The end of October signalled the start of the New Zealand 2020/21 race season for me, with the first round of the Giant 2W enduro, held in the Redwoods forest, Rotorua. I competed in all the rounds last year, and little has changed in the overall format of the race. I opted to race the long version of the course, without any assistance from the shuttles. Previously this would have consisted of 6 stages (4 of the shared with the short course riders), however this year there were 5 stages, and only two of them were shared with the short course racers. Although there was one less stage than last year, all 5 stages were arguably more technical and more fun, with more stages occurring on harder trails. Another minor but significant change was to the way the stages were announced. Most of the trails were announced daily in the run up to race day, but one stage was held back, only being announced on the start line. This late notice reduced the local advantage, as local riders couldn’t spend all week practicing it.
For this enduro transitions aren’t timed, and you can complete the stages in whichever order you like. I opted to climb to the highest point and tackle Stage E – Hatu Patu. My theory was that the long technical climb along Tuhoto Ariki would be a good warm up before dropping in to my first stage. Good theory, but I misjudged a pinch climb over some roots, and fell off 100m in to the first stage. Only a minor set back, and I got going again quickly. Being in the dense native forest meant that it had not had a chance to dry out, so the technical tight rooty sections became extremely slippery, and required a bit of luck to get through them cleanly. Much to the amusement of the photographers.
From the bottom of stage E I climbed up to the top of Stage C – Franklin Furter > Riff Raff. One of my favourite trails, and one that was due to be logged soon, so it was great to have one final blast down it. Long fast narrow straights, with tight dropping corners in it makes it a fun challenge, and my best stage finish of the day.
Next came Stage A – Taninwha National DH. This was always going to be an interesting one. The downhill track has been raced so many times over the years, there are countless ways the race organisers could tape the course. This time they had used an old part of the track called ‘unridabble’. After a weeks worth of rain on soft unridden dirt, it turned in to a rutted, sloppy, mud fest in which few people were getting through on their pedals, and had me laughing the whole way. The middle section of this track vaguely followed the normal DH track, whilst zigzagging to avoid any major obstacles.
I then climbed back up to the start of Stage D, which had only been announced that morning, as the climbing trail ‘Frontal Labotomy’ but in reverse, in to Whaki. This certainly came as a bit of a surprise to most people. Normally a climbing trail meant it had lots of flat corners, but a surprising amount of flow, and required looking well ahead to predict what was coming next. The stage then joined in to Whaki, which is a descending trail, although it has a few flat pedally sections as well. This resulted in a brilliant blind stage, but with a lot of sprinting involved.
A short climb took me to the final stage of the day, Stage B – Hot X Buns. Always a fun trail to ride with its fast rooty sections, but a horrible stage to race, due to massive pinch climb, that never seems to end, in the middle of the stage.
There was just one more thing to do before heading back to the race HQ, and that was the ‘Joker Stage’. Although the time on this stage didn’t count towards your overall standings, it did give you a chance at some spot prizes. Riding down from the high point on ‘Bunny Jugs 2’ this trail is quite fun and flowy. However, after the last couple of stages I didn’t have the energy to do anything other than cruise down the trail, and back to the finish line.
Given the Covid pandemic across the world this year I am glad to have been racing at all. Despite a small crash at the start of my first stage, I had a fairly clean race and was quite happy with my fitness and skills gained over winter. Bagging a 1st place in category and a 7th fastest female overall, is not a bad start to the season.