Mont24 2011 – TMCC goes bush

Recently the mountain bike division of the TMCC travelled to Kowan Forest just outside Queenbeyan for this years Mont 24 hour. The average rider who competes in a 24 hour race typically does so in a team of 4 or 6. The idea is that each team has one rider on the course at all times between 12 midday on the Saturday and 12 midday on the Sunday, laps ares done in a relay fashion.

At this years Mont 24, a sold out entrant list of 2800 tackled a 16km course sprawling through Kowen Forest. While mostly through thick pine forest, certain sections of the course traveled through open fire trail and more standard Aussie bush.

Undulating probably best describes the course. There were no big climbs, but it certainly wasn’t flat.

Being in a team of 4, with the average lap time of the group being an hour, your day goes something like the following:

  • Sit around wait for your 1st lap. Eat, drink.
  • Smash out your lap, feel great. Eat, drink.
  • Sit around the camp site having a yarn about your lap – while eating and drinking.
  • Realise times going faster than you’d thought – you’re up again for a lap!
  • Get your gear together, wait at the transition area for your teammate to come though, smash out your lap
  • REPEAT, possibly with some short broken sleep thrown in between 11pm and 5am.

The process, in theory, continues from 12 to 12, right through the night.

Day laps were hot and dusty. Each lap the track gets more and more chopped up, making it rougher and harder to find smooth lines. As a result of this new lines emerge cutting through corners and going around rocks or logs. Riders of similar speed group up and chat while tackling the course, while others save their breathe to quickly quip ‘track right when you can’ (I’d like to get past on the right when you feel its safe). Bottles that have bounced out of riders cages on rough sections litter the track, riders with punctures scramble to get their machine back and running without losing too much time, it all adds to the atmosphere of events like this.

From about 6pm onwards its time for night laps. While it can be tough getting motivated for night laps, especially the ones after midnight, once you’re out there, the adrenalin kicks in, and you’re having an amazing time. Once its time for lights the dust in the air becomes more like a fog,  each deep breathe you take makes you wonder what effect all the dust is having on your lungs.

With the night over, and everyone getting a bit more sleep than usual (hint: we decided sleep would be nicer than riding from 2-5am), the laps were once again ticking over. The renewed enthusiasm was quickly flattened by the concerning change in the weather. The wind was picking up, and it was starting to spit rain. The rain wasn’t too heavy so we decided to continue the laps.

In an event like this, unless you’re shooting for the podium, you end up racing more against yourself and your mates (in terms of lap times). So when the rain came in and dust turned to mud, especially this late, it’s a fairly simple decision to pack up. Not only so you don’t get completely covered in mud, but also so you don’t do unnecessary damage to the drivetrain of your bike. It can be fun riding in the mud, but in all seriousness it can be a costly exercise, and it also damages the trails. So it wasn’t that much of a surprise when no one showed up in the transition area to go out for the next lap as I had just completed mine.

The rain got worse, and the track suffered. This photo shows the increasingly muddy transition area.
(photo from ukalipt via flickr)

With our race over it was time to pack up the campsite and head home. Tired, dirty and just generally over it, packing up a tent in pouring rain was a lovely experience. A few hours later we arrived home, and with no motivation to clean stupidly muddy bikes or wash horrible smelling clothes, it was time to check out data from the weekend. A quick upload to Strava showed what was to be expected, elevation was a bit up and down, nothing too extreme, avg. heart rate was through the roof, was pushing hard so again – expected. Anyway it was all fairly uneventful until I saw the ‘1 matched segment’. One of Strava’s unique features is the ability to create what they call ‘segments’ which typically correlate to climbs. Once a segment is created if you upload a ride that goes over that segment, it will automatically add you to the list of riders who have completed it and rank you accordingly.

Anyway, this time the segment wasn’t so much a climb, it was the entire course or lap at this years Mont. So only a few hours after the last laps were being done you could upload your ride data and compare it to other riders who had been at the race, well before any official race results had been published. This of course assumes a decent number of riders are uploading to this site. While 17 out of 2500 odd really isn’t much, I think sites like this will continue to grow with the increased availability of cheapish GPS units, typically made by Garmin.

View the ‘Mont 2011 Course’ segment on Strava

To finish up, the photo below pretty clearly shows how diverse the entrants to these sort of races can be. On the left we have Craig Gordan of Rockstar Racing, an icon in Aussie MTB endurance racing, and part of the mens team of 4 who took out this years Mont (with 29 laps). On the right we have a character simply known as “Bear”. Some people don’t particularly like the idea of lycra, well Bear took it to the next level with the Speedo’s! These events are really all about having fun, and I’m quite sure Bear played his part in that. Bring on next year.

Thanks to Teathered Goat from Rotorburn for the two photos!