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Cyborg’s Quest for the Holy Trail

31 October 2015

31 October 2015

Cyborg’s Quest for the Holy Trail

Legend has it that far out on the mountain, in the deepest, darkest part of the night, a rider will become one with his bike and the trail turns into a magic carpet, carrying them onto enlightenment and nirvana. To some, 24 hour racing is completely insane – a brutal punishment of mind and body, combined with tortuous sleep-deprivation over a prolonged period of time. To others, it is the holy grail of mountain biking; another frontier to discover and explore; a journey rather than a race - a bold adventure to find limits and boundaries, and carve around them like any other berm on the track.

At every step, at every turn, the 2015 Scott 24 hour turned more and more from the Cyborg’s usual “Let’s have a punt” fair to the realms of epic quest.

It started with the training. Yes – training. Believe it or not, the Cyborg was actually preparing for this event and taking it seriously. So he formed a group of regular riders, his own Knights of the Round Wheel, who headed out every Thursday night and Sunday morning for longer rides. The group had disparate abilities, but they did keep him on his bike for a few hours both days, which was good (if not, structured) training. And during these sessions, he tested his nutrition options which, as it turns out, would be quite different to doing a marathon-style race.

Then he undertook the Stromlo event in the Rocky Trail 7Hr series, because that was a lap-based race. There he learnt more about race nutrition, and (towards the end of the day) the value of support crews. Even more importantly, it was about this time (maybe a month before the race) that the Cyborg wound up reading the race rules.

No quest is completed alone. Every quest has a group. Frodo had the Fellowship. Arthur had his knights. Now the Cyborg needed his staunch allies - the rules dictating a dedicated support crew for the 24 hours of the race. Fortunately, he is a TriHard, and TriHards are never short of supporters! Several TriHards, and new round wheel knights answered his rallying cry, and generously volunteered their time on that sunny Canberran weekend.

Quests are all about tests. And the Cyborg was to face yet another race morning. It seemed the heavens had heard his Knights of the Round Table analogy and took note that the battered old TriHards orange marquee was in fact square. Overnight the wind gathered, gales blew, and by the time the Cyborg returned to his campsite the shattered marquee lay across the ground. Fortunately, he had a bigger, rounder one which was hurriedly erected in the heat prior to the race. At least it served as a good warm up.

Collapsed marquee
Does that look like someone just reached out and crushed it?

Camelot was thus defended from the elements, and provisioned with food according to the Cyborg’s carefully considered nutrition strategy, which fed into his race plan. That’s right, he’d trained for the event AND he had a plan. A flexible plan, but a plan nonetheless. On his back he would carry his tried and proven Infinit nutrition mix. This had served him well throughout many a marathon. But it wasn’t enough, because sooner or later the stomach would growl. And a growling stomach is satiated by solids, not liquids. So, the Cyborg had a dozen vegemite rolls – with a view to having one every second lap.

Stocked, prepared and ready, once Junior turned up all there was left to do was to race or – in the Cyborg’s case – ride.

Campsite stocked and ready to go.

The first lap was relatively uneventful until about halfway through, by which time the whippets from the 6+6 and teams categories began to fly through. Being well aware of the effort before him, the Cyborg was quite happy to take a little spell on the side of the track whilst waiting for faster riders to pass.

The second lap was slightly more exciting when, about half way up, the Cyborg found a young Galahad being cared for by a medical maiden. He’d come off his bike, and it looked as though he may have broken his arm. Fortunately, the medic had it all under control, but the Cyborg assisted in the walk back down should prove too much for hero rider. Though, in truth, he looked as though he would be lighter than the pack on the Cyborg’s back!

Two laps down, and the Cyborg was more or less sticking to his plan. In another unfortunate mishap, he’d put his neck out earlier in the week - only being approved by the physio to continue with the race that morning - on the condition the Cyborg would stop immediately upon feeling any pain. Therefore, to improve his chances of lasting the night, every lap the Cyborg would stop and use the foam roller on his back and neck to work out any kinks. And this turned out to be a great strategy - as he was getting a little rest each lap, and no sore spots!

But he didn’t stick to his plan about the vegemite rolls. Which may have been a mistake. Sure, sure, he had one at his third lap. But that may have been a little late. By lap five, once more climbing up the hill, the Cyborg was once more thinking about food. Solid food. Naturally, his mind drifted to pizza.

Now, everyone knows that a quest is about focus. It’s about determination, sticking to your principles. And, most of all, resisting temptation. There’s always temptation. The serpent tempting Eve with the apple, Morgana tempting Arthur and for the Cyborg, it was pizza. He struggled through the remaining climb, thinking of nice, warm pizza. He held on for dear life as the SuperFly carried him back down faster than he was comfortable with and, as soon as he reached the bottom, the Cyborg caved.

The bike was abandoned in Camelot, and the Cyborg headed out at full-foot speed to the food van, where pizza could be found. Here he discovered there were three sorts of pizza on offer! Being far too tired to make a decision, the Cyborg grabbed a piece of each flavour - except the vegetarian - that may have some level of fibre in it, after all!

To limit the damage from such a big departure from his nutrition and racing plan, the Cyborg elected to sit around for a good 45 minutes after eating the pizza, just to ensure everything settled. So it was close to 8:00 at night when he headed out again on another lap. A lap that didn’t go well at all.

If there’s one lesson we’ve all learnt from legendary tales and, more recently, movies it’s that if you give in to temptation, if you stray off the path on your quest, there will be repercussions. You must seek redemption. For the Cyborg the penalty came in the form of those two wonderful, tasty slices of pizza mixing with coke to become some form of concrete in his gut! He spent most of the climb pondering whether or not to get off the bike and expel said indiscretion from his body - yet holding onto it anyway.

The next lap proved to be even more arduous - save that the pain in his belly was becoming so distracting, the Cyborg- on trails that he knew well, that he’d ridden time and time again both at night and during the day-was missing turns and running into rocks. Moreso than usual. It wasn’t working. The mountain demanded penance. It was time for redemption. Time to seek isolation and ponder his wicked ways. Which he did. In his tent, with his pillow.

Sunrise in Canberra
A fine morning for a ride!

By the time morning came the Cyborg’s guts had done their work and, boosted by coffee, it was time for another lap. But the mountain had not yet forgiven him. After all the climbing, on a trail called Tall Trees - which was the start of the fun stuff for the descent - a rock jumped out and attacked the Cyborg’s front tyre, which was flat almost instantly.

He’d suffered a similar fate relatively recently, and had even refreshed the sealant before the race. But the gash was too big, and sealant streamed out. After waiting a few minutes in the vain hope it would seal, the Cyborg resorted to putting in a tube (his last tube - after giving one away to a fellow rider the previous day!) But the tubeless tyre would not bead properly using just the small pump, so the Cyborg wobbled back to base...

Fortunately, in a pro move, the Cyborg had brought a second bike along for the quest! His Giant hard tail. Not as comfortable, and probably not the bike you’d normally want to ride at the end of a 24 hour race, but ultimately the Cyborg was very well rested, so headed out on the hard tail.

Two mountain bikes.
The Cyborg had a stable!

And before long, he found another solo rider, the Fisher King. He’d been riding for the full 24 hours, only to be cut off by a rushing 6er on the previous lap, resulting in a nasty fall into rocks. The poor rider had thought he’d be okay heading out for another lap, but wasn’t in very good shape at all. So, the Cyborg rode his last lap slowly with the Fisher King to keep him company, having a nice, relaxed lap and good conversation on the way. Ultimately, however, even a busted up, tired rider is faster downhill than the Cyborg, and the King pulled away on the way down.

It was on this, his very last lap, that the Cyborg (10 laps) beat the world champion, Jason English (35 laps) over the finish line, which has to count for some boasting rights. Well, except when you consider that Jason then headed out for another lap...

While the quest was ultimately unsuccessful, due to the Cyborg breaking the most important rule of any event: Stick to the Plan. And, despite a little suffering, he did have a lot of fun.

We’d like to thank CORC for putting on the event (and teaching the Cyborg that he can, in fact, ride without music), the many, many volunteers who make the event happen, and everyone who helped out supporting the Cyborg in his quest, without whom he wouldn’t even made it to the start! And, of course, the Knights of the Round Cycle for helping the Cyborg train over the past months.