After a semi-disastrous opening leg of the series at Bluff, I was determined to turn things around for the second round at Mt Hutt. Arriving to find a high-speed track with numerous jumps and a technical final section through pine trees that had all the riders talking, I couldn’t wait to get on my bike and up the hill. Getting up nice and early on practice day I jumped on the shuttle up the track to get a taste for the speed that would be needed to get in contention for a top placing.
Practice day was hot, like really hot! Mt Hutt always seems to have good weather and practice day definitely didn’t disappoint with scorching temperatures the entire day leaving more than one person with a slight tinge on sunburn. Like the weather, the track didn’t disappoint with the fast fire-road sections of the top mixing well with the big jumps of the middle section and the tight and twisty bottom section where pedaling was put on the back-burner in favour of technical skill and carrying speed through the turns.
By the end of practice day I felt that I had a lot of good lines sorted and that my speed was up to par with the rest of the field, this left me feeling quietly confident for the race the next day.
With the promise of rain throughout the race day I woke up on Sunday a little bit apprehensive however by the time seeding had rolled around without any major rain my mind was put to rest and I headed up the hill for my run. I had planned to do a cruisy run that would allow me to gauge where I sat and then to step it up from there for race run. After a fairly mellow and trouble free run I found myself in 15th place on a 2.39….not at all where I wanted to be despite my relaxed run. Naturally the next step was to take it up a notch for race run and so that is exactly what I did. Sitting in the start hut cool, calm and collected, I was so keen for my run and after a good top section I got stuck in on the pedaling sections and let it off a bit more in the woods to come down with a time of 2.37.58. Barely 2 seconds quicker than my seeding time, this below average time left me highly confused given that I had definitely put in more effort than my seeding run and overall the run had been more consistent.
As I slipped down the rankings to eventually finish in 13th position I had a lot to think about and this week I have tried to find some areas that I think I can improve on. I am still puzzled as to why I was so far down the order with a run like I had but I guess it just shows how high the level of competition is in NZ and I will be doing as much as I can over the next couple of weeks to make sure I am at or above that level come the next race in Levin 2 weeks from now.
For the first round of the 2013 BikeNZ National series the downhill circus travelled to Bluff for the very first time. Being on the southern tip of the country (literally) we were greeted with some typically southern weather, freezing southerlies and lots of rain. Having just driven for two days down from Wellington, this wasn’t the ideal welcome but after finding some accommodation in an unfinished hotel ($20 a night, bargin!). We drove over to the local hill and set about our track walk.
The track started out promising with a twisting tree section that didn’t offer a lot of line choice but looked like it would be good fun to ride. After this the track left the trees in favour of a felled pine plantation and continued weaving its way down the hill. The builders had done a good job making the most of the elevation on offer with a jump filled flowing trail, however as the trail was only quite new the rain had also done a good job of making it unbelievably soft as we would find out the following day in practice.
After an early night’s sleep we awoke to heavy rain on practice day and after arriving at the track we decided that there was no immediate point in riding and so decided to take a couple of hours to walk the track and watch the lines develop. Come midday and the slop fest had begun to subside along with the rain leaving blue skies and a drying track. I put my kit on and headed up the hill for some riding. First run down and the track was actually surprisingly dry with only the last 100 metres or so being a bit of a mess and unfortunately coating my brand new bike in mud. Despite this practice day went well and I was feeling confident for the seeding/race runs.
Race day dawned sunny and with the forecast expected to reach 29 degrees there was a lot of hope that the track would completely dry out. This would have been amazing because as things stood trying to clear the jumps was a task nigh on impossible with the soft and soppy ground sapping any speed that you had somehow managed to acquire. Unfortunately by the time that seeding rolled around, not a whole lot had changed and things were still going to be pretty messy.
For my seeding run I decided to take a conservative approach as a full noise, 100% effort run would just leave you knackered for the race run a couple of hours later. Pedalling out of the start hut I kept this firmly in mind and while having a fairly average run with a couple of big mistakes I came down in 7th position and was feeling highly confident that I would be able to shave off some serious time for the race run. Back up the hill for racing and I knew that I was feeling good and would be able to put in a solid time. Before I knew it the clock had counted down and off I went, out of the start hut and into the run, I hit my first couple of lines perfect and then things started going a bit pear shaped after that. I honestly have no idea what happened but all of a sudden things just weren’t going my way, wheels were sliding around all over the show, missing lines left right and centre, blowing feet (broke one of my clips as well) and really just having a nightmare of a run. I guess things really hit a low point when I had to run up one of the small rises but not too worry I carried on. Coming out of the trees I knew I was going to have to put in a huge effort to salvage anything out of this race.
Smashing the pedals as hard as I could, things just continued to go against me and by the time I got to the finish line I was not feeling very confident at all. 3.03 was my time, the same as in my seeding run, I knew this was never going to hold up and after finally slipping down to 11th I was really just looking forward to getting out of Bluff. Now in Queenstown, a week of relaxation and riding is in order before we migrate north to Methven and the location of the second round of the series at Mt Hutt!
While I have been overseas digging away in Australia, I haven’t just been trying to keep myself away from all the creepy crawlies and the heat, with the 2013 National Series fast approaching I have been busy firing off emails left, right and centre trying to get myself organized with a bike and gear for the races.
The preparation period for a new season is always an exciting time for any rider with deals being finalised, new kit arriving and the racing just around the corner. Luckily for myself, after 2 months worth of emails back and forth between myself, Peter Burke and Adrian Armstrong, I am very happy to announce that I will be riding for Burkes Cycles for the 2013 Domestic season. I have ridden for Peter previously in 2011 to great success and am highly looking forward to riding for them again this year and being a part of the Burkes Cycles shop.
For racing I will be riding the new 2013 Specialized Demo 8 2. An Aluminium frame, I have been riding the 2011 Demo 8 throughout 2012, and so it was a logical move to continue riding a bike that I enjoy being on so much for the 2013 season. As well as the Demo itself, I will be riding in Specialized’s new carbon downhill helmet, the Dissident and I will be wearing Troy Lee Designs clothing and protection.
In addition to the amazing support from Peter and Burkes I have been lucky enough to gain some extra help from Kashi Leuchs and Black Seal imports with top quality products that I am highly looking forward to using throughout the season.
I would just like to extend a massive thank you to everybody who has helped this deal come about and also a massive thank you to Peter and Kashi for coming on board for this season!
The first outing for the Demo 8 and I will be at the first round of the National Series this coming weekend in Bluff, Southland, here’s to some good weather for the first race of the year, see you there!