rocking my ADIDAS goggles and
new BELLWETHER clothing
I had been toying with the idea for a couple weeks and late last week I decided to head to Wellington to race in the third edition of the Mt Vic super-d. It is about a 5&1/2hr drive each way so I it the road around 8am on Saturday and had a few stops along the way to brake up the drive, I arrived about 230pm and headed straight to the track. Mt Vic is on the edge of the city CBD, over the years I have raced many cross country (xc) races here and had pretty good results along the way even claiming a couple National titles. The easiest way to describe Super-d is its a tamed down down hill track with a couple climbs along the way to test the legs, lungs and see whos got a bit of fitness! Over the years (1996-2013) we have used most of the hill to hold our xc races so I had raced on about 2/3 of the track we were using at some point, although I only had about 100mm of shock travel on the front and my seat was always up! now I have 150mm of travel front and rear and my seat can go up and down at the push of a button!!! The parts of the track I hadnt ridden had some cool sections including some "ski jump" step downs and some freshly cut off chamber tree roots, the track went from the top of the hill to the bottom with a good mix of every thing. I rode to the top on the road and did a look lap then repeated to climb the road and increase my pace a few more times on the Saturday as I knew some of the top locals had been riding the track most of the week. Race day, we could catch the shuttle up a get a few runs in during the morning and get all the lines dialed before seeding. I had a good clean seeding run and was a bit surprised to be the fastest in "MASTERS 1"in 5min30.0 and had the second fastest time out of every one 6sec back, I knew I had to keep it fairly clean and tidy while pushing hard during the race run as there were a few guys in "M1" that used to race pro elite down hill a few years ago and have a bit of fitness to get them up the climbs. We had no idea who had finished where until prize giving although second seed and the one I knew would be my biggest threat "THE WEAZEL" had counted when he crossed the line until I crossed the line and had 27sec so we knew it was close, so we hung out and talked smack about our runs while watching the other grades come down on there race runs. Prize giving revealed all and it turns out I had managed to take more time off my seeding run with a 5min25.8 but "THE WEAZEL" is a bit slow at counting, he finished 1.8sec ahead of me and taking the fastest time of the day in 5min24.0 I had the second fastest race run (with the fastest seeding guy going two sec slower in his race run) Turns out both the fastest race runs were from M1 and neither of us are locals! so much for home town advantage.......
Thanks to SPOKE magazine for being up there taking photos all day
With the wether forecast being right, saying there was a wether bomb due to hit the night before. Its an under statement to say we had some rain leading up to round two of Sean Clarks dirt series race at "old tar hill" a few km south of Tokoroa. The track had been shortened 5km to a 15km loop before we started, we started in the rain and on the red clay around that area it was always going to be rather slippery and hard work to get up some of the climbs. With 103 starters the tracks were going to get ripped up rather quickly. I got an ok start again sitting mid field and slip sliding my way along the tracks holding it up rite, things were going ok until we hit the first big climb. As I started the climb I found a bunch of bikes stuck in the quickly forming ruts and had to wait my turn to have a go at getting up. I spotted a different line than the one everyone else were trying to take and as soon as the gap opened enough for me I had a crack at it making my way up and past a bunch of riders, by this time there were a few marshals including Sean Clark digging at the sides of the ruts so the bikes wouldnt get so stuck..... Once I was clear of that hold up I had clear track and I was making the most of it but it wasnt to last very long at all, I soon found another bottle neck of bikes. This time there were twice as many and the climb was twice as long!People were trying all sorts to make it up including going bush and making there own way up and working together to get each others bikes up the climb. Once I finally made it past that climb I once again found I had clear track for a bit, well thats until I came across a few more bikes stuck on a small but steep pinch, once the pinch was clear on one side I had a crack but the ruts were too deep and I also got stuck.
After a while of trying I ended up working with the guy next to me (who had been near the front until he got stuck at this point), this was the last big climb of the lap although with the conditions and soil type what would normally be simple, had big ruts to get stuck in or it was just slippery and you had to be on your game the whole time. Lap one took me 1hr 15min and after stopping for more fuel I headed out for another lap, the lap had now been shortened a lot more with the major climbs being cut out! This didnt mean it was going to be easy now, as I found out in the very first corner turning off the gravel road getting stuck in a rut so deep my back wheel was off in the air. It took two of us to lift my bike out of the rut before I could get going again, From here I only had a few more issues with getting stuck or cross rutted and ending up on the ground taking about 40min to do lap two (Im picking about 7km) I still had a few minutes left if I wanted to do another lap but decided to save the bike (and my bank account) for another day. I finished mid field with a lot of riders only completing one lap and some not even making that!
I have spent about 6hours so far stripping and cleaning then putting my bike back together after the 2hr race but thats all part of the fun!!!
As some people know I grew up riding motos from 4years old to about 11. Last winter I bought myself a KX125 to play around on and do a few trail rides for fun and do something a bit different while keeping my skills up. I decided a couple months ago that while there are not many Gravity Enduro races on at the mo, I would have a crack at some Moto events. As I seem to do, I jumped in the deep end for my first event. I decided to do the first round (of three) of Sean Clark's Dirt Guide series, Sean lives in just down the road from me and is well known for his events being well run and rather tough!!!
The first round the tracks were a little slippery (after some rain over the days leading up) but still all ridable, these races are a two hour race with the flag dropping at the two hour mark so if you come through at 1hr59 you get to go out for another lap.....
I had only been on the moto a few times in the months leading up to the race and I was about to find out just how tough these events really are! As I signed in at rego they gave me a number to put on my bike, I looked at it and thought to myself "101 Ben Townley and on a Kawasaki!" (Ben was a couple years younger than me at school and he rode a Kawasaki, he also went on to be one of the best riders in the world!!!)
I had a good start sitting mid field and felt pretty good for the first couple laps (about 20km per lap) Lap three I started to feel tired and week in the upper body and started to have some stupid crashes which made things worse for my "weak upper body" having to pick the bike each time. I stopped in the pits to full up the petrol tank and have some PEAK FEUL ESPRESSO gel and asked the guy giving me a hand how much time there was, he replied: we are ate 1hr50 so you will get the next lap in! I thought OH F#*K....... ok a bit more gel in and off I go. I had a whole bunch more "stupid weak" crashes that lap, getting stuck under the bike down a bank and ending up with some nice blisters and a good ol bone bruise on my knee finishing well down in the field but placings (good or bad) didnt bother me, I wasnt there to try and win I was out there to enjoy and challenge myself and see what this type of racing is all about and if I like it. In all the years I have raced in mountain biking I have finished some races totally blown and with no energy but I have never felt that trashed! I was so tired and sore I couldnt even push my bike around behind my trailer and load it by myself, Although looking back at it (in a sick and twisted way) I loved it and really enjoyed pushing myself like that I decided to do the rest of the series.
I flew south on march 22nd and had lunch with Mops before dropping her back at the airport so she could fly north, this worked out well as we swapped car keys and both had transport for the weekend. Next stop was the Gondolas and to meet up with Craig Pattle to do a few runs and see what I was in for... I was in Queenstown to do a couple races during the bike fest week, the first was the 6hr super-d (I was in a two person team) and the other race I was doing was a gravtiy enduro on Corronet Peak.
My team mate for the 6hr was Ed Crossling ( Ed also raced in elite xc at Nationals this year), I was on my amazing ROCKY MOUNTAIN ALTITUDE and Ed was rocking his 100mm travel xc full sus with seat slightly dropped. Each lap we caught the Gondi to the top and raced down (with a few small climbs to mix things up). I went to have a look at the lap times to see where we were sitting with about 1.5hrs to go, turned out we were a few seconds off the lead! with this came the game face and it went from "do the race to see what its all about and have a fun day out" too "we are in with a chance of the win!!! time for the race face to come out of the bag" I started pushing hard and making silly mistakes, then decided screw it Im here to have fun! "still push hard but have fun doing it" this new frame of mind worked much better and I started riding properly again. We managed to get one more lap in than all the other teams before the cut off time giving us the win both in our class and over all. This was one awesome event to be a part of with some of the top dh (and gravity enduro) racers in the world taking part.
I spent the next few days hanging out in and around Wanaka, Helped out crewing on the final day of a multi day multi sport race for a couple friends, taught a couple of the girls to hit a few of the gap jumps in sticky forest and did a small photo shoot on the edge of the lake with Mops.
All this before heading back over the hill to get ready for the gravity enduro on the 29th. We headed over the day before the race and rolled a couple runs of some of the tracks we would be using in the race, a couple of us took turns driving shuttles while the rest rode
We had four stages on the one dayfor the G.E. (gravity enduro), we had sign on at the car park at the top of the road (bottom of the ski runs) then had to make our way to the top of the mountain for the start of the race, most of us rode up the track we were going to race down so to get a look at it. I missed the top section of the track and regretted it as soon as I saw it from the top as it was the most challenging part of the run (the start of the national down hill track) I watched a few guys go down then thought Id have a go myself. I made it down fine but lost a bunch of time at the top trying to find my way through the big gap jumps and drop offs. The next stage was a track called "cock rock" (or now its known world wide "rude rock") It was an ok run for me but I need to work on my corner speed. Third was Skippers, yup we raced down into Skippers canyon (not all the way) this is the track I feel I lost the most time on, Im not sure why but I just didnt gel with it at all. One thing with G.E. racing is you have to be self supported and ride between stages, this meant riding about 40min back up Skippers road. Most of the way up I could feel a clicking and hear a funny noise as I was pedaling, I stopped a couple times before noticing one of the links on my chain had come apart and the chain was only just holding together.... About 5minutes a chain braker and a speed link and I was up and running again. The final stage was ZOOT, shorter than the others but still a cool track with some cool jumps and a "split" section towards the end with two options to take before rejoining just before the finish line.
I felt "ok" all day but didnt feel like I rode as well as I could have... It was once again a stacked field with most of the guys racing that were at the 6hr race, I was about 2min down on the winner after about 26min of racing over about 4/5hrs and four stages.
I have to keep reminding myself that Im coming from a 16+year xc back ground and Ive never really done this sort of racing until this year so it will take me a bit of time to get used to "racing the clock" and be closer to the front guys and I also have to remind myself that they are some of the top pros in the world. I know I have a bunch of things to work on and Im finding that it has me excited to be riding again!