Monday, August 24, 2009
We spent the few days before the race checking out sections of the course, and quickly gained respect for what we were about to do on Sunday. The climbing (of which there was a lot) was steep and sometimes rough, and the descents were much more techincal than an average Euro marathon. Throw in a good storm on Thursday and constant rain for a lot of Friday and it was going to be a tough race.
Having never raced a marathon with so much climbing I decided to not let myself get caught up with riding too hard for the first half of the race. The start climb was mostly tarmac, but one of the steepest you have ever seen! I crested the top in a small group and was happy that I had been able to pass people near the top whilst not having to dig too deep. All was good until about 15km in when I noticed my rear tire was starting to get a little soft, and soon after it was clear that it was not going to last even until the next feed zone where I could have got a spare wheel. After changing the flat, I met up with Lewi, and we hit the 2nd main climb together. I was feeling good at this point, and kept up a solid tempo, passing quite a few people who had got ahead of me when I was stopped. At about the midway point I had caught up with a group of Austrian riders, and I was still feeling like I was climbing better than those around me which is an unusual feeling in Europe, but also a sign that I was further down the field than I should have been. The climbing was pretty relentless from about 60 to 80km, and a I was in a group of 4 which was good as the tempo they were riding was just about the pace I wanted to go. Finally the highest point was reached, and the most techincal part of the course began. The track plumetted off the mountain, and despite a small spill I was catching quite a few more people. The two small short uphill pinches brought on the first twinges of cramping, but the rooted and rocky tracks were too much fun to worry about that!
In the end I finished 58th, 46min down on the winners time of 4:35. Even though I was completely spent after finishing I still had the feeling I could have gone a little harder. If it wasn't for the flat tire I would have been riding with people who would have been climbing faster, thus pulling me along more, rather than riding and passing people who I probably should have been ahead. But it is all a learning experience, and hopefully if I go to next years marathon worlds I will be stronger on the hills and able to be even further up the field. Big thanks to Laura for being a superb team manager and Graeme for helping throw bottles at us during the race, much appreciated guys.
Monday, August 17, 2009
I started about 2/3 the way through the field after taking it relatively easy in the qualification race, and this proved a good move as I caught many riders and this kept me motivated. The heat was also a factor; it didn't bother me too much, but many of the euros found it hard going. My race was again not perfect, losing around 30 sec on 4 legs through small errors or route choice, but I think I was physically able to cope with the heat and hills the best, and this is what gave me the good margin in the end.
The final night banquet and party was as usual an absolute riot. The banquet was held outside next to a pool, and once the food and ceremonies were over everyone ended up in the pool, many not of their own free will! The party then moved back to the accomodation, and despite some teams having ridiculously early flights the next day it was a great night.
Yesterday was finally a day off the bike and relaxing. We visited the Dead Sea and Massada, an awsome clifftop ancient city where a group of Jews made a stand against the Romans and ended up committing mass suicide rather than be captured and enslaved.
I am now en route to Vienna where I will spend a couple of days before heading to Graz, site of the World MTB Marathon champs. I am looking forward to some riding without a mapboard after a pretty intense couple of weeks in Israel. There is a small Aussie contingent for the marathon worlds this year, and I will endeavour to keep sending updates as we prepare for the big day next Sunday.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Tomorrow is the last race, the Long final, and with 35km and temperatures probably around the same number it is going to be a tough race. From what we can gather the terrain is steep, with less singletrack than the past few days. Hopefully the tough conditions will play into my hands, but picking the right route choice is going to be key here.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
The Middle race was a very different affair, with technical riding and navigation a plenty. My race felt very scrappy, but after looking at the splits it was really just 3 legs where I lost 60 sec or more which was the difference between the top step and where I finished.
Today was the first of two rest days for me, as with the relay tomorrow we have no team so I get an extra day off! We spent some of the day wandering the old city of Jerusalem; below are some pics of the day.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
After 1 day of training from near the WOC event centre Kay and I picked up the other half of the Aussie contingent from the airport and we headed north via the coast in our un-airconditioned van. Carolyn and Timmy also found the heat a bit of shock after coming straight from Melbourne winter. After a brief breakfast stop we dropped into a Hertz office to see if our airconditioning could be fixed. We also visited an interesting feature of the town - an elevator down to beach level from the top of the cliff.
Our accomodation for the next few days was inside a Kibbutz (just another name for a rural community). We had a real character for a chef who enlightened us each meal time with his pearls of wisdom. Four days of training and acclimatising to the rough rocky terrain and heat. Some areas remind me of Australia, with eucalyptus trees growing in pockets. The hills are tough, particularly when in the full sun, and are too steep to ride sometimes.
Kay and Carolyn visited Akko, a very ancient walled city which is still inhabited. Just today before driving back to the WOC centre we visited the ruins of a city which dates back to 10,000 BC; makes you feel pretty insignificant!
Back at Ben Shemen, WOC event centre and (airconditioned) home for the next week we had our first look at the rest of the competition. Tomorrow will be the model and it all kicks off Monday with the Long Qualification, followed by the Middle on Tuesday. I'll leave you with a few select pictures of our Israel adventure so far.
Packed and ready to leave in smaller but airconditioned van
Monday, August 3, 2009
Next it was on to the UK; more specifically Edinburgh for the 17th International Conference on Composite Materials, where I was presenting a paper and attending a weeks worth of presentations from the worldwide composites community. I flew into London 5 days before the conference, and took the time to drive up through England and Scotland, taking detours to places like the Lakes District along the way.
The week in Edinburgh flew by as well. Presentation went well, and my head is now full of ideas and thoughts from the pretty intense program. On my last weekend in Scotland I rode in one of the UK Merida Marathon series; these aren't 'races' but mass particiaption events. The front guys still go pretty hard, but it is all a bit more relaxed - especially compared to the racing I was doing in Germany. I felt good, but had a flat early on the razor sharp rocks. I got a 2cm cut right on the top (despite it being a thick tubeless tire), and the tube I put in was bulging out past the energy bar wrapper I used to try and patch over the hole. This lasted till about halfway of the 85km course, when the tube finally gave out. I was in the lead and had to wait a minute for the next guy who was good enough to give me a tube and CO2 cannister; unfortunately the cannister he gave was empty, and I waited for the next few guys who were again kind enough to throw me one. Finally I was back going and passed people until I could see the leader on the last couple of km of flat road, and finished just a minute behind him.
In a couple of hours I get a plane to Tel Aviv, Israel for the MTBO world champs in just over 1 weeks time. We will be training for the next week, getting used to the Israel maps and terrain. My blog is going to serve as the main outlet for the teams updates, but also check out the Orienteering Australia website for news.
Monday, July 6, 2009
Another view from the clock tower
Palace right in the centre of town
A view of the part of town where I'm staying; I can follow the "castle" gardens all the way in
Monday, June 29, 2009
Stage 6 followed a similar pattern; losing touch with the leaders on the first big climb I then spent the rest of the day with a small group until the final 12km (550m gain) climb where I backed right off to save anything I had for the last day when I might be able to do something.
The last day was Jochen and Hannes final chance to mount an assault on the leader Thomas Dietsch from Team Bulls. The plan was to start hard to whittle the group down, then keep on attacking him. After a series of attacks, Jochen, Hannes, Dietsch and Bohme (also Bulls) were off the front, and I was still with Kugler who had to try and make up 30 seconds to get 4th overall. On a long slippery descent towards the end I pushed a hard pace and we made a gap to the rider Kugi needed to beat. I kept pushing hard until some steep climbs, where Kugi took off in an attempt to make up the time. In the end he only fell a few seconds short, leaving Multivan with 2nd (Hannes), 3rd (Jochen), 5th (Kugler) and 20th (me). Jochen and Hannes each won 3 stages, meaning there was only 1 stage that the team didn't win! We also won the Teams classification despite my best efforts to lose time with mechanicals.
Overall it was a very tough week, but made much easier by being looked after by the Multivan crew. I now will be based in Stuttgart for a few weeks; spending some time working at DLR (German aerospace research centre) for my PhD.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
On the up-side Jochen again won today and is now only a handful of seconds behind Dietsch in 2nd overall. Hannes is still 3rd and Kugler 4th after Lakata again flatted and lost a solid chunk of time.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
My plans to update the blog daily during Trans Germany were unexpectedly thwarted by not being able to get an internet connection in the little backwaters we have been staying in. The 1st stage was a bit of a strange affair, with 103 km listed in the book as the race distance. However the first 28 km were neutral and the whole field was stopped and regrouped before the real racing began. I felt pretty good, and found myself in the 2nd bunch on the road with a group of 5 ahead. There were 2 Multivan guys (Andreas Kugler and Hannes Genze) in the front group, and I was with Jochen Käss. The bunch worked well and I was surprised to find the time gap was only a few minutes well into the stage. Kugler was 2nd in a sprint and I was 12th.
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Friday, June 19, 2009
Shiny new bits for the long Euro tour, and most importantly all straight and working at the other end.