Race Media

Race Review

Nov 13 / 2012

Steve Coward On Accidently Winning Lamma’s 1st Enduro

Steve Coward On Accidently Winning Lamma’s First Enduro
“Get up and keep going you’re first for Christ’s sake!!” We’re the words fired into me by a straggly bearded guy with what looked to be a wooden leg. All this whilst seeing stars after planting my face squarely in a Lamma hillside. It was with some disbelief I took on board the fact that for the first time in my life I was actually leading a race, the inaugural Lamma Enduro.

In the weeks that followed I reveled in the messiah like fame my win amassed amongst the mountain biking community.  Who was this guy who’d come from no-where, (well Tung Chung actually). I was invited to race with people I hardly knew, my every spoken word on biking taken down, my seven year old clunking Cannondale bike scrutinized, just what was this guys secret? To the fly on the wall it must of looked the most un-conventional path to victory in the history of mountain biking, especially given my lack of any structured training program in the lead up to the event.

I confess I’d pretty much stumbled upon the perfect recipe for endurance racing by accident, looking back all the raw components were there and seemingly in the right order, I just didn’t know it at the time.

Having the luxury of two months off work six months previous provided the catalyst for upping my ‘weekend warrior’ status and spending a few more hours in the saddle mid week. Beginning with some long steady rides around Lantau about 3-4 days a week dictated by how I felt on a particular day. If I felt too tired then I gave myself a day or two off and usually felt a lot better the next ride.

A third of my riding was spent on trails such as Chi Ma Wan where I made it my goal to master a new technical section every week, what really boosted confidence here was riding with someone better than myself, if they can do it maybe I can. –At least having fellow riders around meant they were there to pick up the pieces when it all went horribly wrong!

I couldn’t fail to notice over the months that times were coming down on the many Lantau climbs a sure sign I was getting fitter. Familiarization with the trails bought times down further still as I built up a sub conscious map of what was around every corner of Chi Ma Wan and how to approach it. Focusing on the exit, pointing the bike in that general direction whilst hanging off the back almost with finger tips proved surprisingly effective as did banishing ‘no cannot’ from my head.

Familiarization also helped with the bike, perhaps more than I’d realized I’d become totally ‘in-tune’ with the 1999 Cannondale hard tail bike I’d owned since new. I chopped and changed things around and learnt what worked and what didn’t largely by trial and error.  Skinny 1.8 tires were great on the road enabling higher road speeds but it was a case of the trail going round a bend and the bike carrying on in a straight line once on the trails, back to the wider 2.1’s!

My ‘If it’s not broke don’t fix it’ attitude to maintenance changed the eve of my first race, an AA Chi Ma Wan relay. Whilst doing a hurried check of all things moving I couldn’t help noticing my Lefty fork had all the poise of a shopping trolley as it was moving 2” sideways as well as up and down, not a good sign, although hardly surprising as the only attention I paid it was with a wet soapy sponge once in a while.

An overnight fork fix courtesy of Sunny, owner of Tung Chung’s ‘Mountain Bike Shop’ had me finish the race in the top eight which I was more than happy with. Racing was a whole new experience; it gave me a chance to recognize my weaknesses and to improve them and with it my placing in the next event.

The most obvious was still fitness I’d spent most of the race at close to my maximum heart rate and was struggling to clear most of the uphill technical sections I’d normally ride on a training ride. Looking back some short high intensity rides or interval training would of really helped address this. On the other hand some technical sections were faster accomplished by jumping off the bike and running with it rather than slowing right down and teetering over steps.

I held out on buying a new bike after noticing that many of the riders I’d passed were on bikes way more expensive than my own, so maybe Lance was right, it’s not about the bike! I did however lavish a little more time looking after the existing one, bought a chain cleaner from the bike shop which made me realize the power loss through running a dirty chain, close to 20% in some cases. After witnessing several riders with blown tires I invested in a new pair just for the race day and to this day touchwood haven’t had any puncture woes. The following two races I had the bike sat sparkling clean & ready a week before the race which gave me one less thing less to worry about come race day.

With a return to full-time work looming around the corner I had to maximize the reduced time I had available for training & rest. Shorter, harder rides became the order of the day with the longer rides relegated to the weekends. Only in the months after the Lamma Enduro did I figure what I’d actually replicated was something roughly close to an actual race training program:- Starting with long hours at low intensity to build up endurance then reducing the hours but increasing the intensity closer to the race for maximum performance.

So there you go that’s what worked for me, in a nut shell: Quit your job, ride your bike a lot slowly, then not so much but faster, enter a race and if you see the guy with the wooden leg on Lamma say hi to Shaun!

photo credit - Shaun Horrocks

Qualified mountain bike instructor Steve Coward will be runs “Recce & Ride” days in the run up to Action Asia bike races. This is a good chance not only to familiarize yourself with the entire course at a steadier pace but to learn how you should be approaching some of the more technical sections. Time will also be spent showing you how to prepare & check your bike and fix the commonest breakdowns. For more details email steve@crosscountryhk.com or Ph. 6300 1980.


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