Emma Rhymer | WEMBO ASIA PACIFIC CHAMPIONSHIPS & AUSTRALIAN TITLES – ARMIDALE 2019
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WEMBO ASIA PACIFIC CHAMPIONSHIPS & AUSTRALIAN TITLES – ARMIDALE 2019

As my muscle aches recede and my cognitive function slowly returns to normal, there’s only one thing left to say: I LOVE 24-HOUR RACING!
As only my second 24-hour event, doubts repeatedly surfaced in the lead up to the WEMBO Asia Pacific Championships/Australian Titles. Would I be up to this level of riding? Was I good enough? Had I really trained hard enough? The only thing I didn’t doubt was that I’d enjoy it. Then, a couple of weeks before the race I was hit with the flu, confined to bed for several days and my taper week became a week of enforced rest. I kept my fingers and toes crossed that I’d even be well enough to ride.

Determined to ride, and to ride for the full 24 hours, we arrived in Armidale the day before the race, enjoyed lunch at The Goldfish Bowl (thanks for the recommendation, Holly Harris) and set off to UNE so I could complete my practice lap. There were roots, rocks, climbs, pinches and tight twisty sections – but all I remember is the friendly welcome of the other racers and the buzz of excitement when I saw the WEMBO flags fluttering in the breeze. Whatever the weekend’s outcome, I was simply thrilled to be racing.

Photo by New England Mountain Bikes
Photo by New England Mountain Bikes
Photo by Dylan Rhymer

That thrill didn’t diminish overnight, as I listened to the wind outside and tossed and turned in anticipation. By daybreak I was in dire need of caffeine & very grateful our van now has its own coffee machine! The camaraderie of the other riders was wonderful as I nervously passed the time until 12pm; it was great to catch up with friends and to meet so many like-minded mountain bikers. I was struck once again by how much everyone helped each other; loaning tools, comparing gearing, offering advice & offering food. Christine Worthington brought us ice back from town and Mike Hawley gave me a Ventolin puffer to help with my post-flu tight chest – we ‘played it forward’ by offering coffee. I think I’ve found my tribe…

As only my second 24-hour event, doubts repeatedly surfaced in the lead up to the WEMBO Asia Pacific Championships/Australian Titles. Would I be up to this level of riding? Was I good enough?

The race itself is now a blur that seems to have passed in an instant. Rest assured, however, that it didn’t seem like that at the time! I do remember the adrenaline kicking in on the start line, setting off for a first fast lap with the 12-hour riders in hot pursuit, then regaining my senses and settling in for the long haul ahead. I spent a few early laps keeping pace with Michelle Woods, enjoying her company until she pulled ahead – one of the joys of 24-hour racing is riding at a pace where talking is possible!

Photo by Dylan Rhymer
Photo by Dylan Rhymer

As day turned to dusk, I added layers and focussed on my next meal to get me through the cold dark night. As such, my main memories of the night are a blur of pasta, pizza, rice pudding, and homemade bike bars. As dawn arrived the dry grass fields became bathed in a glorious pink glow and I couldn’t help but smile at the view – my eyes quickly reverted back to the track, however, when a 4-foot wallaby jumped out in front of me! The last 6 hours of the race were slow and, at times, painful, but daylight and some eventual warmth helped. The wind finally dropped, which made a huge difference, and I focussed on riding safely to the end.

After 24 hours, 12 minutes and 35 seconds I finished my second 24-hour race with a victorious fist in the air. I hadn’t managed to catch Michelle, but I had met my two big targets for the race – riding for the full 24 hours and riding for at least 250km. I was ecstatic. To place second behind Michelle Woods was an honour – and to have the 2019 Australian & WEMBO Oceanic Champion waiting to greet me at the finish line was both humbling and emotional.

Photo by Dylan Rhymer
Photo by Dylan Rhymer
Photo by Dylan Rhymer

It might be called a solo 24-hour race, but there was absolutely nothing solo about it. My heartfelt thanks to Dylan Rhymer for his constant support at races and also at home, to iRidebikes Toowoomba for their continued support and encouragement of my racing dreams, to Jodie Willett for her BikeRiteMtb training plan and race advice, to Laura at Total Balance Health & Fitness and to Renee at Dietician.Approved. Slowly but surely they are all helping to turn me into a 24-hour racer, my self-doubts have been silenced (at least until next time) and the fire in my belly is well and truly burning for 2020.

Congratulations to New England Mountain Bikers, WEMBO and Mountain Bike Australia for hosting such an enjoyable weekend. Thank you to everyone who volunteered their time (including the young cadets camping out overnight) so that I got to ride my bike (a lot) and thank you to the other racers who made Dylan & I so welcome – both on course and off. What do I love MOST about 24-hour racing? It’s a difficult question, and one that occupied my mind a lot last weekend – after much thought, I ultimately concluded that I love it most for the people.

Photo by Dylan Rhymer
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