Gary's new website

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I'm heading off to the world masters mountain bike championships

My Bike: Custom built to be an awesome hill climber, featuring 980 gram
Lauf Forks from Iceland.  Bike weight is an incredible 9kg which is
super light for a bike with 29" wheels.
It has been over a year of dedicated training to get there and I am finally about to leave for the World Mountain Bike Championships in Norway, 24th of August where I will be competing against the roughest and toughest 60-64 year old mountain bikers in the world.

According to Bike NZ I am the only masters cyclist representing NZ at this Masters Championships.  I qualified by finishing 4th in the 50+ age group at the NZ championships, 2nd in the same age group at the Oceania Championships and breaking the record for the 60+ age group in the Karapoti Classic.  I reduced that record from 2hrs 56m to 2hrs 46m.  I am now much fitter than when I set that record.

However, while I may be the fastest 60 year old mountain biker in New Zealand and Australia, it is next to impossible to know how I compare with the rest of the Masters cycling world, including the European and American champions.  What I do know is the men I am coming up against are the toughest of the tough: they are the survivors from decades of brutal hard-yakka!  All I can do is prepare the best I can and I have done this for an entire year.  I am physically as prepared as can be and I have one of the fastest xc mountain bikes which I have affectionately nicknamed "KZ8".  

The bike is the end result of an exercise with the mechanics at Dirt Merchants, a specialist mountain bike shop in Aro Street, Wellington.  My strength is cycling uphill while I am also no slug on the downhill and handy on the technical stuff.  The World Champs course in Hafjell, Norway, is said to suit a hill climber, so we have designed the bike to be a climber.  The reasoning is that what I gain on the uphill will more than compensate for what I might lose on the downhill.  Besides, if anybody behind me is faster on the downhill, they must first catch me and then figure out how to pass and get away before the next uphill.  That's the theory and that's the plan.  Given that it works and I have the fitness to go hard out for the entire hour or so, then I will be eyeing a gold medal.

What I am certain of is that if anybody does beat me then they will have deserved the win and I will the first to congratulate them!

The exploits of the New Zealand kayak team to the Moscow Olympics in 1980 have inspired me: I was paddling at the time and had met Paul Mcdonald and Ian Ferguson.  In fact I came 2nd to Paul in a multi sports race in 1978. I was paddling one of Ferg's old boats.  There was a boycott of the Moscow Olympics following the USSR's invasion of Afghanistan but the Kiwi paddlers decided they were going to go anyway, funding the trip themselves with the help of friends and family.  Off they went and camped on the side of the lake in Russia, in their pup tents, preparing food on their camp cookers!  Their Soviet and Eastern Bloc opposition came complete with everything they needed, including their chemists.  To the utter disbelief of their opponents, the Kiwis won just about every event they entered!  By the way, they trained using the Lydiard Method of conditioning and, at the time, there were just 28 competitive flat water kayakers in the whole of New Zealand - one squad at Lake Pupuke, Auckland and another in Gisborne - an astonishing performance!  Everybody thought it was a fluke until they bettered the performance four years later at the Los Angeles Olympics using innovations such as the winged paddle. 

Using their successes as my inspiration, I set about building a bike that is innovative, cutting edge but robust.  Like Ferguson and team I have used the Lydiard Method to condition myself.  Rather than spend thousands of dollars on accommodation, food and a support team (Norway is incredibly expensive), I have decided to follow the lead of the Kiwi kayakers and have opted for a cheap van with a mattress in the back and I will camp as close to the race venue as I can get.  My bike and I will have a special kind of relationship, sharing the same bed.

I have used my expertise in medical nutrition (no drugs!) to ensure I am in the best health possible.  Once an athlete gets to my age it is not just about who was the fastest - its more about who is the best at managing health and injury issues and I think I am the best at this.  

My only real weakness is I will not have any mechanical support before and during the race unlike my opponents; but I have planned to minimise the possibility of ensuring there are no mechanical incidents.  The most likely failure will be a flat tyre, so I am using tyres that may be a little heavier than my opponents may be using but these are more robust and less likely to puncture.

I want to thank the following people:
  • Runar and the boys at Lauf Forks of Iceland for supplying me with their revolutionary super lightweight forks.
  • James, Stu and Nathan of Dirt Merchants, Aro St, Wellington, for patiently servicing my bikes and for helping put together an awesome race bike.
  • The boys at Bike Barn for their awesome help with parts and accessories, including their huge discounts (for all customers, btw).
  • My cycling club, PNP, of Wellington for their support, including their financial contribution towards my expenses, which are considerable.
  • Special thanks to Super Cyclist, Ian Paintin for helping me, earlier this year, to set my sights much higher than they might otherwise have been.  Thanks to Marco Renalli and Ash Sparks - your encouragement has been most appreciated.
  • The wonderful people at Air New Zealand and our friend, Leonie Reynolds, for helping to upgrade my seating and getting me Gold Card and Koru Lounge status to ensure I arrive as fresh as can be.
  • The hard-working staff of Bike NZ for all the help they gave with getting my international licence, insurance and so on organised in time. 
  • Thor Nagell, and Kjell Bjørnhaug who are organising the World Championships, and their Norwegian staff for answering all my questions.
  • Finally, and most important of all, my partner, Alofa (and our extended family), for being so patient and understanding.  For putting up with a tired and sometimes grumpy person who is always out training when not working, sleeping at other times and forever spending money on what is a hobby!  Thank you, Alofa, for being so patient and understanding.  Thankyou Alofa!
You can view results here from 24th August

You can see what I am in for and what the course is like by watching this video of the UCI XC Men's Final Race which is over the exact course that I am racing over.  Its intense stuff and will be done and dusted within about 1hr 20 min.

The weekend after the World Champs, I am competing in the the world's largest MTB race with 17.000 participants. The course is 92 km long.  That will be an amazing experience!

I leave on 14th August.  Alofa will be here fulfilling orders for those who need product and I will be answering emails now and then.

Again, thank you everyone for your wonderful support!

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