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A Tale of Two Races and a Missing Mojo


By Antsonline - 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
Status: 
Finished
Time: 
04:34:26
Position (Overall): 
9
Position (Category): 
9

The last two weekends have been races for me, the first in Queensland at the Flight Center Epic, and then the Kowalski Classic.
I have been pretty fit of late, and have avoided the various sicknesses and ailments that have been shared in my office, so was in pretty good spirits heading up to QLD.

To cut a very long story short, I started the Flight Center Epic with pretty high expectations, found myself in 5th place in between two groups, and essentially realised that I just was not having fun. I was, quite literally, bored. As I saw it, the race would involve 4 more hours of riding alone – or maybe with one other – to finish in the same position that I was currently in – 30mins into the event.
Pretty dire to be honest, I had fallen out of love with racing (or perhaps we should call it, 4hr, off-road time trialling)…
Mojo lost.

I spoke to a few friends, and they were all worried and supportive, and hoped I could get thing right for the Kowalski. I was really in two minds about even starting.
As the week wore on, I thought that I should just get stuck in, and see how things fared. It’s a race that I have enjoyed in the past but wouldn’t really be one that I would say I should go well at. The bike gets set up a bit differently (essentially that means just soft in all areas) and its all about saving energy wherever possible.

Race day came around and I was super happy to be travelling with my mate Jon Odams – we race Hellfire together as a pair, and also we have very different skills and abilities, somehow it seems to work.
Kowalski is essentially a very long XCO race. The gun fires and its basically full noise up the hill, and then full speed through the Single-track
We all shuffle around and before long (the big hill with Escalator at the top) we are in small groups. I am in 7th or so I think, and with Jason English I hit up Romper Room, and then Stairway (with Alan ‘the trailbuilder’ Vogt screaming encouragement and abuse in equal measure) and work through the back end of Kowen and over to Sparrow. Sensations were good, and legs felt full of life.

Jason does his usual trick – politely excuses himself and leaves me for dead. I find myself in Sparrow Hill, with 75mins of riding ahead of me, completely and utterly alone. I see no one in front of me, and no one is to be seen behind me. There are no spectators, no crowds, nothing. Silent. Just my own mind and the knowledge that I ‘ought’ to keep pressing on.
It is the same sensation as in QLD. I was SO close to pulling the pin. A cross between being bored, and a bit ambivalent. It just didn’t feel like a race – just a fast trail ride. I realised that the quickest way home was to just follow the trail and ride it quickly – so essentially to carry on racing.
Don’t get me wrong, I was having fun – mostly – but that extra 5% of effort required to get around it all quickly – that was hard to find.
Returning to Kowen, finally – with 25km to go – there were people again. Other riders to see, people to cheer, and reason to keep pedalling. Best of all – I catch up to Jon with 20km to go. We get to ride the final part of the race together and talk some nonsense. Jon – being probably the most skilful and talented bike handler in the XC scene – literally floats down the final hill (Beer Garden) and I nurse myself home.
We roll over the line in 8th and 9th, and I feel happy. It was a good race, it was great to finish in the top 10. I’m really pleased that the work I have done on ‘steering’ (as Jon refers to all bike handling skills) seems to have been paying off.

I think we would all agree – a wonderfully run race, with amazing trails and superb event vibe. Timing was excellent. I cant wait to see some of the footage. There were cameras on wires in Kowen, and also a drone that followed Jon and I through some ST at about 85km, and we were railing it hard. Should look good.
BTW – did anyone else ‘jump’ the wooden bridge? The top section (flat bit) was short enough that you could take off on the ‘up’ ramp and land it on the ‘down’ – such a shame there was no photographer there. Some wild moves were being pulled in our race.

As a final thought, it was lovely getting messages of congratulations and ‘well done’ from people – as I think they knew it was gonna be ‘touch and go’ – so thanks to those of you out there that did so.
These two races have really reminded me of how important having a love for the racing is. Having fun, getting stuck in, and pushing through the tough bits.

The mojo is definitely not fully returned, but its close.
Looking forward to the ultimate mojo finding race of the year – Hellfire Cup in Tassie. If anyone is still in two minds about that one – send me note. Entries are still (kinda) open. Its well worth the trip.

See you on the trails somewhere.

The camaraderie in this sport has been one of the most pleasant surprises for the likes of me as a beginner. From the nods of acknowledgement from other riders as an impromptu convoy formed up heading out of Canberra on the way to Kowen, to the random chats on the course and with competitors after a race. Simply being out there on a bike was the only requirement for acceptance.

To be able to complete - if perhaps not feel the "competition"- that race, in that environment, with a good mate must have been great way to finish.

Well done on a hard earned Top 10!

PS - Yes I grabbed some air off the wooden thingy. As I was bout t go under it someone went over and I saw them take off so when it hove into view on the run home, I opened up a touch figuring (hoping) there would be a bit ramp to land on the other side. Fun!!

Well done Ants - and I agree to an extent - extended solo stints in a race make you question what it is about.

p.s. I was tempted to launch onto the backside of the bridge but did not trust hitting the berm at the bottom to hot.

Top 10 in a very strong field, well done. A great write up, and a great insight into the mental game that is such a big part of racing.

Well done, Ant. Can't imagine it's much fun loosing your drive, so it's good to hear it's coming back. A top 10 result is awesome.

And besides, who's going to give us the great write ups from the front of the field if you're not there! Laughing out loud

I felt exactly the same thing going through Sparrow Hill section, motivating yourself to keep pushing is hard when there's not a single other soul around so well done on cranking it out and pulling a top 10.

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