Sunday was the first round of the PNP Mountain Bike Series. I haven’t really done much mountain bike racing in New Zealand, but I have been riding quite a bit in the last few weeks, so I thought I might have a go.
The course was pretty long compared to what I was used too from Canberra with significantly more climbing involved.
The race started up a steep tarseal road (grades of 10-11% for the first km). We then headed into the first bit of singletrack. My grade started with some of the younger guys (under 15s maybe) who sprinted up the hill only to slow down heaps in the singletrack. There was a short bit of uphill fire trail after the first singletrack which I used to pass quite a few of the youngsters and a few of the guys in my category (including a guy on a full rigid singlespeed).
After that we were back into the singletrack and heading down. I was held up by other couple riders before hitting the bottom. We had sharp right hand corner to negotiate where I managed to cut inside the guy in front of me which left me with a pretty clear go for the next few kilometres.
We climbed most of the way to the top of Makara Peak before turning left and heading down a ridge. One the faster female riders had passed me on the last bit of uphill so I made it my task to try and catch her up on the down. She was riding really well and took me quite a while to catch her up. She went into Nikau just ahead of me and set a really good pace down it. I find if I try to go fast downhill I usually just end up doing stupid things and going slower in the end. The pace was just right and we flew down Nikau. The climb out of Nikau is pretty much all uphill, rocky and bit damp making it pretty difficult ride cleanly. There was a fair amount of traffic in this section with people coming off their bikes and not much room to pass. The fast girl left me behind as I was really starting to feel tired now.
It was probably four kilometres and 100 metres of climbing to the top of the last hill. I had to use the granny gear a few times to keep moving and give my sore back a bit of a break. It was slow going for a while and I probably lost a fair bit of time here.
Once at the top it was pretty much all downhill. I could see a couple guys just ahead of me on the last few switchbacks so I tried to catch them up down the fire trail. I didn’t manage, maybe if I had Dave Osmond’s fire trail descending skills I might have. There was a short bit of uphill before turning into the last bit of singletrack. I put all I had left into trying to close the gap on that hill and came close, but they both got in before me.
I had shortened the gap considerably on the hill though and set about chasing them down. Ridgeline Extension is one of my favourite tracks and I knew it well. By about halfway down I had managed to close the gap and sat in behind the guy ahead of me. The track ends at a fire trail and a new track picks up on the other side. A bit of passing confusing meant that the lead guy went in first followed be me and the guy that was ahead of me just behind.
The last two tracks SWIGG and Starfish are fast downhill tracks. The guy in front of took off and I hammered after him. He was flying through the corners and riding really smoothly through them. I barely managed to stay with him. At the bottom of the hill this time we turned left out onto the tarseal to the finish. I pulled up next to this guy and he said that was probably his best run down those last two tracks ever. I had to agree.
It was about half a kilometre on the tarseal to the finish. I rolled across in 1:35:54 tenth in my class out of 36. I was pretty happy with that given most of the guys ahead of me were way ahead of me (5 and 10 minutes except the guy who finished ninth).