Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Revisiting XCO Racing

An invite to race the club team relay a few weeks back planted a seed of interest in heading to Canberra for last weekend's National Champs. The team relay didn't happen as Dellys wanted to focus on more important races that weekend, alas, I made the trip up and even tied on a number for both the XCO and XCC.

The car all packed for the trip.

The drive up was a cautious one with no rear visibility thanks to playing courier for half the new bikes and gear for Team Orbea that had finally arrived from Spain on top of our own gear (Cam got the other half). That single rear passenger seat wasn't a popular spot.

Arriving Thursday afternoon we quickly set about assembling the new bikes, with local U23 star Nathan Haas keen to christen his that evening at the weekly dirt crits, which he did with a win. To celebrate a night out was called for, we got separated and all had a story to tell upon awakening after dribbling in at random hours of the morning.

What do you think shopping trolley wheels are worth? This guy was desperate.

A few laps of the course on Friday in between episodes of That 70s show, a big bowl of pasta while watching That 70s show and Saturday came. Race day for me and Sean, a few more episodes and we headed out to the track. Sitting on the start line, back row alongside Mikkeli Godfree it was the usual I got nothing talk, I mentioned the lack of XCO in the last 12 months (looking through the archives it appears my last XCO race was Feb 11 of '07, so not far off the year that I claimed), Mikkeli's reply was similar, except trade one year for thirteenish!

The gun went, I rode through the bunch to sit fourth wheel midway up the start loop climb much to my dismay. I really wish I had have pre-rode it though as it went a lot longer than anticipated and I went backwards, while disappointing it was expected. No recent racing means no intensity so I kept it easy and started riding past a couple. A brutal course took it's toll on man and machine with many DNF's, meaning I rode through to a 55km/h sprint for 6th place...

...which I lost by 2 seconds putting me in 7th.

Stopping the clock at 1 hour, 52 minutes for the 4 laps. A very surprising result.

The serious business then started. Team Orbea had 7 riders lining up in Sundays Elite races so bikes were cleaned and prepped, bottles were mixed and spares were sorted amongst more episodes of That 70s show.

Rowena takes flight in Sunday's XCO.

Gracie follows suit.

Sean and I spent Sunday in the Feed and Tech zone watching first Gracie and Rowena rip it up in the Women's before the five guys belted out 5 brutal laps in afternoon heat. Gracie rode a last lap flat to second place in the U23 class while Rowena recovered from a nasty first lap crash to work through the field and finish 6th overall in Elite.

Gracie on the podium, 'Thanks mum...dad'

The men's start was hectic, a crash 20 seconds in held Scott up, while all the others made it through in the front half of the bunch. Not such a good day from then on though, being unaccustomed to the new gear made a hard day even harder. Results for all XCO races are already up here. Home to more episodes of That 70s show amongst cleaning bikes for the 20 minute hurt fest that is Monday's short track.

Scott playing up for the camera.

Cam gets Hollywood fever in front of the camera as well.

Short track was the highlight for the weekend, for me I got to race with the cream of Australia's MTB community with a cheering crowd, TV camera's and live commentary. Avoiding a scuffle from the start line, a handy little 'cross style dismount/run around/remount put me mid-pack after starting from the back row again. From there it was head down bum up and hurt until J-blood got too close to my rear end and I got pulled with eight minutes remaining, that man is amazing. Even better for Team Orbea was Rowena riding a perfect race in second place before a last lap move to take the Short Track National Championship by seconds.

The short track pipe jump, certainly caused some havoc first lap.

Plenty more photos of the Elite XCO races here...and yes we did get through the whole season of That 70s show. Thanks must go to Team Orbea for letting me tag along, much better than driving/living/cooking by myself.


Ash Thomas said...

*snore* updates......!

Anonymous said...

Hi John,
Just wondering if you can send me your email address as I am looking at some goodies in your garage.
Thanks Dale.