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My first "real "race.

Pyrate's picture

By Pyrate - Posted on 07 September 2014

NB: Originally posted elsewhere on the Global Riders Network and appears via syndication.
Re: This ride meeting: 
Wollombi Wild Ride 2014
Position (Overall): 
Position (Category): 


I got on a bike 4 months ago knowing nothing of the sport or anyone in my group of friends and acquaintances who rides. I basically wanted to drop kegs and get fit and was very quickly surprised how much I thoroughly enjoy getting out for a ride when work and family allowed it.

My inner competitive streak was tweaked when I realised how much racing has a part to play in all this, and so I had been looking for a pathway into racing that wasn't going to flog me, whilst still allowing me an opportunity to get a taste of racing.

I rode the Woodford to Glenbrook Classic after only a week or two on the bike earlier in the year, but saw that more as a "fun ride" than a race, so when I spotted the Wollombi Wild Ride I saw this as an good entry to "real" racing as I was going to find. I kept my goals realistic and aimed for the 30km event.

As has been mentioned in many other posts, it is entirely dirt road and fire trail with a massive hill section so in preparation for this I was riding Terrey Hills, Cascades and some Hunter Valley trails as much as possible.

Over the past few weeks I saw some constant improvement in my times, general fitness and recovery and so coming into the race I thought a middle of the pack finish would be about right. Last years times suggested a mark of an hour and a half would do that and so decided I would be happy with anywhere between that mark and a 1:45, considering it was my first race ever.

A distinct lack of riding due to rain over the last couple of weeks, combined with my missus and two boys coming down with some bug the night before resulting in only about 3 hours sleep, meant my confidence on achieving my time was tempered somewhat, but the surprising lack of rain at Wollombi - despite driving through constant, heavy rain all the way from Sydney - helped me get pumped on arrival.

I moved down to the starting area for the pre-race briefing and stayed towards the back of the group for the start as I didn't really think I would be all that fast. The guns goes, the contenders take off and the rest of us start shuffling over the timing gate.

Pretty quickly after getting up and running, I am passing people rapidly. At first I thought maybe nerves have got the better of me and I was going too hard, but I was feeling very much within myself at the time and so kept at that pace.

I swapped positions with a younger bloke all along the first few kilometers or so, passing people the whole way, when he dropped me on the first little ramp. I had been forced to un-clip here as the combination of all the 60K-ers and the bunch in front had turned this short uphill into a quagmire and my tyres (Geax Sagurros)were not up to the task.

At the top of that ramp, I was shamed by the guys on the tandem passing a few of us to much encouragement.

I kept passing people on the next section along the bottom before hitting the climb. I had asked for some advice from NobMobbers prior to this race - jp wasn't lying when he said it was a monster and most people walked it. My plan before seeing this hill was to try and climb a much as I could and walk the worst bits to save my legs a little for a big effort on the flat run back.

The mass of people in front of me when I got to the foot of the climb meant that I had little choice but to un-clip then and there and start pushing. I quickly caught up with the young bloke I had been swapping with earlier and kept on up the hill, riding it when I could.

By half way up riders were much more strung out and I was able to ride far more, but must admit that a combined lack of fitness and, at times, grip on the very loose or muddy surface meant I still walked a couple more sections.

Once at the top though, I pinned my ears back and kept on passing people from about the 12Km mark all the way back. This started by dropping the last few guys I had been riding with with on the big downhill. Considering my weight, I did have gravity on my side, but I put a gap on about three blokes as quick as blink and never saw them again until after the finish.

At the bottom of that descent, I realised I was on track to make my target time and so, got stuck in on the very picturesque run back to the finish and passed another 5 or 6 people. I must admit, it is a pretty intoxicating feeling seeing a rider ahead and thinking to yourself "I am going to get them" and then successfully chase them down - more please!

One of the most memorable things of the day though was being passed by a few of the the leaders of the 60km race. In particular, I recall the three riders working together that tristania described in his blog (in fact, I think Tristan passed me in his pursuit of that group. Tristan, if it was you, you called "Passing Right" or something similar which I swear I heard as "Stay Right" - so I did - sorry for that!).

The humming, whirring sound of those three guys zipping along a tacky, muddy road as they sped past was awesome. Indeed, it was both humbling and inspirational to see what the really good riders can do.

Anyways, my GPS said I had about 3 kms to go, but my eyes told me that I could see the last bend before the little downhill to the finish. My goal was looking even more achievable, I was feeling good and so I gave it everything over the last section to finish with a time I am really happy with.

At 1 Hr 32 Mins, I was in the top third of the finishers overall and in the top half for my Category (Veterans) which was more than I thought I could achieve. It has just left me hungry for more and I have a couple of things in mind. Not going to be able to do the Kowalski and not sure the Fling is a good "next step".

Thinking the Husky in December has a nice flat introduction to a 50km event - but who knows...

jp's picture

Well done James, you've got the bug now so there's no turning back! It sounds to me like you've got the base fitness and there's plenty of time to prepare, so the a Half Fling would be a perfect next step. Just be sure to include a few 60km rides with about 1100m of climbing in your preparation and you'll be fine. It's a great event with an amazing atmosphere.


andyfev's picture

Congrats and nice write up too. The MTB bug is awesome and you appear to be well and truly indulged. Shame you can't make the Kowalski but like JP said if you can prepare for the fling you'll be fine. Word of warning though is if you don't the fling will be a real tough day.

I did my first half fling last year, which is about 57km and a bucket load of hard gruelling climbs. You'll also need a decent set of tyres especially if it's wet. I didn't really prepare properly last year and I got beat real bad. So much so I was mentally writing out my gumtree ad to sell my bike.

Fortunately, I learnt a lot from that experience and so put a better training plan in action for Capital Punishment and although a very different set of trails had the opposite experience. Loved it and finished strong. Capital Punishment has to be on your list of list do's.

Congrats once again on an awesome result.

hawkeye's picture

Andy, that sounds just like my experience last year too. 4 weeks of base training does not an adequate preparation make.

So I'm starting earlier this year.

Tip for the Fling: all the harder stuff comes in the last 15km. Take it easy and don't burn all your matches in the first 40 like I did.

andyfev's picture

@Hawkeye, my matches were well and truly burnt by 30km. I also had a "swim" in one of the crossings early on so was drenched too Sad

Antsonline's picture

Well done. What a great write-up too - I LOVE reading how people find the sport and what their race experiences are like.
We have all been there - first race nerves, big blow up, hating it for a bit, but then loving it. Great stuff.

1/2 Fling is a great race. Some hills at the end, sure, but none that are anything like the one at the beginning of Wollombi - its just that they come at the back end of the race, when you are a bit more tired.

Husky is a good race too - not too hilly, with some good singletrack as well.
As people have mentioned, Capital Punishment is a cracker of a race too.

Dont worry too much about perfect training or fitness - just riding your bike is enough. You are new to the sport, and your fitness will be building every day you ride, so just getting out there and getting amongst it will be fine.

Pyrate's picture

Thanks Everybody for your kind words of encouragement.

I'll admit I am coming round to targeting the Half Fling, as December seems too far away all of a sudden! Also, Wingello and Penrose are well known to me from a few years of camping and orienteering down that way in my youth - seems only fitting I should re-visit the area.

Thinking more about my experience on the weekend I'll back myself a bit more next race and a move closer to the front of the bunch next start. Also, I think a "horses for courses" approach to tyre selection is warranted.

I've only ever ridden on the Geax Sagurros that came with the bike so know no better. They are marketed as an all-rounder, favoring drier conditions, but I have noticed that they seem loose on anything but hard packed. Any suggestions on a "grippier" tyre? Its not that they are hopeless, but just wondering whether there are better tyre choices out there.

andyfev's picture

Could also be your tyre psi is too high. The more inflation the less grip. With tubes inside the tyre I would run between 30-35 in the rear and 25-30 in the front. With tubeless psi can be reduced even further.

Worth checking before you splash out on new tyres

Tristania's picture

I'm glad to see someone finishing in the top third who has only been into it for a matter of months so the future will be looking brighter as you gain experience. As Anthony was saying, having training that is more specific/structured is great, but at your level, it's just about spending time on the bike, trying out different tracks and simply enjoying it is all you really need to improve massively. Note that the 'Fling will integrate a lot of different types of terrain, some technical and others not so, which will be a perfect test of what you are good at - be it climbing, singletrack, descending or long flat sections - and then try to perfect it in subsequent events.

If I was about 100m behind the group of 3, yes that was me. I think I was too focussed on catching up to notice whether anyone actually moved, but I don't recall anyone getting in my way so it's all good. You'll find that it's the same deal in the second half of the 'Fling with the top of the Full overtaking you, so make sure you're ready for that particularly in the ST sections.

Well done, and I know it inspires many others to write up your account of a race, as it inspires other novices to give it a go but at the same time reminds faster riders why we do this in the first place!


Pete B's picture

There are a million threads on here and the net relating to tyre combos and everyone has a different opinion. Best to try a few and see which you prefer, if someone is selling a cheap tyre on here, buy it. You might not need it but it's always good to have options and try something different.

Personally, I'm running a Maxxis Ardent race up front and a Maxxis Crossmark on the rear but I'm a Maxxis fan as they seem to wear well and are easy to mount other will say otherwise.

Something a bit chunky with a bit of side tread at the front and a fast rolling rear tyre is generally regarded to be the best setup for Sydney trails. Manufacturer and model are personal preference.

hawkeye's picture

Saguaros are surprisingly good. The 2.1s I had were excellent, the only thing lacking was the bigger bag size a 2.25 provides, and tubeless capabilities. If they'd had those, I'd have kept them.

Tubeless makes a big difference to traction and confidence and it's easy to do. Something to think about before the Fling. Smiling

Pyrate's picture


Yes, PSI is something I have been attending to. In fact, I had the back on about 35 ( Im not light for my height so need the extra air on the back) and the front on 28.

I have seen a marked improvement in dry conditions with the PSI at those levels, particularly the front wheel.

Pyrate's picture


yes - further to my reply to Andy, I had been playing around with PSI's and saw improvements at lower levels - particularly on the front. The tubeless option certainly popped up but, as you say, the Sagurros are not tubeless friendly.

To that end - what tubeless ready tyres would you recommend?

Tristania's picture

I currently use Bontrager, partially because I won some at Capital Punishment, but also I find them reasonably priced and they do the job well. I'm no expert, but I've found they last longer than Racing Ralph.

Pyrate's picture

You were definitely moving up on that group when you came past me - sorry you didn't catch them.

As for training, as you say it really is just getting out on my bike and seeing if I can go harder/faster over various sections, but also trying out new trails where and when ever I can. I travel to the Hunter Valley regularly and am super keen to give Awaba in particular a run - maybe even this week if the rain holds off.

I suspect that practicing being overtaken is something I will get a lot of.....

Pyrate's picture

Sound advice on the climb - I already have a goal to conquer it next year!

hawkeye's picture

Assuming you are on a 29er, I'm currently running Rubena Scylla (R) and Kratos (F) in the Greyline Tubeless Supras, and liking them. A lot. Review coming up on Bicycles Network Australia shortly.

The other I've used and rate highly are the Schwalbe Rocket Ron (F) and Racing Ralph (R) in teh Snakeskin version. (Don't put a RaRa on the front, though. They suck at being a front.)

Both brands 29x2.25.

Other popular combos are from Maxxis: Ignitor Front and Crossmark Rear, Ardent Front and Ikon rear.

It annoys me that they don't make a 29x2.25 or 2.35 Ignitor front. That is a great tyre on a 26er.

pancakes's picture

FYI, I'm >100kg kitted up and have been running 23 f, 28 r on my rigid SS for the last year and that's with tubes (got new wheels so going tubeless now). Had a total of 1 flat on that bike and that's because I was running a bit low on the rear and hit a square edge embedded rock. That's on a 29er, btw, and they're 2.1 width.

I'd lose some pressure if I was you. Eye-wink

Then go tubeless...and lose more pressure. Eye-winkEye-wink

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