Coming into this year’s nationals was different having no real outside ultimatum to perform. I knew I wasn’t going overseas this season, didn’t need UCI points and with Olympic selection a two-horse race, it felt like I was just going there to well, ‘just race’. This made preparation less stressful and coming off back to back marathon events I had a three-week window to basically, purely focus on XCO.
This preparation entitled more time spent on the mtb, more blood in the mouth higher intensity efforts and some great club race battles against my brother. XCO racing is all about speed and you’ve got to find it everywhere, whether that be uphill, downhill or across flat and makes for fun/unique training. Many of the longer races throughout the year are all about training in specific thresholds for periods of time. Compared to XCO training where you get to tear the bars off and do some seriously intense efforts.
Getting to the venue and seeing a new track was refreshing as it was a huge improvement on last year. Now with two main climbs, steep decent chutes and raw single track the new course favoured a well-rounded rider and certainly worthy of a national title course.
I was racing three events for the week, first being the team relay with the Bendigo MTB club, second the E-bike national champs and finally the main one XCO nationals.
The relay was a great way to open the lungs and try the course at speed. As a club, we finished 5th and a great way to show off our community of fast riders with a male elite, junior, masters and female all required to complete a hot lap each.
I had a busy day, as following this I race the second ever E-Bike Nationals. With Merida present having a demo fleet of bikes at the event village, I was fortunate enough to borrow a large new model eOne-Forty. Having only really ridden one once before, this race was all about enjoyment and learning the ropes. Lining up though, it was proper race with nervous laughs showing that a real race was about to get thrown down. I started front row and was keen to zoom off using my Shimano pedal assist motor. Unfortunately, this didn’t occur though as off the line I seemingly had no motor and went from front row to last mighty fast. After riding along and turning the bike on/off I eventually stopped and unclipped, with the warming light disappearing. Later I learnt that its common knowledge that you cant turn the motor on whist clipped in, for all e-bikes.. dope.
With the motor working, I come through the first lap three minutes down. I probably should’ve pulled out but honestly was having too much fun, literally flying around the course and getting to rip descents. The biggest take on this race was how capable the e-bike was, it climbed at my max speed of my XC bike but descended like a DH rig. Amidst the smile on my face I’d ridden back to 5th in the race and importantly had just done 6 fast laps of the XC course. Which ended up being very beneficial come the XCO champs.
Pic - Ogaram
I then had two days to recover, as we were the final event of the week and with all the Coronavirus news going down, we were fortunate to race in the end.
There is something about XCO races and with no National series now and having not raced World Cups last year, I’d missed the intensity of it all. XCO is rock star racing, every dude and lady is warming up with headphones in, checking PSI’s, getting bottles ready and talking to their pit crew.
The difference between XCO and Marathon style racing is that XCO is like F1’s where every second counts and Marathons are like the Dakar rally where it’s a drawn-out battle. The precise nature and intensity of XCO racing is addictive and is what most riders miss if they change disciples or pursue goals on the tarmac.
Pic - Matt Rousu AMB Mag
The gun went and honestly had a perfect start not using any excessive energy and slotting into the single track 5th behind brother Russell. For the first lap, a leading 6 riders cross the line, but after this the race really exploded. Dan and Cam rode away and with short gaps we were all spaced apart, but within seeing distance. That said, Russell and I were together and would remain so for some time. Russ and I were in 5th and 6th position meaning one of us was going to potentially miss the podium. Riding with your brother, when we’re both at our maximum is remarkable really and I believe actually helped us out there. We were taking turns down the straights and calling out gaps. Was also funny to have people call out, ‘Go the Nankervis Cup’ for those who like to see us do battle haha. With two laps to go and fatigue setting in, after sitting on 178bpm for 1.5hrs the race got interesting. We’d caught another Bendigo rider and strong man Robbie Hucker and for a glimpse moment thought perhaps we’d both be on the podium.
Pic - Matt Rousu AMB Mag
But with one lap to go we dropped Russ and I was feeling the effects, not being able to match Robbie’s attack and crossing the line in 5th and Russ 6th.
In reflecting on the race, I had a good performance and executed the race well. The result could’ve always been better, but I had no excuses or complaints having a good battle with great riders.
Pics – Matt Rousu AMB Mag
For this next unknown period, the goals are to tick over the fitness, work on my gym strength and focus on bike skills. I think it’s also important to appreciate the racing isn’t the only thing in the world and to just ride because we love it.