Monday, May 24, 2010

Offenberg World Cup: 40th

Quick report in on behalf of Nic, as she's packing and getting ready for the long trip back to NZ.

Last night saw the 3rd round of the World Cup at Offenberg, and it went pretty well. She put in another strong ride and finished 40th. Oh so close (and frustratingly so) to the elusive 30's with only 1min covering the gap from 33rd-40th.

Weeks of steady rain cleared to bring beautiful sunshine, warm, and a picture perfect day in the vinyards of Offenberg. The Scenery soon gave way to some brutally fast race on the demanding and technical course. A very fast start saw Nic hold position from her start number of 57. She fought bloody hard and put everything into it, slowly clawing her way up the field to grab 40th on the last lap.

"yeah, I'm a bit smoked" was her text message immediately after the race.

It's been a tough campaign for Nic. 4 races in 5 weekends with some very consistent results on courses that didn't neccesarily play to her strengths. Truth be told we have been just trying to carry her form from Feb/March through... so she is excited to get home and put in a solid block of training to rebuild stronger and faster for the 2nd campaign in a couple of months.

Thanks to everyone at home and around the world for your support and best wishes. It is certainly appreciated. And also to everyone who's helped her out these last few weeks. The various team mechanics, the Sram tech guys, Jeanette/Jase, and....... even the aussies! On behalf of Nic, Cheers!


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Crank'in in Taupo

Last week it was Kayaks and Road bikes changing things up. This weekeneds activities saw the use of this sweet Nature Valley DH bike (Ok, so maybe its a Norco.... thanks Bike Vegas).

Saturday saw the innagural running of Crank Taupo. The brainchild of Epic Events Nick Reader and JK it was a pretty cool day for all Mountainbiking. A great XC event on virgin MTB terrain. A sweet DH in a unique prologue format of as many timed runs as you wanted over 6hr. And an All-Mountain title for those keen for both.

Taupo turned on the weather. The live DJ spun some phat beats all day. And a couple of hundred keen Mountainbikers had a great day out. Very cool.

First up was a rather gruelling 30km XC. There was a good field on hand, and after a bit of a late reaction on the start (don't know what I was expecting... but it wasn't the van horn tooting that did signify "go"), I set about chasing Mikey Northcott who bolted. I held him at about 12-15sec for the first 7km or so until we hit "Tucks Loop".

Maybe I was still tired from Kaimai 6 days ago, but once on the steady and energy sapping climb, Mikeys superior strength and power showed on the moderate gradient as he slowly dissapeared into the distance.

The course was riding really well, and got better (we repeated an 11km loop twice) as it bedded in. I keep pushing hard. It was a hot pace and in the end I was probably happy to limit Mikey's winning margin to 2mins. Super fast Junior Sam Shaw was third.

XC done and no time for recovery. Quick change of clothes and a quick bite to eat (this is where Nature Valley bars are awesome!) and it was onto the transport for the DH. Afterall the Dh'ers had already been having runs for 2 1/2hrs so I had some catching up to do.

Took a wee bit to get comfy with things. Riding a DH bike is quite different to anything else and takes some getting used to. Being that my first run was also my first ride on the bike (borrowed the night prior) I was a bit sketchy.

Things got better and by my 3rd run I was into the top 25. Not too shabby.

I then started experimenting with hot lines and trying to jump stuff with mixed success. I figured I needed to do these so I could post a competitive time in the Super Final. I was doing runs in the 2min 50 bracket, fast times were in the 2:30's, and I was keen to get into the 2:40's.

problem was I never put in a clean run again. My pace was good... but I made at least one major mistake each run. Turns out I didn't improve my time, and others did. So just missed the Super Final for the top 25. Bugger.

Always had respect for Dh'ers but now even more. So hard to put together a fast and mistake free run. In XC you can make a mistake and have time to catch up again. Not so here. Respect.

DH pro Des Curry deservadly grabbed the All Mountain title after a solid 6th in the XC. I was 2nd.

Great day out. The event will surely grow as word gets out. There is talk of moving it into the coveted New Years holiday period. How cool would that be as part of your holiday? Bring it on I say.

Crank Taupo: See you all there next year.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bundesliga 'Bike the Rock' & I like it here...

Hello! Okay I realise I am not getting any quicker with these reports but as they say better late than never & internet cafe's have to be saved for poor weather days in my opinion. One big plus of late is that Cabin has been ace at scheduling my recovery/easy days co-incidently with the rain & cold - less than 10deg & steady rain out today...brrrr. I have however had a good bit of practice on this Offenburg course in the wet as I have been based in the lovely nearby town of Durbach for the past 2.5weeks, staying at a local winery. Great place, nice wine (hic!) & great training most importantly!

The other mucky biking practice came in the form of the Bundesliga (German National Series XC Race) 'Bike the Rock' at a place called Heubach on Sunday. Again, I was as happy as a pig in s#*t as the course was quite muddy & the descent slippery - many a rider tripoding or skiing in practice! So we -Aussie rider Kat O'Shea & partner Ray accompanied me in my little Peugot red rocket - pootled, no, hooned up to Heubach Sat to get in a practice lap/2 ahead of the race Sun. It is an 'HC' Category race which is quite up there in UCI points so always attracts a quality field apparently. My enthusiasm for another wet/muddy race may have got the better of me as I cranked out some efforts in practice & felt great...'til the next day warming up that was!

The course was simple, you climb up the hill & then you come down it - the 'D' was wicked & once again the spectators sensational! A beer tent was set up on the plateau at the top & every lap they got more & more rowdy as the commentator announced us through. All I caught was my name & 'Nusseeland!' then a chorus of cheers. Many other spectators acquire a start list & cheer you on first name basis. Gives you a nice little perk, knowing the whole crowd & all... haha! To give you an idea of the calibre of race Julien Absalon won the mens & Irina Kalentieva (World Champ) was 5th in my race. I think it is fair to say she perhaps did not have her best day.

I managed 16th place. Rosara raced also & finished up ahead in 13th place. I was happy enough, although a little disappointed I went backward up the climb after a great start (if I do say so myself). The legs definately felt flat until the next time up the climb but hey, my first was still my fastest lap so it can't have been that bad. What I did learn was that added weight & effort riding in mud drains the legs more so be conservative in your pre-ride in such conditions. Seems a simple statement but when you feel good it is easy to get too keen.

In other news, I can speak a little French & German & a combination of both at the wrong times! However creative charades remains an essential communication tool. Great fun. Jeanette & Jase Gerrie are in Durbach too so we have been going to the pool & bakery & the bakery again. We went for a drive up to the nearby mountain range, & saw a ski jump like at the Olympic normal & big hill ski jump events. Yeah, they have balls. There were three sizes. We climbed up the launching seat of the big mother & it was pretty daunting looking down not being able to see where you will land! Of course it was just grass, no snow at the moment but you got a pretty good persective on the sport of ski-jumping. Also spent a day in Strasbourg, France visiting a few interesting spots & learning a bit of history about the Strasbourg Cathedral that Jase stirred up from somewhere. It was really interesting. I will have to post some photo's when I get home & relay the lesson to you. Watch this space...

Enough of my jabbering, I'm off to the supermarket (another essential part of my week). The deli meats in Germany are sensational! Being a farm girl I can't go long without a good serving of red meat so this is perfect. I am also going to clean my bike, a bit of a daily occurence at the moment. My Avanti has had a bit of a hiding in the conditions over here but is holding up grand & we are looking forward to another tough but good outing this Sunday at Offenburg...

Thanks for reading, touch base again soon :) Tschuss!

Monday, May 17, 2010

and now for something completely different

The eagle eyed amongst you will have noted the race calender on this blog listing for saturday... "to be confirmed. A few events to choose from". Well, above is the car loaded up and ready for what became my choice. Road bike in TT spec, borrowed Kayak, and my cannondale in the back seat. Yip, it was inevitable really. I am now a multisporter.

I was 3rd yesterday in the Kaimai Classic. A popular, and very gruelling scenic tour of the Tauranga countryside. 5km trail run, 17km MTB, 11km kayak, 23km road bike, and 11km run to finish it (and the athletes) off.

Secret training in preparation? Far from it. I first kayaked last wednesday (10 days ago). I had planned a debut in a few months. But those that read this blog know my thought process fairly well by now.... The best way to learn is get amongst it right?

Long race story short..... Ran well in first 5km and controlled my self. Took lead in transition and built up a lead of 3-4min of which I proceeded to hand 1min30 or so back late in ride when around 1m of rusty barbed wire wrapped itself around my rear hub. Bugger.
Tried my best to look like I could kayak. Dwarne Farley did his best to teach me a few tips when he blazed past (3min lead evaporated in first 10min of paddling). Lost around 17min to dwarne during the hour or so I was on the river and got out of the boat in 12th.... and very tired and sore!
Smashed the road bike and ran as hard as I could. Taking some time back and catching 3rd place in the last 300m. My final run surge must've looked ok. The old boys at the rugby club were yelling out "do you play rugby cuz? We need a winger." I politely declined, said I was a halfback. "sweet bro, we need one of those too." Think they'd had a few too many speights already. Couldn't they see the size of me?
Final result? 3rd. 11min down on Dwarne Farley who won his 6th (?) Kaimai title, and about 1min shy of 2nd. Think I could get to like this Multisport thing with a bit of Kayak training?
And the best bit? Probably couldn't go past the post match (ah.... race) feed. Too much. All events should be hosted at a rural rugby club. Burgers. Beers and more than a few tall tales in the sun. And Mr Whippy was there too. Mint.
I am pretty happy with that debut. And very sore today. Time for some specific training I think. I've been getting by on my february/march form for a bit too long now. Time to rebuild and race less (for a lttle while anyway).
Only after this saturday though. Crank Taupo beckons. XC race, and then a DH as well for a combined all mountain title. Should be sweet.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Moonride 2010

Only the best bikes for us! This bike did only do the last tent village "victory" loop

After a 3yr absence I once again lined up at the Moonride. Filling in ambassador duties for our awesome sponsors at Balance, we fronted up for 12hr duty as Team Balance Elite. I was given a bit of stick for not taking on the 24hr but I've spent enough sleepless nights in that paddock that when you own a house in Rotorua your bed is a little more attractive. And besides, after 5 24hr wins in years gone by we were keen for the sligtly higher speed challenge of the 12hr.

Being only 12 hours we figured we'd only need 4 riders (Myself, Scott Thorne, Brendan Sharrett, and Dave Sharpe). We hid behind the excuse of being multisport athletes as we've all been running a bit recently. And 3 of us were also on those "slow and not suited for XC 29er bikes". Turned out we didn't need excuses as our experience (should that be age?) showed through in the end. The Rotorua XC Development team pushed us very hard for the first 6-7 hours before we edged away to an evetually comfy win. Our 2lap stints at 90% proving a smarter strategy of 100% one lap sprints of our rivals.

Big thanks to my team mates who showed great speed and consistency. Especially Mono who failed dismally in his attempt to sand bag and slow us down. Thanks to Keryn for her impromteau management. Balance for the nutrition products. And Steve for the sweet Supersprint 20" BMX I rode for the last 1km to the finish.
The revised Moonride course was fast. Very fast. Like 27-28km/hr average speed for a hot lap. Perfect 29er territory, so lucky for us thats what 3/4 of the team were on. I was pretty stoked with the performance of my Cannondale Flash 29er.... but then again it would be pretty hard not to be.

First time through the event village on the start lap. After consultation with others it was decided that the start of these evnts is taken far too seriously by many. So the infamous beige Skinsuit was taken out of the mothballs with a lovely pair of compression socks to top off the look. Seemed to work. The fastest lap of the race follwed. Perhaps the embarassment of wearing such a suit forcing the pace so I could get out of it as soon as possible?

I'd say we were slick with team work.... but I'd be lying. Not exactly F1 styles going on here. Thanks to Keryn for deciding to take on Team Manager duties after the race start when it became clear how well organised we weren't. Our sweet wee ezi-up setup must have looked enticing. One gentlemen ran a little wide on the corner and decided to come have a lie down in our foodbox in the middle of our tent. He could have just asked for a feed?!

Mr Thorne hammering on my other bike. He took to the 29" concept pretty quickly. Not sure how smart that was of me.... he now realises my advantage. Thorne, Whaka 100, 29er? Scary.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Houffalize, Belgium!

It is Wednesday and my legs are still a bit toast from the race at Houffalize Sunday, even after a couple of easy days...tough race! You will see in the photographs my face screwed up enduring the hurtbox throughout. But really, it was a pleasure to race at Houffalize - I loved it! There is something about mud, carnage & pain for almost 2hours that is strangely euphoric. At the finish I had no clue what place I had come, and I wasn't really in a hurry to find out. I had raced hard, I was tired, I was muddy & I was happy.

Looking real happy here!
Turns out I was 44th. Last week I was 40th but this week felt better. Sure I can identify costly mistakes, moments of impatience and again I struggled off the start line against the bigger more powerful girls. But given the deeper field (+30?) & more testing race conditions I applied myself better and managed to move through the field throughout the race.
Believe it or not, my fastest lap was my last lap. I think this is an indication of the trouble you run into on the first lap with 120 riders in single track, the more powerful but less technically competent riders dismounting preferring to run a slippery descent and hence you are forced to follow suit. I wanted to get out of the aforementioned trouble with a more aggressive start (which I did this week) but I took a tumble through the tape in the single track of the start loop as I was too eager in a passing manoeuvre. Razzled (& very shitty) I continued to make errors that inevitably cost me a position or three. The good thing is, that so long as I address these few things I learn in each race I will go better in the next one, right?!

...and here! Trying to recover a little before a steep pitch that was a bit too much for me in my smallest gear (XX groupset). It was fine in the dry during practice...lesson learnt.

Aller! aller! aller! Pushing hard and trying to go straight.
I had been intrigued by this place called Houffalize the first time I heard of it. It had some sort of appeal to have raced there & be able to refer to it. I guess it has that effect. I laughed to myself when I drove into the village, it has one road through it & a central roundabout - the race village is the village proper & it was bursting with fans, families, riders & team personnel from Thursday. Despite the rain on Sunday, the support of the spectators & race atmosphere was fantastic. They are passionate people alright!
I have a weekend free of racing to fit in a bit of a training block this week & next. My next race is a German national series race in Heubach ('Bike the Rock') May 15th followed up with the XCO WC #3 at Offenburg May 23rd. Looking forward to lining up there. So without further ado, I am going to test the legs with a ride in the countryside. Thanks for reading, more news soon...
Ou Revoir! (I am learning some French too)
PS: Cheers to Jarrod for the photo's above & the rest of the Australian group for having me stay & the race support provided. Much appreciated!

The t42

Every cloud has a silver lining so they say... and for me, while a dirty big volcano in Iceland curtailed my plans to support Nic in europe, it did mean I was able to partake in the innagural running of the t42. Both running and MTB events racing through the iconic 42 traverse.

Glad I did. It was a fantastic event. 250 fellow MTB'ers, and about the same number of runners agreed. Well run. Beautiful setting. The owhango community really got behind it. And a great after match meal and party at the Park travellers lodge in National Park. Awesome.

As you might expect, while I like running, an off-road marathon doesn't really appeal, so MTB it was. It proved to be a great decision as I enjoyed a fantastic weekend at National Park, met some cool people, had a great ride, and even managed to take a win. I eventually stopped the clock at 1hr47 for the 45km (ish) ride, after having to double back after riding down the runners finishing chute. Thats alright, it'll make beating the record easier in future. I think 1hr40 is the magic target for future.

Somewhat embarrisingly I have never ridden the 42 traverse. I am pleased to report it is awesome to race. No its not technical.... but you try dealing with slippery rutted papa at 40km/hr plus downhill an a hardtail XC bike. It's only as hard as you make it. Seemed I tried to make it pretty tough on myself. A couple of off track excursions into the shrubbery ensued but nothing major and just added to the entertainment factor.

Early in the race I'd pushed pretty hard to get clear. Thomas Reynolds semmed pretty determined and was pushing hard. I'd been told he hadn't been riding much just running a lot. Which scared me as I know how well I ride when I'm in running form. So not keen to hang around I pinned it on the first descent and just TT'd the rest of the way in fear.

After Henner's on the sweep moto (an sweet ag 125) got stuck on a climb and left me on my own I backed off a little. While I reckon the Lefty fork is pretty stiff I wasn't keen to test its frontal impact strength on anything coming the other way, so a got a little cautious on the descents. I climbed strong though and the steady gradienst of the 42 meant I never got out of bigring (which is a 40 tooth on my bike).... this is probably why I won.

Thomas kept pushing himself along and crossed the line 2nd about 4min back. Shame for him he was part of team Vitasport. I'm sure if he was using Balance caffienated drink like myself he would've been closer. 3rd and 4th were Board Sailor extraodinaire JP Tobin, followed by yachting guru Carl Evans. I'm really liking the cross-over into MTB by all sorts of top performing sportspeople. Shows how cool our sport us. Maybe also shows us we should open our eyes to some alternative cross training?

So I went home via Wanganui and picked up Nic's Multisport Kayak. Went to Blue Lake this morning to give it a nudge. Only fell out twice. Damn that lake is cold without a wetsuit.....