The Toa Enduro is the first event to kick of Crankworx Rotorua 2020, it was also the first round of the Enduro World Series Asia/Pacific Continental Series. As a result this was a big day on the hill, with some big competition. 6 very technical and gnarly stages over 32km and 1400m should have been pretty straight forward, however the seriously steep climbs, and tight transition times meant that I never stopped pedaling from start to finish.
The start and finish line were at the beautiful Blue lake, and we had a fairly easy climb up Apu Moana to get to the start of stage 1. This first stage was Hot Cross, including the Bandi line towards the bottom. This was a rude awakening for the legs, a fast and rooty trail with some nasty pinch climbs, that always seem to go on for longer than you expect. Running the main line almost the whole way, until an awkward sharp right near the bottom took riders through the Bandi line. This line was very lose, and included an awkward drop in the middle with some heavy compression’s on the landing, which caught out a few riders.
After burning my legs out on the Hot Cross, it was time to tackle the longest transition of the day. A steep climb up direct road, in to Frontal Lobotomy, up the last bit of Tawa road and then a long technical climb through Tuhoto Ariki. Stage 2 started around half way down Tuhoto Ariki, lots of flat corners, roots, and technical pedally sections before it dropped in to Hatu Patu. This part of the stage had a bit more flow and gravity to it. Here is where my first crash of the day happened. A section of the trail had fallen apart since practice, the day before. Although some extra effort got me through the damaged bit of trail, I had pulled to hard, and veered off the side of the trail, and came off the bike. A quick jump back on, and the rest of the trail, with it’s awkward rooty drops, and loose dusty final section went really well.
A straight transition up Tawa road to the shuttle drop off took us to the third stage. The shortest stage of the day, was probably one of my best. Starting on the National Downhill track, and then cutting in to a rutted and loamy Mushroom track. I really felt my suspension being put through it’s paces as I picked up full speed on the bottom of the DH track and over the river gap. Cutting across a gravely track and in to the final section of Whaki, which being in the open all summer has left it dry, dusty and like a giant sand pit.
Still chasing the clock to make the transition times, meant even though the next transition was a short one, there still wasn’t much time to catch your breath. The recently built Tuteata track, was fast and off camber for a lot of the trail, with some long stretches of pumping and doubling up features to keep the speed. Some steep switch backs in the middle were made even more difficult at high speed, but resulted in a good run.
Another beast of a climb ahead of us was not inviting, as we hadn’t stopped all day. Combine this with high temperatures, meant exhaustion was starting to kick in. All the way back up to the highest point of the hill for stage 5. Tihi O Tawa in to Billy T. Tihi is normally one of a favorite tracks in the forest. Just like a lot of the other tracks that are built in the native sections of the forest, it runs fast, with lots of natural root drops, bits to double up and line options. Unfortunately I miscalculated a line choice, and lost my front wheel between two roots. At this point I think I was to tired to fight it, so I was propelled straight over my front wheel, and my second crash of the day. After getting back on my bike it was business as usual to finish up the stage. The last part of the stage was on Billy T, which has recently been logged, so it was rough, dusty and very loose. An exposed drop in to a decent sized gap jump at the bottom made for a fun stage finish.
One last climb back up Tawa road for the final stage of the day. Tuhoto Ariki in to Kataore, is another favorite of mine, but it’s a long and physical trail, and I wish I had more energy left to tackle it. More native riding, Tuhoto has lots of root drops and flat corners again, with some very technical lines to tackle. Then when the trail becomes Kataore there is a lot more gradient. Steep corners, with more root drops in awkward places. To add to the pressure the crowds had started to gather on the famously difficult “Hecklers Corner” at the bottom of the track, you could hear the jeering from 4 corners up the trail. Although I navigated all the difficult parts confidently, a small root on the very last straight section caught me out and threw me over the bars for the third time of the day. On retrieving my bike from the bush I found my bars and saddle were pointing in opposite directions, despite this I still managed to make the last corner and get over the finish line.
That was certainly one of the more difficult races I have ever done, feeling like a full blown EWS, and it has certainly highlighted how much I need to work on my strength and fitness over the winter. I was seeded 10th at the start of the day, and despite three crashes I managed to hold my 10th place. I would have liked to have been a bit stronger and have a better race, but overall I still had a brilliant day on some fantastic trails.