Friday, August 02, 2013

Mainland weekender

A series of coincidences led to a sortee down to the mainland to compete in the Blenheim round of the Cyclocross Nationals on July 21.

De Snor, Alex Revell was keen to head down and asked if he could stay in the Voodoo Lounge. His fellow Revolution Cycles rider Geoffrey Notman had to head down south anyway to take photos for some painting he was doing, so it would have been rude not to fit in the race while he was there as well. For me it was a good chance to catch up with my family and bring back a motor scooter my brother had offered me, and obviously I would take part in the race too.

There was a taste of things to come when on the Friday morning as I was getting ready a particularly nasty quake rocked our house. It was a lot worse at my work where people were getting a bit more excitable, as is there job to. While I was sailing over the Cook Strait on the Bluebridge Ferry later on I got a text from my daughter saying another one had struck.

Alex roosts it up. Image from Sarnim Dean.
http://www.sarnim.com
Things seemed to cool down for a bit that night while my brother shouted us out to tea at the Redwood Tavern. The next day, Saturday, like a couple of gun-fighters, Alex and Geoff rode into town rather than accept the complimentary Voodoo Lounge flat-deck-truck pick-up.

They checked out dads latest "eagle" and made themselves comfy in the Voodoo Lounge. It was the first time for Geoff but Alex had stayed before and after the 2012 Kiwi Brevet..

We tweaked the bikes for the next day's event and after a wholesome meal topped off with a complimentary bottle of wine left over from the Grape Ride three years previous, we hit the sack.

Around 7am on Sunday we were awoken by a sharp quake that knocked a picture frame off the shelf. Hmmm. A bit of a swarm thing going on here.

I had first heard of Mondo Kopua at the inaugural Kiwi Brevet in 2010 and he seems to have taken up the role of introducing CX to the locals in Blenheim. They were very organized and I think they also had a points system for the non-CX class where they got credits for things such as skin-suits, costumes and leg-shavings.

Image from Bike-fit.co.nz
The course had some good technical bits and was quite a bit rougher than the manicured stop-banks and parks we are spoilt with in Upper Hutt, or "Upper Belgium" as its known. I was happy to be on my steel Singular Kite and wondered how much battering Alex and Geoff would have been getting on  their alloy Yeti's as they bounced over the myriad of cow-pocks that were in parts of the course. I don't usually race CX with gloves on, and this day was no exception but by the end of the event I had a very nasty blister from my cow-pock induced death-grip!


My speedy starts seem to be a thing of the past so these days I seem to be relying on a consistency that manifests itself in a 14 second spread on a long 7-8 minute course like this. Geoff and I were both racing vets men 45+ and I watched as he started putting putting a good 10 seconds a lap on me as he rode off leaving me to battle with the fastest ladies. Anja McDonald and Jenna Makgill were both riders I had heard about through mountainbiking and I knew technically speaking both of them would ride rings around me. Downhill, Cross country, fixed gear and Singlespeeding, these ladies have big reps, World champ and National Champs status across all codes, but I had no idea any of them were CXers. 

Me flying my Kite.
Check out the levers.
http://www.sarnim.com
I busied myself at trying not to fall off on the slimy off-camber and after a few laps I managed to haul Jenna back probably courtesy of my running fitness, up one of the grunty walking climbs. It was common for me to come a cropper at least once a lap, and to fail at reclipping into my pedals as my crash point was usually followed by a pocky descent that was bumping my feet off the pedals. Sucks to be a nana!

The race was to be a bit longer than normal at 60 minutes plus 1 lap and eventually I pulled back Geoffrey and started catching a few more riders and lapping a few more. The "other" Mike Anderson from Stoke Cycles was just around the corner and for two laps I tailed him and Anja as Anja's lap times started to blow out. On the last lap I made a move and somehow cleaned the technical bit that was stymieing me, dropped Mike and ran past Anja on the next climb. Great I had it nailed. Unfortunately the last zig-zag proved too much for my nana-skills and I lost the front-end yet again and with my levers getting progressively lower with each get-off there was no way I was going to make the time back with less than a couple of minutes to go!

Somewhere along the way we caught Jut Bishop who I remember from back in the 90's as being the area's top MTBer. Its cool to see him still out there giving it a crack. 

Geoffrey Notman with his racing head on.
http://www.sarnim.com
Alex was having it mostly his own way after his main competition, Logan Horn from Christchurch burped his tubeless tires twice on a firm part of the course, not that it meant that Alex slowed down at all, indeed he came a good cropper on the triple-set of stiles at the start-finish and scored a good haematoma for his efforts. It was great to hear some of Alex's tales from his CX racing in Europe last year.

We were late in starting the race so Geoff and I split ASAP when it finished to get out to his next appointment at Renwick where he was taking some shots for inspiration for his next series of paintings. Alex also took off so sadly missed the prize giving which looked particularly salubrious with some very nice bottles of wine and other goodies up for grabs.

After attending the Renwick Boar Slaying comp we realised what a completely fringe activity Cyclocross is by comparison. Thanks Mondo for lifting the profile!

After another wholesome meal from my mum I was contemplating jumping on my new scooter for its last ride on the mainland, to the ferry, when the next quake hit at 5.09. A 6.5 ! What a monster. I cant say I've ever been scared of an earthquake to that extent in NZ before. Suffice to say it was a busy week at work the next week.

We really enjoyed our brief shaky interlude down south and would recommend anyone to check out the CX events Mondo, Brent and his crew are putting on down there. We travelled via the Bluebridge Ferry which has free wifi and movies. Compare this to the Interislander Ferry where you have to pay for both of these, on top of a more expensive passage fee, plus The Bluebridge people had a half price deal on : )

Thanks to Sarnim Dean for the use of his awesome images on these pages. Check out the classic one below. This is Kim Swan (the one on the left ; ). She is a good friend of my fathers and has written many books on Pig-Hunting and horse riding.  For more on this theme check out Sarnim's pix in his Flickr feed.


Kim Swan, look harder, no, on the left ! http://www.sarnim.com
Results here.

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