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Monday, February 28, 2011

National Champs.

I guess we were due for a wet race and after dry conditions all season, we finally got it down in Dunedin at the National Champs. The weather’s a bit different down there. As the majority of the country made the most of the last few weeks of summer we were in wintery conditions with temperature highs that barely made it into the mid teens. Rain in the days leading up to the race played its part and riders were soon on the hunt for mud tyres.

We were given five laps and with the track conditions the way they were it was obviously going to be an interesting day. The majority of the track was actually in pretty good nick. All except for the middle part of the lap, where things got tough when the gradient steepened. Traction became very hard to find and for a hundred meters or so it was easier and faster to get off and run. The mud was thick and heavy and the going was slow. Running up the climb was a bit of a slog but thankfully drier conditions higher up made it possible to get back on although clipping in was an issue as pedals and cleats became clogged with dirt. Another dismount and run for the last pinch at the top and then it was into the descent. Fast and flowy in the dry, it had transformed into a barely controllable slide down the hill. For me it soon became less about trying to get down the hill fast and more a battle just to stay up right. I pin balled my way down the slope each lap and as the race wore on I got to know a few of the trees beside the track pretty well.

I was after the win in both the U23 Men as well as the overall Elite Men’s race. However today I just wasn’t fast enough. I probably didn’t handle the tricky conditions as well as I would have liked. Despite having been near the front for the first few laps I had to settle for second place. It was a disappointing way to end the national season especially after doing so well in the series. Congratulations must go to Carl for winning the Elite Men’s title. And on a positive note despite losing out on the overall win I successfully defended my U23 Men’s National title and will again be able to wear the National Jersey with pride when I head overseas to race later in the year.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New Zealand MTB Cup Round 3 Nelson.

I have just got back from four days in Nelson and a race win at the 3rd round of the New Zealand MTB cup. It was a really enjoyable little trip with some good riding, glorious weather and the result I was after on Sunday with a win at the UCI cat 2 race.

I arrived on Thursday and put in a few laps on the race track with Nelson local and sometimes MTB racer turned super fast roadie George Bennett. Coming straight from Rotorua, I found the track a bit of a handful early on. It always takes a bit of time to get used to the lack of berms on every corner which is what the majority of tracks are like at home. I crashed a couple of times on the first lap but soon got the hang of the tight twisty trail and its often rocky and extremely dry surface. I was a bit surprised with how little climbing there was in the course because although there was a fairly long road climb at the start it wasn’t steep so it was a bit different to the typical hilly Nelson circuit. It was obvious that it was going to be a very fast track if the weather stayed fine for Sunday.

That evening Stylie and I went for a trail ride on the ‘Peaking Ridge’ track. We went the shorter way to the track consisting of a long and often extremely steep climb up a gravel road and then a smaller 4wd track. After riding that I have had to reassess my ideas on what is actually a steep climb and I now know where to come for some punishing hill training. When we finally made it to the top the reward was an undulating extremely rooty and rocky single trail continuing along the top of the hill to our destination at peaking ridge. The descent down the Peaking ridge trail was awesome. I have never ridden such a rooty trail and particularly higher up there were some pretty rugged rock sections as well. I would have been better suited on a bike with a bit more travel and a more trail friendly geometry but the Blur XC handled the track well and really it was up to me to ensure that we made it down safely. The track opened up slightly as we got lower down and once I got used to things I was able to get a bit more speed up and really start to enjoy it.

The next few days were spent at the race track and by Sunday I knew it pretty well. Rain had been mentioned on the forecast but the weather man got it wrong and we were treated to another hot sunny day.

The Race:
No one really wanted to be in front up the first section of road so the pace was slowish from the start until the last pinch where George attacked to take the lead into the single track. I made sure I got his wheel and that was where I stayed for the first laps. We got a good gap on everyone else early on and it was clear that the battle for the win was going to be between us. I felt comfortable in the single track and I was pretty confident that as long as I didn’t let a big gap open on the road sections I held the advantage. After three laps of following I decided it was time to have a go and countered an acceleration from George, opening up a small gap and then taking the lead at the top of the climb. With the remaining three laps I extended my lead eventually taking the win with a two minute advantage over George in second place.

So it was a pretty successful trip. Thanks Stylie for the accommodation and for introducing me to some ‘real’ mountain bike riding. Hopefully I will be back some time soon.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

N-Duro Summer Cup Round 2

It has been a very humid summer so far this year in Rotorua and today was one of the hottest days we’ve had. At least the race started at 10:30am and was over before the temperatures peaked but even so it was tough racing conditions.

Today was my first race with my new Shimano 315 Shoes. The custom fit treatment has allowed me to get a really comfortable fit and they feel really good and worked great. I took another win so it was a good day.