Thriller movies are written to give viewers a thrilling ride with everything designed to create a feeling of heart-pounding, white-knuckle suspense. A good thriller movie builds excitement by shifting the advantage from one side to another. First, it looks like the hero's a goner, but then there is a ray of hope. But the ray of hope turns out to be an illusion. The enemy grows. But then the hero gets an ally………………This almost sounds like the unfolding of the 2012 National Solo 24 Hour Mountain Bike Race held in Canberra over The Easter break !!!!
Like all good thriller movies, and endurance mtb races, there is a beginning, middle and end, along with a range of characters from heroes to villains, there is drama, a climax and then usually a happy, sad or TBC finale. Although I'm far from an author or movie maker this is my thrilling view of my first 24 hours mountain bike race.
First, let me introduce the cast and crew.
Main Backstage Crew
- David Pasztaleniec– Best Boy, Wrangler, Set Design Manager, Manager of Nutrition and Hydration, Social Media and General well being.
|Ant and Dave........what a team!!!|
- Ant Cheesman ‘leftieant’– Manager of Mechanics, Director of Lighting, Bike Cleaning, Social Media and Chief developer of Spreadsheets and in early hours of the morning (little did we know it was this little early dawn creation that created the excitement for the last 4 hours).
- Boz and Laws and Baby Aaron: Manger of Cinematography, Director of photography, Dolly Grip
Supporting Backstage Crew
- Grant Norton: Set Sponsor (Bicycle Superstore @ Albury) Technical Adviser, Costume Designer.
- Mark Fenner: Head Coach @ FTP Training, Technical Adviser, Psychologist, General Pommie Guru.
- Flick Wardlaw –Stunt Woman
- 100 other Stunt men and woman vying for the Green and Gold Jersey. Including Mimi Guillot (world champion female adventure racer), Bec Parkes world champion single speed mtb rider, Liz Smith elite endurance mtb rider. In the men’s Jason English, Mark Tupalski and Ed McDonald seem to be the ones to watch.
The location was at Majura Park, just 10 mins out of Canberra. Production officially started at 12 midday Saturday 8th and wrapped up at 12 midday Sunday 9th. The aim was to complete as many laps as possible of 11.6km course (240m climbing per lap) in the 24 hour period. The course was a mix of smooth fast single trail to short, sharp, rocky, rooty switch back climbs and descents. The course was entirely rideable, the A line required some caution but if you had the line spot on and posed good technique there was no reason for any blood donation. So, in general, the course was defiantly challenging but fair for a 24 hour event. Perfect for the making of a good thriller movie!!!
The crew made the 5 hour journey from Benalla & Albury to the ACT on the Thursday, and we soon realised that for 1 rider we had 4 bikes, a full trailer and a full car…….talk about one high cost production!!! Friday was site set up at Majura, erecting the tent, servicing bikes, sorting nutrition requirements and then hitting the trail for a rehearsal lap or the course. A relaxing afternoon was had with the crew, including pre race eating, followed by catching a movie ‘Hunger Games’ (that’s 2 hours I wont get back of my life) dinner and sampling some fine ACT gelato!!
Saturday morning rolled around, the setting was rather relaxed at Majura but still a buzz with buffed mountain bikers making last minute equipment checks and changes. My crew were hard at work on the set doing last minute sound, lighting, hydration and fluid checks. I was just ready to get rolling….
At 12 Noon we had “ACTION” as 100 or so riders embarked on their on 24 hour journey. I had my 24 hour script to follow but we were prepared to change things around if needed. The first 6 hours flew by, I was on the hard tail, laps were consistent and I was sitting comfortable in 4th place with only 4 mins separating 1st the 4th. I was eating and drinking well. My crew were working like a well oiled machine, bringing me in for bike swaps, food stops, filling biddies up. It was easy work for me as I didn’t have to waste mental energy thinking and worrying about transitions, I could just concentrate on riding my bike.
|Photo: By Russ Baker|
Day soon turned to night, I was riding really well on the soft tail picking smooth lines pumping it through the rocky sections and for the first time ever I was trusting the piece of carbon between my legs. Before long it was midnight, the halfway mark. I then started to struggle, not physically, but mentally, trying to fight the tiredness that would creep in and want to override all my autopilot settings. Every time I would get to a straight stretch it would hit me, I struggled to fight it and in doing so from midnight onwards my lap times were getting significantly slower, I would be spending longer in transition getting in food and drink. For 6 more hours I struggled. I was 40 minutes behind the top 3 girls (Mimi, liz and Bec) who were just seconds apart and pushing and working with each other for the lead. I didn’t know I was this far behind, my crew knew but they weren’t going to tell me as they knew it would mentally break me…..and they were right!!! I did a lap on my hard tail (ST was getting cleaned) it hurt so I went slow, I then lost lighting power so I went slow. My crew could see I was struggling so they pulled me in and had me focus on small gains to focus on for each lap. I started to fight back at the demons and focused on the positives. At 6am we had a good hot food stop, super strong sweet coffee, change of kit and stretch and a good laugh….I started to feel alive again.
Now this is where it gets interesting, I didn’t know this but after 18 hours of riding I cranked out a laps 8-10 minutes quicker than the girls ahead, the next lap was quicker (46 mins)…Ant and Dave were number crunching on their ‘secret spreadsheet’ back in the comfort of the tent and realised I could get on that podium and possibly wear the green and gold if I kept this pace going. I came through the fairy light section and Ant and Dave yelled out “ You have to keep this pace going…….PODIUM this is your chance” to what I yelled back "WTF"!!!. My heart rate was still at a comfy 75% but I was pumping out the power, I felt it, I could see it, I could feel it and I then decided I’m not going down without a fight, if I can get on that podium I will bloody well will just do that. I caught Bec Parkes on lap 28, she is one tough machine and far out can she ride that single speed!!!! I was gradually gaining on the talented Liz Smith and Mimi Guillot but unfortunately left my run a lap too late. Mimi was just too far ahead in first place (but not eligible for the green and gold jersey) and Liz just 14 minutes ahead.
I crossed the line as 24:33 minutes……3rd overall female 2nd Australian female. I made the podium with the hardest fight I have ever done on the mtb bike. At 6am I was just in it to finish, at 7:00am I was in it to do more than just that. I raced my race no one else’s and I came home giving it 110% and I crossed the line 336km later and still smiling. I would really like to congratulate all the riders and supporters out there, I loved the support and the words of encouragement from everyone, it may have be just one word or ten words of support but it’s often these words that get you up that short sharp pinch or tight technical rocky switchback.
|Top Four Aussie Champs: Libby, Flick, Liz and Bec|
- My main backstage crew of Dave and Ant…you guys were simply AMAZING!!!, you said the right words at the right time, you had me out there riding and turning my legs!!!. I’m just glad I was able to provide a bit of heart pounding excitement in the last 6 hours for you!!!
- My family and friends. Next time we will have social media manager to deal with all the calls and messages, tweets. They meant a lot….i even heard the phone going at 2am. I think that was mum.
- Bicycle Superstore @ Albury. My sponsor who provide me with a delicious Merida Ninety-Nine 3000D to ride on.
- CORC, Russ Baker and All the volunteers…………brilliant work, great track, well organised and a great weekend.
- My coach Mark Fenner (FTP Training) who has provided me with a smart and clever training program and much needed advice and a help going into my first 24 hour. Looking forward to putting in the hard yards over the next 12 months!!!
- The competitors………well done you all rock!!!
Memorable Moments & Quotes
- The Last 4 hours of riding........loved that fighting hurting feeling!!!!
- The friendliness and support from other riders.
- Being told by a supporter as I crossed the line" Now that’s was how you do a 24 hour race. The first one you ride, the second one you will race”
- " You have just ridden 336km that's from ACT to Sydney....and you are still in the same spot you started".....the commentator
- Staying upright for the entire race.
- Eating my body weight in gelati afterwards...and knowing i deserved it!!!
|By Russ Baker|