Sunday, March 06, 2011

Karapoti 2011

Well, the Karapoti pulled its usual stunt, with weeks of very dry weather in the lead-up, and the usual turn for the worse in the last week. Fortunately mud is to Karapoti as ice is to eskimo's and the mud on tap on saturday was in one of its better forms. Wet and thin! As long as it kept raining lightly, there was no chance that it would dry and turn into the chain-sucking sticky mud we all hate.

Anyway, the gun went off - the flow in the river was strong, and seconds later I was fully submerged directly in front of the offical press photographer. Brilliant. I was less worried about drowning than I was about the bearings in my hubs and bottom bracket - the electronic key to Matts VW only popped into my mind later. Hopefully it would be well sealed in its plastic bag. A minute later I was on the tarseal wondering where my old starting speed was. It was official, I was as flat as a turd, best I let the race dictate to me, rather than kill myself and not make it through.

A few bunches of riders slowly passed me and eventually I saw both Trevor Woodward and Barryn on the side of the Gorge with punctures. I am not sure what happened there, no one has more sub-3 hour rides at Karapoti than Trev so it must have been a freak accident. You dont take risks on tyres at the poti thats for sure.

I ended up having some great dices up Deadwood with Gary Moller who has been having some great form this year for such an old bugger. I think for me it was often more efficient to run some bits rather than blow-up trying to ride every little dodgy bit.

One particular piece of track after deadwood was impressive with a small water-fall rolling down it. I stopped at the top of the Rock Garden for a gel just into time to see Gary Moller and Steve Owens from Wainuiomata go through. Awesome I thought, Steve has way better skills than me so I thought I could follow his lines. It was a pychological victory for me when he balked at the first big drop-off and I went hard right to fly past. Wahoo! Almost immediately I caught about 6 guys floundering away down the rock garden, and as they were devoid of momentum I was able to sneak past most of them.  

My plans to nail it (running) up the slippery Devils Staircase didnt come to much as there is pretty much nowhere to pass – until you get to the offical passing lanes : ) I managed to pick off another 6 or so riders before the top, where I stopped for a quick lube of the chain. No one passed me here.

At different points along the big Ring Boulevard I saw several people with punctures, one was Revolution Cycle's Jonty Ritchie and another was Oliver Whalley - Kiwi Brevet winner and room-mate from last years Singlespeed Worlds. After talking to Ollie later he admitted to using some very light weight tires. Bad move. My ghetto tubeless were going mint. A rather porky Nevegal on the front and a Larsen TT on the back, but no punctures or dodgy moments. Ollie is an engineer and will be involved in getting his home town of Christchurch back up and running, and his house, by the look of his blog : (

Somewhere down the Boulevard Trevor Woodward caught me and apologised for riding like a nana as he didnt have a spare tube. I managed to keep him in sight until the bottom of Dopers. From there to the finish he took 4 minutes out of me. I was in damage control mode up Dopers but not seeing stars so that was good. The descent down the other side was one of my better ones but the noise from my brakes was horrific. I think I was already braking on metal by then.  

Steven Owens beating me to the line - Photo shamelessly stolen from Oli
The Gorge just seemed to go on and on, and the puddles were sapping the life out of me. I got the fright of my life when Geoff Notman, who is at least my age, bombed past me on his rigid 29er singlespeed and rode straight throught that last stream cutting without even having to jump off. Amazing. I watched him up ahead, spinning like a nutter as we got onto the tarseal - looking over his shoulder to see If I was going to catch him and he could hitch a ride. He neednt have worried, I was toast. He ended up winning the single speed class and got the World Champ's (Garth Weinberg) scalp in the process. Legend. 2 hours 55.

The best thing about Karapoti is catching up with old friends. My old buddy, two times world masters 70+ pursuit champion, Garry Humpherson was there supporting his son Rex who still holds an age group record (2.35.04 - M1). Rex was on the podium again. It looked like there was a Cycle Services Reunion going on with all the purple tops around the place.

Speaking of records, my old protoge (Jordan Blake's) junior record (2.26.18) was in threat from phenom Anton Cooper who sprinted through the river to take the slenderist win from Dirk Peters. If its a dry year and Anton is still a junior then its up for grabs I reckon. It's hard to predict what will happen with a junior though as a lot can change in a few years. He really does look like the real deal though - he is out-lapping all the pro-elite riders in NZ currently.

My current protoge Tom Bradshaw came 2nd to Anton at the Nationals this year but as he's started at Uni in Dunners he couldnt make it up to the poti. I got to race his dad - Ant Bradshaw, and barely sneaked home in front of him. A good result for Ant, 2nd to Arkie and 2nd in the MTB nationals a few weeks back. 
I am not 50 til October so under the Karapoti rules I had to race the younguns (40-49) where I finished 6th. I was pretty happy given that I have been training for the Xterra off road triathlon. Look out for me – the only twit doing breast-stroke!

I always think its great when you don't have any excuses. My bike was flawless. (Santa Cruz Superlight). It was my first Karapoti with discs and full suspension. I didn't crash, I didnt blow (completely). Mission accomplished !