FIRST TO BREAK

Australian Mountain Bike - - Gravity Check - WORDS: CHRIS PANOZZO PHOTO: NICK WAYGOOD

It can be ob­vi­ous to see stand­ing track­side, it’s day one of a three-day event and peo­ple have started to throw them­selves down the hill. Ex­cite­ment lev­els have been steadily ris­ing dur­ing the past month with each lit­tle mile­stone only adding the to the an­tic­i­pa­tion. Mum, Dad (or part­ner) says yes, leave from work gets ap­proved af­ter the fol­low­ing con­ver­sa­tion with the boys “Yeah if they didn’t let me have time off I’d just quit”. Fur­ther group chats with the in­ten­tion of sort­ing out ac­com­mo­da­tion have quickly de­scended into chaos and fear, any­one brave enough to ask a se­ri­ous ques­tion in a not se­ri­ous en­vi­ron­ment is roasted within sec­onds no mat­ter the time, place or con­tent. By the time it comes to pack­ing the car, ev­ery­one has a mix of ex­cite­ment and re­lief that the day has fi­nally come, pranks have al­ready be­gun and there is fi­nally a sense of ur­gency that the only thing be­tween get­ting away on a week­end of ad­ven­tures and rac­ing is our own pro­cras­ti­na­tion. From this point on­wards it can be dif­fi­cult to keep on top of your en­ergy lev­els, which is why we nor­mally see most of the in­juries at races hap­pen within the first few hours as ev­ery­one tries to get up to speed just a bit too quickly. Time adds pres­sure, re­gard­less of who you are or what you might do for a liv­ing, it’s in­evitable you have suf­fered time con­straints in many as­pects of your life be­fore chal­leng­ing your­self in a bike race. It can be hard once you turn on race face to hold your­self back, some of us are like bulls to a red flag when we leave the start gate, even dur­ing prac­tice. Now in the lead up to Aus­tralia’s Na­tional Down­hill Se­ries and Cham­pi­onships it’s the per­fect time to at­tempt some form of preevent calm­ing rit­u­als for ev­ery­one that hasn’t yet felt the pain and hu­mil­i­a­tion of ly­ing next to the track with a bro­ken body on day one. It is funny that we turn time con­straints dur­ing ev­ery­day life into a dooms­day clock count­ing down to zero, even the morn­ing rush to work or school feels like the count­down se­quence be­fore NASA used to launch the Space Shut­tle. Stand­ing track­side on a Down­hill or En­duro stage dur­ing prac­tice you can feel the same level of ten­sion in the air as rid­ers at­tempt to win prac­tice and take brag­ging rights home with them for the evening. Nearly all the rid­ers look like they are rid­ing like they are late to a party, what they fail to re­alise is the party they’re rush­ing to get too is al­ready hap­pen­ing around them. Ev­ery­one has been guilty of it, and rec­og­niz­ing you are do­ing it can be just as hard as al­ter­ing it. I’m sure you might be dis­agree­ing with me at this point, think­ing that you are fully aware you are part of the party as you are rac­ing down the hill, hav­ing gone through all the or­gan­is­ing and travel to get there, but your ac­tions speak louder than words. The first day or two of prac­tice ev­ery­thing looks very rushed and forced, rid­ers even speak in terms of sav­ing time through line choice or ped­alling, it’s like they are al­ready be­hind be­fore they be­gin and are look­ing to get back ahead. It’s nor­mally fa­tigue and fit­ness that goes be­fore poor line choice, or lack of prac­tice dur­ing a race week­end. A run spent study­ing the course in de­tail to learn how it develops is worth three times as much as another at­tempt at a fast run early in the week­end. It be­comes im­pos­si­ble to men­tally build up to your race run if you have been peak­ing 3 days out. Switch­ing off is just as im­por­tant as switch­ing on and build­ing up speed over a week­end is much more crit­i­cal to the fi­nal re­sult than full noise on the first day, it will also mean you get there with­out hav­ing to make an un­ex­pected trip to the Emer­gency Room, and that for many will likely re­sult in another yes next time you go ask­ing Mum for per­mis­sion for a week­end away rac­ing.

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