Monday, February 6, 2012

New Zealand National Championships: Nelson

What a weekend! Friends, Briony and Brad, kindly let us stay in their house for the first half of the week. It was a great holiday, we were very lucky riding every day, enjoying the nice weather and loving the wonderful hospitably shown to us. On the Thursday we moved to join the PNP Club members at the Brook Holiday Park, which happened to be invaded by the mountain bike community.  It was a great atmosphere, bikes everywhere and everyone was super friendly, chatty and hyped up for the weekend.
A great set up for the new Endura race team also had it's perks. Thanks to Nigel, we were spoilt with a gazebo, bike stands, chairs, water and our own photographer catching all the moments - It has been such a great and supportive team environment, I have been very lucky to a part of it all. You can follow Endura and view race photos via facebook just like the page :)

Super D

The first ever Super D National Championship was held in Nelson on the Friday. A super D race is a mix between Cross country and Downhill. It is predominantly downhill course that is between 10-40min long and requires good technical ability on the bike as well as fitness. I made do with what I had, which happened to be my Cross Country race bike, a 29er carbon hard tail. Not the ideal bike for Nelson’s steep and rough tracks but I decided to make the most of the Cross country image and rocked up with my lycra, hardtail and seat up high in amongst all the downhillers with full suspension and baggy shorts.

The course was great fun. It consisted of fast, narrow single track, rocky steep corners with a few pinchy uphills thrown into the mix. The shuttle runs (a luxury us XC riders seldom come across) took us up to the top of the hill and then riders were released at 1 min intervals to negotiate their way down the course as fast as they could. The women were  the first to start, I was impressed with the number of women that entered with riders from both cross country and downhill backgrounds racing. The course itself suited the downhillers more with the steepness and roughness of the track. I felt pretty disadvantaged with a hardtail and found it limiting in many parts of the track, although the course did include a short 4WD climb where I was able to make up a bit of time. 
The race run started out with a near crash at the first corner where a big rock had fallen, my front wheel collided with it and almost got thrown off my bike down the bank. Lucky I grasp my balance in time and after coming to a stop I shuffled my way around the corner, repositioned my bike in the right direction and took off.
The rest of the course I loved, I was carrying speed as best as I could and even caught up and passed two of the girls who had started ahead. The last bit was steep and loose heading to the finish line. I went as fast as I could feel I could go without compromising my bike or risking a fall.
In the end I won the senior woman National Champ title over Sasha Smith who was only 11 seconds behind me. I was second woman overall behind Nelson local Harriet Harper who was only 25sec ahead, which is very exciting as I know I can make much more time if I was on a bike with rear suspension. My sights are now for the Oceania Championships in Rotorua, where hopefully I can borrow a bike and really have a strong chance of a win.  

Sasha Smith (2nd), Me (1st), Sarah Atkin (3rd)

Cross Country

My cross country race was a bit messy and I was disappointed with my performance and result. The course was fun, fast, loose and pinchy with the heat of the day getting hotter and hotter. By 2pm it was time for race start, I was feeling good, excited for the track as I really loved the course. 
The start didn't go so well, my legs weren't firing on the climb and I got passed by some of the Under 19 girls who slowed significantly on the single track where passing opportunities were scarce. It was frustrating as I watched the leaders disappear. Finally at the bottom I was able to pass and endeavoured to play catch up. The rest of the lap went well I had passed a few people and made up time on some of the riders in front. Then second lap came and at the bottom of the first descent, I took a corner too sharply and clipped the side of the bridge with my handlebars which sent me over the bars into a large ditch under the bridge. Unhurt I scramble up the bank with my bike back onto the track and went to play catch up once again. The next few laps went by uneventful, I felt awesome on the entire single track, loving all the spectator support and cheers. I was able to pass two girls and started to look ahead to the next one who wasn’t too far in front. Before I could reel her in, the heat started to get to me. I was kindly been given bottles by Ash Sparks and obtained my last water bottle half way through my second to last lap. This nice full bottle filled with refreshing water tragically bounced out of my bottle cage before I could get a chance to take a drink. I thought I would be fine but my performance suffered and my climbs became embarrassingly slow. I was able to maintain my position to the finish and ended up 8th in the elite woman (7th New Zealander). Huge congratulations to Dirk Peters and Karen Hanlen who took out the Elite race, couldn't think of any two more friendly and deserving athletes. 

Photo by Jerome Luthi

Photo by the Retief's

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