2017 In Review – Cycling

2017 was the year of little motivation, a lack of fitness and a shift towards not wanting to get on a bike… There was no game to have my head in.

My goal for 2017 was to ride my bike at least four times a week and complete a Gran Fondo once a month… neither thing eventuated.

As with last year, here is 2017 by the numbers.

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2017 – BY THE NUMBERS

.:2:.
Number of events I raced in during 2017

.:53.4..
The amount of vertical kilometres I climbed in 2017

.:103:.
In kilometres, my longest single ride of 2017

144:.
The number of days I rode in 2017

.:212:.
The amount of hours I spent riding in 2017

.:340:.
How many times I rode my bike(s) in 2017 – This includes multi-rides in one day such as my daily commute which is 3 individual rides

.:5,395:.
In kilometres, the total distance I rode in 2017

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Wishing everyone a safe 2018!
.:Chad:.

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2016 In Review – Cycling

2016 was the gap year I didn’t want, but needed to, in order to see the bigger picture.

My goal for 2016 was to find my mojo in a new city… I found it, it just took 11 months.

As with last year, here is 2016 by the numbers.

2016 – BY THE NUMBERS

.:1:.
Number of events I raced in during 2016.

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Wildside 2016 Photo: Matthew Connors Photography https://www.facebook.com/matthewconnorsphotography/

.:50.5..
The amount of vertical kilometres I climbed in 2016

.:75.3:.
In kilometres, my longest single ride of 2016

148:.
The number of days I rode in 2016

.:180:.
The amount of hours I spent riding in 2016

.:340:.
How many times I rode my bike(s) in 2016 – This includes multi-rides in one day such as my daily commute which is 4 individual rides

.:4’439:.
In kilometres, the total distance I rode in 2016

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Wishing everyone a safe 2017!
.:Chad:.

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2015 In Review – Cycling

2015 was the year that I learnt no matter how much time, effort and care you put into training, racing and social cycling; injuries, illness and life will always derail the best laid plans.

My goal for 2015 was to enjoy cycling.  I lost a little bit of my love for the bike towards the end of 2014.  My failure to finish the Scott 24 Hour Solo in October was a huge hit to my confidence and the toll it took on my body would follow me late into 2015.

As with last year, here is 2015 by the numbers.

2015 – BY THE NUMBERS

.:1:.
One major crash during the year
During a relaxed ride on the XTC during wet weather I lost traction and hit the ground hard.  A hairline fracture in my collarbone followed and a few weeks off the bike was required.

.:2:.
Number of notable injuries in 2015
Injuries: Collarbone, torn glute

Number of new bikes in 2015

.:Anna:.
.:Anna:.
BIKES 373
.:Emily:.

.:4:.
Number of events I raced in during 2015

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.:Andy & I at The Kowalski Classic :.
.:Suns out/guns out:. Photo: David B https://www.flickr.com/photos/45916358@N05/
.:Suns out/guns out:.
Photo: David B https://www.flickr.com/photos/45916358@N05/
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.:Capital Punishment 2015:.
.:Argo and I repping Soldier On:.
.:Argo and I repping Soldier On:.

.:54..
The amount of vertical kilometres I climbed in 2015

.:151:.
In kilometres, my longest single ride of 2015

.:193:.
How many times I rode my bike(s) in 2015

.:213:.
The amount of hours I spent riding in 2015

.:4’861:.
In kilometres, the total distance I rode in 2015

Wishing everyone a safe 2016!
.:Chad:.

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2014 In Review – Cycling

2014 was the year that I learnt that no matter how much time and effort you put into training and racing; life always has other plans.

The year started off with a single goal in mind.  I was going to race in the Easter National Mountain Bike 24 Hour Solo Championships.  I trained hard for this event and all looked good until the event was cancelled.  I kept up my training, albeit, with less intensity; and continued to ride more each week than in 2013.

2014 was the year I travelled to France with Soldier On to race in the Trois Etapes Pro-Am and was the year my beautiful daughter Celeste was born.

My riding year was littered with a number of injuries, incredible highs, depressing lows and amazing opportunities.

BIKES 234

As with last year, here is 2014 by the numbers.


2014 – BY THE NUMBERS

.:1:.
One major crash during the year
During my first race of the year, the AMB 100, I crashed out thanks to a little shit who decided that cutting the course and getting in the way of other riders was a good idea.
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.:3:.
Number of notable injuries in 2014
Injuries: Snake bite, stitches to my left elbow and strained glute!
My Pics 045imageGlute Needling

.:6:.
The number of major events that I raced in during 2014
Every race was a challenge but I’ll never forget the 2014 Trois Etapes in France with Team Solider On!

.:Team Soldier On and our Pro-Rider Jo Hogan:. https://www.facebook.com/matthewconnorsphotography
.:Team Soldier On and our Pro-Rider Jo Hogan:.
https://www.facebook.com/matthewconnorsphotography

.:98:.
The amount of vertical kilometres I climbed in 2014

.:132:.
In kilometres, my longest single ride of 2014

.:287:.
How many times I rode my bike(s) in 2014

.:349:.
The amount of hours I spent riding in 2014

.:8,395:.
In kilometres, the total distance I rode in 2014

Wishing everyone a safe 2015!
.:Chad:.

MCP 080 BIKES 204

 

 

Trois Etapes 2014 – Part 2 – Suddenly! France!

Sunday, 3 August
My first night in Lourdes was shared in a room with two other Soldier On riders; a tight yet restful night after trying to get sleep the day before without much luck.  After breakfast Adam, Matt, Justin and I met Andy and Jodie for a coffee in down-town Lourdes.  Although we were still down two riders (they were en-route from San Sebastian) a quick walk around the busy square followed before we decided a lazy spin to get the legs moving after all the travel was needed.

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.:Mucho posing:.
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.:The Berm in France:.

The easy 63.5km ride saw us head out to Luz-St. Sauveur for some sight-seeing and a taste of the Pyrenees’ weather.  This was the ride in which it finally sank in that we had actually made it to France and in a few days time would be representing Soldier On in the Trois Etapes.  The ride out was quite an emotional experience for me as it was the culmination of months of training, many set-backs (physically, emotionally and mentally) and a few late minute changes to the travel that threatened to delay our arrival.  The ride was very enjoyable and we all soon found a nice rhythm riding together after a few weeks apart.  Not wanting to push too hard on the first day in France, we headed back to Lourdes to catch up with the other two riders, Dan and Shane, as well as team driver Bruce.

Dinner was a casual affair at a local restaurant (not called a French restaurant in France) which proved challenging for this vegetarian; luckily salads are quite common in most European countries – albeit with an excess of tomato and cheese.

Monday, 4 August
The next day’s ride was a typical coffee ride that would see the entire team, and driver Bruce, explore some of the local countryside over a relatively easy 47km.  There was of course a couple of ugly ramps leading up to a hill-top church including a nice little 28% stretch that left me trying to bite my front wheel!

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.:Not a bad view:.
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.:More posing:.
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.:Cafe time:.
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.:Cafe time:.

For the first time since the Trois Etapes was confirmed, Team Soldier On had it’s full roster and was gearing up for the race in four days time.

Tuesday, 5 August – My 33rd Birthday
The plan was simple…  Breakfast and then an easy ride to the Col du Tourmalet followed by a quick descent back to Lourdes.  But like all simple plans; this one wasn’t.  Not even 10 minutes into this ride and I was separated from the rest of the group thanks to some red lights and me not knowing the route out of Lourdes.

Suddenly I found myself riding alone and heading out of Lourdes towards the airport; definitely not the way to Tourmalet.  After stopping and some back and forth messaging later, I decided I was too far away from the team and went for a solo ride instead.

I spent my 33rd birthday riding the French countryside; not a bad day at all.

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.:Hayley and sunflowers:.
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.:France!:.

Wednesday, 6 August
A very unexciting day of eating, resting and tapering for the three-day race.
Lourdes put on a fantastic day of sun and warmth; the perfect day for a slow and steady ride to spin the legs.

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.:#Euro:.
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.:Fountain lean:.

Thursday, 7 August
With the entire Soldier On team finally in Lourdes, photographer Matthew and manager Clare arriving the night before, it was time for us to have a look at some of the unknown sections of the race; this time in the cars!

We drove up the Col du Soulor, Col de Spandelles and Col du Tourmalet.  I can honestly say after the day-trip I was dreading each of the climbs, especially the goat track that was Spandelles!

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.:Col du Soulor horses:.
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.:Not a bad view on the way down from Col du Soulor:.
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.:Col de Spandelles was intimidating:.
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.:Géant du Tourmalet:.
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.:Team Soldier On and the Géant du Tourmalet:. https://www.facebook.com/matthewconnorsphotography
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.:Much beard and much hair:. https://www.facebook.com/matthewconnorsphotography
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.:Team Soldier On and manager:. https://www.facebook.com/matthewconnorsphotography
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.:Tough guys:. https://www.facebook.com/matthewconnorsphotography

In the afternoon we set off for another short ride to keep the legs fresh for the first stage of the race the next morning, this time we were joined by coach Scott Sunderland.

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.:For the first time on their bikes, the entire Team Soldier On together with coach Scott Sunderland:. Photo courtesy of Mark Howard

Trois Etapes 2014 – Part 1 – The Long Journey To France

My journey to France wasn’t as simple as three planes, two trains, a cab and countless hours spent on a bicycle.  My journey to France started on January 6, 2012; my last day as a soldier in the Australian Army.  Over the previous decade I had made many friends, shared countless experiences, served on foreign soil, and ultimately returned back home when others did not.
My decision to leave the Army was a culmination of differing opinions on what my career path should have been, the lack of ongoing and adequate support for my mental illness and not wanting to force my future wife to live in the shadow of a Australian Soldier.  Having spent my childhood as the quintessential ‘Army Brat’, I could not ask the woman who I would ultimately marry and have a child with, to follow me around Australia and put her own career aside.  So I left the one thing that had provided, up until my wedding and daughter’s birth, the most defining moments of my life; both good and bad.

In mid 2012 I started mountain biking, something that would ultimately serve to fill the huge void that had been left in my life when I hung up my uniform.  A tight-knit community of caring, encouraging and like-minded people enabled me to feel part of a team once again.  And in late 2012 I approached a the contemporary veterans group ‘Soldier On‘ and asked if I would be able to fund-raise in a mountain biking event called The Battle of the Beasts.  When the dust had settled and my aching body had calmed I had raised a substantial amount of money that would directly assist younger veterans like myself that were struggling with the visible and hidden scars incurred during our service in the Australian Defence Force.

.:Battle Of The Beasts 2012:.
2013 would see me design and commission a set of Soldier On cycling jerseys and participate in a full calendar of mountain bike events at which I would wear the Soldier On strip.  I would assist Soldier On at various veterans events and fundraisers and ultimately become a very vocal advocate and critic of contemporary veterans issues especially veteran suicide; an issue that has directly impacted my life and ongoing recovery living with depression and PTSD.
.:Racing with the mk1 Soldier On cycling jersey:.
Throughout earlier 2014 I continued to race and commute wearing the Soldier On colours.  For me wearing the Soldier On jersey was a way for the public to see Soldier On was active in the general community and to let other veterans know that they weren’t alone.  It was because of my somewhat visible presence across social, print and visual media that I was asked by Soldier On to participate in the 2014 Trois Etapes Pro-Am in France.  At first I was apprehensive as it would mean a change from my mountain bike to a road bike and many, many hours training.
First there was the Sydney to Canberra Remembrance Ride commemorating both ANZAC Day and the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Remembrance Driveway along the Hume and Federal highways.  This was soon followed by two training camps, one at Thredbo and then followed by the second at Tweed Heads; and a long-term training program to follow.  Of course life, work and injuries interfered with what could have been a relatively smooth timeline; but where would the fun be in that?!
Finally on Friday, 1 August 2014, after many months of training, preparation, stressing, emails and waiting… The time came for me to leave Canberra, Australia and travel to Lourdes, France.
I’ll spare you the intricate details of my trip, but rest assured 39 hours of travel is not an enjoyable experience.  Why 39 hours?  Well, as I mentioned before, there were the flights, the trains and the cab; and of course there was the the 30kg bag containing a bicycle and a very large amount of cycling related equipment and paraphernalia.  It is a fact an EVOC cycle bag is just not train, train station or train passenger friendly. Combine this with French people, a language barrier, jet lag and a person with an anxiety disorder and you have recipe for disaster.  Luckily nothing bad happened and we arrived at our hotel in the middle of the night.
After much stressing, a bad case of cankles and a long-awaited shower I finally went to bed knowing the next day I would be riding my bicycle in France!

2013 In Review – Cycling

2013 was the year I decided I wanted to become a cyclist.  Sure anyone can ride a bike; but I wanted to fully immerse myself in the technology, the science and the lifestyle.

My year started off with the simple aim of riding more.  Commuting to work most days of the week and slowly building my fitness was the foundation for what would become a central part of my life in 2013.

I was extremely lucky to have the support of my Wife who allowed me time away from home and to buy new bikes; and to be surrounded by the fantastic bunch of people who comprise The Berm.  At least once a week I would join other Bermers on a social ride at one of Canberra’s world-class mountain biking areas.  Riding with others, most of whom are a lot more confident and capable on a bike enabled me to improve gradually throughout the year.

2013 – BY THE NUMBERS

.:1:.
One major crash during the year
During the final round of the 2012/2013 CORC XC Series at Mt Stromlo I had a heavy crash while attempting a jump near the end of the race.  End result: A torn left pectoral muscle that would haunt me throughout the year.
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.:2:.
The number of new bikes I bought during 2013
My first purchase of the year was Sara the Giant Defy road bike in January followed by Kate the Giant XTC in June.
BIKES 051Kate 04

.:7:.
The number of major events that I raced in during 2013
Sure there were no podium finishes but that 5th on the Flowing Beast felt pretty sweet!
BOTB 13 057

.:62:.
The amount on vertical kilometres I climbed in 2013

.:108:.
In kilometres, my longest single ride of 2013

.:266:.
My CORC XC race plate number
Race Plate 06
BIKES 112

.:280:.
How many times I rode my bike(s) in 2013

.:309:.
The amount of hours I spent riding in 2013

.:5’790:.
In dollars, the amount raised for Soldier On in 2013
BOTB 13 117
.:6’773:.
In kilometres, the total distance I rode in 2013

Wishing everyone a safe 2014!
.:Chad:.

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…And The Beast Was Done

After 7 long months of fundraising and raising awareness for Soldier On, my fundraising page has closed and it’s time to just enjoy riding and enjoy some time with my Wife, family and friends during the Holiday season.

Just because I don’t have an active fundraising campaign running anymore doesn’t mean I won’t be raising awareness for Soldier On.  I still have a 3 hour cross-country race in 2013 and have already committed to several big races in early 2014 including the 100km Capital Punishment and The Mont 24 Hour.

At the end of the day, after the countless hours riding, training, fundraising, and banging the proverbial drum I am confident that I have helped raise the profile for Soldier On and the battle that young veterans like myself fight on a daily basis.

It is no secret that I ride to deal with PTSD and depression; but by being an ambassador for Soldier On, I have also developed more confidence in myself and found a voice that will speak on behalf of Australia’s young Veterans. Hopefully by putting myself out there I am encouraging other young Veterans to speak up and ask for help

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Although Riding For Soldier On was a mostly solo effort on the bike there were a lot of people who helped me throughout the year

Thank you to the following:
SOLDIER ON for their support throughout this year especially John, Anna, Meredith, Dion and Tony for their amazing support & patience.

Luke & Dan from BEAST-WORX for running such amazing events and allowing me to be a big part of it.

My amazingly supportive mountain biking group THE BERM.  Special thanks to Nathaniel, Jason, Nigel & Chris, Ben, Roger, Steve K, Alyssa, Melissa C, Brett, Matt & Sam, Kris, Tony H, Sonja, Andy & Adam.

My family & friends especially my Wife for putting up with my many hours away from home & allowing me to spend obscene amounts of money on bikes!

And last but not least… The people who supported me & donated money to SOLDIER ON so that wounded veterans can get the support they so desperately need & deserve.

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Highland Fling 2013 Wrap Up

The 2013 Camelback Highland Fling was the race that just seemed to creep up on me. I signed up for the 112km Full Fling in September when I was travelling around Vietnam for my Honeymoon; and then promptly put it in the back of my mind. I still had to race in the Scott 25 Hour and the Battle of the Beasts weekend before I could even think about tackling the hills and winding single track of the southern highlands. It wasn’t until the day before the race that I actually started looking at what I needed to pack and which bike I was going to ride.

The 2012 Highland Fling was my second ever race and I suffered some serious cramps as I neared the end of the 56km Half Fling. It wasn’t a race I particularly enjoyed for two reasons.

1. The elite riders went after the main pack and caught ALL of the Half Fling riders at the most technical part of the course. Cue getting off the bike and letting everyone else pass and a multitude of stacks as the less confident riders started to panic when the elites were bearing down on them;

2. The event planning seemed a little haphazard. At around the 10km mark I witnessed and stopped for a very heavy crash. Myself and a couple of other riders helped another rider that had broken his collarbone and received numerous scratches and cuts. We did the best we could to help him with very limited supplies and then waited for 45 minutes for an extremely incompetent first aid official to turn up. It was only after I expressed the urgent need for an ambulance and a medical professional did one arrive and take him to the hospital. This ended up taking over an hour which I would never make up for when back on the course.

Because of last years experience and a distinct lack of motivation I never really got into the mental groove to tackle this years race. When I finally got around to preparing and packing, I only did it the morning I was to drive to the event centre to set up our campsite.

I drove up with fellow Bermer Argo and followed him into Bundanoon. At the town hall we caught up with Roger and Alyssa and registered for the next days race. A quick drive through town to the Bundanoon Pony Club and we started setting up our camp and The Berm HQ for the weekend.

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.:The Berm HQ:.

We spent the rest of the daylight hours getting our bikes ready, eating dinner, drinking some beers before heading to bed for an early night before the inevitable rain settled in. We spent the rest of the daylight hours getting our bikes ready, eating dinner, drinking some beers before heading to bed for an early night before the inevitable rain settled in.

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.:The F is not for female:.

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.:The bikes ready to roll:.

I awoke to the sounds of the other riders getting out of their tents and going about their pre-race routine. I slowly ventured out into the cold and drizzling morning and headed straight for the coffee van. I had organised my riding gear, water and food the day before so all I had to do was strap my dodgy left knee and get changed. I sat in my chair for a while procrastinating about taking my warm clothes off and putting on my non-warming lycra.

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.:How the Fling organisers wake the slow risers:.

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.:Berm HQ before the race:.

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.:My pre-race photo:.

The start of the race was a very slow unclipped roll until we reached the road a few hundred metres from the start line. Once on the road many riders started speeding off down the road. I chuckled to myself as I had made this mistake last year. Unless you are racing for the podium there is no real reason to head for the front of the pack in the first 5km as at numerous points it will bottle neck and slow you down.

As I expected the bottle necking was I full effect on the first fire road climb and soon I was passing the very riders that sped past me not 10 minutes before. I’m not the most technical or fast rider but I damn well make sure I can out climb most riders.

As the race progressed the rain settled in and the temperature dropped. I was not enjoying the race and when I caught up to Roger with a torn sidewall on his tyre I realised I wasn’t the only one. As the race went on the field started to spread out.

Soon we entered the first parts of the single track and was met with a dramatic decrease in speed. It was apparent a lot of the riders were able to smash out a fast pace on the fire roads but once on the single track came to a near halt. I was passing riders on the winding climbs and not being passed at all; a strange occurrence for me.

Riders that had flown past me 15 minutes before on a fire road decent were now walking their bikes along some of the not so technical trails. This for me was a massive boost in confidence and I pushed on into the Wingello National Forest section of the race.

This part of the course was more tricky and definitely required me to pay more attention. As the rain was now quite set in, this part of the course had become quite muddy and very slippery. As we wound down into the small gully it became obvious that some climbing would be coming up and soon I was seeing signs declaring that “The Wall” was fast approaching.

I sped into the start of the short but very steep climb, selected a gear and pushed up the hill trying to keep the front tyre on the ground. I made it three quarters of the way up before a walking rider decided he wanted to walk on the line I was riding without looking behind him. I came to a halt and almost fell onto the ground; he gave me half-hearted apology and I gave him a hot-tip about how not to be a dickhead to other riders.

After the wall came some more winding single track with some very tight corners. There were a few drop offs and tight squeezes through trees. I was enjoying myself and thankful I run very narrow 600mm bars so I could slip through the tight areas with no issues.

After pushing myself a little into the red zone I started to wonder when the next feed station was as I was running low on water. I was doing the math in my head trying to work out how far the next feed station was and then how far the second transition point was.

I was busy looking at my GPS and watch when I felt my front tyre starting to slip out from under me. I gave the back brakes a little tap to bring the bike level and careened into a tree trunk with my left leg. I kept the bike up right and continued on for a few metres before my leg started to cramp.

I pulled over when I reached the next area of fire road to try and stretch out my leg. Instantly I felt every muscle from my hip down to my calf tense and cramp up simultaneously. After a few minutes of light stretching I decided to keep riding and soon saw a sign indicating I was approaching the much needed feed station.

I paused at the station for around 10 minutes before I finally made the choice to withdrawal from the race. I had made it to the 55km point and knew I wouldn’t be able to finish the next 60(ish)km of the race.

A disappointing end to a race I hadn’t really found my flow in but I was glad I had given it a go. I rolled back to the transition point and was driven back to the event centre. At The Berm HQ Argo and Alyssa had just finished their Half Fling race and Roger was already clean and changed after retiring with his busted tyre.

I probably won’t ride in next years Highland Fling but won’t rule it out in future years.

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.:My post race photo:.

20131117-111832.jpg20131117-111848.jpg.:A good reason not to wear a predominantly white jersey:.

Battle Of The Beasts 2013 – Wrap Up Video

A brief video of my journey through the Battle of the Beasts so far.