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Learning to Enjoy my Own Company

By Tristania - Posted on 21 September 2015

NB: Originally posted elsewhere on the Global Riders Network and appears via syndication.
Re: This ride meeting: 
Kowalski Classic - 2015
Position (Overall): 
Position (Category): 

I did the Wollombi Wild Ride two weeks ago as a practice race for the Kowalski, which turned into a 90% solo effort with not a single other rider sight for the rest of the race. Despite it being about as different as a race could possibly be due to its 60km length, purely firetrail and dirt road with two very steep climbs, it was nonetheless an opportunity to get some racing under my skin before the much-anticipated "singletrack marathon like no other." But little did I know how important the experience of riding solo was going to be...

This is my third time in the Kowalski Classic, and what can I say, it's such a great event - great tracks, great atmosphere with a huge range of entrants from the first time MTBers, families doing the new 25km loop to the likes of Andy Blair and Jason English battling it out at the front and practically everyone in between. It is not hard to see why this has become one of the most popular events in the calendar and it's certainly earned it's name of "Classic!"

Having been fairly comfortably first over the line in the first wave after the elites last year and having steadily been winning my age category last year, I decided to enter in the elite category this year, under the basis that this is where the best racing is at. As Capital Punishment let the elites start the same time as everyone else and I moved back to the Opens in Convict due to my lack of training, this was to be the first time I actually was to start in an exclusively elite wave.

So here I am, looking across the likes of Jason English, Shaun Lewis and Andy Blair as we sit in the start chute. I have no expectation of seeing them for long, but I feel privileged to see them start at such close proximity. The horn sounds and we're off. I seed myself near the end of the wave as we head up the first climb. Watching the long line of riders weave our way through the singletrack is fun, nobody is looking to start "racing"... yet. That will happen though.

Due to being having one of the leaders needing to overtake me about 5km in after an early mechanical, I lose several metres to the guy in front. Despite my efforts, I can't catch back up, so here I am, detached from the main lead group less then 10km in. I compose myself and ride on, up the massive climb to the top, including the escalator, one of my favourite sections of track. It's rather deceiving to be able to see other riders not far ahead here as I head up here, but with all the switchbacks it's much further up the track than it looks. I descend down to Kowalski's sideshow solo, though with another rider just in front of me. After managing to carry a solid pace through the VERY technical Romper Room and Stairway to Heaven (which I'd thankfully ridden the day before so was prepared for the zillions of sharp, rocky switchbacks), and into loop 2. The first half of Sparrow Hill is rather uneventful, with one rider in sight a bit ahead, and two other riders working together a couple hundred metres behind. Eventually I catch up to and overtake the guy in front, who is obviously beginning to struggle, and plow out the rest of Sparrow Hill alone with no other riders in sight behind.

Just like at the 75km mark in Convict earlier this year, I have another gaffe regarding refilling. Having misunderstood the instructions at the beginning of the race, I left my seat of food and drinks 50m down the track in the wrong direction as the final loop does a U-turn after going over the timing mat. I need to eat, so I sigh and ride up to change bottles. However, despite the minute this took me, it seems no damage is done as I still see nobody behind, a stark difference to Convict where the 10 seconds potentially cost me several places.

And that's how the final 25km go, with not a single other rider in sight. There are some steep fireroad climbs here, which certainly show off my fatigue, but I manage to just keep the pace going. I'm pleased to see that, according to the GPS I've basically averaged 20.7km/h since the end of the first loop which shows that I've been able to pace myself fairly well. A few small cramps start kicking in, but I just keep at it, keep turning, rolling, handling... down through Kowalski's Beer Garden, the Last Call, and SHE'S FINISHED, to discover that I'd come 12th. A long, lonely, honest 12th. Considering some of the faces I competed against, I'm not at all disappointed, and look forward to seeing how the Fling plays out after two more months of good riding.

It's a great event, a great environment, and the weather couldn't have been any better with no rain, no wind, not to hot or cold so all in all a good day out. Boy, the 100km of bike handling certainly adds up though, I'm sure I'm not the only one with a sore back, sore arms and hands and a sore neck. Ironically, the legs are fine!

For the record, my highlight sections of track are the following:
- The Escalator
- Kowalski's Sideshow
- Romper Room
- Stairway to Heaven (next time I want to ride the WHOLE thing!)
- Beer Garden
- Big Wednesday
- That section with all the drops in Sparrow Hill (was that "Tough Titties"?)

Well done to anyone who finished the 100km (and the 50km). It's a fun event, but certainly not one that is characterized by being easy!

Well done Tristan, great time. Keep pushing, you'll be on that podium soon!

Great ride Tristan.

I got a buzz from Sideshow and Romper Room as well and there was a trail earlier in the 50 that I think was Front 9? Fun

Congrats Tristan. Mixing it well with the big boys !

Great result Tristan, the training is paying off. 7 weeks til the FIing, and you're getting stronger every week.

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