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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Report: My attempt to win the World Masters Mountain Bike Championships, Norway 2014

I am in the business of health and firmly believe in walking the talk. If what I am promoting is good for health, then I should surely be one of the best ambassadors. 

Walking the talk

This is especially important because people seeking my services for their own health sometimes receive contradictory advice from other health experts, including being told that "Gary Moller is a Quack". I say to these people, 

"Look at me and look at the naysayer expert, then answer the question: who is the healthier?

"Who do you go with - the health expert with the pot belly, the one with the puffy, ashen face, the one on various drugs for this and that disease, or the one who is trim, strong, full of energy and not in need of any drugs to get through the day?"

As we get older, the best description of a good athlete 
is a very healthy person

Please read this article which gives a little about my personal journey from burnout back to good health:

Last year I resolved to take the "walk the talk" to the highest level - to become the World age group mountain bike champion. Why mountain biking? Because this is a brutal sport that challenges the extremes of cardiovascular capacity, strength, endurance, reaction times, balance and - yes - the ability to heal fast and completely! These are all qualities that decline dramatically with ageing and when I turned 60 last year I thought I would put my  anti-ageing nutrition (not medicine) and health practices to the ultimate test - to win the world mountain bike championships to be held in Norway August 2014.

I began my quest for age group world domination about one year in advance with attention to refining my nutrition and preparing my muscles with constant training and massage. I also collaborated with the mechanics at Dirt Merchants of Aro Valley to build one of the fastest and lightest 29 inch wheel mountain bikes.  For this exercise I also gained sponsorship of Laufforks of Iceland which supplied the lightest suspension forks in the world.

My beautiful super fast 29'er Laufforks racer

My preparation could not have been better and I was confident that I was going to be competitive against the best 60+ year olds in the world.  Read this article for example:

Smashing the Karapoti age group record

My final result at the Norway world champs was a mix of positive and negative. 

Lost in translation - Ha!

I got a shock, on arrival at Hafjell, to discover that the course for the Masters was at a different location from that of the Open Championships.  We were on a course above the town of Lillehammer about 20 km away from the course I had prepared for, including having designed a bike!  Far from being a groomed climber's course with a rock garden or two and a drop-off here and there, which I was prepared to handle, the real one was mostly glacial rocks, roots and mud, no drainage and some near vertical drop-offs.  It was not world championship standard, it was a substandard course that the "old farts" had been relegated to.  It looked unfinished and, with 300+ riders doing practice runs over it in the rain for four days before the races, it cut up really badly.  

Worse, it was totally unsuitable for my semi-rigid hardtail with light tyres.  I needed my full suspension bike which I had left in New Zealand.  Other riders were not happy with many of them inadvertently slashing their tyres on the sharp rocks during practice laps. I did not complain but resolved to focus on the race and doing the best I could with the equipment I had, remaining confident that I had the skills and the conditioning to foot it with the best.

In my daughter's NZ race kit, ready to do battle on a very
wet course in Lillehammer, Norway

The Big Race

I began my warm up on the day feeling very confident, despite the torrential rain that had turned the course into a rocky quagmire. I felt strong and this was my first chance to size up my opponents.  I couldn't wait to get the show on the road.
While its hard to tell by a photo, this is some of the easier parts of the
course and some of the riders are forced to run!  

Heeding former pro-elite rider, Paul Bishop's advice, I began the race conservatively, intending to pick my opponents off one by one. Unfortunately, I knocked my chain off in the mayhem over the first rock climb dismount, losing several places, then, at the next drop into a mud hole, which was marginally rideable, the Spanish rider who I was preparing to pass, suddenly stopped and I partially went over the handlebars, trapping a thigh between the frame and the handlebars! It was a struggle to get free and I lost a more few places - darn!  I've had better starts.  But the race was still young.

Things went well from there for some kilometers of bouncing over large, wet rocks and sliding off wet roots and diving into mud holes.  Good ground was made, eventually passing the Spanish rider who caused my flip and then finally catching up with the defending world champion, Linus van Onselen and quickly passing him with an impressive maneuver around a tricky corner. However, he got away on a downhill section, but no matter because were still in the first of two laps and I was settling nicely into my rhythm.  I'll get him later.

Ooh!  I really am missing my full suspension bike.
Talk about a "smash and bash" course!

Towards the end of the first lap I noticed that my rear tyre was beginning to bottom out on the rocks. I can't describe the horrible sense of impending doom!  As I entered the 2nd lap I began to lose ground on Linus, despite my feeling increasingly comfortable physically. Deflated is a very good description of what was going on with my tyre and with my brain!
Not a course designed with my minimalistic bike in mind!

Eventually I was forced to stop and put some gas into the tyre. However, the tyre continued to lose air, eventually forcing me to run. As fate would have it, this was the furthest point away from help. My race was over.

Post race and not looking happy (note even sadder rear tyre), with the only other NZ rider,
Paul McDowell of Rotorua (I think Paul finished a very pleasing 7th or 8th in the 55-59 category).

Linus went on to finish in 2nd place. The winner was Norwegian - the home advantage.

The positive side of the day is confirmation that I am competitive with the best of the oldies, for sure. If only the race had been held on the original course which I had so meticulously prepared for. I reckon I would have smoked it.  Not easily, but I reckon I would have been in with a damn good chance of the win.

Not all is lost.  I am home now and am highly motivated to give the Worlds another crack.  I have some unfinished business.  The champs are in tiny state of Andorra (Yes, I knew of Andorra but had to look it up to remind me where it is nestled).  Apart from the exorbitant cost (Anybody got a spare $10k?), the big challenge is that the race is at altitude.  I am up for that challenge because exercise physiology is my forte.  Further, the experience of the world champs this year and the training that went into it has taken my riding to a new level as evidenced in the most recent results from the local mountain bike series.

Gary Moller: Back to being a Big Fish in a small pond!  But let's not get too comfortable:
World champs 2015 here we come! (If we can afford it).

Clean, green Norway

Sorry, NZ, we are in no way the cleanest or the greenest as the advertising brochures might have us believe.  Norway beats us hands down for a pure and pristine environment.  Of course our economy is very different to theirs and much of their country is alpine in nature.  We have far more cows.

Yoiks - Yonder!  My destination beckons.

"Go this way!" (Fearless explorer).

I was told I could drink the water from any river or stream and the municipal waters are neither chlorinated or fluoridated.  This certainly seemed the case with Norwegians seen drinking from the streams and they sure look like a healthy bunch of people.  Few signs of thyroid problems which is an epidemic health issue in NZ.  I wondered if the lower exposure to toxic halides such as chlorine and fluorine might have something to do with this apparent difference in health? (Fluorine and chlorine damage the thyroid, leading to conditions like fatigue, weight gain, fibromyalgia and osteoporosis).  But I digress - Back to my travels!

Norwegian can be confusing, especially when translated into English

Norway, pristine clean and kayaker's paradise

My incognito camper: Discrete camping, I slept well each night and never got hassled
despite sleeping overnight in places like market and station car parks.
Highly recommended - Thanks Arna Hilmar and team at Nordic Campers.

Thanks heaps to Lauf Forks, Dirt Merchants, Leonie Reynolds, PNP Cycling Club, Andy Reid, Bike NZ - and to Air New Zealand as well for the fantastic and comfy service. Best airline.

And thank-you to my Norwegian hosts, Nina and Thor Nagell (foreground) for their incredible generosity and
hospitality (Thor was the coordinator for the very successful Hafjell World Mountain Bike Champs - not the masters xc.
This photo is of dinner with Thor and Nina's family and the management team for the Worlds.

Nina serving wild moose which, I understand, her father shot while hunting in the forest.

And special thanks to my partner, Alofa, and my four children, Myra, Mary-Ann, Kelvin and Alama, for their patience and support.

About this website 
The advice in these articles is given freely without promise or obligation. Its all about giving you and your family the tools and information to take control of your health and fitness.
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