National CX RD 4 – Garvey Park – Perth

1:00pm – With an earlier start than yesterday and many having to get on a plane home after the race there was no mucking around with the race starting on time for what could possibly be the first time ever. The 40 strong elite men’s field where called to the start line and I had moved up a few places from yesterday’s position and into 5th. This meant I would get to have a clean and unaffected start . I positioned myself next to fellow NSW rider Garry Millburn knowing that I won’t get tangled up and cause a crash just after the start.

The countdown had passed and the 15 second random start was conducted then bang we were off everyone going everywhere and trying to get to the vital first corner in front as it narrow straight away and then  into a mandatory stair run up. I had a good start placing myself in about 5th and followed the riders in front for the first half a lap. The pace was on and three was no sign that it was going to slow down as riders were starting to get to breaking point behind me as we weaved through the tight corners and raced along the fast straights into the aptly named ‘’Beach’’ section.

1:05pm - It was here that I found it was faster for me to get off and run the 70 meters of sand as I was using way too much energy for me to stay on the bike and ride . It was also faster for me to just run than I was to ride. I was sitting at about 5th in what seemed to be a group of about 7 or so riders, and I was feeling like my heart was going to explode.

1:10pm - Chris Jongewaard kept pushing and started to open up a small gap by the first lap and every one was in ones and twos just trying to hold onto the rider in front. I was with Team Mate Shaun Lewis for the first three laps where he started to drift back so we tried to work together along the long fast straights and get ourselves back into the front end of the race. We chased for about 3 laps to where the gap just stayed the same and I was starting to feel the pressure of going out a little too hard and I had to back it off just a bit so I could finish.

1:30pm - Shaun continued on and opened up a gap on me and slowly stretched it into about a 10 second gap after a few more laps. During the second half of the race Paul Redenbach was starting to catch me and then all of a sudden he came past like a freight train and quickly I tried to get onto his wheel but he was pretty much gone. I chased for as long as I could knowing that this was going to be pulling me back along, but it could only last so long until I was cooked.

1:45pm - The final few laps I was just trying to be consistent and keep upright as I didn’t want to make a small mistake and have to pay the consequences of a mechanical. Most of the riders were  spread over about 15 second gaps and if one had a problem the next rider would go past them in a flash.  I limped to the finish line learning a lot and happy with the first part of my race . Now all I need to do is link up a complete race and see what result that brings!

National CX RD 3 – Speed Dome – Perth

After arriving at the accommodation and  setting  up my bike  for the third round at the speed dome the next day, I met up with   fellow Focus Bikes Team riders, for an afternoon ride to get the blood moving. P7120918-1024x768[1]

3:30pm A rather late start for a cx race but it was nice as it gave us ample of time to get ready and not  be rushed. We arrived a few hours earlier to set up the tent and get all the bikes ready to race making sure any final adjustment were done well prior to the start. Soon enough we were being called up to the start line. I had finally got enough points to start on the front row which was very nice not having to battle through some slower riders. We received the 30 second warning and the 15  second, then we were held for what seemed like a minute as it was dead silent and only the small squeaks from the rider’s disc brakes as they edged closer to the line trying to pre empt when the gun would go.

All of a sudden we were off and racing with Garry Milburn off to his usual fast start gapping everyone and staying out of trouble. It was a battle for the rest of the riders as they started to close him down. I was on the left side of the starting road and it was a left hand first corner. I was sitting right up the front in the top few, with a good start when out of nowhere  Chris Jongewaard came through and started to close the inside line I was on.  I slowed a little knowing that I would hit the deck if I stayed there and it was better to lose one place now and finish the race than crash out and not finish at all.

The field stretched out with Jongewaard going to the front early and pushing the pace dislodging any slower riders. I rode at the same tempo as everyone else, just saving my energy and lungs until we got out of the first few slippery hairpins and onto the longer straights where it was easier and faster to pace other riders.

It was a great course with Road, Tight hairpins in the mud, dry straights, barriers and off camber corners all making this a great race course. It was sorted out after the first lap and there was a clear gap from the top ten riders to the rest of the field. Almost all the top riders were getting off and running the double barrier as it was much faster than trying to hop them on the slight incline in front of the crowd.

3:50pm The race was starting to blow apart and I was starting to get the heart rate up and feeling good as I was catching just a few riders that had gone out too hard to early. Every lap I would hear the screaming voice of MR Focus Australia (Graeme Moffett) telling me to ride faster. I was with Garry Milburn sitting in about 6th place and fellow team mate Shaun Lewis was hunting us down. Sure enough he came past and it caught me by surprise and I couldn’t even get on his wheel at first so I had to chase to get some sort of rest by sitting behind him.

4:00pm The trio of Shaun, Garry and Myself were swapping turns until Garry had a simple slip of the front wheel and hit the deck costing him some valuable time. He was quickly up but when I turned around to look, his chain was off and he had to put it on by hand. This gave Shaun and myself enough of a gap to try and hold him off for the rest of the race.

4:10pm The final laps were starting to take its toll and Shaun was not stopping for any one. He just kept on going faster and faster trying to catch the riders that were just up in the distance. I could not keep up with him any more and had to start riding at my own pace and make sure that I made it to the finish intact. With only two laps to go I decided to try and ride up a section in the trees in the big ring and I had only been doing in the small ring the whole time. This was not the smartest idea, as I ended up riding straight into a tree head first and coming to an abrupt stop in the middle of the track looking a bit silly. I jumped back on and finished the remaining laps and ended up in 6th in the elite and first U23 rider to cross the line. After I finished I realised that I had ripped a whole heap of skin off my right knuckle and there was a fair but of blood on my hand making it look like I had punched the tree and come off second best!

Tomorrow is a different course at a different venue so I will see how I can back up and ride after today’s effort.

National CX RD 2 – Darebin Park – Melbourne

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3:10pm – A little bit of a  latter start for the second round of the NCXS held in Melbourne hosted by the famous Dirty Deeds Club. After yesterday’s result I was going to be sitting in a much better position and not having to fight to make my way through some traffic, but unfortunately this was not the case. I had a terrible start  on the inside and only being able to go as fast as the person in front. It was a greasy wet surface and everyone was learning how to two wheel drift as we sorted our selves out on the first lap. I slotted in behind Focus Bikes team mate Mark Chadwick for the first section until he was pushed wide and off the course by some Kiwi guy with a wicked Mustache. Ducking around him as he jumped back on the course, I chased back on to the wheel of the Rider ahead. I had lost a lot of places due to my poor start today and had to make them up quickly. I was just inside the top 20 riders and was feeling great on the climbs, so every chance I got I pushed my way up the groups and moved towards the faster riders. A split of five riders got away in the first 10 minutes and everyone started to get into their own little groups. As per yesterday, I was with Nick Both again and we were catching fellow team mate Tom Chapman. A bit over a lap later, we were all together again and starting to catch fellow team mate Jade. Then we were all together again and I think people were thinking that we just like riding together but in true fact it’s just coincidence! We all worked together for the next few laps passing ‘Hecklers corner’ and copping every joke they could think of about with four of us riding together. One of the good ones being when I was starting to leave a 10 meter gap and someone says ‘’your teams time trial is up there’’. Soon enough we caught another rider making it a large group. Everyone was running the top barrier and I was thinking of hopping it as I had been doing so in practice but when you’re at your max heart rate and coming up to a 400mm high solid timber barrier sometimes your body has other thoughts. With 2 laps to go the odd rider out slipped on a flat greasy corner and gave us four focus riders a gap that we could hold on to the finish. I crossed the line in 9th knowing that I really have some work to do on my starting positioning for the coming rounds.

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Thanks to Dirty Deeds for putting on the even and to Focus Bikes Australia for the support. Photos – Riding Focus (Joshua Nicholson)