Sunday, October 15, 2006

Race Preview: 3rd Leg MTB Eastern Championship 2006

Silverlake Vineyards, Najomtien Sattahip
Roughly 18 kilometers from South Pattaya Rd.

One loop: 6 kilometers, 50/50 mix sandy flats and loose XC

'B' Category -- 3 rounds
'A' Category -- 4 rounds
Although this is still being contested. Check again on race day, the organisers might realize they still have a heart and change their minds last minute. pls, pls.

How to get there:

From Pattaya:
From South Pattaya, mark your odometers and head further south for 12 km. You will reach Nang Ab Tao - Wad Yan Rd. Turn left. About a 3 kilometers, you will start seeing blue signs directing you to Silverlake Vineyards. Just follow these signposts and you will get there in no time.

From Motorway
Or, coming from Motorway Rd7, just motor on until you reach Rd36 going to Rayong. Turn left on Rd 36. After a few minutes, you will see a 4-way junction. Go down to Rd331 heading Sattahip. On Km161, turn right and then you will start seeing the blue signs directing you to Silverlake Vineyards.

The Pre-ride:

Race 3 of the Thailand MTB Eastern Championship will be three weeks from now. The trail is already marked so we made an early pre-ride.

The race course is inside the Silverlake Vineyards, somewhere 12 kilometers south of Pattaya. The vinyards are situated right beside Khao Chee Chan, which has a huge, huge Buddha figure carved onto a hill face.

Course is a 50/50 mix of wide dirtroad and very fast singletracks.

The most challenging part of the race is a gruelling long hill climb. Roughly 300 meters long on a steep rocky loose surface, this is likely the defining point which separates who will struggle and who will breeze through the race. Wetsprocket decided to hammer it out, he got past halfway before turning the white flag. I, on the other hand, decided early that I could not make it, and carried my bike uphill.

Downhill is the next up on the menu, again on sandy rocky road. Recent rains have formed some rain ruts so one has to ride loose but careful.

Then another short climb on a grassy singletrack. This is the second and last significant climb. And its all downhill from here.

There is a small steep section which is easy but tricky. At the bottom, it curves out as soon as you reach your fastest speed. Watch it as there is a small tree at the bottom. Really, I should not be telling you this because you would then be watching out for it. You know the golden rule of riding, 'if you keep starin at it then you will definitely hit it'. The organisers were considerate enough to carve some steps going down if you want to go the hiking way.

Uh-uh. One other small, small thing. This steep section is surrounded by trees and quite dark. Just before you reach this point though, you are showered in very very bright sunlight. When you hit this hole, it takes you awhile to get your eyes accustomed to the change. A few seconds sure, but being a short steep section, you would need to react quickly.

Its all fast downhill after this section. Very, very fast. Without doing anything, my bike computer is reading out 30km per hour just letting Mother Earth do all the work with her all-encompassing gravity. You will come out of it directly into the vinyards.

Its just then a series of turns within the vinyards. Nothing fancy, all flats. You will eventually reach the start/stop point from hereon.

The course is just a bit under 6 kilometers. Short, sweet and very fast.


On the bike setup, choice of tires figure to be important strategic part of the race.

Find something that can hurdle the rocky loose surface on the long hillclimb, but can be quick on the flat sections, which is packed sandy roads.

I used a Specialized FastTrack Pro on the pre-ride and was happy with it. My buddy WetSprocket used a GEAX Mezcal 1.90. It gave up on him during the climb, spinning out a couple of times on the uphill. On the other hand, he was pretty quick on the flats. So find the best compromise tires you can. Local bike shop might have a few suggestions.

Some more details on this ThaiMTB link:


WetSocket said...

More pictures can be found here.

As Bruce has said, the course is short and VERY fast. From the start line is a downhill grade all the way to the water crossing (comment 5 on the above link). You can easily reach speeds above 35kph while on the middle ring and smallest cog.

It is then flats with very mild ascents all the way to the base of the first MAJOR climb (comment 12).

One good thing about this climb is that the track is VERY wide. On a weekend ride with a group of friends, you can easily zigzag your way to the top with that much room. But that's it. Come race day, think LOTS of racers pushing and pedalling uphill so you may not have enough room to manouvre, unless the walkers behave themselves and limit their climb on a nice single trail on one side of the track.

The climb is very loose soil and small rocks. Getting off-the-saddle and hammering uphill can be a burden if you can't get traction on your rear tire. Once you loose that and your momentum, get ready to get off and finish it on foot all the way to the top.

Then it's all downhill from there for about 1km (comment 22). Like the climb, the track downhill is just as wide with a steep lip. I would pick a line on the right of the lip going towards the left, inside the curve and then towards the right. I would watch out for rain ruts on the left side of the track going towards the middle. These can seriously mess you up.

The track will ease up for about 10 meters and down again. I'd pick the line entering this lip from the left going towards the right then left towards the inside of the curve at the base.

I'd think pro's can easily go as fast as 40 here, with the momentum taking them as far as the base of the second major climb.

This climb is a singletrack on grass. I'd stay on the right side of the track climbing up as it has better traction than the exposed mud and soil on the left.

Once you reach the top, that's it. Go down and watch out for the dark area up ahead. It is a very steep drop. The best line is enter the lip from the left going towards the right to avoid the tree at the bottom. Things to watch out would be people at the base, which is a blind curve and people coming from behind. If you walk this part or decide to dismount at the base, stay clear of the path because someone might be coming in from behind at warp speed.

That's it, it's all downhill from there. Mash the middle ring and go small cog to make up for lost time. Even if you coast, I bet your average speed here will reach 25 easy. It's all straight and easy curves. Pay attention to bikers coming up fast from behind.

It goes without saying that the course, being mostly vineyard, doesn't have much trees. Therefore, not enough shade. If the race starts late in the day, like around noon, I won't be surprised if people crowd the nearest shade that they can find. I just hope that the organizers will provide tents. Most of the trees will be near the Buddha Mountain, about 100meters from the race grounds, accross the street.

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