I’ll readily admit that there is still a lot of 2014 left to go. About 10% of it actually. And living in Sydney, Australia, means that it’s actually one of the best times of the year to ride right now. But after the Crocodile Trophy, a few easy weeks have been very much enjoyed, and provided time to reflect on 2014, and look at my own year in numbers. 1 to 10, here are some memories and numbers from 2014.
Race win. This is actually pretty good for me. As a mid (and dropping) level elite marathon racer, wins are few and far between. So I was really happy to win the overall title at Easter in the Alice this year. The course selection was brilliant, the trails in Alice Springs are a blast to ride, some of the best natural singletrack in the country. And the event vibe was very low key, but well run. I can’t wait to go back in 2015, although as one stage will be part of the MTBA National XCM Series I expect the quality of the field will swamp me!
Bikes. I sort of had two mountain bikes to use last year, but often had one leant out to another team member in 2013 – or lost with a courier company! So I was really happy to have two brilliant Bianchi Methanol bikes to use through 2014. One Methanol 29 SL hardtail, and a 29FS dual suspension bike. Both bikes were super reliable all year, and it let me choose the right bike for each race. Or at least I usually thought I had the right one. I could have easily taken my Methanol 29 FS to Europe for the Sudety MTB Challenge, but that’s something to remember for next time.
Stage race finishes. With a DNF at Port to Port as I neglected to fit new tyres (and put a huge gash in my rear tyre within the first km of stage 4), 2014 turned out to be a year with fewer stage races in it than years past. I ended up finishing Easter in the Alice (as above), Sudety MTB Challenge, and the Crocodile Trophy. Now typing them, I can see that each one is harder than the one that precedes it – but I could also say that each one delivers far more than you would expect. Every single race day of those three stage races pushed me to the limit in one way or the other. Be it remember how to race at night in Alice Springs, staying upright in technical, wet, muddy chutes in Polish pine forest, or holding onto a wheel through outback singletrack while redlining at the Crocodile Trophy. Every race was different, and each one I would happily do again.
Pairs of carbon wheels that I’ve used this year. That’s a lot, right? Well I share wheels with Imogen Smith out of our service course, so all of a sudden it’s not ridiculous. But I’ve ridden ENVEs built to Hope hubs this year, TWE carbon wheels, Kappius Wheels and Stan’s ZTR Valor wheels. But it’s the last two that do frequent time on any bike. The ENVEs are just too stiff and a bit heavy (due to the spoke/hub choice as much as anything else) and the TWE wheels could use a better hub and wider rim (and new models probably have both). But the Kappius and ZTR wheels are light, compliant, easy to service (for bearings and spokes) and easy to inflate tubeless.
Chains. Across both mountain bikes I have probably only used five chains this year. That’s probably not enough, and I’d say I need to get a new one onto my Methanol FS after the Crocodile Trophy. But with a mix of Shimano XT and XTR 10 speed chains, I’ve managed to race, soft pedal, train and cruise around three states, two territories, and about seven countries. None of them broke.
Strava KOMs. Not many, is it? My profile says nine this year, but it looks like two must have been when leaving my Magellan on after a ride. No one takes a KOM off Tom Patton on Forest Way. So if I look at the other seven, most are pretty random sections that aren’t frequented often – like thc climb up Sheperds Gully at Wiseman’s Ferry, or a climb out in the Pilot Wilderness in the NSW Snowy Mountains. No HC climb KOMs achieved in Europe this year. It’s not 2012 anymore!
Maxxis tyres. It’s taken some counting, but I think I used eight Maxxis tyres to their death this year. I’ve still got plenty of them on other wheels, but I used 5 Maxxis Ikon EXO tyres, 1 EXC Ikon and two Ardent Race EXO tyres. I also used a fair bit of Stan’s sealant to keep them inflated. And save for going to Port to Port on old tyres, I barely needed the sealant. The biggest change here was swapping to running an Ardent Race on the front and Ikon on the back, as opposed to just Ikons previously. It’s a great combination that’s taken me through Poland and Switzerland, to the Crocodile Trophy, and back to my local trails again.
Trips to Sydney Airport. It was too many really, mainly because four of those were all in April for the Real Insurance XCM Series and for Easter in the Alice. That was a busy month. I’ve had a lot of time packing up bikes and kit this year – and although it does get easier, it still takes a toll – such as needing to hang the bike up in early November! Travel can be just as tiring, or more so, than racing. And having to do it for a combination of work, travel and sport means that it can add up to be a lot. That’s not many trips to the airport compared to those that travel extensively for work – but when you consider lugging bike bags and gear bags each time, along with long term parking, time zone changes, and usually fairly long drives at the other end – it can hurt.
Individual socks. I ended up investing pretty heavily in some Pearl Izumi Elite Wool Tall socks. I’ve got five pairs now. They’re comfortable, wash well, have the right height, and match everything. I don’t need to worry about mixing my plaid socks with chequered kit, or whether the fluoro in my socks doesn’t work with the decals on my frame. They’re just badass black, have plenty of height, and have been exactly what I’ve needed from a frozen start at the Grand Raid, through to hot days at the Crocodile Trophy. Wool is where it’s at.
And so 2015 is on the horizon. In terms of dates, it’s a long way away. But that’s where my mind is. I’m aiming to reset habits for training, eating, and work – to make sure I’m getting the most out of my time. But I’m also preparing to make sure MarathonMTB.com serves it’s purpose for you as best as possible for next year. Our calendar will be updated for 2015 shortly, and the content coming in is going to give you brilliant insight into what we all think are the coolest marathon and stage races around the globe.