Ingkerreke Commercial Mountain Bike Enduro - Alice Springs

27 May 2014

10297687 10152079737221003 6346956429832395075 nAs seems to happen in my life wonderful opportunities pop up that I just cannot say no to.

The most challenging part of this is to coordinate my time, with my businesses, work commitments and of course making sure Norm can be a part of it too.
We don't actually take “holidays”, instead mixing opportunities with our work so when we travel to a place like Alice Springs its about what we can do for the community to add value and give back what is so readily given to us.

Coming to Alice Springs for the ICME, Norm knew he did not want to race but rather capture the vibe of the race from every angle via his passion of producing 5 minute media race updates and I knew we just had to run some MTBSkills classes again.
We also were offered accommodation at Ciara and Steve's again, as well as taking up the opportunity to stay at the race event centre at The Chifley.

It never ceases to amaze me of how life really works when you are doing what you were born to do.
I am not the most natural athlete, yet I absolutely love riding my bike and I love it so much that my race results are not my goal, rather its who I meet, who I can inspire, who I can give and add value to and then and only then, do I indulge in smashing myself to do my best on race day.

Norm and I worked hard out in the sun, on the Alice Springs trails with wonderful people giving a little of ourselves to add to the world of mountain bikers. We did this for 2.5 days in the lead up to the race with only half a day of doing nothing before getting ready for a battle on the trails.
Doing this and being pre occupied certainly takes my mind off being nervous or concerned about resting and also gives me a chance to check out the trails being used for the races.
Most importantly though, I just love the new people I meet that I can say hi to and call a mountain bike friend.
Some of these have actually grown into real friendships and people who I would offer a bed in my home to.
I do not believe I would be so lucky if all I did was turn up to race.

In saying that though, the ICME is actually a mountain bike race that allows you to spend a lot of time with new friends with lots of spare time after the race to chill out, have lunch, sit in the pool and get to know people from all over Australia.

It really felt like a mini holiday, despite the race nerves, post race fatigue, the need to recover, and then the need to sleep!

ICME is a 5 day, 7 stage mountain bike race held in Alice Springs.
The mountain bike trails in Alice Springs are quite literally everywhere, possibly over 200km of single track scattered around the suburbs meandering their way around the town.
Each day is different yet there is no need to travel except on bike from your accommodation to the race start or into town to get a gelato or supplies from the supermarket.

I have done a few stage races in the past that start by packing your bag early, putting it in a truck, racing all day, then grabbing your bag at the finish line, sleeping in a tent, trying to have a shower, eat, recover, clean bike, fix bike, wash kit etc... etc...and then do it all again. Whilst this concept adds to the “survival” skills of the athlete, its a whole different style of stage race.

10277069 10152082892231003 1113547179714268732 nThe ICME is not just a stage race, its a 5 star stage race, live it up in luxury in your accommodation, race for a few hours, get a massage, have an afternoon nap, eat lunch by the pool....chat with new friends...whatever takes your fancy. So you can see why this event feels like a holiday!

I knew in the lead up that Jo Bennett, Imogen Smith and Melanie Webb would be there and that I would have to work hard to secure a podium position. As it turned out Jo and Imogen were in a league of their own with Melanie pushing hard from behind to ensure I was on the limit each and every day to maintain 3rd position.
Despite the competition, we were all mega friendly to each other and this was by far the nicest of racing I believe I have ever experienced. Yes we were all there to fight for a position, yet we were stoked for each others efforts and supported each others results.

 

10353531 836944349667949 8279397199340676550 oDay 1 – Stage 1.

37km using the West Side trails and finishing at the velodrome.
After a controlled start, we were on 4wd sandy double tracks for about 4-5km that set me up for a shocking start. Trying to ride this and getting on and off the bike set me right back in the field.
Instead of worrying, I turned it into a fun game of passing everyone until I finally caught up to Melanie Webb on the single track. I sat behind her and we eventually opened up onto an open fire road. I went to the front and realised I could not attack yet, I just settled and let her sit behind me.

We turned left onto this power line roller coaster double track, enough roll down to punch it up the other side in the big chain ring (XTR 2 x10 is wonderful...yes it is!).
I attacked here and really pushed it hard over each rise until Melanie was out of sight. I am not sure why I always seem to make my moves on a climb as this is not my strength however it seems to work more often than not.
The next 10km or so was mostly single track where I caught more riders and never looked back.

Finishing the race in 3rd I was stoked to make up for my bad start.
Now to go back, rest the legs in the pool, organise a massage and prepare for a 300mt hill climb time trial in the early evening.

Norm's Youtube footage of today: 

 

10383492 10152082894261003 2974191277559058435 nDay 1 – Stage 2

300mts up Anzac Hill.

I have not ever claimed to be fast up a hill, and today was no exception.
A whole lot of hurt. 1 min 20 seconds saw myself and Melanie come equal 3rd.
This was 12 seconds slower than my time in 2011.

The highlight of this stage is not my result but watching everyone else race and the vibe on the hill.
Then to see Ryan Standish ride up the hill in something like 43 seconds on fat tyres and all!

Norm's Youtube footage of today: 

 

Highlights of today:

  • Seeing Ciara, Roama & Buster at the top of their driveway with cow bells. Thanks for lifting our spirits!

  • Getting a massage from Pippa to sort my stiff neck out. What a gem.

  • Having a double choc gelati thickshake in town because I just raced my butt off.

  • Receiving a gift from Campbell and Freya Palmer at the race briefing night, a bracelet made in Liv/giant colours which I wore all week long.

 

10365548 10202785373968561 7950138498102258599 oDay 2 – Stage 3

49km starting at Telegraph station and finishing at Lassetters using the East Side trails

The beginning of this race started on a rolling bitumen road with the bunch staying together before hitting a winding sandy double track. I was adament not to get this start wrong and to hurt lots to get a good starting position. After the sandy track Melanie was just behind me with Jo and Imogen slowly moving out of sight over the next rise.

For the next 4-5kms or so, the road was a mix of sand, rock and rolling undulations and I kept my eye on catching a group in front of me. To do this I found a gear slightly easier that what I could handle and spent a lot of time keeping my revs around 95-100 and reeled them in with reasonably fresh feeling legs. We hit a sandy water hole crossing that I just about rode, dismounted and got back on again. I saw that Melanie was just approaching the sand as I was riding away so worked harder than ever in the next piece of single track to stay with the guys in front.

Somewhere in the next 5km or so I caught Imogen. We were both walking up a very steep rocky incline. After this we got onto Helmet track where I could just see her and she went harder than me and I lost sight. I was disappointed in myself for not staying focused and losing her so got back in the game of making the most of every pedal stroke, getting of the brakes, staying smooth and pedaling out of corners etc...

1554372 10152083353341003 2955826738014073914 nFinishing strong I was starting to really remember how to hurt in these quick races and was enjoying the process. Starts however...ouch, still my greatest weakness.

Norm's Youtube footage of today:

 

Highlights of today:

  • Catching Imogen if only for a minute!

  • Stomping home with the kind of power that I haven't felt in a long time.

  • Buying $10 of yummy lollies to share with Norm at the new sweet shop next to the gelati shop. Choc covered raspberries were best.

 

10405365 10152085489396003 409539825693473126 nDay 3 – Stage 4

22km Individual Time Trial starting & finishing at the Alice Springs Golf course.

These races hurt. Once again the start is the worst, flattish sandy double tracks that sap the energy from the legs increasing that lactic feeling however this time I fought my way through this feeling and using higher revs to alternate between the hurt and recovery. It was hurt the whole way, just changing the revs and load seemed to increase my speed instead of feeling like I could not maintain it. Once over the hill the single track became so flowy and fast, that this too hurt and every mild incline was felt through the sandy track. The whole ride was spent going high revs low load, lower revs heavier load and then Imogen caught me. She started 2.5 mins back and had smashed me!

With around 5km to go, Imo had a mild crash in a large rut thankfully there was heaps of sand and grassy tufts so she was back on her bike again with no damage. I knew I needed to sit on her wheel and was not going to attack at any stage, she had done a great job to work hard and catch me. So we rode together and thouroughly enjoyed it. Including the final descent that rolls up and over and over again a rolling hillside. Heaps of fun.

10409710 10152085192476003 694162769756971095 nImogen actually won this stage with Jo second and me third.

The great thing about today is that by midday we were done, with loads of time to enjoy the day, clean the bike, recover and set up lights for the night stage.

Norm's Youtube footage from today: 

 

10341821 10152085699476003 7281516853825317882 nDay 3 – Stage 5

22km Night race – as above course.

Mass start, lights and a beautiful mild night.

As per all my race starts, I was focussed on working harder than I thought I could to get into the single track in a good position. I love night riding and did want to do my best on this fun course.

The start was a 6:30pm and it was good and dark now, however all the sand that was on this course was now blocking everyones vision as night lights filtered a not so clear glow through the dust.
I had lost contact with the bunch in front of me, only just, maybe 200mts away so kept working on catching them so that I could hold my 3rd position. As usual, Jo and Imo had great starts and I could not see them.

I must have been working a little harder, or maybe its because of my awesome Light n Motion lights but I caught Imogen. I chatted to her, egging her on to keep up the pace, but I think her lights were not so bright as mine and I was shadowing her vision. She eventually let me pass and I help up a bit to wait to help her follow my light, but I think she lost her main light in battery time.

1526958 10152085711396003 3369648153754436277 nAs I finished it felt nice to ride well, but I really wanted to have a ding dong battle with Imo to the end so a bit sad she wasnt there for the finish sprint. Jo was 1st and I came in 2nd not far behind with a negative split on my ITT day time race finish. Stoked. 

The night finished with a pasta meal with good friends from Alice Springs at the Golf Club. Thanks to Chris, Janine, Anton, Raby and Deb and the rest of you hanging out after the race.

 

Hightlights of today:

  • beating my day race time at night.

  • Eating dinner with good people.

  • Having the whole day to just chill out and enjoy spare time! Luxury.

 

Day 4 – Stage 6

The big day! 82 km starting at the velodrome and finishing at the bmx track.

The morning presented full of storm clouds, claps of thunder and lots of heavy rain.
It did clear up in the afternoon however it enabled us southerners to enjoy the riding temperature and lack of sunshine a bit easier.

I normally love a long day riding, however I was looking forward to today the least.
Over the years, I have lessened my road riding and long mtb adventures and tend to enjoy the fun of single track and have a real love for gravity fed trails too where power on the pedals is not so important.
Today there was little hiding. Even the road start under police escort was at a fair solid tempo up a gradual climb on the Stuart Highway. As soon as we turned onto some 4wd track, it was on.
Single track up and down punch climbs with rain drenched landscape. Turning normally grippy rock laden climbs into slippery mud covered leg busters.

As usual after 15-20 mins I found my sweet spot and no longer had anyone right in front of me or anyone right behind me. This now means that I must be around 30th, as each day I keep finishing around that position overall. About 4-5 of us ride in unison, sometimes someone is faster up a fireroad, and at times I was flowing faster down the other side! We stayed together until a few kms to the first drink station at the start of the Simpsons Gap bike path. At this point the whole group splintered and I was in no mans land, just in time for a solo 18km bike path ride – not ideal.

The path was great fun, and I knew there were riders on my tail, so used this as a motivator to go harder and eventually 3km in caught Jason from Darwin. I said, “sit on” and he did so for the rest of the path. We arrived at the road and Jason took over, every few kilometers we would swap turns. Made time go fast! Drink station number 2, and I grabbed my bottle and we rode off again. I somehow found a threshold tempo that had me pull away from Jase, not intentially. The final piece of hurt was now appearing on our right hand side, a dirty red rocky ridge line with nasty 4wd tracks that were pinchy and technical in both up and down.

On the exit of this I knew it was flat to the finish, however the double track rode like wet carpet, soft and energy sapping.
I arrived at the BMX track planning to have some fun and used the dropper seat post for the first time this race. Woo hoo! And then...the final straight I just rolled in...legs dead. Tough track!

Another 3rd place today. Stoked to have that done and only one more day to go.
Imogen was the victor today with Jo coming 2nd.

Norm's Youtube footage of today:

 

Hightlights of today:

  • As I approached the dirty red ridgeline, a plane turned into the flight path and was nice and low. It sounded and looked majestic and it felt amazing being there for that one moment.

  • Riding the bike path, this is always fun and today was no exception.

  • Waking up to stormy rainy weather and being excited to ride in this!

  • Being handed my bottle at drink station no.2 by Campbell Palmer!! What a great family coming along to support dad and volunteer for Rapid Ascent.

  • Jo giving me ½ a can of coke as soon as I finished, thanks Jo, I was going to buy one myself.

 

10355685 10152385752193350 4313260057383861092 oDay 5 – Stage 7

YES, the final day. 45 km of single track goodness starting at the Chifley and finishing at the Telegraph station.
Today I had to finish fast as we had a flight to catch that would see us connect through to Townsville at 1:10pm.
With a race start of 9am, I wanted to be done by 11:30am at latest.

Another hurty race start, with a police escort, road and then more sandy double track. Doing alright early on but then the riders behind were doing that much better.
Today was a day that many locals decide to enter as a one of race. So the pace is up, new riders are fresh, there are more people on the trails and so the usual race order is a bit out of its normal order.

I found myself having Stephen Fortuyn telling me to get on his wheel and right behind were threee girls who I wanted to finish ahead of including the local fresh legs Jess Harries.
Initially I was really hurting, the hills were making my legs really really hurt and I started to talk silly to myself, saying “oh you must be so crap and all!”....and that lasted about 1 minute.
At that point, I turned my thinking into, “Gee they must be pushing hard and seeing me must be spurring them on, I best get out of sight and start making this race work for me!”

And so I had 3 guys in front of me, I politely said, track please, I have 3 girls that want to beat me, thank you! Then I passed another guy and then another and then 3 more. I was on a flyer. It hurt, it really really hurt, my back was aching, my hands were tingly and I could not feel my brakes or gears properly, but my legs could push hard still and so I just smashed the ride as hard as I could. It was so much fun seeing if I could go faster, be on edge, climb the undulations with solid intent. I kept imagining each time I pedalled out of a corner I was pulling away by another 10 meters.

The trails that were used on this day had flow, the many features were things like rock slab walls to ride up, a gazillion corners and some new bench cut trail as well.
I finished 3rd in 2hrs 20 mins and kept the three girls well off my tail.

The minute I finished, I grabbed some watermelon, took some photos and got dressed to be driven to the airport. Norm packed my bike up and we were off. Anthony Rentjes from Rapid Asent drove us there in great time. Flight scheduled for 1:10pm we arrived with 1hr to spare!

Congratulations to all who did this event, and thanks to Jo and Imo for working solid up the front!

...so now we start the journey onto Townsville for a weekend of teaching MTBSkills.

6 sessions over 2 days. What a journey. 

Alice Springs delivered a wonderful time on my bike with a bunch of genuinely awesome people, locals and visitors alike, I was only sorry I could not enjoy the final day of dinner celebrations and thank all who I got to know.

Highlights of today:

  • changing my mindset and seeing the result – a reminder that racing is mostly mental

  • riding almost non stop single track for 2hrs+ and really really loving it.

  • Seeing the girls at the end that I have raced all week and loving the smiles on their faces. Jo and Imo great results girls.

  • Knowing I did not have to race again tomorrow!

Race Results: http://www.multisportaustralia.com.au/Home/QuickResults?clientId=1&raceId=1077

 

...and so now I am back home, after a whirlwind trip to Townsville with Norm to teach many people on the trails at Douglas.

My next race is up in NQ at Paluma, doing the full Paluma Push. Can't wait.

Big thanks go to:
Liv/giant for my wonderful 27.5 Lust that was so much fun to ride in Alice. 
Shimano Cycling Australia for the wonderful gear that is XTR brakes and gears.
BikeBox for the amazingly robust Schwalbe Rocket Rons 2.1 evo snake skins.
Rapid Ascent for a sensational event.
Normie for being most pleasant all week long ;)

Photo credits go to:

Rapid Ascent
ME!
Dane Groza
Shane Mulcahy