This post covers the three PNP (www.pnp.org.nz) xc races I entered this Spring. None of the races was ideal from a racing perspective for me, but it was great to be back amongst the local MTB scene in Wellington after my year away.
The first of the three race was held at Mt Victoria, in central Wellington. For those foreign to the charm of Mt. Vic., this hill is situated directly behind the famous Embassy theatre, which was the scene of the recent Hobbit premiere. It has held many a race, local, national and I am told one World Cup a few years hence. It is a steep little hill, with lots of fall line trails crammed into a small space, so you can always expect a technical coure, with lots of lung-busting climbs. The course laid out contained all this, and the Mt. Vic. super-D course (touted as a mostly downhill XC race course). However I didn't even make it to the super-D start on my first lap...
I had a strong-ish start, not wanting to smash myself off the line, knowing that I couldn't maintain a massively strong pace up the first climb from the velodrome to the summit. I worked my way through people once off the steeper initial pinch, guessing that people would have gone too hard and not be able to keep on pushing on the flatter Alexandra road section of the climb. I made it into a reasonable position by the first descent, a superbly steep fall line track that was a little greasy I rode this well until the bottom section where I took a harder line to try and inside line people, which worked, until I had to turn at the bottom... Low pressures mean good grip, but only until you roll the tyre off. Which is what I did to my front.
No worries, CO2 out, give it a blast, inflates nice and easy, jobs a good 'un, only lost a couple of places; time to hop back on and chase hard. On hopping back on I noticed the rear was a little less 'compliant' (over-used, under-understood cycling journo term there, deliberately used incorrectly) than usual. How I had flatted the rear I don't know, but it was tubed, with a slightly dodgy tube. Race over. No more inflation, time to relax and watch and shout at my mates.
Belmont regional park was round 4 of the series, and race two of my failed series. Here I made the rookie error of not eating enough.
We woke to grim rain and knew we would be in for a torrid day on the bikes. Andy and I were due to be riding out with Thomas Lindup, and without this engagement I doubt I would have gone. However we got our acts together and rode out along the Hutt road before turning up to Belmont Regional Park and the venue. Not only had I not brought much food, I had brought next to no spare clothing... Another error.
My race began inauspiciously with a poor start leaving me away from those I thought I might be racing on the first long singletrack climb. I waited patiently though, knowing I would be losing many of the riders in front of me to a different course soon allowing me to play catch up over a longer distance. Over the top I was riding with Kim Hurst, and jumped ahead of her into the first descent, knowing I had little grip and wouldn't be able to react to anything I didn't see if I was riding behind her. She easily stuck with me and overtook me again once onto the tarmac climb. The surface changed to gravel and we continued to climb. On this climb I glimpsed Andy and proceeded to chase hard. A bad idea. I blew within the first 10km of the race.
From here I went backwards, barely making it up the climbs on the back part of the lap, and pulling out of doing my full course. I then trudged up the main climb as I had no energy at all to turn the pedals. I eventually made it back to the start-finish in dead last having not even done the full course. Possibly the worst racing experience of my life, and all down to not eating enough. Rookie.
Andy, Thomas and I then hung around the barbecue cooking sausages warming ourselves and drinking from Thomas' hip-flask. With a bit of food in me I was fine to ride home, but pretty ashamed of my mistake. Another one to learn from...
The final race of the series began in a school close to Makara Peak mountain bike park, and went out to the South Coast. Again we were greeted with terrible weather, which prompted last minute course alterations which were then removed even more last minute to leave us doing the full course as planned.
Having learnt from my previous two mistakes, I had good pressure in my tyres, and food both in my belly and pockets. I was ready and raring to go.
The race began with another long climb, mostly on tarmac, so there was no great rush to the front to get position for a singletrack pinch. As such I rode steadily in the second group knowing I would not be able to climb with Stu Houltham straight away. As such a gap opened slightly between the groups and I just sprung into this gap before the singletrack, easily bridging the gap on the dirt. My plan had worked! Whilst I didn't have the hole-shot, I was within sight of the front. A raising of the pace over the top though saw a gap from in this group, which I then had to try and close on the climb up from Long Gully. Suffice to say I didn't close it by the top, followed the signs and ended up on the wrong course.
Turns out, in the hurried alteration of the course they had removed signs for our race without putting them back, and we were not told. I started running back up the singletrack descent I had started, but there was not enough room for the flow of riders to get past me, so I gave in and rode the wrong course, and then made my own way back to the correct course. Riding on my own, in the fog with the frustration of another race gone wrong and more money wasted was quite painful, and I was glad to see Kim Hurst on the south coast, even if she wasn't glad to see me. She had punctured and had been riding on the rim down to red rocks until she was met by someone with a tube that she could use. A tough race for her too then.
I ended up finishing not too far back from the field, having done a few km extra and quite a lot of extra climbing. I wasn't pushing myself at arce pace for most of the ride out of frustration. However at least I (kind-of) completed the race.
And so comes to and end the 2012 PNP XC series. All being well 2013 will bring with it better results and fewer mistakes.