Sunday, 30 September 2012


The very last race this year, and my very first Did Not Finish. It's been a couple of years since the last Tamarancho Dirt Classic. I was happy to see it make a return in 2012 and stick to the same format - a  couple of flowey, technical loops in and around our favourite night time haunt mixed with some brutal fireroad climbing. The first time I did the 'Classic I blew up. My heat rate was jacked and I felt terrible. I was hoping this year's race would be a chance to put that to bed and do a decent ride. I'm not exactly in race shape at the moment (a few short weeks of injury mixed with beer and chocolate biscuits soon got me back to my normal podge.) But I felt strong enough to have a decent crack at it.

We started at the boyscout camp and climbed the short ascent to the top of Serpentine. From there, it was the usual 'Rancho loop (but in reverse) until we hit Broken Dam. Then, a switch to fireroad and the dreaded Dead Heifer climb. As expected, as soon as we all hit singletrack there were the usual bottlenecks. Plus I ended up behind riders who were a little too slow to fully let rip, but not quite slow enough to blast past when opportunity arose. So I spent the first part of the race riding my brakes more than I'd like, but still enjoying the flowey goodness. Dead Heifer was hideous. Even worse than I remember. I felt grateful that the course had changed slightly so we only had to climb the fucking thing twice (as CAT 2 racers.) Not that it really mattered. Unbeknownst to me, my day was rapidly coming to a close.

After we crested 'Heifer, dripping and beaten, we dropped back into the 'Rancho loop via the B-17 extension trail. Excited to be descending again, I misjudged a tree's proximity. Clipping my bars just enough to send me flying, face first, into the dirt and the poor Nomad into the ravine below. After huffing and puffing the bike free I realised the derailleur cable had snapped and I was stuck in the top gear. Ak. My day was done. Deflated, I coasted back to the finish line, grabbed an overpriced burrito and relaxed in the shade until the other fellas finished.

Ah well. It's been a great race season. I can't complain. And I'm glad I hurt the bike and not me. A quick trip to Big Swingin' Cycles and the Nomad is ready to hit dirt again. As am I. Next week we journey to Northstar for the closing weekend. Another finale for the MTB year.... Then it's just a few months of muddy mayhem before we do it all again!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Cream Crackered

I have every sympathy with Spangles in this picture. Climbing the dyno at China Camp is rarely a treat. On this day it felt especially brutal. That's what a few weeks out of the climbing saddle will do to a rider's fitness - especially when one of those weeks was spent downing beers alongside downing ski runs.

All good though. My digits took a pounding at Whistler so I decided to let them heal a bit. Today was the first XC ride since the trip and, aside from the tanking fitness, it felt great. A few Strava PRs (including knocking 20 odd seconds off my previous Hitler descent) offered some reassurance that the break hasn't harmed my skills too much. Next week's Tamarancho Dirt Classic is going to suck though. Cat 2, which means 3 times up the Dead Heifer climb..... Eesh...

Wednesday, 12 September 2012


I've got a little creative project on the go. I want to publish a mountain biking book through Blurb. A coffee table version of this blog, but without all the waffle. Just pics. I've been squirreling away possible picture candidates and now realise that filling a book requires lots of decent snaps. So the thing may not come to fruition for quite some time. But here's a little taster of what'll be inside. I want some strong portraits of the fellas and I think I have Spangles already. Letting his usual affable demeanor slip for a split second, I captured him staring into the eyes of the beast. Maybe it's anticipation of the gnarly trail ahead. Thoughts of past crashes mixed with the grim determination to push on and tame the trail. Or maybe he's simply holding in a fart. Either way, I think this one will end up in print.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Dirty Feckers

Well.... That's it. Another Whistler trip done and (we're all) dusted. After a day's rest and a fistful of Advil my poorly finger and thumb did me proud and managed to hold it together for two more days of riding. After warming up on Crank It Up a couple of times I started to get into the rhythm again. Still shy from the crash, I eased off the jumps, but a couple of runs down Freight Train had me enjoying the technical riding and feeling good again.

The last day and me and Chris took to the Top of the World trail. An extra 1000ft or so of descent and staggering views promised to be a treat. I'm certainly glad I had my nice new camera to soak up the mountain panoramas, but I wasn't stoked on the trail. Tight and technical, it felt like a potentially fun XC trail but on the burly bikes with all the gladiator gear it felt awkward and frustrating. I was quite glad to leave it behind and hit the regular downhill goodies.

After the Top of the World, we hit Freight Train then veered off to explore some of Whistler's techy black runs. I don't recall all of them - we did bits of Duffman at some point. But they were all a hell of a challenge and great fun. A couple of near spills kept me on my toes, but we picked our way through and emerged at Lower A-Line unscathed and grinning! We then decided to try Dirt Merchant. Supposedly Whistler's best trail, Dirt' is groomed, flowey and lovely. A few steep drops here and there add spice, whilst big, gapped jumps test the mettle of the expert riders (me and Chris took the chicken lines on these features.) But Dirt' certainly lived up to it's reputation.

This trip has been awesome. I was lucky to escape with minor injuries and keep on riding. A necessary slap on the wrist, but it did kill my confidence on the jumps. I never felt the same sense of flow I had last year where jumps were objects to hit hard and enjoy. Instead I felt trepidation each time I tried to face down a black run tabletop. A shame, but something to work on next season. I definitely felt strong on the technical stuff. Trail sections that felt scary last year were fun and smoothed out this year. I love the challenge of seeing something steep and sketchy and picking a clean(ish) loose line through and popping out in one piece, ready to hit the next section. We also did more exploring this year. This place is huge and full of awesome treats. Next year I'll hopefully be coming back with my own steed and a little more confidence on the jumps.... I can't wait!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012


Right now I should be saddling up the rental V10 and getting ready for another day's awesome shredding at Whistler Bike Park. Instead I'm sulking in the lodge, wincing as I type with damaged digits. This place brings the best out of your riding, daring you to go a little faster and harder with each run. Each jump perfectly cleared, each steep techy section pinned and cleaned gives you that extra bit of confidence. But every ounce gained has a price to pay. The currency? Respect! Get a little too cocky and the mountain will rein you in. So far we've managed to get away with a few squirrelly launches and sketchy landings to keep things in check. But yesterday I pushed a little too hard ... and here I am. Hoping my hands miraculously heal before the week is out so I can experience one last blast down the mountain.

We're half way through the trip and have so far hit up old favourites like Crank It Up and A-Line as well as exploring some of the more technical blue runs on the lower half of the mountain. Yesterday, me and Chris decided to head higher and hit Freight Train a couple of times. I remember feeling well out of my comfort zone on Freight' last year, so I was determined to feel a little more confident this time around. My jumping is still not quite dialed on the black runs. I've been hitting the blue jumps with grinning abandon, but the lippy, less forgiving blacks tend to expose the weakness in my technique so I've shied from attacking them so far.

I'm loving the technical rough stuff though. I've realised that the groomed, bermed jumpy trails are a lot of fun, but its the more organic, rocky, rooty stuff that really gets me excited. It feels more like "proper" mountain biking (whatever that is.) I guess because it's closer (if not a lot bigger and gnarlier) than what we normally ride on our local trails. Freight Train has some lovely tech sections and, apart from one or two sections where I lost momentum, I managed to get through unscathed and grinning like a loon.

Most of A-Line was closed for the day, so in the afternoon we hit Crank It Up a few times to get our jump fix. I started to feel really good about getting air and hitting the jumps at speed - rarely braking between whoops and tabletops. Some choice nuggets of advice from Mike Brill rattled around my noggin as each jump became more fluid and enjoyable. The last run of the day and we aimed for one more blast down Crank' before the obligatory post ride beer. And that's where I went arse over tit..... Coming into the first jump waaaay too hot, I cleared the transition by a good few feet and landed on the flat. I've never caught that much air before and it felt great! But the landing sent me scuttling into the rocks, my ride collapsing beneath me. The gladiator costume did its thing and saved me from a trip to ER, but my defenseless hands weren't so lucky.

I managed to smash my index finger and thumb. Hard. I don't think they're broken. Just badly bruised... almost as bruised as my stupid ego for thinking I could hit jumps that fast. Still, a valuable lesson learned. A little humility at this place can go a long way to keeping you in one piece. Hopefully a combination of rest and some painkillers will mean my Whistler experience isn't over and done with for this year.... we'll see...

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Here We Go Again....

Time to pay our respects and visit mountain bike Mecca - Whistler Bike Park!! We're here for 6 solid days of uninterrupted (injury notwithstanding) shredding. Today we flew in, picked up our lift passes and mooched around the village. Killing time, eager for the morning when we get to grab out rental Santa Cruz V10 steeds and go and hit the finest bike park trails in the world. Bring it!