After the first round of the Summer Cup in Palmerston North being super windy and the second round in Tokoroa being cancelled due to a storm. It was time for round three. Mountain bikers from all over the country journeyed towards Rotorua. Athletes came from as far north as Northland and Auckland right down to a strong Wellington team and even riders from Christchurch. Longmile road was where the event village was set up. With the start/finish at the foot of nursery road.
We rocked up to the Longmile Road on Saturday afternoon. I joined in with some of the Palmy riders for the course practice including Gareth Cannon (Round One Winner), Max Taylor and Ne il Martin. We shot round a lap of the course in about 45 minutes. I predicted that race lap times would be around about 40 minutes. I had recced the course a week prior so I was confident I knew where I was going. The practice ride was spent discussing expensive bikes and parts, lines, passing sections and of course just general Mountain Bike banter.
Sunday the 5th of February was race day. I rolled out my brand-new Trek Project One hairtail Procaliber for its first race. After having a chat to some of the competition and setting up my Garmin and GoPro cameras I jumped on my crisp new bike and began my warmup. Before I knew it the riders were lining up on the start line. After jumping a few barriers I snuck into the second row on the grid behind the points leader Gareth Cannon and some roadie on the front row. I had my good mates James Kirkham and Ben Mcleod right behind me to talk some smack with on the start line before the race. After about five minutes of chatting and a two minute briefing the countdown had started. 188.8.131.52.1.
In typical Mountain bikers style everyone departed on about 2. I was able to get a great jump initially but was caught behind Gareth who was squeezed by the roadie and the barrier in the first 10 meters. After clearing the start/finish arch I was off. I began to pick my way through the field. By the time we reached the gravel (about a kilometre into the climb I found myself leading out the aggressive pack). I flicked down a few gears and began to save energy for the remainder of the start climb. Before I knew it I was getting swamped by riders from all sides. NZL hub riders left right and centre.
They were attacking all over the road along with the big guns like Edwin Crossling, Jack Compton, Sam Osborne and Glen Haden. Gareth shot through along with Eden Cruise and Taylor Johnston. It wasn’t until the first of the roadies came through that I started pulling back some places. Once we reached the top of the climb and began the single track of grinder I found myself in 8th. Taylor Johnston stuck to my wheel down grinder with Hamish dragging off of the back of him.
By the time we had reached the halfway point of lap one the situation was Edwin, Jack, Gareth, Sam and Eden out in front. Then a chase pack of myself and Taylor. We had snuck passed Glen Haden and Hamish had snapped his seat post causing him to retire. Taylor and I continued a high-speed game of cat and mouse along the gravel roads and through the forest. We would serge off the front of each other attacking anyplace we could in hope to try break one another. But we learnt it was better to ride conservatively and consistently to make up time. Three quarters of the way around lap one of three 12 kilometre laps Taylor had once again attacked and it was of three 12 kilometre laps Taylor had once again attacked and it was my turn to play catch up. Although I was in 7th I knew that I could catch Taylor along with some of the guys in the lead bunch because their pace was far too hot for them all to maintain.
Sure enough as I rolled across the start finish after completing my first lap I caught a glimpse of Taylor working to catch the wheel of Gareth. Lap one time was 39:00. The remainder of the four man lead bunch were still out of sight. I knew that I had to catch Gareth and Taylor otherwise they would work together and ride away from me as they are both NZL hub riders. I closed up the gap in the first section of the lap and sat with Taylor and Gareth until we reached the gravel climb half way through lap two. After a few attacks at the bottom of nice road (not sure why they called it that) the three of us began to work together. Gareth pulled some big turns and by the time we reached the single track of ‘Sweet and Sour’ Taylor attacked. I was forced to go with him and before long we had dropped Gareth.
Taylor was relentless with his attacks. Once we hit the bottom of ‘Lions Tail’ (the final climb of the lap). He must have had shifting issues because I came passed him and he was off the track putting his chain back on. By the time I reached the top of the last climb of lap two I spotted Mr Cruise hauling along the flat gravel road on his own. I was now in 5th position chasing Eden in 4th and had Taylor working to catch me in 6th. After the descent to the start/finish I had one lap remaining. My second lap time was 39:59. My hard work on the descent had pulled back some time to yet another NZL hub rider. I continued the offensive now on lap 3 and was rewarded by catching Eden with 6km of racing to go.
However, I found myself in a position that I hadn’t been in before. In the past I had beat Eden on one occasion. That day I was riding strong and sliced through him to continue my pursuit for the National Cup. However, this time was different. I had caught him to close to the end to open out a gap so I knew that it was going to come down to a sprint. I also knew that the rider that leads into the trail ‘Turkish Delight is almost certainly going to win.’ He had worked this out too. In all honesty, I was unsure of what to do. I just knew that when we reached Turkish Delight I had to be in front. Eden knew exactly what to do. He slowed up. He slowed up big time. My heartrate dropped and their was nothing I could do. We were cruising through the single track, 5km from the end and we weren’t pushing many watts. After a few minutes, I worked out what he was up to. I knew he wasn’t tired and that he was just playing games with me. Then I realised that he was waiting for Taylor. I slipped passed and did all that I could to remake some time down ‘Dragons tail’. Taylor caught us before long.
We climbed to the top of ‘Lions Tail’ and began the ride along the gravel road towards ‘Turkish Delight’. After Turkish, all we had was ‘Old Exit’ and then a 70 metre sprint to the finish line. I knew that they both were going to attack along the gravel road. Because I knew both wanted to be in front of me. I kept my cool and worked out it was near impossible to beat both. But this didn’t stop me from trying. I positioned myself so that I could both defend against Taylor and I could counter Eden’s attack. We rolled closer and closer to Turkish. I switched to the inside line for the entrance to the trail. I had my eyes over my shoulder the whole time so I could look for the attack. I made it easier for us all by clicking up a few gears, and blatantly standing up. The others did the same. The boom I saw Eden go. I turned around and began laying down the watts. I was in the right hand lane and we were about 400 meters from the right hand bend that marked the start of the trail. I pushed and pushed. Eden slipped around my left hand side and began to come across next to me. This forced me into the drain on the right side of the road. I didn’t give up, as he thought I had accepted his mark of authority I began to push even harder. Now only 200m from the beginning of the trail their was still time to regain the front position. I felt good I continued to push harder and harder. I felt if it had of been a side by side drag I could have beat him. But in this case he just kept moving further and further towards the right. 20m from the start of the trail I accepted defeat, and glanced over my shoulder to see where Taylor was. We had just dropped a small gap back to him. I was about to slip in behind Eden and still in front of Taylor. Some great tactical racing from Eden that I learnt a thing or to from.
We wound our way back down towards Longmile road and the finish. Taylor new every inch of trail on the way down. I let Eden slip a small gap but it was the right thing to do as I knew that it was better to execute my lines on the descent to perfection and not leave any passing room for Taylor.
This was the safer option than pushing hard to stick with Eden, risking opening gaps for Taylor to slip through. I knew I could hold off Taylor in a 70m sprint to the line at the end of the single track. I also knew that if I were to sprint Eden he would just run me into the barriers or just beat me with outright power. We entered the last corner and Taylor and I began to wound up. Taylor switch sides before the line and cost him too much time. I finished 1 second behind Eden and Taylor and I were given the same time.
Jack Compton 1st
Edwin Crossling 2nd
Sam Osborne 3rd
Eden Cruise 4th
Tristan Haycock 5th
This set me up good for the overall points for the series. My consistency allowed me to win the Senior Men age group along with 2nd overall behind Edwin. The next event for me is the Rotorua 8 on the 18th of February. An 8 hour Solo race from 12:30pm to 8:30pm in which I am to win. Also the points gained in the Summer Cup for 2017 have shot me up to first on the National Rankings for Junior Men and 10th in Open Men.