ABOUT MICHAEL ROBINSON
How did you get into XC biking? Can you remember your first race?
I grew up in the UK. I rode a bike from a young age but it all really began when we moved houses to the next town and right next to a park with trails. A normal town park on a river with enough of a network of trails that I could amuse myself for hours This was where I learned how to ride on dirt for the first time. My steel tank of a bike with calliper brakes, tires with a solid centre ridge and reflectors on the wheels didn't really hold me back and I was not going to let the bike slow me down.
I spent countless hours here riding around and met some friends who had titanium bikes with shiny anodized bolts and seat quick releases, I was very jealous, so I saved and bought a dream machine. A Kona Explosif with cantilever brakes, twenty one gears and project two forks. That was a turning point; time to get racing!
I can remember my first race very well. Guisborough woods, Teeside. I set off like a bullet like every junior around me and was towards the head of the race for what felt like a lifetime. In no time at all I was up to my knees in mud and I will never know if the mud was as deep as I remember but it seemed insane to have a race in those conditions. My bike was covered! There was a thick cloud of fog surrounding the whole race and you could barely see ahead. I hit the field where we started and I thought I was almost home. This was my first time riding out of the local park. It was like I was on another planet. The news from the marshal was that I had a lap to go. I was in shock to say the least. No water, no food, pouring rain and thick fog. Hard to believe I had the energy to go on, but I did.
I raced in a heroic sprint against a man going across the field in the final moments of the race. It turned out we were racing for second last place. I lost.
Frozen to the bone I showered, ate my Snickers, drank a Coke and rode home. Seems funny now and a little crazy but I was hooked on this racing thing
What could riders expect from their first Canadian stage race.? How should they prepare?
Expect scenery that you will never forget. One day you could be above the tree line riding on a ridge over- looking massive valleys, riding on single tracks that cut through wild flowers that only come out for a few weeks a year.
The next day you may be in a dense forest in the rain wondering if a bear is going to move out of the way or if your legs are long enough to cross the river the course takes you on. It's a well organised adventure. The staff's goal is to keep you happy and healthy and they have a lot of experience in doing so.
To be prepared make sure that your bike is in A1 condition. Really A1. Full suspension is a must. Some people use hard tails but unless you are a world class rider you will be slower and uncomfortable. Choose appropriate tires. Don't bring a 400g tire with paper sidewalls or you will spend time cursing your choice. Sometimes the trail is a buff single track, sometimes it's damp and loamy and sometimes it's high speed loose rock. Choose a tire that you feel is a good all round tire that that you are comfortable with.
Be rested before you come. Travel will be tiring enough and you don't need to be burnt out before you arrive.
Don't burn your matches on day one. Play a smart game and go for consistency. You will find your place in the pack and work from there.
Eat today for tomorrow. Don't bonk, don't even get close. Make sure you are eating enough and especially drinking enough. Depending on how long you are out there it's pretty much 3 hrs of racing and 21 hrs of recovery. So if you are better at the latter you will have a better week.
I use a dropper post in most 7 day events. It adds weight but the advantage is unquestionable. Not everyone agrees but for me it turns my bike into a super light downhill rig with a low centre of gravity and I am not only faster I am having more fun and that is a huge part of it. FUN!
What are some tips of wisdom that you can provide to other riders?
Patience was something I struggled with at first but I learnt that it takes time to get fit and it is something that you are always working on.
Listen to lots of people who know more than you. They are not always right but the more you learn about training from different people the better off you are.
Nutrition is king. It is everything and a massive rabbit hole to fall into if you’re not careful. I race on a 100% natural nutrition plan. Depending on the race I use anything from rice cakes with varying ingredients for flavour and nutritional benefits to homemade gels using natural products. Fewer ingredients are better, period.
What’s more important than anything is you have to be enjoying the ride literally and figuratively speaking. Bikes are about freedom and fun and that rules the roost more than anything for me. I don't remember how bad that steel clunker was in the park or how the tires didn't slow me down in the loose stuff or how the gears didn't work. What I do remember is trying to ride around the park as fast as I could and it not mattering. It doesn't matter what and where you pedal as long as you are having a good time doing it.