Friday, November 16, 2012

Flying Kite at Wainuiomata Trail Park

I have had an inkling to do Taupo's 85km Huka Challenge on my CX bike next weekend, but before I commit to it I thought I better get out onto the most similar terrain I can find on my own back yard. That would be the WTP (Wainuiomata Trail Park). Taking the "long way home" was the plan, and although the direct route of going straight up Summit road was the closest to  my work, it would have been a bit of a push with only 34-25 gearing. Its usually granny-granny on my MTB. WTP has some great smooth trails, and I'd heard a lot of work had been done on their most recent one "Towai ". The last time I rode it was in a race (before I got lost) on my rigid Karate Monkey, and although it was a handful, it was a fun but demanding trail.

The Towai track
The recent work had taken a lot of the rough edges off the trail and made it 99% rideable on my Singular Kite. There were just a few bits that had me stepping off for a pace or two. The Kite continues to amaze me with its forgiving nature. I have got into a few slides on it, but never crashed, and the lightness, compared to a fully or heavier 29er really starts to be noticed after a couple of hours.

I was happy to be using an overbuilt Thomson stem when I whacked into a hole at the bottom of the Snail Trail but that was about the only moment I had. Jungle Gym and Labyrinth were all sweet as was the wetlands track. I wasn't going to hit 491 just yet : )

I noticed something else which was completely unexpected. While riding at WTP I am often skidding my rear wheel when riding my drop-barred Karate Monkey or Santa Cruz Superlight. The relative "ineffectiveness" of rear cantis put paid to that! I am convinced that the mini-vees on the front though are the best thing next to discs and I was very impressed with how well they handled the Summit road descent, up to 23% in places, according to Strava. I only had to get off once at the very bottom where the deep rain ruts directed me into the bush. I am still not sure whether to ride it at the Huka at the moment. I might head out to WTP one more time.

The view from the Pylon road across the Harbour
Coming down Summit road, 23% in places, according to Strava.

Another view of the ride, going to WTP via the Wainuiomata Hill, and back down Summit road.
A screen grab of WTP with Towai high-lighted.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Weekend Warrior Spring update 2012

PNP MTB round 5 November 11th 2012
Its been a good while since I've posted on my blog so I have a bit of catching up to do. Last sunday we had the final race in the PNP MTB series calendar and it was a goodie. Very old school with a rocky downhill (Red Rocks) and a 25 minute granny gear climb (Tip track). My plan to ride into Wellington and back for a bit of extra training was put on hold as the light rain didn't really look like abating, so I headed to the train station. I felt like Alex Revell, riding to a Cyclo-cross race somewhere in Belgium, using the public transport system. Unfortunately while on the train I had forgotten to turn off my Strava App, and upon upload, 7.5 hours later, I got a Strava comment from Joe Cooper commending me on smashing the 51kmh KOM along the motorway with a 68kmh ! Who would have known the trains were that fast.

Upon arrival at race HQ we were told that because of poor visibility and rough conditions we wouldn't be doing the Tip track and Red rocks. Bummer. That was the main reason I came in. I wanted a longer tougher ride in preparation for the Huka 80km race in Taupo on the 28th. A compromise was met and the Elite riders were allowed to race the full course as long as they took a jacket. The choice of what class to race in was made for me! In the end it wasn't cold, or overly windy, but it was a bit misty, so it was probably the best call to make, given the diversity of abilities at the race.

This course had a particularly brutal start on tar-seal and gained a lot of elevation through the depths of suburbia very quickly. Thankfully we were spared the sight from the weekend before while pre-riding the course where a person of non-determinable gender wearing no underpants flashed us several times as they bent over to move boxes around their garage. Hiskey said he had trouble sleeping all week and the rest of us marvelled over how the brain can blank out things that it thinks are harmful to us.

In a race similar to last years, I ended up dicing with my 50+ age-group compatriot Geoff Notman on his singlespeed as we hit the top of the Red-rocks descent. Lack of local knowledge and generally poor skills had me braking when I should have been pedaling down to the coast and by the time I got to the bottom Geoff had a good 200 metres on me, and Trevor Woodward had just caught me from behind. I really felt my 26 inch wheels bogging down the deep sand a few times as Trev seemed to float past on his 29er. We hit the Tip track and I gave it a nudge as I knew I would catch Geoff pretty soon pushing his singlespeed Niner up the granny gear climb. I got a bit of a gap on Trev in the first half, and as is usually the case, my over exuberant pace caught up with me in the second part of the climb and Trev passed me as my wheels spun on some loose stuff and I had a short dismount.

I did the timed Super-D segment with Trev, better to be behind him watching his line than slowing him down from in front! It was very foggy at this point with only about 20 metres visibility. I managed to hold onto him for the whole segment and he only started to fade as we headed back over to Wrights Hill.

I had a little gap as I came into the part of the course where Elite were to go down the Deliverance track, and everyone else was to go down Salvation. I don't know when I last rode Deliverance, maybe 10 years ago. I wasn't even sure I had ridden it until I recognised a few bits of it. I knew Trev would catch me, but there was a chance I could hold off Geoff if I kept my head down. Within in a minute I had crashed twice. Once a small one, the second time my undercarriage took a full impact from the back of my seat, and I was reduced to a hobbling gasping wreck. Trev turned up a short while later and had a good laugh. Ian Paintin tells me he stayed clipped in the whole way. Impressive. It will take me more than 1 ride a decade before I approach that level of competence. I alternated between running and riding through the slippery root infested creek-bed and eventually made it through to the finish. My fitness felt good. I had no real speed to speak of but considering it was my first race since Karapoti that's to be expected.

A big thanks to the organisers and marshalls that stand out there in the weather so we can have our fun. More details on the PNP site.

Martinborough Fun Ride, 115km October 28th 2012

I finally hooked up with my Voodoo Lounge buddy Neil for our first event in the team strip. The 115km Martinborough fun ride. The ladies had a free pass to hit the shops while we valiantly did battle on the country roads of the "rappa". Despite a crappy day in Welly, it was all good over the hill and was in fact great weather for racing. What I wasn't prepared for was the old start-stop nature of road racing. Luckily my wednesday worlds rides had meant that I could at least fake sucking a wheel for a while. I don't think I had done a "road race" since around 2009, so it was hard at first. On the first lap I foolishly did a few turns and found myself cashing cheques my body wouldn't honour as I went out the arse on the last climb of the first lap. Luckily I was not alone and the group managed to work together and catch the front bunch. Phew. That was close. How the hell was I going to keep in touch for the next longer lap and its extra hills!

I have no idea who owns this photo, I just borrowed it off Facebook !
Fun rides seem to be made up of two sorts of people. 3% good riders who can take a turn, and 97% of the rest of us who are faking it, sucking wheel and hanging on by the skin of our teeth. On the last hill I tried to stand up to throw in a little sprint to stay in touch, but my legs were cramping so badly I had to stay seated and spin like crazy. I was still moving through the bunch, and hanging in there.

Voodoo Lounge Teamsters in first team outing
With 20kms to go, Pro rider Joe Cooper and crusty Craig Lawn rode away as the shagged remainder of the bunch were powerless to do anything. We tried to form a paceline and bring them back but most of the riders were in a similar state to me. I thought I was being clever sucking the wheel of this giant of a guy in a Roadworks Jersey, but he went to the front for a turn, down a very big hill, at a very high speed, and I was next in line to come through. Just holding his wheel was putting me in the red. I managed a short turn then pulled over, sure I was gonna float out the bum again, but somehow I hung on.

 I finished with the front 25 strong bunch, Lawny and Joe 2 mins up the road, and waited for Neil's arrival. He had had some problems, a slow puncture and stopping to help another ride in distress. The ladies had not managed to max out the cards so it was a successful mission all round !

Image courtesy of Owen.
Revolution Bicycles 11 Peaks October the 6th 2012
The Revolution Bicycles 11 Peaks event was something I had been meaning to do for a while, so I had to turn down a chance to ride with Voodoo Lounge member Neil for the Vets  fun ride in the Wairarapa. The main problem I faced was not knowing where the hell any of the "Peaks" in the Peaks race were, or how to best get to them. I accosted Brevet buddy Owen Hughes online the night before and managed to cadge a ride with him. I didn't realise that he was actually riding with Voo Doo Lounger Andy King and UK MTBer Callum Chamberlain. All of these guys were showing recent good form which was a bit of a worry.

The plan wasn't to do the fastest time, but to ride the funnest way, and that was cool by me. I was on my 29er drop-barred Karate Monkey, Owen (and I think Callum) were on 26er hardtails and Andy a 29er fully. We went off at a crazy pace and shot straight to the top of Makara and then along the Skyline trail, to where ever the Skyline finishes. I'd only been along there once, and in the opposite direction, so it was a great new ride for me. The only other time I rode it was with Cleetus and it was so windy I had no inclination to ever do it again. Taking this route probably cost us a hell of a lot of time, but it was new trail as far as I was concerned.

Callum, Andy, myself, Pat Hogan and Owen Hughes taking photo at the end of Skyline?
We criss-crossed Wellington for the next 5 or so hours and the only other peaks that I had been up before were Hawkins Hill, Wrights Hill, Mt Albert and Mt Crawford. Awesome. There were some amazing views on what was a lovely day with a slight southerly. Coming through Mt Vic Callum got a puncture. Being as always, over-prepared, I had a spare 26inch tube in my back-pack. I'm not sure why, maybe because I know you can make one fit a 29inch wheel if need be. I told Callum to make sure he changed it as soon as he got home. He didn't, and punctured the next weekend in the PNP race : (

We carried on through Mt Crawford and came down the Jail-break track, once again, probably not the quickest way off the hill, but definitely the coolest way down! I had a bit of an off when I rode a bit high on one of the banked turns. We stopped at Hataitai and debated whether or not to have a sit down meal or just grab some buns and run. We ran.

I couldn't tell you where we went next but it was steep, and hot, and I was getting tired. We popped out at the bottom of the tip-track which by now I was not looking forward too. Callum was forced to attacked it hard as his single front ring didnt give him much of a gear spread. Andy's form was showing through and he let it rip, never to be seen again.

I had a granny gear of a 22 on the front and a 36 on the back, which is absurdly low, by anyone's standards, but I actually used it. I could have sworn it took me 50 minutes to get up that climb, but Strava tells me it was only 30. I had a small lead on Owen at the 2/3rds mark but he came back at me just before the top. We carried on and took in some cool trail that came out by the entrance to Zealandia and in my blithering state I clipped my bar on the bank and only a nearby "safety-tree" stopped me from dropping into a rather unfriendly looking gorge.

The finish at Revolution Bicycles was welcoming with a burger and ginger beer outside the shop and very friendly debrief. Heaps of our old Brevet buddies were there. There were a wide range of bikes being used and for the serious people, a CX bike or a hard tail 29er seemed a good option. With his current bike shortage Dave Sharpe chose the duathlon option of road-bike/running and wasn't too far off the pace. A really fun event and its quite impressive that you can jam 2650 metres of climbing into just 69kms !
Thomas Lindup took out the honours on his shiney new High Ball and the next 3 riders were also Revolution teamsters!