Thursday, May 17, 2012

24 Hour Solo World Champs - Trail Talk

So I have been here in Finale Ligure for a week now. 24 Hour Solo World Champs is this Saturday and I have had the pleasure of the company of a number of local riders over the last week. The cool thing about this is that they were able to show me the course nice and early, before it was marked (except for the additional solo loop, which made itself known yesterday). Thanks to Matteo, Bobby, Ambro and Marco for their "local knowledge". It has been so convenient for my preparation to be able to pre-ride the course nice and early... It means that now, I can relax and give my legs some time to chill before the main event!

My first day out riding was last Thursday, and after some intel from my newly-found buddies at The Ultimate Bike Shop (who are doing the large majority of the trail work for the race), I managed to find my way around about a third of the race course. I remember my initial impressions had little to do with the course and more to do with the stunning views. On a number of occasions now, I have said to people "sunset and sunrise are going to be very special times on this course". Further exploration and a group ride the following day with Bobby gave me the full "classic" loop. When the Aussies arrived for the race, I took great pleasure in giving them a tour of the course, including the wicked trail that took us back to Finale. Travelling by myself, it was so nice to share the love and the experience with some other people. They've nicknamed me "the local" (and I secretly love it!). I feel like a local... I speak Italian whenever we go out, cars stop in the middle of the road to have a conversation when I see someone I know in town, I cruise around town on my bike in jandals with no helmet, quite happily allowing the traffic to buzz around me without being abused (I will get myself killed riding on the road like that back in NZ!), riding on the left side of the road feels weird and completely wrong to me now, and I just feel so welcome and comfortable here in general. Finale is a very special place.

The "classic" loop, which is used for the teams edition of 24 hours of Finale is about 12km long and the additional "solo" loop is approximately another 6km long. Apart from the stunning views, the course it great fun. It is technical enough to be interesting, but not too technical to slow the course down. The tracks are super fast, but definately demand a level of concentration and respect. A wrong move at speed when you are tired could have some pretty dire consequences. There is a lot of the loose rock I have been riding over Europe for the last month or so, laid over a bed of (sometimes quite sharp) bed rock, and I feel pretty comfortable with that. It is easy to see that it is going to get very dusty if it stays dry. The forecast rain for Friday could be a blessing if we get it.

There isn't a great deal of climbing in the course... Maybe about 550m per lap. The climbs are pretty steep, but generally short, and have very little traction... I will need to get my running legs on for a couple of these towards the end of the race, I reckon! Having said that, in comparison to the monster climbs I have been faced with in Cape Epic and in my riding over the last month, they are absolutely nothing to worry about... Short bursts of pain rewarded with some delightful descents on which the legs can recover (i say legs because the arms are going to be doing quite a bit of work down these descents!).

I must say that any hopes we had of the additional solo loop being a little more forgiving than the classic loop were dashed pretty quickly once I started to make my way around yesterday. The climbs in this section are decidedly more brutal (I think I measured about 200m of climbing over the 6km!) And a couple of the descents really require you to be on your game. I must say that probably the most memorable view I have seen on the course is from this loop... You ascend up a nice little rocky plateau, and as you crest the climb, the horizon greets you and lays the sea out in front of you where you were totally not expecting it. I think it will be one of my favorite parts of the course over the race.

The course is in a figure of 8 format, which means we pass through the pits twice each lap and can feed twice each lap, which is very convenient. Seeing your crew twice each lap can be very uplifting, too. Overall, I really like the course. There is nothing on it that makes me nervous or that I am concerned about, which is a load off my mind. I must say, I do like Jess' thoughts on it though. It is what it is and we all have to ride the same course. Very true. I'm pretty pumped for Saturday and really keen to just get into it. I will try for one or two more posts before the race and then you can follow live updates at We start at 1pm on Saturday (11pm NZ time) and finish at the same time Sunday.

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