Round two was shaping up to be a much longer, and more grueling task, than round one had been. Sticking with the same format, I chose to go all in, and do six stages, without the shuttle aid. This ended up being about 50km of pedaling and over 1600m of climbing. To top it all off, we were chasing the weather. Grumbles of thunder throughout the afternoon kept reminding us the rain was coming, and none of us wanted to get caught out racing in a thunder storm.
Unfortunately a busy week, being ill, and bad weather conditions had prevented me from getting out and practicing all the stages before the race. There were no major surprises in the course, so I felt pretty confident that a lack of practice wasn’t going to be a big problem. We left race HQ at 9:30, with 6.5 hours to complete the six stages, and headed up to our first choice, stage C; Box of Birds. This was a good decision, being nice and fresh, resulted in this being my best result of the day. The tight, rooty, trail with some slippy steep corners in it, seemed to catch a few people out, but I really enjoyed it.
Although we were planing on doing stage E; K2, next, the long queue made us alter our plans, and do stage D; Corridors/Eastern Spice next. This used to be a favorite of mine, but I hadn’t ridden it in months. This stage missed out the fast jump section at the top of corridors, and we jumped straight in where it gets in to the tighter forest. A quick blast through a couple of turns takes riders straight on to Eastern Spice. The first half of this trail is all about the root drops everywhere, narrow and rutted. The second half is about the gap jumps, and keeping enough speed and flow going to clear them all. Great fun, but as the shortest trail of the day it’s over all to soon.
Back up the hill to join the queue for stage E; K2, it wasn’t so bad knowing that at least that would be all three stages on this hill ticked off and we wouldn’t have to revisit it at the end of the day.
Despite knowing this trail really well, coming at it faster than I normally do, a small mistake resulted in me ending up on a low line, that sent me straight in to a fallen log. Having to un-clip and manhandle my bike over the log, and not being able to clip back in for a couple of turns lost me some valuable time.
At the bottom of K2 was the option to do the joker stage down Bunny Jugs 1. A short 40 second stage, this didn’t count towards your total time but did give you the chance to win cash prizes. I’m not used to starting this trail from the lower entrance, which resulted in me almost charging in to a tree stump on the first corner, still a good run meant I was only a couple of seconds off the winning time.
It was the longest climb of the day to get us up to the top of the trig point, and the start of Stage F; Franken Furter/Riff Raff/Rocky Horror. This was the most technically demanding of all the trails in this race, and although not the longest in distance, certainly required a lot of skills and strength just to survive to the bottom. The fast open hillside of Franken Furter, quickly changes character once it gets in to the trees and becomes Riff Raff, with fast straight sections, punctuated with nasty steep and rough corners. It was obvious seeing some of the tire lines that some riders had some pretty big crashes on this course. It didn’t get any easier when you reached Rocky Horror. It’s like the trail builders gathered all the rocks from the forest and put them all on this one trail. Although there is good flow to be found, a lot of energy is required to keep your bike on the right lines and keep it high over big boulders, so not to lose your front wheel down some hidden hole. Unfortunately for me one surprise slippery rock took my wheels out From under me, and caused me to land with all my weight on a rock, which then gave me a dead arm (and massive bruise) for the rest of the run.
Another long climb back up this hill took us to stage A; Kung Fu Walrus. Although this is only a grade 4 trail, it has a lot of areas where you could have big problems. The fast straights have surprise drops, and high lines over roots don’t always provide the grip you might expect. To finish with there are two large boulders you have to weave your way through. These look fine, but have a high rate of claiming, pedals, mechs and bar ends. Despite all this it is an extremely fun trail that you can’t help but enjoy.
The final slog back up the hill took us to the longest stage of the day, stage B; Split Enz/Pondy New. Although I knew this would require a lot of digging deep in the energy reserved to stay focused for what is nearly 5km of trail, it was the one I was most happy tackling if the rain had decided to start throwing it down. It turns out that this was all unnecessary, as when we got there we found that it had been closed due to timing issues. So I was faced with a decision. Have a fun but pointless run down split enz, or go for a re-run and try and improve my time on Rocky Horror. So this is what I did. Although I was a bit slower overall, due to fatigue, not crashing meant I managed to shave 6 seconds off my earlier time.
From the bottom it was just a straight cruse along the rod back to HQ to collect our times. I knew I had made some mistakes that had cost me throughout the day, and although I was pretty happy with my performance you can never tell how everyone else had done. Turns out my results were the same as round one, coming First in category (because I was the only female master racing), but proving my worth and holding on to that podium spot by coming third overall.
Round one of the Giant 2W enduro started with a bang. Being part of the Rotorua Bike Festival meant there was already a lot of bike related events going on all week, the weather was perfect and the vibe was high.
This was the first round of three, and has something for everyone. With the options of a short course (4 stages, grade 3-4) or a long course (6 Stages, grade 3-5), and the choice of shuttling the transitions or pedaling them, there should be a race to suit everyone. Although the race is held on one day the course stages are released throughout the week before, so there was the chance to get out and practice them before hand (if you were lucky enough to live nearby).
Never one to back down from a challenge I opted for the six stage non shuttle assisted course. This worked out at about 40km and 1500m of climbing, but considering you could do the stages in any order, how you linked them together would effect your overall distance quite a bit.
We opted to get the pedally stages out the way first, whilst we had plenty of energy. Also the climb to these stages would be brutal in the mid day sun. Stage A was The top jumps of Corridor, crossing on to Tokorangi, which turns in to soak hole and finally crosses over on to grinder (at 1.8km it would be a tough pedal, although not the longest stage of the day, it was the most awkward). I’m glad we did it early as well, the trail got dry and dusty very quickly, and the normally predictable Corridor jumps claimed a few victims throughout the day. The only negative thing I have about the race is the timing system. Using a dib in and out system means having the plastic dibber strapped to your finger, so you can get it in the receiver at the start, and end of the stage. I had taken advice and put it on my middle finger, however I quickly learned that it messed with my breaking. This played with my mind for the whole first stage as I was very aware of it getting in the way, so when it came to the second stage I moved it to my ring finger, and never had any issues with it for the rest of the day. Stage B was the whole of Gunna Gotta, with a short uphill road sprint in to Paddy’s run, which finished on the wash exit. This was a bit tighter, and more technical than stage A, with a narrower and more rutted trail. The more cross-country style trail of Paddy’s run tested everyone’s fitness and resulted in a lot of overtakes too.
After the first two stages we headed across the forest to tackle the two grade 5 stages that were only in the long course. Not before a pit stop on the way over for orange slices, sweets and a lot of water. We opted to do stage F next, a brand new trail, Tuteata. This trail was only finished a month ago, and this showed with parts of it still bedding in under the weight of the riders. A lot of off camber and narrow benches made it a technically challenging trail to hold speed on. Mix in a bunch of small gap jumps to clear, turned it in to physically demanding trail. Back up to the top of the same hill for stage E, and a favorite of mine, Te Ruru (named after the native Morepork Owl). Similar to stage F it was steep, natural, fast and a lot of fun.
The final two stages were on a different hill, with a brutal long climb up to stage D. It started with the top part of Eagle vs Shark which is super fast and flowy, in to a very long uphill track sprint which required digging deep in the energy reserves to keep the pace on. It then dropped in to Tukonohi, another fast and steep trail with plenty of little drops all the way down, to keep on your toes. The final stage, C, was a full Te Mounga, and although I wish we hadn’t left the longest stage until last, I was feeling strong. Te Mounga is a trail I ride often, so I felt confident in my line choices. The top part is awkward and rooty, this turned in to an open dusty and rough trail, then the final section of the trail flowed back through the trees and one last sprint to the finish line.
Despite the big climbs and punishing heat the race was a huge amount of fun, with some brilliant trails. The finishing line had sausage sandwiches and beer to chill with in the sun waiting for the podiums. All the shuttled and non-shuttled racers are put in together, so I’m even happier that I won my category, beating some of those that shuttled their way around, and managed to come third fastest women overall.