The word on the street leading into this year’s Karapoti was of the course being in the best condition in several years if not the best ever. The race records were there for the taking and with a very competitive field lining up it was going to be a fast year for sure.
After the usual mad dash across the river to kick things off, the lead group settled in nicely setting a decent pace up the gorge and working together right up to the foot of the warm up climb. Once there things quickly split to pieces, with Anton flying off the front dragging Matt with him while I struggled to begin with, making hard work of the climb and disappearing off the back of the top four. Thankfully I came right pretty quickly but had to really go for it passing Eden and Carl first and then settling in for the longer chase to reel in Matt. I eventually made the catch along the undulating Dead Wood ridge and with Anton well gone Matt and I began working together to keep up our overall speed.Into the Rock Garden and some over cautious riding on my part cost me with Matt getting away again and once more I was forced to chase. I was suffering a bit up the Devils Stair Case particularly on the hike a bike sections with legs protesting to the running/trudging/walking required on the steep ascent. Still I would have to say Devil’s seemed a lot easier this year and I can only recall one or two major bogs which didn’t provide much of a challenge at all compared to the mud fest in years past. As usual however I was glad to reach the top and it was great to be able to get back on the bike and riding again. Matt had managed to put more time into me and he too was now out of sight. I soon got going again once onto Big Ring Boulevard proper and before long I had him back in view and was just starting to close when disaster struck. F@#k!!! A rear puncture. I waited in vain coasting for a hundred meters or so and hoping it would seal but it was a decent side wall tear and I was forced to chuck in a tube. While making the repair Carl and Eden speed past and although I managed a decent change I was left with a fair bit of work to do if I was going to catch back up.
Although I rode hard up Dopers Hill hoping to catch a view of the guys ahead around every corner I probably didn’t really make any inroads to the margin and on reaching the top and having confirmation from the Marshalls that no one was in reach I probably lost a bit of drive despite myself and ended up just bringing it home making sure 5th at least was in the bag.It wasn’t till I had finished that a realised how lucky I had been not to suffer a second puncture with the tube bulging out of the hole in the sidewall. A few minutes after finishing, the tube blew up with a huge bang and I was very relieved it hadn’t happened any earlier which would have left me with a long walk back home.
Anton managed to smash Clinton Averys old course record by some six minutes and Matt too got in under the old mark with time to spare. Despite the flat I still set my best time and I am keen for another crack, hopefully I can make it back next year!