Heading down to Sri Lanka for two weeks of resting and racing the 4 day Rumble in the Jungle was a great wind down after the World 24HR Solo Championships in Italy early June. Capturing a dream I’d been chasing for quite some time created a high which I managed to ride through the tough 4 days of racing across the jungles and mountains of Sri Lanka to take the Victory. It was a nice redemption after coming up short in 2014 during my first attempt in this country which is as far away from Canada as I think you can go and interestingly produces 90% of the Worlds Cinnamon and some of the purest tea around.
The Rumble in the Jungle is put on by the same group of organizers as the Worlds Highest mountain bike race, The Yak Attack in Nepal. Both these races are pretty low key with 40-60 riders which creates a family atmosphere although the racing is some of the wildest adventures one can have on a bike as we cross some very remote areas of the World. Starting in the Southern Jungles of Sri Lanka where elephants and Leopards rome around, we soon climbed up 1500 M and spent the next 3 days riding in a pleasant climate under huge waterfalls, through spotless tea gardens and into the heart of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon) is often called the tear drop of India as its an island nation south of India. It’s a small country with 20 million inhabitants but is one of the most diverse places on earth, famed for its ancient Buddhist ruins, wildlife, beaches but most of all its welcoming locals which give the island a nice charm.
The race itself was harder then I was hoping for after racing the 24hr Worlds the week before as former UK National champion and double Olympian Nick Craig but the hammer down on day 1 taking the victory by nearly 8 minutes. It was a rough day for everyone as the 35 degree heat plus jungle humidity caused everyone to melt down pretty good. Twice on the 1.5 hr climb out of the Jungles I had to get off my bike to have a breather as the body was having a full meltdown. It was a rough couple hours but thats racing and sometimes you have to put your head down and push through it.
Stages 2 the body came back to life but I had a bunch of time to make up on GC. Sprinting off the line I gained a minute lead in the first 10 minutes of the race but would wreck a tire going over something sharp. Stopping 5-7 minutes to patch the tire and pop a tube in was a small hold up as I slowly sunk to the back of the race and now had a big gap to make up. Luckily the legs stayed on fire and after 20 minutes of going down one of the roughest descents I’ve ever done it was back to work to catch up to Nick. I’m lucky Nick is 47 years old and past his prime as he made it tough enough on me as I had to dig deep to eventually catch him mid race and subsequently put 8-9 minutes into him to erase the deficit from day 1.
Stage 3 started with a epic climb, first going under the highest free falling waterfall in Sri Lanka and slowly working our way up a rough cobbled path through the tea plantations, eventually topping out on the Hortons plateau at 2000 M. It’s one of the hardest and coolest climbs I’ve done with epic views over the jungles as the local villagers were out working the plantations looking at us in confusion. From here we ripped across the elephant habitat of the Hortons plateau, down a single track jungle descent then back up a nice climb over a secluded pass in the backwoods before dropping into the hill station of Nuwara Eliya for the night. It was tough racing but every night was spent in a nice hotel and we would cruise around town on our bikes after the stages to feel the culture nd look for our favourite street snack, egg hoppers. Hoppers are made from fermented rice flour and coconut milk and then cooked in a round pot to create crispy bowl like creation. Sometimes they crack an egg in the middle making it an egg hopper. Being a religious country it’s ok to eat hoppers anywhere but the egg hoppers are apparently dangerous to eat by a temple! You learn something new every day when your travelling the world
Stage 4 was a sweet way to finish the race with a 30 minute climb out of the gate before hitting a rolling descent for the next 40 km into Sri Lankas 2nd biggest city of Kandy. The diversity of the riding was awesome with everything from rough local paths, cobblestones, pavement and gravel mixed in as we’d skirt in and out of the jungle and through little villages. There is never a dull moment racing in Sri Lanka as every corner had a surprise around it. Post race we had a nice unwind with a traditional train trip back to Colombo for a banquet and some first class treatment from the races title sponsor Sri Lankan Airlines.
Heading back to Europe I had a 2 day layover in London and decided to ride around the city for the day. This 21st century city and capitol of the UK exceeded my expectations with its rich history stretching back to Roman Times, it also stretched my energy thin as I didn’t realize how damn big the city was to ride across! Being a curious traveller I opted to fly into Italy so I could have a drive across Switzerland to check out the country on the way to the Industrial city of Singen in southern Germany for the UCI Marathon World Champs. Switzerland looks alot like the Canadian Rockies although paying 9$ to fill my water bottle up with fizzy water at a gas station and seeing a burger cost 30-35$ I quickly put my wallet away
until crossing back out of there boarder and into reality again.
The UCI Marathon Worlds was a tough race as the course was 50% on pavement and the rest on hay fields or gravel roads going around hayfields. A Cross bike would’ve been perfect as the most technical part of the whole race were the barriers around the start finishing area which required a bit of maneuvering of the handlebars. Otherwise it was a road race, going up pitchy 2-6 minute climbs then bombing straight down hay fields as fast as you’d let your bike go. Somewhere along the line somebody forgot this was the Mountain bike Worlds and not Road worlds.
Getting called up 174 out of 188 meant I had some work to do to get up to the leaders as this race was all about position. Unfortunately right off the gun I got taken into the barriers and was in dead last place trying to chase onto the peloton as it roared 50-60 km/hr down the highway to the first climb. My 36T-11 chainring was fully spun out losing even more time on the peloton before it eventually hit a hill and I could start picking riders off. The next 1.5 hours was spent chasing groups down, recovering then trying to bridge across to the next group.
It was a form of island hopping as I worked my way up towards the top 60 but came up short trying to bridge across to a large group of 30 riders. Having ridden over my limit trying to get back to the front of the race I ran out of matches and started going backwards for the rest of the day. It was an experience to say the least and will certainly make me enjoy heading back to Canada to race on real mountain bike trails that much more! One of the intriguing things about MTB racing that keeps me going every year is the huge variety in courses we come across as it can make it seem like a whole different sport at times.
With the 24 HR Worlds being the season focus and coming so early in the year it through a wrench in the normal preps for the summer racing but it’s a new challenge to try and figure a solution too. I figure it’s all doable if you treat your body right and have the mental focus to deal with the little challenges along the way. The last 10 days were spent in Victoria visiting with family and trying some new recovery techniques to get the body back on line as there’s no time to rest right now. With the BC Bike Race starting tomorrow it’s time to kick start the system as there’s a title from last year to try and defend!