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Kowalski Classic 2013

By bmar560 - Posted on 20 June 2013

NB: Originally posted elsewhere on the Global Riders Network and appears via syndication.
Sunday, 22 September, 2013 - 07:00

The meeting times are 'ready to ride'. If you need time to prepare equipment then please arrive a few minutes earlier.

Come Rain or Shine: 
I'll be there, no matter what the weather.
Ride Database Entry: 
Kowen Forest
Meeting Point: 

The Ride Canberra site describes the main forest entrance as being the corner of Kowan Road and Sutton Roads. There is a parking area 5km into the forest along Kowan road with gates that may be locked. Call Canberra Connect (13 22 81) for the combinations or ride from Sutton Road for a warm up.

Show on Google maps: Meeting point. Login or register to get directions.

The Kowalski Classic showcases the masterful work of trailbuilding legends Paul Cole, Alan Anderson and the mysterious Kowalski Brothers. A singletrack marathon like no other, the Full Kowalski will challenge you over a mind bendingly high proportion of flowing singletrack and stout stem biting climbs. The rewards are tantalising traverses, sweet carving descents and a mind bendingly high proportion of singletrack! The Half Kowalski combines the best of both venues for a true test of skill and stamina. Find your flow on the Bird and the Kow.

The Kowalski Classic is the ultimate single track marathon with two race distances taking in the very best trails in Sparrow Hill and East Kowen.

Find your flow, racing through Sparrow Hill and East Kowen’s finest single track. We have been very busy building new and interesting links so you expect to ride a ridiculous amount of trail and visit places you may not have seen. A fire road climb will break the field up early and assist with uninterrupted bliss as you shred the turns, traverses, climbs and descents you love so much. The race will even take in some all-new trails built especially for the race including what is quite possibly the highest single track in the ACT. Expect a big day out with oodles of single track.

Worried that the full distance will overwhelm your good vibes receptors? Then take on the 50km option: shorter on distance, long on single track.

Both courses will include as much fine, flowing single track as we can humanly string together, so get set for a great day on the trails. Of course, we know you want a bit of mongrel in your racing, so we’ve put in a brutal climb or two for you. You can expect to kiss your stem and find the upper limit of your HRM on at least one of these climbs.

In short, if you like riding lots and lots (and lots) of outstanding single track, then you are going to LOVE the Kowalski Classic.

Take a good hard look under the house and drag out the oldest plaything you can find, because the Retro Racer category is open to any rider ready to race the Half Kowalski on their year 2000 (or older) mountain bike. Yes folks… it’s time to polish up your purple anno, re-invigorate your V-brakes, fish out the Flex-Stem and re-assemble your trusty retro racer for a classic day on the trails. There’s points for vintage lycra too!

Cash prizes will be awarded for podiums in Elite Category (full distance), with 
a minimum $2000 on offer for first, $1000 for second, $500 for third, plus fame, glory and adoration. If the calibre of elite field warrants, we may pay deeper (i.e. 1st to 5th, 7th, 10th etc) to encourage strong racing.

There will be great prizes for all age category winners too (categories must have a minimum of five competitors), plus lots of spot prizes for riders with the best tales of adventure or misadventure as the case may be. Make sure you hang around to enjoy the post-race presentation festivities, as we won’t be posting out the goodies.

There may be two special ‘race-within-a-race’ timed sections that attract their own prizes. No matter where you are in the field, you have the opportunity to show your skill and stamina and go for the win. The riders (male and female) with the fastest combined time for the climb and the descent will earn the coveted crown of King and Queen Kowalski.

Who's in?
Heckler, evan, Lach, GAZZA, jp, string, Brian, CB, staffe, adski, bluray, Dicko, arghvee, ae93gti, stevebaker, craked, Ian_A, Tristania, Rocklobber, bmar560, Simon S, ChookLegsMonkeyBoy, N76, PeterPan (24 riders)
Heckler evan Lach GAZZA jp string Brian CB staffe adski bluray Dicko arghvee ae93gti stevebaker craked Ian_A Tristania Rocklobber bmar560 Simon S ChookLegsMonkeyBoy N76 PeterPan
What Happened?

Blog entries about this meeting (as this is a race standings and times are shown, click on the title for more and to comment)...

Who Title Status Time Pos.Gen. Category Pos.Cat.
Antsonline Hella Race! Finished 9 9
craked are the Kowalskis real? Finished 02:51:13 66 4
jp Early Christmas (50km) Finished 02:53:54 85 26
Lach Sniggle de luxe Finished 03:45:29 334 37
Tristania Singletrack Heaven! Finished 04:24:48 18 2
Brian 2013 Kowalski Classic Full Marathon Finished 04:28:16 23 3
Dicko Most Fun at a Marathon Finished 04:35:37 31 4
bmar560 Singletrack overdose Finished 06:09:44 204 38

Were you there and have a story to tell?

Ride Gallery

Who's in ??
I just signed up for the 90km
So bloody hard to motivate yourself to train in winter, I figured joining a race might motivate me.

I'm in for the 50,1 week after the coolah classic

Im in for the 90k. Guess id better start training.

I have "unfinished business" with this event, as I had the humiliation of a DNF last year.
50K or so will be enough for me - perhaps one CAN have enough "sweet" singletrack??!!

Hope I can keep up this form without pushing myself over the edge.
I planned to do more races than there were weeks in the year this year. With crit racing twice a week in summer its looking like ill be close to that goal!

preparation is not going well for me... only a few more weeks left.
On my manly dam lap times I'm about 4mins slower than my hot lap time !!

Any tips on the best form of training in the few weeks that I have left ? Planning to do at least 50K MTB rides on each saturday before the race, maybe 1 or 2 saturdays where I will do 60-70K mtb rides.

Between now and then so do the longish rides but include a few efforts to get the HR right up there and I'd get some singletrack runs in at speed just to get used to what your comfortable with and what speeds your tyres can handle round the corners.
There'll be a lot of singletrack in this race so a lot of time and energy will be lost with poor bike handling and shoddy cornering.

To follow-on from what @Gazza said, the amount of Singletrack in this race actually makes it quite unusual, and puts new stresses on your body. You see, it wont be the distance that will cause you to suffer, it will be the stress on your body.
As long as you ride a few 50,60,70km rides pretty regularly, then you will get round the race. However, I doubt if you would do those rides on ST, twisting and turning, and putting as much strain through your lower back.

A lot of people claim that get a sore lower back during MTB races, and its mostly down to two things - a lack of core strength, and fiding themselves in too big a gear out of a corner and then loading / straining their pelvis (imagine it rotating on the saddle as you grind a gear up to speed) and lower back to get it all moving again.

So - quick training tips - that will certainly make a difference to your race - try and do 2 or 3 core workouts a week. Only 30mins total each. It will really help. Some planks, the odd press-up, some crunches. Nothing fancy is needed, just the stuff that we all love to hate.
Finding time can be an issue, so perhaps set yourself goals based on 'ad breaks' during the evening of TV. Pressups through out one, plank through out another etc.
The other tip would be to think about your cadence on the MTB. Work on being in the right gear. Ride a singtrack loop you know (Mtn Annan is perfect) and monitor average cadence for a lap. then do another lap and try to add 5 rpm..

Hope that all helps...

Awesome thanks for the tips guys.
I'll make full use of the few weeks left before the race.

Hi guys (and maybe girls).
This weekend I was lucky enough to get an invite from the Kowalski crew to go to Kowan and get shown round the first 50km of the race. This is also the 'full' 50km course.
The full details of the course isn't going to be announced for a few weeks yet, so I've been very lucky.

I'm going to write a full account of the trail soon, via, but in the meantime, I'll share this:
For anyone that complains about too much fire-road in their races, please wait until you race Kowalski until you are sure that fire-road is bad.
In the first 50km of the race, I would reckon on there being less than 2km total fire-road in the first 50km, and that is broken into only 4 or 5 sections that you can actually remember as being pedalling. This is actually code for saying "they are the only moments you remember being easy enough to grab a drink or food".

Its full-on Single-Track. Like - nonstop. For 50km. Climbing, descending, traversing, the lot. The new trails that have built - 'Effing Track' and the 'Escalator' climb you up to the highest point of the course, and if we are lucky enough to get a day like today - you can see right over to Lake George. Fantastic.

Its going to be hard on the body. Make sure your brakes work, your tyres are soft and grippy, and your shock rebounds aren't too fast.
It will be a ride where people will finished smashed, but lost for words. The work that has gone into building it, and linking it - left me breathless.

Sounds promising Anthony, looking forward to the full write-up.

As promised - a write up of the course preview from Sunday.
Hopefully this paints the correct picture.....

On reading Antsonline's review of the kowalski i couldnt help but sign up! As im only a recent member of this site i dont know any of you, but as a long time looker have benefited a lot from thoughts and tips. Having recently started racing mtbs (12 monts or so) in the singletrack mind and shimano series i have a fair idea of what ive signed up for but wouldnt mind meeting up with some of you guys to gauge "where im at" + i think i need some others to push (or drag) me along! So if any of you guys would like some company on training rides i would love to tag along ( fastest lap of Manly dam is 34.30 so shouldnt hold you up to much) Cheers in advance, Andrew.

... nice description. Sounds like a great track to ride, but for me, racing on it may be another matter. Are you able to give a gravity challenged elder person any indication of the amount of vertical in the 50 km?

@Lach - I'd love to just provide you with my Strava trace for the ride, but was sworn to keep it to myself unti lthe release of the tracks 'officially'.
However, I can tell you that I registered about 850m of climbing in the 50km.
I would caution that given the exceptionally tight, twisty, trails we rode, the Garmin battled to recognise it all - I only recorded a ride distance of about 47km, compared to another guy on the ride (with proper wheel sensor computer) who recorded basically bang on 50km. So its possible that I have missed a bit of elevation as well as distance.

With regard to racing it - I would even see it as a 'race' Lach. I'd just go and ride it. I was actually commenting to a guy on the ride - whom I wold normally beat by over an hour on a 100km race - that I couldnt shake him at all. The difference in speed on this course wont come from fitness. In fact, I think it will be a race where everyone will be travelling at much the same speed. There is only so fast you can ride the ST without blowing out on corners, or over cooking it somewhere.
Your status of being 'gravity challenged' will actually be something of an advatange - better traction through most of the corners, and (theoretically) a lower center of gravity for faster, smoother berm riding!

.. Thanks, Ants. Understand the need for a bit of mystique for marketing purposes now that the mtb enduro calendar is getting crowded to the point where promoters are more concerned about reaching their target numbers than about their server melting down the minute entries open (remember those days??).
Anyway, that's about the same amount of vertical as the Capital Punishment 50, so nothing too dramatic in terms of climbing, though obviously it will be a fair bit harder on the legs than that event, due to the amount of single track and the very attractive lack of bike paths and roads.
I think you may have interpreted my comment about being "gravity challenged" as meaning that I'm a bit short. In fact I'm about 6'7" in the old money. It's just the 100+ kgs that gravity creates problems with. Sitting on an XL 29er means that my centre of gravity is anything BUT low, so my "style" in tight sniggle is often a bit erratic!
Anyway, just like a struggling racehorse, my connections have decided to send me off to a few country meetings to find some form, so I am locked into the Back Yamma and the Wollombi Wild Ride at this stage and was contemplating doing the Hidden Valley Classic at Coolah, as I need to spend a few days out Mudgee way. Doesn't leave much brownie points for the Kowalski (which would be 4 races in 5 weeks), but, now that I think of it, maybe if I get my wife thinking about a weekend in Canberra to visit Floriade, it might just work....... Smiling

My exam schedule comes out in two days and then I'll know whether or not I'll have an exam on the Monday. (Am I soft for not doing a race due to an exam the next day? Yes except that I'm doing _electrical engineering_!) It sounds like a great course and in theory an 80% chance that I'll see you guys down there. Will keep you posted!

@Lach, why are you having a week off from racing in those 5 weeks? Isn't that a waste of a weekend Eye-wink (Actually, 4 races in five weeks is a darn lot!)

Don't let the Kirchoff Laws and the circuits hold you back from doing this race Smiling

Thanks for the trail description Ant !

Sounds like fun, I'm in for the 50.

The feed stations were the best Ive ever seen too!. Each one was like a banquet last year. Cant wait.

Just got the exam timetable, and my exam's on Wednesday evening. So I've got no excuses for not entering now! Really looking forward to this one!

90 or 50 Tristan?

I'm going to make the 500km return trip down to Canberra worth it and hit up 90km of singletrack!

Just entered the Full Kowalski

I recon the shoulders and back will be in bits after that much singletrack?
Same sort of pain as doing The Full Fling on a CX bike!

It's going to be a tough one for sure.

Next weekend is the Rocky Trail 4hr at Stromlo on the Sat. If you have any spare leave pass you can use, maybe aim to do that race on the Sat and then pre-ride the Kowalski course on the Sunday....?
I'll be doing that!
I know - its another weekend away from loved ones......

Looks like ill just have to wing it!!!

Hi Ants, as i'm doing the Rocky trail 4 hour, I was thinking of doing the same thing, but was under the impresion that some of the trails are new and only going to be opened up on the day of the race. Is this the case or have i got that wrong?

@PeterPan - thankfully, you have it wrong. Its all good to ride at Kowan. Some of the trails are indeed new, but they are open to riders. Get involved!
I'll see you down there for both. I suspect it will be busy.

Thanks for that info Ants, cant wait to check out kowen, i've heard nothing but good things.(hope ive got some legs left after saturday!) see you down there.

Here's the latest update. There is a note that early registrations were not prompted for a start wave so you need to log in now and update it

really looking forward to this race.
Hopefully and fingers and toes crossed I'll have new 29er for this race Smiling

Hi Ants, guys.

Am in for the 90km as a replacement for the Fling. THanks for the writeup. Really interested in what you had to say about bike setup and reducing shock rebound. I've been fiddling with tyre pressure (Schwalve NN/RR tubeless) and rebound.

Why reduce rebound for this ride? Any tips on tyre pressure ie any sharp rocks as i've never ridden there... but looking forward to it ??

There are a few sharpish rocks, but nothing too much to worry about.
In terms of rebound settings, most people (apologies for those that dont do this) tend to get a bike, set the rebound and never touch it again - regardless of trail conditions. It can really influence how a bike handles, and different courses should be viewed differently.
For this race, there are lots and lots of repeated small bumps. If have the rebound too fast (or as fast as you would for a ride which included sections of 'air' or big drops) then you would find it quite fatiguing. Too much movement too quickly, too frequently. You are looking for 'smoothness' to be fast and efficient on this race - nothing too fatiguing. My opinion is to run lower pressures than normal (maybe by only 1 or 2 psi though) on a nice wide tyre, with rebound a 'notch' slower than you would for a 'typical' marathon such as the Fling.
You might (given the complete lack of long seated pedaling sections) drop your saddle by 1 or 2mm too - better position for railing corners etc. Dont go more than 2mm though - your legs will chuck a tanty at the shock!

If you could also adjust your 'small bump' sensitivity, then I would do that too - have it set so that your first 25% of travel is quite 'open' and fluid, but after that things get really stiff.

With all that being said, there is also the school of thought "just get out and ride" - so dont fuss it too much. It'll be a hell of a day. I'm still sourcing a dually (loaner) so if you see me on my hardtail, you'll know I have been unsuccesful!

I'll be on a 29" carbon hardtail, but just doing the 50. If I was doing the 90 I would be on my 26" dually for sure.
I'm looking forward to next weekend, but my preparation has not been ideal. Caught the flu three weeks ago and some of the symptoms are still persisting. But felt okay over the weekend and got a bit of training in, focusing on steep hill climbs and technical singletrack. I always go back to Anthony's advice from the Highland Fling videos we made last year – smooth pedalling, easy gear, not too much speed into the corners, and I love the analogy of a marble rolling through a maze. For those of you who missed them, the videos are still online here: ....and scroll down to video 2 for singletrack technique tips.

Canberra got a good soaking with 60mm yesterday/overnight. Well, its not going to be dusty on Sunday.

A little bit of rain should be awesome for grip on the trails.

And maybe the aforementioned one PSI tyre pressure adjustment could be halved?

@adksi - my OCD is coming out a bit isnt it? Yes, I use a digital pressure guage. I admit it - I'm a nerd! Maybe we'll agree on a 0.25% adjustment - to keep things civil!

Glad you saw the light of the comment Smiling

I was pretty surprised hearing Mr Graves talking about 'adding a PSI' between DH runs in South Africa because the track is so fast he was getting a bit of sidewall squirm.


Finally it appears clear this weekend in the ACT so looks like we have another great event lined up. @jp & @antsonline, great HF videos, I'm sure it all translates into the Kow in some degree.

See you all there!

I heard that Brian Lopes doesn't ride with tubeless tyres and sealant, as he doesn't like the feel of the fluid affecting the balance of the wheel!
For me, it won't matter much what tyre pressure, shock pressure, etc I will be running - a left thumb injury 6 weeks ago, a Father's day crash which has put my dually out of action and a right wrist injury at Old Mans Valley 2 weeks ago mean that I'll be cruising around on a borrowed dually and will just aim to finish. There's always next year....(but that's what I said last year).

I don't normally do this - so allow me one moment of 'plugging' - the guys that look after me - City Bike Depot, and Cannondale Australia, have managed to 'rustle-up' a dually for to ride this weekend.
I'm delighted to have to worry about rebound settings on my rear shock now.

So, happily, I'll be riding a Cannondale Scalpel 29er for the Kowalski. I'm pretty happy, and its a huge privilege to represent the two brands.

I wanted to thank them in public - this will do the job. Thanks guys. Hopefully I can bring the required 'muscle' now....

I'm starting in the second phase so keep an eye out over your shoulder! Eye-wink

ahhh @Gazza - god bless you. I'll be sure to keep an eye out Eye-wink
Word is that Brian is riding around as if there is no chain on his bike. #driver

Will be a fun (but frankly unrepresentative of any other marathon result)weekend. Cant wait.

They're all starting in the first wave now.i suppose I better do the same?

Just start with who you wanna race.
But - in a x-thread reference - don't be a dick of you are dragging the chain a bit Eye-wink

There's nothing like a bit of banter before a race. Love it. Smiling

So ill start with them.
As for being a Dick?
Old habits die hard!

Agh, I was at Bike Depot yesterday, and saw this Scalpel there - must be your Ants. It was all I could do not to grab it and run. You don't see too many of these. Fling was full of Giants.... like mine. Look fwd to the review.

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