Awaba MTB GP – race report

26 09 2009

What a fantastic event.

This morning saw the return of the dust storms and an orange haze hanging over Newcastle once again. Hey we are mountain bikers, we are meant to get dusty!

With all the bike problems that went on to get to this race, things didn’t get a whole lot better once I had picked up my bike from the shop. At some point during the last 12 hour race I did, the rear pads on my bike had become contaminated and the bike was making the dreaded avid turkey gobble noise, there was also intense vibration that would shake the entire rear end of the bike. The bike shop informed me of this on friday afternoon when I picked it up however i had been well aware of it.

No problem, I had ordered a couple of sets of new pads and a new disc from CRC so began installing them on friday night after work. Following avids instructions to the letter, I successfully swapped out the pads and rotor however success is a relative term: it appears that after re-setting the calipers, the system was now over filled with oil…. the brakes were dragging horribly and the lever had zero travel before engaging. To top it off, I didn’t have a t10 torx head to open the bleed valve to let some of it escape. Bummer. Now defeated, I went to bed and hoped a solutioin would present itself over night.

At the race site, I took the bike to the on-site mechanic and we bled a little of the oil out so that the pads were no longer dragging… Hooray; success. Well, success is a relative term and it seems that we may well have contaminated the pads. The lever was now in the right spot but the brakes were back to the shuddering, warbling, not stopping games that started this whole escapade off.

Now it was too late, It was qualifying time, so I front up to the line figuring that I would have to do the best with what I had. To quote one Mr QZ13 “brakes only slow you down”. The qualifying format see’s riders sent out at 30 second intervals to do a hot lap of a shortened version of the main course. It was about 1.8K’s for this round. This lap time determines what wave you are released in at the start.

Since I was determined to win the pissing contest with my mates, I went all out and managed to swing a sub 5 minute lap (4:57). Ultimately, this wound up being the 5th best lap time behind two local A graders, Gordo and a sponsored Garry Fisher rider – Woohoo! It seems the lack of brakes had helped quite a bit.  For a bit of MTB celebrity spotting, Gordo handed us all a spanking we will remember for quite some time. I was pretty pleased that it took him 8 laps to catch me during the race.

At the race start, I went out a little harder than I had intended. The red mist had descended and I was chasing two friends who were running as a two man team. I managed to hang onto their tail for 5 laps which I was pretty chuffed with but I was pushing a bit too hard and was starting to pay the price My goal was to do 10 laps (7.7 Km loop). I was passed by 2 solo riders in the early stages and decided to let them go since I was still sitting in 5th place – perhaps they would blow up and I could get them back at the end.

Around the two hour mark, I had been riding hard to fend off another two solo riders who were slowly hauling me in. Traffic would allow them to catch me, then I would get a run and lengthen my buffer, then they would haul me back in. This went of for two laps before it became apparent they had my measure so I let them though and they disappeared into the distance.

Around 2.5 hours in, I rolled out of the throttle a little as it was becoming evident that cramps were going to become a significant problem if I kept up the pace.  I proceeded to roll around on my own, passing traffic and being passed by some fast team riders. The funny thing about this particular event was the number of first time racers – it made you feel like a riding god as you caught and passed rider after rider.

Around the 3 hour mark I hauled in one of the solo riders that had passed me earlier. Since I was riding around the cramps, I decided to sit on and see what sort of pace he was making. We rode the next two or three laps together and I was keeping up but didn’t really have the legs to pull away if I tried to pass. One thing I noticed… Man this guy could descend. Normally I catch most riders on the downhills but he gapped me lap after lap on the techy spots – thumbs up!

Half way through the second to last lap, I spotted  Dan aka “the Danbot” aka “The Feltron” (a good mate)  traveling in the other direction on some shared road  about 3 minutes behind us. Before I had a chance to asses the consequences of what I was doing, I yellled out to Dan. Well, it was like I was suddenly under missile lock. I knew Dan would turn himself inside out to catch me so I passed the solo rider infront of me and started to haul arse with all that I had left.

Crossing the start finish line at 3:45 I got a hoot from the timers for going out for one more lap. About 30 seconds later, I hear the hoot for the solo rider I had just passed and about  90 seconds later, I hear another loud cheer which I knew was going to be Dan. Most of the next lap is a blur of cramps, lower back pain and pushing with everything I had left.  I didn’t see Dan again and was thinking I had survived when about 2k’s from home I look back around a hair pin and see Dan about 150m behind me. Now there was no riding around the cramps – all or nothing. 2k’s to go.

Every time I got out of the saddle to attack the climbs I would cramp in my calves. Climbing up out of the final set of switch backs, Dan was now about 8 bike lengths behind me. I scream at a young rider to let him know I am coming up fast as we cross a fire trail and are about to enter  the last 300m of single track before start finish. Dan catches him at an awkward corner and the poor kid stacks it trying his damnedest to get out of the way. Dan pauses to see if the kid is Ok and we are now 150m from the finish. I am about 12 bike lengths ahead and we are climbing to the finish. I am screaming with effort and the pain of cramps as I round the last bend to the finish line. With a raised fist I celebrate that I had hung on and somehow held off Dan the remorseless cycling robot who was hunting me down.

Over the line, I stagger off the bike and collapse on the ground. Dan looks equally shattered and we laugh and swap stories of how hard we had tried during those last 1.5 laps. A hand shake and a grin signify a hard fought race and and end to what was the best race I have ever ridden in.




2 responses

26 09 2009
Gary O'Neill

Good story Ross.
It’s a great sport and a lot of fun to be had.


6 10 2009

Hey, I found your blog in a new directory of blogs. I dont know how your blog came up, must have been a typo, anyway cool blog, I bookmarked you. 🙂 🙂

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