you a veteran of Primal Quest-scale multi-day adventure races? Are you a proficient bike mechanic; skilled navigator; competent at self-rescue? If you cannot confidently answer yes to most of the above, it would be wise to consider simply touring the route or taking more time to prepare for a true blitz.
All of the racers carry a spot tracker and as can be seen, they are starting to converge on Banff and Antellope Wells for the start.  If you want a taste of what Divide racing is all about grab a copy of  "Ride the Divide". It covers the 2007 (I think) race and highlights the beauty of the landscape that the race travels through.

It will be very interesting to watch over the course of the next three weeks the progress that they make and read of their hardships. I might just go and watch the DVD again.......and dream......


Sunday, June 5, 2011

To Green Mountain

The planets seemed to align for me today as I was able to participate in a ride that I have been trying to do for about two years now. It is not a particularly difficult ride nor is it technically challenging. What the climb up Duck Creek Road does offer though is breathtaking views of the Scenic Rim and O'Reilly's Guest House as a brunch destination. I have previously had the opportunity to briefly visit O'Reilly's and was amazed by the beautiful rainforest that visitors have to pass through to get to the guesthouse. I was hoping to have a closer encounter with the forest from the back of my mountain bike, rather than encased in the cocoon of a modern car.

Five of us set out from the western end of Duck Creek road in cool conditions under a thin high overcast. It was definitely a morning for armwarmers, but the hills looming in the near distance hinted that they might not be needed for long.
 Our first stop at one of the many lookouts showed why we were all sweating profusely despite the cool conditions. We had made a solid climb in just the first six kilometres or so.
During this climb we added to the numbers with Eric (or Groundhog) chasing us down due to his slightly mistimed arrival at the starting point! He certainly put the hurt on himself to catch us up and it was nice to finally put a face to a name that I seen many times on MTBDirt. In fact it was good to meet and get to know all of my fellow riders as I have seen them at a distance or read of most of them on the forum. Mountain bikers really are decent people. Especially the ones that like to challenge themselves a bit more than the "norm".

Anyway, onward and upward. The climbing continued, almost without let up for many more kilometres. The next stop was for a gate which was very kindly being held open for us by one of a band of four local MTBers who were on an epic ride. Canungra to O'Reilly's, down Duck Creek rd and then back! About one hundred kilometres and 2000m (6500ft) of climbing! Pleasantries were exchanged and as we left we decided that as a point of honour we should not let them catch us on their way back up! We upheld our honour, but only by about fifteen minutes. they are seriously quick lads!

Our next stop was at a cracker of an outlook. In the distance are Mt Lindsay and Mt Barney to name but a few.

After some more climbing we passed Luke O'Reilly's farm with more breathtaking views.

From here it wasn't far to the top of the mountain and breakfast. Six very hungry mountain bikers were about to help prop up the restaurants takings. Most went for a version of bacon and eggs. I decided to make a bit of a pig of myself with a double order of pancakes with a coffee to wash it down. Darb, displaying equally good taste went the pancake route as well. There must be something difficult in the make up of pancake batter as the others were all finished their breakfast before Darb and I even saw ours. Mine, without the requisite dob of ice cream, was mostly dispatched without much chat, although I have to admit it did beat me and I was forced to leave some behind.

Being soaked in sweat it became quite cool lounging around the restaurant, so several local newspapers sacrificed themselves as riders stuffed them into their jersey to help ward off the chill as we would be basically descending constantly for the next eighteen kilometres.

The ride down was an absolute hoot for obvious reasons! To my slight disappointment we whizzed past the massive old trees that lined the road. I would have loved to spend a bit more time exploring but I guess that gives me an excuse to return.

The roll down was mostly uneventful. There were a few minor "pucker" moments as I smashed into water bars like a sack of spuds on my hard tail, rather that gliding gracefully over them as I was picturing it in my mind!
After the main descent was over I foolishly commented on how there were no flat tyres for the run down despite the steep, rocky track. Not more than five minutes later the call went out "Flat tyre"! Calwyn (I think, sorry if I have that wrong) had scored a pinch flat on the rear of his now not-so-clean Yeti 575. He had it sorted very quickly while I quietly expounded the virtues of going tubeless. Don't you just hate those smug individuals that offer advice about their superior setup when you are struggling with your broken ride?

And that was the day done! We were back at the car in four hours all up. Thirty six kilometres and eleven hundred metres climbing were the stats for the morning. Thanks to all whose good company helped make the ride another great outing.