Like all good bike racing weekends, this race involved traveling with an excellent group of people to Rydal, camping out, and making a series of hilarious mistakes. These included, in no particular order:
- Forgetting a marquee roof, and thus replacing it with a rustic tarp in a McGyer moment;
- A $6 pink chair which may spontaneously collapse at any moment;
- A shopping trip, in which useful things like toilet paper were on the list, but only copious amounts of chocolate and two mangoes were purchased from;
- The use of a towel as a beanie on a very cold night, raising a code-red terror alert in sleepy Rydal and corroborating Douglas Adams’ theory that towels are actually the most useful item anyone can possess at any given time;
- The tragic death of an unfortunate kangaroo;
- Someone sleeping on a mat that would make a much more appropriate paddleboard for a five year old;
- Fervent public-displays-of-affection apparently being a spectator sport outside Lithgow supermarkets;
- Pad Thai being condemned as boring.
Somehow, in the midst of all this randomness, a bike race happened. At 6am on Sunday morning, people groggily emerged on a freezing and overcast morning. Jam-filled donuts were rapidly consumed – 8 in total. They proved to be rocket fuel. As I was rapidly consuming them, I was wondering if I’d look like this by the time I made the start line:
Gumby sprinted off the start. He made it halfway up the hill and then faltered. Then, apparently realising he was about to be trampled by lycra-clad racer-boys with knobby tyres, he found a second wind and made a dash for safety before said racer boys came barrelling up the hill.
They formed a paceline through the first kilometre of fast fireroad and singletrack, before coming to a screaming halt for the first of Rydal’s thousands of off-camber corners. While Jon Odams and Lukie Dale of Bike Culture Racing are usually roosting sideways around every corner like downhillers and boosting off everything they can see and generally going extremely fast, today even they were forced to amble slowly around off-camber switchbacks in tiny gears.
It felt rather like the classic Nokia-phone game of Snake, and I worried about eventually running out of (virtual) screenspace or running into my own rear wheel:
However, once one accepted that slower might actually be faster, and that gaps wouldn’t be opened easily on the singletrack, it was actually very good fun. I was soon joined by Andy Hall and Aaron Thomson, and we cruised around talking complete rubbish and even attempting the occasional aria. Thommo garnered numerous style points with some very cool jumps, and generally seemed to be having far too much fun. The overcast and cool conditions made perfect solo riding conditions, and it was generally excellent fun. Here, I was pondering solo race strategy, which is extremely complicated and technical:
Option 1: Go out hard. Pros: First three hours are fun. Cons: Remainder of the race is misery.
Option 2: Start slow and go beserk an hour from the finish. Pros: Only one hour of abject misery. Cons: Risky from a race perspective. One hour of abject misery.
Option 3: Randomly and illogically put in a super-fast hour in the middle of the race. Pros and cons unknown, but it worked devastatingly against the author last weekend.
Thus, I began to ponder the idea of Option 3, to boldly go into strategic territory and abject misery I hadn’t ventured into before, and to boldly split infinitives where no infinitives had been split before. I pondered if I’d gone too early, and whether I’d be able to last the remaining 3 hours after acceleration…
Anyway, the long and the short is that the random fast hour got me a nice little lead, and I was feeling pretty optimistic about the race until the sun came out. This made racing rather harder as the temperature rose, and I’m beginning to think I hate the sun, and made an ironic and bad choice in completing an honours degree in solar cell engineering and should, in fact, have studied more on coal power plants, so the air around Lithgow can be even more hazier from power plant emissions and thus blot out the sun for bike racers.
Instead, I decided I just needed to increase my fluid intake slightly and consume copious quantities of caffeinated gels, which left me – in the quote of McGyer himself – “giggling recklessly” for the last hour or so.
The 8 hour mark rolled around, just in time to prevent an eighteenth lap, which I genuinely had mixed feelings about. The Superfly was great fun, whether sideaways around the corners or sideaways in the air (oops), and performed immaculately over the 8 hours, not missing a single shift, despite no chain lube stops in the dusty conditions. I’ve been using Squirt lube for dusty races and it is as good as gold. I’ve also been having great luck with Bontrager 29-1 tyres in the 60tpi “Expert” casing – they are robust, grippy, light and work nicely tubeless, and were a good pick for the dusty corners of Rydal.
On a course most considered unfriendly for 29ers, having the extra nimbleness of the G2 offset was rather useful. It was also fantastic to have the efficiency of the hardtail on the punchy climbs, but be comfortable enough not to have any body fatigue, and pump out consistent laps all day long.
This was an awesome race on great trails – a huge thanks to CTMBC and Chocolate Foot for making it happen. Thanks to Grantley, Scott and Holly for an awesome weekend’s trip – with some great PB performances from all involved, and with everyone improving on their starting number. A huge thanks to the awesome trio of RAK racing (Robyn, Anne and Kylie) – posting 3rd in women’s threes while bottling for many, many soloists – and allowing me to ride the full 8 hours without stopping at all. Your support is amazing!