Cory Wallace

The Advantages of Riding at Altitude in Guatemala

To be one of the most accomplished marathon mountain bike racers in the world, you have to put in the work. Kona Endurance and Adventure Team rider Cory Wallace, well, he puts in the work. Year after year. After a good experience last year’s early season training at elevation in Nepal and India, Cory chose to head to Guatemala this spring. Below are a few excerpts, but there are lots of gems in the longer version, which you can go to Cory’s blog to read

Words and photos by Cory Wallace.

Marathon mountain bike racing is similar to being a smart investor as it requires a pile of time invested into training during the off-season to prepare for the payoff later in the season when the big races come around. It can be easy to lose your focus in the middle of winter when the weather is challenging and there’s no real immediate payoff for the hard work, but this is when seasons are made and lost. It’s common to be putting in 25+ hours per week on the bike so it’s nice to have accommodating weather!

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This winter Guatemala was chosen, partly to take part in the El Reto de Quetzal race, partly to study Spanish, and partly to try out an experiment and to see how training at altitude would payoff. Having good success riding at altitude in India and Nepal last fall and the amazing feeling of having 3 lungs after returning to lower altitudes it gave me the inspiration to explore this avenue a little further.

Doing a bit of research and with past experiences I’ve come to my own conclusions about what should work and it seems living and training at altitudes between 2200 m and 2600 m seems ideal. Anything lower and the concentration of oxygen in the air is still high enough that it may limit adaptations, while any higher and there is not enough oxygen to be able to push yourself hard enoughto keep your muscles strong.

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The idea is that the body will increase the volume of oxygen-carrying red blood cells, become more efficient at using oxygen, and due to the lack of oxygen both the lungs and heart will have to work at an elevated intensity. It also seems to be important to break up the altitude training with retreats to lower elevations to help with recovery to put in some strong efforts in oxygen-rich air, and once you return to altitude the body re-kickstarts the adaptations. Time will tell but things are on track right now with the body showing nice improvements every week.

Check out a few more photos below, and read the full story on Cory’s blog

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Kona Adventure Team: Double Century Sandwich

The Kona Adventure Team is an extension of the Kona Endurance Race team in 2017. We aim to expand the repertoire of our endurance athletes, embarking on adventures that inspire, both us personally and hopefully you as well. Our athletes all love the bike, and these trips are our attempt to show a shared passion not only for riding, but also for living a full and meaningful existence. 

For the first Adventure Team story, Cory, Kris, Spencer,and Barry took on a double century on the California Coast, sandwiching a race in the middle.

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Words by Barry Wicks. Photos by Patrick Means.

The plan was simple. We’d ride from Pacifica, CA to Healdsburg, CA on Friday. On Saturday, we’d race the Grasshopper Adventure Series race called Old Caz. On Sunday we would ride back to our starting point.
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At what point does a course of travel become an adventure? What makes it turn into something else, like a journey? Are there clear metrics that make it so, or is it just a matter of perspective? Whatever the case, the Kona Adventure Team had around 17 hours and 330 miles of bike riding ahead of us – plenty of time for engaging in some trifling handlebar philosophy.
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107 miles. That’s how far we had to go one day one. That didn’t seem that far to a seasoned squad of professional bike athletes, but as the hours ticked on, and the destination remained distant, the remaining hours of daylight became a concern. The selected route, while heavy on dirt – and climbing and views in the first half – gave way to silky pavement in the last 40 miles.
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Here we are, there’s were we are going. Distance and time compress and expand in rhythm with our bodies’ need for food, water, or for the climb to come to an end.
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At times, pulling off in a muddy gravel lot to stare at the water and share a king size bag of peanut butter M&Ms is the entirety of one’s world.
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Then you find a strong Canadian to drag you those final miles into the arms of a waiting burrito, cold beer and camaraderie.
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The Grasshopper Adventure series is a longstanding race event, with its foundations firmly in the grassroots camp of “lets all get together, do an awesome ride, and try to smash each other to bits.” In this, its 19th year of existence, it has grown from the rag tag group of about 50 riders to a swollen 450+ hearty souls up for the challenge.
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The gathering and swapping of tales at the finish line is the ritual by which the ride legend grows. This gathering of the athletes, watching their fellow riders struggle to the line, is the birth of the legend that each and every Grasshopper race has created.
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By the book, an adventure is “playing a game of chance.” As a term, it is rooted in the unknown and a risk of loss. On an adventure, there ought to be a tension between something that is about to happen and whether you’ll arrive at the other side.
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The return journey always seems easier, but at the same time bittersweet. The destination is known, it means the end of the journey is near, and the escape is coming to a close.
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For us, the essential element is the experience of the place and the time spent together. Up and down the coasts, across long valleys, through the woods and over the mountains. We carve out our own version of finding happiness and bring that to the banquet to share.
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In the end, we are left with tired legs, dirty bikes, large smiles and the memories we created together.kona_norcal2-85

Wherever your next adventure may take you, we hope you find all the things that you are searching for.
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Cory Wallace’s Incredible 2016 Stats

When 2013 happened it looked like it would go down as my biggest year ever with 79 days of racing. 2016 eclipsed it by two days. 81 is the new personal record which will likely stand till the end of my career… but who really knows.

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It all started road racing down in the jungles at the Tour of Costa Rica, a race full of brawls, crashes and insanely fast Latinos riding like Tour de France champions. Post-race a couple weeks were spent staying with my friends Ronald & Angela and training in the Latin mountains before hopping a flight over to Australia and New Zealand. Racing the inaugural Pioneer through NZL’s Southern Alps with my Kona teammates was a trip to remember. This was topped off with a week with some buddies in Queenstown before heading North.

Following this was a road trip with my friend Tarren through NZL to the North Island to take on the 24 HR Solo World Champs. Riding 450 km of singletrack, finishing 2nd, 4 minutes off the title was one of the rides of my life as Jason English set a new record, winning the title for a 7th year in a row. There were hot springs, beaches and a couple more races in NZL before launching to Vietnam to defend the title at the Vietnam Victory Challenge.

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Next up was a bike tour across northern Vietnam-Laos and Thailand with my buddy Simon. We ate loads of fresh fruit, got sunburnt and had some good times enjoying the Asian gong shows. After 3 weeks Simon went back to work in Canada and I caught a jet to India for a crazy adventure in the foothills of the Himalayas. Eating some sketchy curry from a kitchen built in a chicken coop turned the stomach inside out for a while. After three weeks of recovery with my friends Martin and Julian in Australia it was back home to cap off this solid 4.5 month road trip to start the season.

Back in Canada things came back on track with a win at a wet and gnarly Nimby 50. This was followed with 4 stage wins and the overall title at BC Bike Race as my teammate Spencer Paxson and I worked well together to finish 1-2. Up next was a tough battle with Geoff Kabush at Marathon Nationals in Eastern Canada in which he nipped the title from my grasp by under a minute. Back to Back wins at the Alberta XC and Marathon Championships closed out the Canadian portion of the season before heading off to Asia for round 2!

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Asia round 2 started off racing across the land of Ghengis Khan in Mongolia. After 5 times to Mongolia it feels like I’m just starting to know that pristine nomadic country. Up next were 4 days of missing flights and losing my bike tying to get to Bhutan from Mongolia. This is harder than it sounds. The next 10 days in Bhutan were out of this world, winning the 250 km Tour of the Dragon, visiting the Prime Minister at his residence, hanging out with the Prince, and hiking to monasteries in the mountains with my buddies/guide DJ and Jigme.

Next on deck were 5 scorching days at the Tour of Timor in which my skin started to melt. Timor is a great place to ride a bike but you need to be up in the mountains or else it’s too damn hot! At this point the trip was suppose to end but I missed my flight back to Canada and headed to Singapore to stay with my friends Ken and Laura. They helped reload supplies, gave myself a place to rest a few days and helped fix the bike before hopping a jet to India for another round in the Himalayas.

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India round 2 was another solid adventure with a great crew. 1 day in India is like 1 month in North America in regards to sensory overload as the action is insanely intense 24/7. After racing 8 days across Northern India the adventure was topped off with shaking hands with the Dalai Lama in his home at Mcleod Ganj.

The next 2 weeks were spent beaming from this encounter and acclimatizing in the mountains surrounding the hippie village of Dharamkot as the Worlds Highest MTB race was on deck in Nepal. These 2 weeks were eventful with lots of hiking with my friends Zina, Ashish and Gurman a bit of riding and a fall off a mountain, dislocating my shoulder. This seemed like a trip ender but visiting some hippie doctors fixed things up and the trip continued…

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Nepal will go down as one of the all time greats, kicking off with 10 days of training up in the mountains with my buddy Peter. Next up was the Yak Attack with 11 days racing through the largest mountains in the world and into the forbidden Kingdom of the Upper Mustang bordering Tibet. Capturing the title to become the first foreigner to do so in the race’s 10 years history capped a memorable season. With time to relax my friend Usha and I headed out trekking in the mountains for 10 days before it was time to call it a trip and head back to home soil.

Work was calling in Alberta so it was off slashing down hazard trees in the frozen north for a while. As of now I’m still up there refreshing the mind and filling the bank, waiting until a little bird flies by and chirps that its time to re-mount the bike for 2017.

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Here are some numbers from the past season.

14 Countries Visited: Canada, Nepal, Australia x2, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Singapore, India x2, Mongolia, Bhutan, East Timor, China.

81 Days Racing:

70 Mountain Bike Race Days

JetBlack 6×6, Australia: (2nd)
The Pioneer, New Zealand: (2nd)
World 24 HR Solo Champs, New Zealand (2nd)
Kiwi Crusade, New Zealand (DNS)
Karapoti Classi, New Zealand (3rd)
Vietnam Victory Challenge (1st)
Uttarakhand MTB, India: (5th)
Convict 100, Australia: (4th)
Rocky Trail Grand Prix, Australia: (DNF)
Salty Dog 6hr, Canada: (3rd)
Nimby 50, Canada: (1st)
Cumberland Marathon, Canada: (2nd)
Test of Metal, Canada: (4th
BC Bike Race, Canada: (1st)
Canadian Marathon Championships: (2nd)
Alberta XC and Marathon Champs: (1st x 2)
Mongolia Bike Challenge, Mongolia: (3rd)
Tour of the Dragon, Bhutan: (1st)
Tour of Timor, East Timor: (7th)
MTB Himalaya, India: (2nd)
Yak Attack, Nepal: (1st)

11 Road Race Days:

Tour of Costa Rica (32nd)

1 Injury:

Falling off a Mountain in Northern India – dislocated shoulder

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Training Numbers: FTP: Huh? Power to Weight: Who cares… Vo2Max: Boring….

*20 wins

*9 stage races

* 3 stage race GC wins

*2 stage races runner up

*4 minutes off my first World 24 Hour Solo Title

*52 seconds off my 3rd Canadian XCM Championship Title

* 5416 meters, the highest altitude riding a bike.

*445 km, longest singletrack MTB ride of the year

*26 international flights

* 2.5 months at home in Victoria

* 11 days at the Spirit River hotel in Northern Alberta while Working was the longest time spent consecutively in one spot

*12 months raced in

*15 working days as a danger tree faller

Big thanks to my sponsors for making this all possible: KONA, Accent Inns, Freewheel Cycle, Nourish, Squirt Lube, Beet-It, Balance Point Racing and my bosses Lindsay and Greg Wadsworth at Integrity Reclamation Services for giving me work whenever I’m around.

2017 is on deck!

Follow Cory on Instagram and on his blog.

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Cory Wallace on Mountain Bike Radio’s The Last Aid Station

Cory Wallace is an endurance mountain bike super hero. Some of his feats are almost incomprehensible. Mark from Mountain Bike Radio’s The Last Aid Station podcast sat down with Cory to talk about some of those feats, how he approaches riding and training, and about racing in general.

Listen to the podcast at Mountain Bike Radio.

Follow Cory on Instagram and through regular updates on his blog.

 

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Kona Riders Test the New Shimano XT Di2 at BC Bike Race

Knowing that Kona Endurance Team racers Cory Wallace and Spencer Paxson went one-two at this year’s BC Bike Race, it’s clear that their equipment also went the distance. For the seven-day stage race, Cory and Spencer were given the chance to ride Shimano’s new XT Di2 electronic drivetrain – a proper race test which turned out for the best.

Check out the video and a few more photos below, and head over to Pinkbike for the full feature from Shimano.

p5pb14177369Cory Wallace in the BC trees. Photo by Dave Silver.

p5pb14177365Spencer Paxson has a tendency to ride when others push. Photo by Dave Silver.

p5pb14176460Paxson, second step on the podium at BCBR. Again. Photo by Margus Riga. 

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Cory Wallace, your 2016 BCBR winner. Photo by Margus Riga.

Cory Wallace on What It Takes To Win the World’s Highest Mountain Bike Race

Words by Cory Wallace. Photos by Rupert Fowler.

The Yak Attack is by far the most scenic race I’ve been to, riding through the heart of the largest mountains on Earth and into the hidden world of an old Buddhist kingdom. A region rarely visited with stunning mountain peaks, true mountain people and a mystical sense of being on a different planet.

This race kicked my ass in 2014 coming to Nepal in great shape, but unprepared for the x-factors that racing here comes with. Being found ill in the ditch on Stage 6, I had the gutted feeling of waving the white flag and DNFing the race. Fast forward 2.5 years later and my 2nd shot at the Yak Attack, this time the race was bigger and better then ever before celebrating its 10th anniversary taking on the Annapurna circuit and also 5 days in the Forbidden Kingdom of the Upper Mustang!

The Annapurna Circuit: Stages 1-5

This is the classic portion of the Yak Attack as we started at 800 m above sea level in Besisahar, the gateway to the Himalayas, crossed over Thorlong Pass at 5415 m and then onwards to the Upper Mustang. The first stage turned into a gongshow racing a 32 km time trial in the jungles and rice paddies surrounding Besisahar. The day before I had spent hours patching and gluing tires together as the new ones ordered from India three weeks earlier never arrived. They said they would take 3-4 days maximum to deliver, but first they sent them to Kolkata, India, instead of Kathmandhu Nepal, then there were some holidays and who knows what else but three weeks later still no tires. My head was left wobbling side to side. On race day, the front tire went flat five minutes before the start, and the rear one 1 km from the finish. It was a full on gongshow and to top it off the body was backlashing from the race efforts and requesting for a few more days off.

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Already down 7-8 minutes from the three leaders and heading into the Yak Attack’s toughest stage it was a rough sleep. Arising at midnight after two hours of rest I would lie awake for the duration of the night feeling ill and having flashbacks to my race ending meltdown on this stage in 2014. Running a tube in the front tire and an extra patch in the rear my Kona Honzo and I tackled the 65 km climbing stage on an insanely rough and scenic jeep road to Chame. The route was amazing following a tight gorge, hugging cliffs and steadly climbing into the heart of the Himalayas. Four riders (Thinus from South Africa, Ajay from Nepal, Yuki from Japan and Peter from Australia) set a steady pace from the start as I dangled about a minute or two behind for the first first hour. My fingers were crossed as I repeatedly told myself “don’t meltdown, don’t meltdown, don’t meltdown, no more flats, no more flats…” Seeing the race flash before my eyes the body suddenly started showing signs of life and by the middle of the stage the system was back online. Soon catching the leaders, I dropped them and put 7, 10 and 18 minutes into the top 3 in GC as they seemed to lose some gas towards the end of the big day. Game on!

Chame is a cold little town tucked into the shadows of 7000 m glacier-covered peaks vertically straight above. From here we climbed along more roads snaking along cliffsides before breaking out into the broader and sunnier valley leading to Manang with views of the huge Annapurna mountain range above. It was pretty epic with loads of trekkers out on this route as it’s the second-most popular trek only behind Everest base camp in Nepal. We tried not to scare the hikers too badly as we ripped by on our bikes but some of them seemed to be suffering from AMS and off on another planet. Up at 3500 m now we had a scheduled rest day in the old Tibetan style Nepalese village of Manang. This place is a proper old school western town with yaks wandering around the dusty streets, loads of tea houses for weary travellers, a “Yak Theatre” to watch movies on Himalayan adventures, and a surrounding mountainside full of glaciers, monasteries and hidden valleys to explore.

Stage 4 from Manang to Phedi had 17 km of singletrack heading up to 4500 m. The Nepali boys went hard out of the gate this morning but thankfully blew up a bit as Thinus and I dieseled past them and onto a tough battle for the next 1.5 hours. With 5 km to go I put in a good effort over a small hill which put both Thinus and I in the red zone and on the verge of tipping over as the thin air up above 4100 m was like trying to breathe through a straw. Thankfully we ran into a herd of donkeys portering stuff up the mountain and were blocked for a few minutes on the tight trail. Soon after we hit a herd of yaks and then another herd of donkeys. In a normal race this wouldn’t be ideal, but we both enjoyed the small pause in racing, giving us a chance to catch our breath and look around at the stunning mountain landscapes before gasping our way to the finish line with myself claiming a narrow two-second victory to make it three in a row.

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Stage 5 is the classic “pass day” as the race starts with a 5 km hike a bike over Thorlong Pass reaching a dizzying 5416 m before launching down a crazy singletrack descent down to the village of Muktinath. The organizers had a wild idea of starting the race at 4am to try and avoid the “wind” up top. I lobbied for a later start figuring a proper sleep, daylight and the warmth of sunshine would trump any amount of wind we may have to deal with. I lost the discussion, so after a couple hours of sleep we were awoken at 2:30 am to prep for “the pass.” The Nepali boys traditionally own this day and set a high pace from the start. I tried to keep up and suprisiningly did alright, eventually passing them as I found a few areas which were rideable.

The combination of pushing and riding left the other boys in the dust and after 1.5 hours I was cresting the pass and onto the epic descent. It was still pitch dark, cold and sketchy as hell as I couldn’t see a lot with my pocket headlamp. The body started to chill pretty good after the sweaty climb so I stopped to dig a puff jacket and thicker gloves out of my pack but was denied by my numb hands fumbling with the zipper. Figuring the process would take too long I resorted to Plan B, hopping back on the bike convincing myself the faster I descended the quicker the temperature would rise. Arriving in Muktinath at 6:10 am the finish line staff were still sleeping. After riding around in circles for a bit I made my own finish line and started time keeping for the rest of the riders. It’s always interesting racing in countries where bike racing is still fairly new as some of the locals don’t realize just how fast wheels can be, especially downhill as they can turn a 3-4 hour hike into 20-30 minutes!

A big part of the Yak Attack experience is trying to stay warm and healthy as the living conditions can often be a little dodgy hygiene-wise and rest can be tough to find some nights between barking dogs, giggling trekkers, and roosters. Every morning we would hand our luggage in to the porters between 6-7 am and then proceed to drink litres of hot drinks to keep warm before race start at 9 or 10. After racing we would continue our sessions of drinking pots of tea, and eating loads of Dal Bhat (rice, lentils, curried veg). Sometimes our luggage would show up on time, other times we’d be in our bike clothes for a long time as some of the porters seemed to enjoy lolligagging and being tourists themselves. All in all every day turned into a proper adventure somehow.

The Forbidden Kingdom, Upper Mustang Valley: Stages 6-9

The Upper Mustang was a restricted, demilitarized zone until 1992 which has kept it isolated from the rest of the world, preserving its people and Tibetan culture. It’s just recently opened to the public but a $500 USD visa just to enter the area keeps the tourist numbers low. My tires from India finally showed up as we had re-supplies come in from Kathmandu after the Pass. Unfortunately they had sent the cheapest possible paper thin wire bead versions which would self destruct within seconds on the rough ground up here, not the tough tubeless ready Maxxis Ikons which were ordered. After confirming three times with them the tubeless versions were being sent, it was a bit of a shock but not really surprising. Those tires are in the hands of some local Nepali kids now, while I lucked out and borrowed some tires from Paul and Tetsuo, two racers who had spares and kindly offered them up. Running tubeless again was important as the terrain in the Upper Mustang was rough as hell.

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Stage 6 started with a sweet climb overlooking Dhaulagiri (the 7th highest mountain in the world) up to a pass where we crossed into the Upper Mustang and dropped down a kick ass single track. It was like a line was in the ground as the topography changed drastically with steep cliffs, dry dusty roads, and snow clad Himalayan peaks in the background. The racing up here was out of this world with roads full of thick bull dust, boulders and sections of ice where waterfalls crested the road. Thinus road great this day as I suffered through a rough last hour, finishing a couple minutes down. At the finish line in Ghilling I looked at the race organizer Phil “this is it, where’s the 5 star resort?” as we stood in a wet grassy area with a couple rough looking mud covered guesthouses in the background. It was a different world up here: mud floors, rock walls, no heating and layers of dust everywhere. The locals were tough as nails, you could see it in their eyes that they were the real deal as far as mountain people go. They were also very hospitable, cooking up some great buckwheat meals as we all adjusted to the surrounding region and tried to keep our bodies in race capable form.

The next four days we headed up to the headquarters of the region in Lo-Mantang “The Walled City”, spent a rest day exploring cave dwellings up on the edge of Tibet and then had a couple stunning days racing back down valley to the Lower Mustang. Up here the living was simple with the locals piling fire wood and dried dung for a long cold winter ahead and butchering yaks to fill their food stores. Seeing the butchering of a yak was an experience many of the racers turned their heads to. It was brutal, but probably important to experience for anyone that eats meat so they can understand the process that getting a burger on your plate requires.

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Racing-wise I went into a conservative mode trying to avoid any catastrophies, soaking in as much of the Upper Mustang as I could while keeping an eye on my strong South African competitor. Thinus was a real sportsman and great to race against. Racing hard he would win three straight days with Nepalese hero Ajay winning the final stage. After 11 days up in the mountains and a rather epic journey I would take the overall title by a comfortable 13 minutes to become the first foreigner to claim it in the race’s ten-year history.

This is a race which will go down in the books as one of the all time greats. It’s rough, hard, and a struggle at times but the payoff is big in the form of insane views, an inside look into some ancient cultures and the experience of seeing how the mountain people of Nepal make a living in such a harsh environment. I’ll be crossing my fingers to have a chance to return to this region again someday soon

My season is officially over after 12 months. A couple weeks of downtime in Nepal lies ahead before transiting back over the pond to Canadian soil for a taste of home over the holidays.

Over and Out!

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Kona’s Cory Wallace Wins the Highest Mountain Bike Race on Earth

Kona Endurance Team rider Cory Wallace became the first foreign rider to win Nepal’s Yak Attack stage race in its 10-year history. We’re looking forward to hearing about the marathon mountain bike race specialist’s grueling ten days on the bike above 3,000 metres (10,000 feet) elevation when he returns to civilization. For now, we say congratulations to Cory on an accomplishment that has been a long time coming!

Follow Cory Wallace on his blog and on Instagram.

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Cory Wallace Acclimatizes in Nepal for the Yak Attack Stage Race

Words and photos by Cory Wallace.

The 11-day Yak Attack stage race is the highest mountain bike race on Earth as it traverses through Nepal’s grand Himalayan mountain range. It starts out on the World famous Annapurna trek, taking us up over Thorong La pass at 5416 m. From there we’ll drop down to 4000 m and head into the tourist restricted area of the Upper Mustang Valley, eventually reaching the border of Tibet. Over the course of the race, 8.5 of the 10 stages will be between 3500 m and 5416 m with the temperatures anywhere between +25 and -20 degrees celsius. It’s part race but more so a proper mountain adventure!

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In 2014 I came here unprepared and had my ass handed to me, getting sick on the first day and never recovering. The combination of turbulent food, rough living conditions, high altitude and tough riding has meant the local Nepali riders have dominated the race winning every one of the 9 previous editions. As far as a race goes, it’s the most scenic MTB race I’ve been to in the world, and per kilometre one of the toughest. The days are short – averaging 35-45 km – but they can be deceptive, often requiring some hike a bike, extremely rough and unforgiving terrain, cold temperatures and thin air.

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Trying to ride at 3000-5400 m above sea level slows things down considerably. The oxygen level of the air is still the same as sea level at around 22%, but there is less air being inhaled with every breath as there’s less pressure in the atmosphere. By the time we hit 3000 m the effective oxygen will be cut down to 14.5% and by the time we hit the top of Throng La Pass at 5416 m it will be around 10.7% – half of what we take in at sea level. This means a lot of long slow breaths and trying to diesel our way through the days instead of bursting efforts which would surely leave us gasping for air and in a world of hurt.

Since the MTB Himalaya race ended in India, I set up base camp in the Indian mountains at 1950 m for 2 weeks, with 3 nights up around 2800 m. 1950 m is on the cusp of being good for acclimatization, as 2200-2600 m seems to be the desirable level but after having a decent crash, it seemed smarter to stay down a bit lower in higher oxygen levels to help with the recovery. Since coming to Nepal my buddy Peter Butt and I headed up onto the race course and stayed in the town of Manang for 5 nights at 3500 m. The first 3 days we felt the effects of the altitude as our heart rates went up and our sleeps were disturbed as our bodies acclimatized. By the fourth night our bodies seemed to have come around and everything shifted back to normal although our rides during the day left us gasping for air, especially once we hit over 4000 m!

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The lead up to the race has been a real experiment and will be interesting to see if the pre-altitude training has any positive effect once we start racing. One thing which has been a bonus has been living in the India-Nepal region for the last 6 weeks getting used to the sketchy food/water and adapting to the cultural differences. It’s starting to feel a bit like home which should help control these Nepali mountain goats in the coming days. Theres also a handful of fast foreigners here which are wildcards and should keep the race interesting as it always a battle trying to race over here.

Kona has a new distributor in Nepal and one of their shops, Pancbike, helped sort out some last minute gear and tuned up my bike. It’s great to see the Kona brand come into the Nepalese market as these guys have some perfect terrain for mountain biking and they certainly need bikes which are durable and can take a beating!

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Stage 1 of the Yak Attack was a bit of a shocker with a flat tire just before the start and one at the finish. In between the body was running really hot and misfiring after feeling pretty good in the lead up. It seems the curse of the Yak Attack from 2014 is still lingering around but there are ten more days to go. Hopefully things will turn around and I’ll finally crush this demon. After this it’s officialy game over on what has been a solid 12 month race season starting all the way back in Costa Rica last December.

With the most recent update, Cory is sitting in 1st overall after five days’ racing. Looks like the acclimatization is paying off! Good luck Cory and we look forward to hearing about the rest of the Yak Attack!

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Kona Endurance Team Racer Cory Wallace Heads to East Timor for More Suffering

After his last incredible feat, winning the 158 mile (255 km) Tour of the Dragon race in Bhutan, Kona Endurance Team racer Cory Wallace spent a few more days in Bhutan after the Prince extended his visa. From there he headed to East Timor for a five day stage race, the Tour de Timor mountain bike race. Read on below for Cory’s detailed recap of his challenging time in East Timor and a 2nd place finish with his team:

After Bhutan it was back on a jet plane for a couple days to head over to the world’s second-youngest country in East Timor. This proud nation situated in Southeast Asia is just 14 years old and is full of an excited group of locals working hard to push their country forward. In 2010 they hosted the first ever five day Tour de Timor MTB race to promote the country as a peaceful place for adventure tourism and ever since the race has been an annual event.

This year the Tour de Timor was on the international cycling calendar (UCI) and attracted 120 racers, many of them top riders from Thailand, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Portugal, Australia, Singapore – and one Canadian. Home to a very hot climate and a crytsal clear blue ocean, the countryside makes a perfect place for a bike race. There is very little traffic and the rough dirt roads traversing all over the mountainous island make for some tough but great courses.

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In 2014 my UK friend Catherine Williamson and I came over for the Tour and were blown away by the rawness and roughness of the race. It was a long week rolling with the punches, sleeping 2-3 hours a night, losing weight eating white rice and dulling our teeth on leather-like beef. It took its toll on us but we both managed to come away with the overall titles. After a year of recovery we both opted to return in 2016, this time being blown away by the improvements which included proper food, huge police and army support shutting down all the roads to ensure our safety and a pretty solid overall organization. It was still a proper adventure given the grim living conditions at camp as we slept in dirty concrete rooms, showered with swamp water beside shitters and had little way of cooling down after racing in the scorching heat.

Teaming up with 2015 winner, Craig Cooke from Australia, and Catherine, it looked like we had an unbeatable 3 person team for this years race. We named ourselves “Team White Rice” and proceeded to fry ourselves to a crisp over the first 2 stages as the course this year stuck down along the ocean in some scorching temperatures and maxed out humidity. Trying to race against heat-resistant tiny Portuguese and Asian climbers was mission impossible for my Canadian Beef as I was overheating before we even started racing each stage at 7am. By the time the sun really came up at 9am, I’d be in full meltdown mode. Catherine being one of the toughest and most accomplished marathon racers in the world, looked at me after having a meltdown in stage 2 and said “I’m not sure about you but I’m getting to old for this stuff.” Being mid thirties, that’s far from the truth. The real truth is that 38-40 degrees is just too damn hot to ride a bike in!

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The week would roll along with hot racing, rough living conditions, but an all round great time as we had a solid group travelling together to take in the crazy experience. My buddy Ben had organized a support car for the week with Belinda and Joane looking after 6 of us riders. This made the week much more enjoyable than in 2014 and helped take the mind off the tough racing that was on hand.

Stage 3 looked easy on paper starting with a 20 km descent, a long flat stretch then a short climb to the finish. Hell came to earth in Timor this day as the heat and humidity took out close to a third of the field. Craig collapsed at the finish needing medical support and I had a bad case of heat exhaustion, unable to eat much of anything for the rest of the day and staying up most the night with a fever. Stage 4 was a survival mission, and by stage 5 the body was somewhat back in the game. By the end of the week, Team Fried Rice would end up 2nd overall, with Catherine finishing 2nd in the women’s division, Craig finishing 4th in the men’s, and myself 6th.

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After a couple post-race days hanging out on the island it was off to Singapore for a couple nights staying with my friends Ken and Laura. They were amazing hosts, helping me run around picking up more supplies, preparing nutritious meals, and finding a local shop to fix my Kona Honzo race bike.

Originally my flight was booked back to Canada for September 21st, but the organizers at MTB Himalaya were pretty persuasive and I now find myself up in the northern mountains of India getting ready for another 8 days of racing as I will attempt to reclaim my title from 2014.

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I’ve been lucky to have had such great support this trip and am actually still feeling alright considering all the travel and racing that has been going on. It will be an experiment to see how the body is going to handle this race but theres only one way of finding out its limits. After 10 days of high altitude training in Bhutan, 1 week of high heat training in Timor, and some OK rest I have my fingers crossed for something to be left in the tank.

Huge thanks to my friend Ben Jones and Shimano Australia for sending over a bunch of replacement parts and for Walton at Attitude Bikes in Singapore for giving my bike an overhaul as she has been hurting ever since riding 250 km across Bhutanese mud at the Tour of the Dragon. Of course without the huge support from my title sponsor Kona Bicycles this trip wouldn’t be possible as they have stood behind my adventures for over 7 years now.

Off to find some more curry to fuel up the tank…

Cory Wallace’s 24 Hour World Solo Championships Report

Title Photo Allan Ure / photos4sale.co.nz

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All Photos Jason Beacham – 208media.co.nz

Going into the 24 Hour World Solo Championships in New Zealand I knew it would take the race of my life to defeat 6 time World Champion Jason English from Australia. I had that race and am still shocked at what went down in Rotorua during those 24 hours as it was in a whole new dimension.

Having finished eight previous 24 hour events, all containing some sort of massive meltdown, I had always dreamt of having a race in which the body fired properly for the whole 24 hours. I told myself I would keep racing 24 hours until I had that ride. That ride finally came as my lap times stayed between 50-60 minutes for all 27 of them with the last lap being just a couple minutes slower then the first few laps at 55 minutes. My support team of Tarren Sohier, Jason Beacham and Justin Price came together the day of the race and magically the four of us melted into a well oiled machine over the course of the race, keeping the pit stops all between 0 and 30 seconds with the average being about 10-15. English pitted a bit faster but he is a Mongrel.
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Feeling fresh on the first lap I pushed the pace a bit to test out the field and felt strong but the course was pretty simple and had nothing selective in it physically or technically to split the field apart and 8-10 of us rolled through the start finish together. At this point I new it was going to be a long race of patience and consistency on the flowing trails and backed off the throttle to settle into diesel mode for a while. For the next 10 hours I rolled around the course between 4th-6th position with Adrian Retief from New Zealand as the keeners went off the front at a pretty mental pace. It was a cruisy ride as the course wound its way through some thick green New Zealand foliage with massive silver ferns lining the course. The setting reminded me of Jurassic Park and I kept expecting a velociraptor to jump out of the forest at some point. Just after midnight the time splits were starting to near 15 minutes to the lead duo of Jason English and Swedish rider Tobias Lestrell which set off an alarm, if it grew much bigger the race would slip away.
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Normally 1-4 am is meltdown time as the body starts to tire after 13 hours of racing and the mind starts to wander into a sleep deprived daze. Knowing it was going to be rough no matter what I decided to crank the throttle wide open in an attempt to get back up to the leaders and try to build some momentum to carry through the night. The lighting system from Radical Lights was unreal and allowed me to put down the fastest night laps of the race and by 4 am I had worked my way up to Jason English in the lead. Tobias had been riding strong but unfortunately suffered a crash, losing time and energy one lap and the other guys in the top five seemed to be slipping a bit, feeling the effects of their early efforts. It was a welcome sight to finally see English’s Australian jersey in front of me. Not wanting to stir the resting giant I opted to hide my existence by stopping for a piss stop, refuelling the body and then trying to attack him at the base of the only climb on the course, a 3 minute little burner. Blowing bye English at the base of the climb, I managed to gain a small gap but he would slowly close it on the endless flowing single track which followed and soon we were back together. This kicked off the next 10 hours of what was the hardest battle of my life.
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The 17.3km laps contained 15.5 km of singletrack and 1.8 km of fireroad. It became clear pretty early I was riding stronger on the fireroad sections, and English maybe a bit more consistent on the rest of the course and also pitting slightly faster. Unable to drop him out on course I rolled through the pit late in the night and told Tarren that next lap I was going to roll the pit stop and try and gap Jason there. It worked brilliantly gaining a 10 second gap on English heading out of the pits. Burying myself on the first part of the course which contained the fireroad sections the gap grew a bit bigger but somehow my friend found another gear and clawed his way back by the end of the lap. I couldn’t believe the guy could come back from the effort and new it was going to be a race to the end at this point.
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For the next eight hours we would take turns attacking each other, Jason usually just after the pits and myself on the climbs and fire roads but it didn’t seem to matter what either of us did as the other guy would just grit his teeth a little harder and close the gap. It was shocking the speed we were riding and I was concerned a massive meltdown was going to hit at some point and I would fall into the thick foliage beside the trail and start twitching out and need to be rescued by the medics. Surprisingly that never happened and with four hours to go I noticed Jason was looking a bit shaky and put down another big effort on the fireroad and gapped him good, maybe just over a minute. This was the time, I laid every ounce of energy into the pedals to increase the gap and to finally give Jason his first 24 hour loss in seven years. The speed I was going I figured I had to be gaining on him. It was a crazy sensation as the body was exhausted but feeling good although the legs were pretty numb and not quite firing at 100% anymore. I kept getting glimpses of someone closing in and looked back at one point and saw the beast standing up smashing his pedals just off my wheel. WTF? How the hell did that guy close that gap, he hasn’t ridden that strong all race but now 20 hours in he’s finding another gear!? I looked for another gear and fired another counter attack his way but it was of no use as we were both riding in a crazy state.

Cory Wallace Wembo 2016 - 5k -72For the next lap we cruised together, both screwed but trying to hide it. I had a problem growing as my bladder was ready to explode so I asked Jason if he wanted a neutral piss stop. He was fine and said no but offered to ride slowly and wait while I did my business. It was a camel piss, but Jason stuck to his word and pretty soon I was back to within 5-7 seconds of his wheel as we both hit a long rolling descent. The problem was we were riding slow down it, refuelling etc and there was a small drop off at one point. Hitting it slower then usual my front wheel snagged a root and I found myself being launched 10 feet down a steep sidehill into a entanglement of ferns and plants. It would’ve hurt like hell but the thick foliage broke my fall but also made it hard to get out of the mess. Probably losing close to 45 seconds to a minute getting back up to the trail I had some work to do and chased down Jason for the next half lap, finally catching him. Later this lap he would put in a small effort just before the start finish as he could likely sense I was a bit tired from the chase. He extended the gap a few seconds in the pits and all of a sudden he was just out of sight.

Cory Wallace Wembo 2016 - 5k -45It was go time but unfortunately the body was battling a low point and I dropped a few minutes this lap and had 3.5 minutes to make up heading into the final lap. Yelling and dumping water down my back I tried everything to find any ounce of adrenaline or energy left in the body and pretty soon found myself cruising really well and getting momentum back. I’ve had laps like this before in past 24 hours and had caught whoever I was chasing and figured that unless Jason was riding out of his mind I would surely be gaining ground. There was also another race on the line, if I could come in before noon there would be an overtime lap to decide the title. Everything was being sent on this lap to get in before the cut-off. I’m not sure what would’ve happened the next lap if I actually made it as my body was in a surreal state. Too bad for me Jason is a monster and he was also having an adrenaline fuelled lap and put down one of his fastest laps of the whole race and even extended his lead by 30 seconds. Fighting the clock now, I came in 40 seconds past the noon cut off time and thus ended my bid for my first World Title.
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It’s been an emotional roller coaster the past few days, being so close to one of my major cycling goals yet coming up short, but also having the satisfaction of riding the best 24 hour race of my life and having reached farther and deeper then ever before. I’m content with the effort and the race which occurred and keep reminding myself that Jason specializes in 24 hour racing and is the best the sport has ever seen, while I try to wing one once a year around my normal racing schedule. There was a lot learned during this battle and the limits my mind used to set on my body have been stretched. That being said there is a gutted feeling right now and some unfinished business which I look forward taking care of in the future.

Cory Wallace Wembo 2016 - 5k -88I want to extend a huge thank you to all that made this race possible, as it has taken a lot of kindness and generosity from countless friends and sponsors to bring everything together so I could pull this sort of effort out while living out of a bag on the other side of the Globe. The Kona Bicycle company has stood behind me from day one and with the use of my 2015 Kona Hei Hei Deluxe and a loaner 2016 Kona Hei Hei DL from Jonny Mitchel and the Bike Barn in New Zealand I had two sweet rigs for this race, both of them putting in similar lap times and being used consistently throughout the race. I can’t wait to get some more time to dial in the newly designed Hei Hei DL as it seems to just love eating up single track:)
Off to check out more of the North Island before tackling the next race in 4 days time. This one a 7 day stage race called the Kiwi Crusade which will take us through the rolling terrain of one of NZL’s northern Peninsulas!

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