Friday, July 25, 2008

Problems and Sucess in Poland

As soon as we arrived in Poland things seemed to start going wrong. The guy who was supposed to meet us at the airport with the van was late, and when he arrived it took us quite a while to work out how to fit 5 bikes and 4 people into a mid sized people mover. Later that afternoon when looking for hotels, Greg managed to leave his jacket with passport and wallet inside in a hotel room which we looked at but decided not to take. It was then that we discovered the car problem.

On the mad dash back to the hotel to try and retrieve Greg's stuff the gearbox started playing up. Eventually it simply would not go into any gear, and we were left to drive back entirely in 2nd gear. Interestingly though, we discovered that a Opel Zafira does 85km/h redlining in 2nd gear. We did find Greg's stuff and the car did make it just back, and after a while the guy who organised the car arrived to sort out the mess. Amazingly, after a couple of hours of fiddling under the bonnet he drove it away without a hint of trouble. We have actually ended up with the same car again, and I don't know what he got done to it but it is now working a treat.

The next hiccup came when we arrived at the accomodation for the 7-Day MTBO event in Nowa Kaletka. We had been told we were getting a 'house', but upon arrival we discovered all we had was a tiny glorified shack in the middle of the forest with unbelievably bad beds. After 2 painful nights there we shifted out into a hotel in the big nearby town of Olzstyn, which is a really nice town actually.

The 7-Day event got off to a mixed start, with the sprint event held in pouring rain which turned the sandy tracks into bike destroying death traps. I had a fairly good ride and won, but I know a few of the other good guys were resting up for the world ranking races on the next two days. With the rain gone, but the tracks still very wet, the Middle and Long distance races were hard work. I had good races in both, losing only a little time here and there to win both. That means with my wins in France a few weeks ago and some other races in Australia that my world ranking will jump up to around 2 or 3 in the world!

Rest day was today, and all that was in store was a spin on the roadie and settling in to watch the tour as I write this. No staying up to 2am to see the stages for me, ahh this is the life!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Summer in France

After finishing the BC it was travel time again and onto Paris for leg 2 of my round the world ticket. The racing has also switched gear, with my first MTBO races outside Australia for more than 2 years. The French 5-day was held in Fontainebleau, site of the first world championships for the sport. The terrain is quite flat and sandy with a nice and complex track network to get this little rusty brain back into orienteering mode. I'm staying in an awsome huge old french house with some friends from NZ and some of their family. This place has about 10 bedrooms and I might not have found them all yet. I've managed to misplace my camera cable, so until it is found you'll just have to close your eyes and imagine.

Days 1 and 2 I used to try and settle back down and try and go as smoothly as possible in preparation for days 3 and 4 which were doubling as World Ranking Events. After a solid 2nd and 5th places for the first 2 days, I slipped it into 5th gear and despite a couple of mistakes managed to win both the important WRE days. Day 5 was a bit of a come down, with tired legs and motivation on the way down I did just the minimum to hang on to win the overall title for the 5 days, for which I got a very spiffy maillot jeune and a not so spiffy maillot verte (more fluro verte really!) for the fastest sprint betweent the last control and the finish line!

The race finished on Bastille Day which was good planning on the organisers behalf, as we could join in the festivities on the french national day. The following day was designated rest day for the Tour and us, so a trip to the nearby Disneyland was done. Was a bit of a rip off, but now I can say i've been to one. After all the saddle time on the MTB in the past week, it was good to get back on the roadie for some solid miles. The town of the stage start for the final stage of the tour is about 50km from here, so I pedalled across there to take a few pics. Now when Cadel leads them out of Etampe on the 27th still in yellow I can say that i'd ridden across the same ground ;)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

BC Bike Race

I was planning to give an update or two during the race, but that fell by the wayside once it all started and we realised how hard this thing actually was! If we weren't racing, then we were either being transported to the next stage, eating, cleaning and fixing the bikes or spleeping. Repeat for 1 week and that is the BC. It all kicked off in Shawnigan Lakes, about 1 hours north of Victoria BC on Vancouver Island. Our little party included Tim Bennett (my partner for the race), his wife Jo, Nick Both, James Kennedy (the other Flight Centre duo), Steve from San Francisco who was teaming up with Jo, and Rowena (James' wife who did an amazing job of getting food ready each day, staking our camping spots and running around for us, all despite being 5 months pregnant!)

Shawnigan Lakes School (start of day 1)
Our competition was pretty daunting, Trek VW, Kona, Mona Vie Cannondale and Gary Fisher Subaru pro teams had sent 1 or 2 pairs each, as well as 2 Canadian teams stacked with their World Champ and Olympic reps. The 90km Day 1 got off to a very bad start, with organisers sending the race through a freshly mown field, with the long grass casuing mass casualties to derailleurs, including our own Nick who lost a lot of time and both Trek riders who simply hopped onto their spare bikes. Tim and I were then sent the wrong way with then leaders, and after making our way back to 4th we then made a big wrong turn of our own fault. After that we were behind about half the field, and with Tim suffering a bit from dehydration we limped home in 7th place, a long way behind in time. Day 2 was 125km, which was taken at a very cruisy pace until a hard climb at around 85km. After that it was on for young and old, and we made up for yesterdays losses by winning a sprint finish from Trek and Kona!

Go Tim go! Winning Stage 2

The next couple of days were more of the same, with two 2nd place finishes and more singletrack each day. By the end of day 4 we had moved up to 3rd overall after our bad day 1, but doubted we could improve much more. Day 5 was another bad one for us, with a couple of flats we dropped back to 4th on GC and were getting pretty shagged after driving ourselves into the ground each day.

The final two days at Squamish and Whistler took us through some of the best singletrack on the planet, but it is all very technical and tough work to get through fast, and each day we were counting down the km to the finish which couldn't come quick enough. In the end we bumped our way back to 3rd overall, which was a fantastic result given the level of the guys we were racing against. Thanks to Flight Centre, Scott and Schwalbe tires for giving us support for this race, it was the toughest race I have ever done and every little bit of help makes the difference when we are trying to mix it up with the big guns.

Life in the box on day 7 at Whistler

One of the many log rides which are typical on BC trails