Lover of the long haul
DARKNESS, quiet roads and peace from the daily hustle and bustle. The Sunshine Coast is a different place at 2am.
Most people are tucked in bed or just returning home from late nights out, but 59-year-old Peter Bigaila is usually just getting started.
During peak training periods he’ll climb aboard his mountain bike and cover 300–350km in one session.
That drive and determination is what has taken him to a 24-hour enduro world championship age group victory and a swag of other titles.
His latest was achieved near Newcastle last month in the Jet-Black 24Hr at Awaba MTB in the Olney State Forest.
He finished third overall and first in the 50–59 men after completing 28 laps of the 10km loop (which included 200m of vertical each circuit) in the allotted 24 hours – that was 13 laps ahead of second place in his age group.
Last February, Peter claimed the 55–59 world title at Rotorua, New Zealand, where he was also 30th male overall.
From there the self-employed carpenter went on to win the Merida 24Hr event at Hidden Vale, where he won the elite category by a lap.
The format is simple: 24 hours to ride as many laps of the designated course as possible.
Riders can rest for as long as they like, but those who take prolonged breaks have little chance of winning.
“You always get tough patches in a race. You have to expect at least one or two laps where you don’t feel so good and want to stop. But then you get another wind and away you go again,” Peter said.
“It’s the same for everyone because it’s a long time out on the bike. You don’t know when it is going to hit you, but it usually hits me somewhere between 18 and 20 hours when I get a really flat feeling.”
During preparations for a
24-hour race Peter will get serious for a focussed 12-week stint.
Aboard his Giant Anthem in training, and a BMC Fourstroke in races, he’ll cover between 600–700km a week – with an average speed of 4.5 hours per 100km with a combination of road and trail riding.
“Most weeks I train five days a week and have two days off,” Peter said.
“During the week I try and do between 100 and 125km every ride. Which is all hilly. I go around the back of Mapleton and Maleny.
“Saturday is usually a long ride, and they start out from 130 to 160 and I build all the way up two weeks out from a race to anywhere up to 300 to 350km.
“Sunday is a easy day which is about 80 or 90km ride.
“I figure I’m racing on a mountain bike, I may as well train on a mountain bike.
“I incorporate a fair bit on the road to where there are bush trails.
“If I was doing a 250km ride, I’d go from here (Maroochydore) to Wooroi, do 30–40km in there, head back out on the road to Cooroy, Eumundi, go out the back toward Kenilworth and up through the dirt roads through Obi Obi and drop back down into Nambour and maybe do a couple of laps of Parklands and head home.
“I’ll have an idea of what I want to do when I head out, but the plan can change depending on where I feel like going.”
Riding bikes has been a part of Peter’s life since he was a schoolboy. Originally on a road bike, he was about to pursue racing opportunities in Europe as a youngster before falling in love, having a family, and staying in Australia.
He later started triathlon while throwing some mountain biking in the training mix, but a plantar fasciitis injury from running saw him abandon the tri-sport about 15 years ago in favour of riding.
Wife Donna is also a keen rider (but not quite as enthusiastic as Peter), and their children are also cyclists.
“You get out in the bush and you are away from the cars among the trees. It’s nice and peaceful, it’s just great,” Peter said.
“It’s a bit of a challenge too. You go on the road and you are just following a white line, but go out in the bush and it’s up and down, sand, hills and singletrack.
“Compared to a riding on the road, it’s like apples and oranges.
“It takes a a few years to get your skill level up but it’s great fun.”
The training load will build again as he prepares for the next Hidden Vale event on April 8–9.
Then six weeks after he will look to defend his world championship crown in Italy from June 2–3.
The race will be staged at Finale Ligure, which is in the centre of the Italian Riviera, between the green of the mountains and the blue of the Mediterranean Sea.
The secret to staying fit and healthy? Peter keeps it simple with a good diet of fruit, vegetables and meat.
“You have to eat really well. You have to put the right fuel into your body,” Peter said.
“Lots of rest, the rest is key to training... if you don’t recover you start going backwards. If you are feeling a bit tired one week you just need to back off a little bit.
“I know my body and I cater each week how I am feeling and how I am going.”
Maroochydore mountain biker Peter Bigaila.