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.
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.
Number of notable injuries in 2015
Injuries: Collarbone, torn glute
Number of new bikes in 2015
Number of events I raced in during 2015
The amount of vertical kilometres I climbed in 2015
In kilometres, my longest single ride of 2015
How many times I rode my bike(s) in 2015
The amount of hours I spent riding in 2015
In kilometres, the total distance I rode in 2015
The inaugural Kowalski Classic, held in September 2012, was my first ever mountain bike race. Barely a month before, I had bought a Giant Anthem X 29er and the furthest I had ridden on a mountain bike was 36km of half fire-road/half singletrack.
I remember my poor pre-race prep, not enough of some things and too much of other things. I remember riding the Kowalski Brothers’ Kowen Forest trails for the first time and being in awe, I also remember the incredibly painful cramping; followed by the days of DOMS after the race.
This was my first taste of mountain bike racing, and I liked it. Fast forward three years and it was time to once again line up for another 50km Kowalski Classic.
Like my first ever race, my prep was lacking in a lot of areas. Not enough kilometres in the legs and months of illness wasn’t going to help me get through the race. A quasi-course-recce the week before helped and didn’t help. My time off the bike had dented my confidence on the bike and the more technical aspects of the course were a concern for me on race day.
But I had to get on with it and with riding buddy Andy, it was soon time to get those legs spinning and those wheels turning.
The start was fairly relaxed with both of us finding our pace and warming up slowly. A few climbs in and some flowing singletrack later, we were weaving our way to the front of our wave. The banter between the riders was friendly and even some of the pseudo-hitters racing up from the back waves were polite prior to their inevitable blowing up.
The journey to the 36km feed zone took in some of my favourite Kowen Forest tracks and the always painful Elevator switchback climb.
The last 14km of the course would take us through the contentious Romper Room and Stairway To Heaven; two of the more technical tracks on the course. As expected there was a fair bit of walking and rider dodging on Stairway, but certainly not as bad as I expected.
After a little bit of a drop in my blood sugar level, a small pause was needed at the top of Stairway to have a little snack before heading towards the finish line.
The last few kilometres was fast, flowing and fun; a great way to end a great day on the bike!
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.
.: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.
.:3:. Number of notable injuries in 2014 Injuries: Snake bite, stitches to my left elbow and strained glute!
.: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!
.: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
The month of June was incredibly hectic for me. My job decided it wanted to try and take over my life and then my daughter, Celeste, decided she wanted to enter the world. Only one of the those events was a priority in my life and it definitely wasn’t my job. My training as a result suffered and I barely managed to get a handful of short rides under my tyres before our second Team Soldier Ontraining camp came around. The second training camp was based out of Kingscliff, just south of Tweed Heads near the NSW/QLD border over the weekend of 28-29 June 2014 . The plan was simple; coach Scott Sunderland was going to make us climb some hills and ride some big kilometres akin to what we will be facing in France for the Trois Etapes. I don’t enjoy flying and certainly don’t enjoy flying with an expensive bicycle packed inside an expensive bike bag that screams “stack as much heavy crap on me as possible”. While the flights to Coolangatta went off without a hitch (top effort QANTAS) – the flights home came very close to being labelled a cluster-f**k (thanks VIRGIN Australia) complete with delayed/cancelled flights and high-end bicycles being sent to the wrong state and being ignored by the Virgin airport staff!
After arriving at the Peppers Salt Resort & Spa at Kingscliff we headed off to the local restaurant strip for dinner before heading back to our rooms to ready our bikes for the next day’s riding.
On Saturday we set off about 20 minutes out of Kingscliff with coach Scott following us in the support vehicle and photog Matt zooming past us in the search for optimal photo locations.
The ride started easily enough with a few short climbs before suddenly becoming a decent 8km climb followed by some very sketchy (for me) descents. I was definitely in the red zone early on in the ride and was finding it very hard to regulate my breathing and lower my heart-rate.
The months of training was certainly evident in the other guys, but as the ride progressed I knew I wasn’t keeping up. Some more sketchy decents saw our driver Bruce (this time on a bike) overshoot a corner and meet the bushland up and close.
As the day was drawing to a close and we were heading back to Kingscliff, I was steadily dropping off the pace and eventually pulled over and jumped in the SAG wagon with Matt.
The evening culminated with a group dinner and short presentation to coach Scott.
Sunday saw us step off from the hotel nice and early for a brisk ride before tackling some more climbs. I pulled up reasonably well from the day before and was looking forward to some more riding.
The morning air was cool and very nice to ride in. We eased into our first 20km at a nice quick pace with all riders taking turns at the front.
At around the 35km mark I knew I was in trouble. In just two short days I had ridden further and harder than I had in the past three weeks. My troublesome knee wasn’t the issue this time; it was my hip. I had ridden past being uncomfortable and was now experiencing some fairly acute pain in my hip and glutes. I made the hard decision to stop riding and once again jump inside the SAG wagon with Matt.
I watched the other guys ride from inside the van as Matt drove the van and took photos. I was quite disappointed in myself for not riding through the pain; but considering I’ve just spent a week of intense physio and rest I’m glad I didn’t injure myself any further.
At the end of the weekend we were all tired (some sorer than others) but more determined for the Trois Etapes in August.
Please support us we head towards this once in a lifetime opportunity to raise awareness and much needed funds for Soldier On.
Over the weekend of 10-11 May 2014, I was lucky enough to attend the first Team Soldier On cycling training camp at Thredbo NSW.
Thredbo? Really?… Well that was my first reaction when I saw the week before the training camp that it was in fact snowing in Thredbo Village; exactly were our base camp was to be. Combine this with one of the worst weeks of my working life as a civilian and I was not exactly enthusiastic about attending a Scott Sunderland training camp.
I drove down on the Friday night after work (in retrospect this was a very bad idea) and met up with some of the other guys at Cooma before heading to our accommodation in Thredbo; the Navy Ski Lodge. The drive was itself was uneventful, white line fever had set in and the alpine roads were starting to look like a rally track. Luckily we arrived at the lodge, unpacked and headed to the pub for some late night beverages.
Let’s get something out of the way early. Thredbo is a very small town in the off-season. The locals are young, in their early twenties and all work at the resort in some capacity. The moment we stepped into the pub we stood out more than the bollocks on a bulldog. This was fact not missed by the locals; both male and female. After a few quick drinks we left and retired to our rooms for the night.
The temperature was colder than Canberra and the weather was expected to take a turn for the worse the following day. The change swept through in the early hours of Saturday morning in the form of howling winds and pouring rain/sleet. By the time we woke up it was apparent the rain was set in for the day and that the last thing anyone wanted to do was go outside and ride bikes.
Breakfast was a sombre affair and I soon took over the TV room and switched on RAGE; my usual Saturday morning routine. The general (un-official) consensus was that riding in the rain and cold was not the preferable option against a warm ski lodge. We broached the subject with coach Scott, who while enjoying a coffee, was in agreeance that riding in the terrible weather was not a good idea and we should get through some required administration and team tactics instead.
After a couple of hours spent in the TV room discussing our next few months and future Soldier On Cycling plans; it was time to break out the trainers and don the lycra. What better place to set up than in the kitchen?
I sat in the kitchen, ate my risotto for lunch and awaited my turn on the bike. As I watched the other guys sweating profusely I regretted my decision to eat just prior to riding my bike.
After my turn on the bike I spent some more time with my hand in a box of BBQ Shapes and headed to the pub….to rehydrate. Andy cooked an awesome pasta dinner for everyone and we discussed the next day’s plan. Option A: Good Weather – drive out to Jindabyne and ride for a few hours including the climb back to Thredbo or Option B: Bad Weather – pack up, head to Canberra and ride around the Brindabella’s.
When we woke up to clear skies and relatively warm weather it was clear Option A was a goer.
A quick coffee stop in Jindabyne and it was time for some rolling in the Jindabyne hills with Scott dishing out some quality coaching.
The ride was enjoyable and we were quickly warming up on the climbs; but the flats and rare descents reminded us that we were still in alpine country.
The climb up to Thredbo was a quad burner and an exercise in heart rate management. We took turns at the front and found our rhythm all the way back to the Ski Lodge. Our first real test as a cycling team tackling some decent climbs similar to what we will be facing during the Trois Etapes later in the year.