Monday, August 29, 2011

A Wicked Weekend of Adventure and Racing

Last weekend wasn't without it's adventure. Sasha and I had planned for some time now to do Takapari Road but when the day came, the weather wasn't looking overly favourable. We planned out a different route which started on Takapari road, then (hopefully) turned off to the left and came back down for a bit of a saunter up to the glow worm caves. As we climbed Takapari, the weather was a bit dull and grey, but actually not too bad, so we decided to keep soldiering on to the top (it's funny how once you start a massive climb, you feel drawn to finish it). Takapari Road is a 900 metre climb up the back of the Ruahines. The highest peak on the climb is at about 1260m, so you need to be well-prepared for the weather to roll in pretty quickly... And that it did... As we climbed, we came across some patches of snow, although disappointingly, only enough for me to make a snowball to hurl at Sasha. We came across a couple of 4WDers and joked at what they must think of these two crazy cyclists all the way up this mountain in the rain. As we neared the top, the weather rolled in with a vengeance and the rain and wind kicked up quite suddenly whilst the temperature dropped rapidly (I wouldn't be surprised if it was only one or two degrees). We were pretty keen to get some warm clothes on but I was wary about stopping in an exposed area (we'd get colder stopping to put clothes on than if we pushed on), so we decided to keep pushing on to Travers Hut to kit up more appropriately... As we pushed on, I remember thinking "I know it can't be much further!"... It seemed to take forever. As we rounded a corner with very little visibility, Sasha took one of her tricky little lines down the inside of the corner and had quite a spectacular crash onto some nasty looking rocks... Huge credit to her, she laughed it off and carried on to the hut (I would have been crying like a school girl!). When we got to the hut, her knees were covered in blood (lucky I carried a first aid kit of sorts) and we put some more layers on (Icebreaker, I LOVE you!!!). We could hear the wind kicking up more and more outside and realised the sooner we got out of here and down to a lower altitude where the weather was nicer, the better. As we rode along the ridgeline, our hands were so cold we couldn't change gears and we pushed big gears up out of the saddle on the climbs to avoid having to change them. We kept a close eye on each other for signs of hypothermia and once we'd dropped about 300m of altitude, the temperature improved significantly and we got basic functionality back in our limbs. When we got back to the car, the weather was quite nice. It's amazing how you can ride up into the Alpine zone and it's like you are in a completely different world and then it changes back so quickly as you descend... Quite surreal. I must admit that I was slightly worried when we were up along the ridgeline. There is something slightly unnerving about knowing the mountain and the weather is in charge, and being at the mercy of it... Having said that, we were well-prepared for it and looked after each other and it was a prime example of why you need to be prepared for the worst when you head out on back-country rides.

Sunday was slightly more civil and we headed down to Wellington to do the first race of the PNP series at Wainui. I was rather shocked to see on the entry form that, having turned 30 a couple of weeks ago, I was now in "masters"category as an old fogey. I've never ridden at Wainui before, so on the start line, my arm warmers and wind vest were quite a welcome addition, but once we headed off and up the first 250m climb, I was scratching for my zip to undo my vest and pulling my arm warmers down. I love climbing, and I was surprised that once the legs loosened up a bit from yesterday's climb up Takapari Road, I felt pretty damn good. I managed to stick with the lead the full way up the climb and we jostled back and forth for position up the climb, but once we hit the first piece of trail, I knew that Sasha would have a distinct technical advantage. The first trail was rooty and rocky and slippery and technical... It was great fun but not very well suited to my strengths and I suspect this was where I would have lost most of my time to Sasha. Throughout the race, I had a couple of small mechanicals along the way and took one wrong turn... All in all, it maybe cost me a couple of minutes, which was a bit of a bummer when I found out the first placed masters lady only crossed the line about 40sec before me... But it's part of the game and if you have a day like that, you just need to work with it and make the most of it. The trails were so sweet and I had such a great time. One of the other ladies I was jostling with for most of the race, Ash, had some sweet downhill moves that were keeping her in front and when I passed her on the climb on the last lap, I just dropped the hammer to try and put some time into her... By then, I knew the track a bit better and had a great time hooning down snail trail with reckless abandon then sprinted it in to the finish line. Second masters lady and third lady overall.

What a bloody tops weekend...

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