Despite countless reschedules to the race dates, due to the ever changing government covid rules about large events, we finally managed to kick off the 2022 2W enduro series… in April. I feel like the event organisers were trying to make up for lost time, and capitalise on the last of the good weather, as the first round turned out to be a much bigger course than I was expecting. I took part in the non shuttled long course, typically we are eased in to the season with a fairly easy first round, but this one turned out to be 8 stages, over 40km in length with 1600m of elevation climbed, over 5-6 hours.
Round 1 started at Waipa carpark, Rotorua. With a quick rider briefing we set off at 9am and head up the first climb of the day. I decided to start on the Te Mounga trail. This trail is normally split in to three sections, each divided with a road crossing. Stage 1 included the first two sections (D), and Stage 2 was the third section (E). This grade 4 trail included a lot of small punch climbs and lots of pedal strokes to make everything flow as a full run. Mixing it up between native forest, and open clear fell areas makes this track fast, rough, and requiring a lot of energy to keep the speed high. Because this was my first stage of the day, my legs were fresh and I was able to lay down two fantastic runs, happily getting all the good lines, with a 1st in category and 5th fastest woman’s time of the day. Unfortunately due to a timing error the second stage here was removed.
From the bottom of stage 2 we climbed back up hill road to the top of the downhill tracks. For Stage 3 we did the top section of Te Rua (F), a narrow benched trail with plenty of awkward roots to hop over, quite tricky, but a very short trail. From here we rode the short distance around the hill to Stage 4; Fools gold/24 carot (G). This is one of the trails sometimes used for downhill races, fast chutes and big compressions to deal with through some beautiful native forest. Another two clean runs without to many mistakes gave me a 7th position overall and 1st in category for Stage 3, and 6th Overall and 1st in category for Stage 4.
Back up Hill road for the third time for the next two stages on the downhill tracks. Stage 5 (C) was the top part of the National Downhill track, starting at the end of a high speed straight, it criss-crossed between old race lines over lots of chunky roots. Unfortunately the stage was only 50secs long, so by the time you had warmed up in to it, it was already over. On such a short track I struggled to get my head in the race, coming second in category by 0.2secs, and 7th overall. 50m down the trail from the end of stage 5, was the start of stage 6 (H). Making use of some of the less ridden lines around the Taniwha downhill track, this stage was off-camber, slippery and full or narrow ruts. Coming to this stage a little later in the day meant that the areas that had been grippy during practice, had become slick and slippery under the tires of the previous riders. I managed to hold it together through the steep stuff, and then one exposed tree root, in an off-camber corner, was enough to pull the bike out from under me, sending me tumbling down the hill. I brushed myself off and got back riding again pretty quickly. As I came out the trees ready to sprint the flat section, I then found two people walking down the middle of the track, causing me to slam on the brakes. These setbacks meant I dropped back to 3rd in category and 13th in the overall.
At this point in the day the fatigue was starting to kick in. After spending the previous week riding every minute I could in Queenstown, I was suffering from the exhaustion. So a very slow climb up direct rode took us to the top of Stage 7; Hot Cross (A). This is a fun trail to ride but horrible to race. A lot of pedalling with a few nasty climbs makes this a really physical trail. I emptied the tank trying to hold as much speed as I could with my heavy enduro bike on a trail with a lot of flat spots. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to over come my exhaustion being 10secs behind the category winner and 12th place overall.
One final slog up Direct Rode up to the last stage of the day, Stage 8; Tumeke (B). I had purposely left this stage until the end of the day. It’s one of my favourite trails in the forest, and the steeper gradient meant gravity was on my side, and I knew I could still put down a good run even when tired. The fast pace technical trail was running perfectly, up until the last step down. Because I was feeling tired I had already decided to avoid it, however I accidentally ended up on the wrong line aimed straight for it, but without enough speed, so I had to pull some evasive manoeuvres to avoid it, losing a lot of speed, but managing to hold on to a 1st in category and 5th overall.
Not quite finished with all the racing yet, there was one more thing to do, The Joker stage; Rosebank. I was not looking forward to this long wandering trail, with lots of climbing and awkward corners. The trail end rewards the spectators with a river gap jump, that’s is always a spectacle watching tired racers trying to pull hard to get over it. I had no intention of really racing this stage, as you only need to complete it to be in with a chance of winning spot prizes. Despite this I somehow still got 1st in category.
Overall, this was an incredibly tough enduro, trying to keep ahead of the exhaustion, and just keep attacking everywhere I can. I’m not sure where I would have stood had the lower Te Mounga stage been included, but I’m still pretty happy with my effort, and I was able to lay down some good runs. However it wasn’t quite enough at the end of the day coming 2nd in category, only 9 seconds behind 1st place, and 9th in the overall. The next couple of rounds should be entertaining, as we get in to winter, hopefully next time I will be better rested and fitter to race.