After 2017 World Single Speed Championships I crossed the line buzzing. I was hooked on single speed racing. What was next? 2018 NZ Single Speed Champs. Waihi was to play host for the 2018 race. Ben and I rolled up early before the race and began the banter with the other couple of hundred riders. It was an overcast humid day at Morgan Park, there was a sense of excitement coming from all the riders. I went out to practice the start and finish sections of the race course. From there I adjusted my bike setup and then commenced the warmup.
All the riders were called into a cordoned off pen like a flock of sheep. We were briefed on how the race was going to run and the start process. (Single speed races always have challenging aspects throughout the race, often a unique start procedure and a beer shortcut). This year we were to ride round in the fenced off area until the music stopped. The fencing shaped a donut. I believe there was close to 300 riders all riding around in circles. They split the direction of the males from the females. So, we were riding into woman all the time. Those poor girls must have crashed more in the start than in the actual race. Music was blasting away. Our instruction was that when the music stopped, a section of the donut would open, all the riders had to race out and go! It felt like forever that we were riding in circles. My Strava upload looks funny because of all the circles I rode around in.
Making sure my glasses are clean pre race
Sure enough, the music finally stopped. The fence dropped, and we were out. Heart rate instantly above threshold as I fought my way to the front. Of the couple of hundred riders I was around 10th or 20th to depart the donut. I pushed on for the first kilometre and found myself leading the race as we entered the first section of single-track. I dug deep and made it up the first techy climb. I knew the start would shuffle the pack a little, however I also knew it wouldn’t be enough to take Garth and Tad (both former National and World Single Speed Champions) out of the equation. I was working hard to open the gap while my competitors were caught in event traffic from the other riders.
Nearing the exit of the first single track section my chain wasn’t sitting right on my rear sprocket. I shiver shot through my body. I thought to myself ‘What? This can’t be happening, the best start and now I’m having mechanical issues! This sucks’. I popped out onto a 4WD section of trail and it gave me the opportunity to look down at my bike. Much to my relief I spotted the issue. If I could see something, then it could easily be fixed. If nothing was obvious to see, then how could I fix the problem. All that caused me the scare was a bunch of dead stringy flax wound up around my rear sprocket. No wonder I couldn’t ride properly. I checked over my back and sure enough there was Tad. The reigning New Zealand Champ. I picked the material out of my gearing. (I ran a derailleur in the place of the tensioner). This allowed me to pull the flax out fast and easy.
I jumped back onto the bike and set off. Now in second only 50 metres beh
ind Tad. The riders behind me didn’t look organised enough to make any ground on us so I pushed on to catch Tad. We entered Blackhill park. The weavey single track section of the race that crossed back on itself a kilomillionbillion times. Tad was holding me about 30 metres behind him. I settled into a tempo and made my way through the single-track. We continued for the next 5 or so kilometres. From here Tad slowly opened the gap to me. His superior tight, techy line selection was that much finer tuned then mine. Garth the other veteran knew how to ride this type of trail also. He caught me. Knowing I didn’t want to hold him up I waved him passed and sat on his wheel. He gave me something to focus on and pulled me through the tight trails. (And no, I didn’t get my bar ends caught on anything, but there were certainly some close calls.)
From left to right Jack, Me, Ben, Troy all Tauranga Club members and good dudes they say.
Next up Garth and I rolled into the first beer stop. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Single Speed racing there is always a few random elements to the races. Generally involving alcohol. Now I was expecting a beer stop or two. And I don’t drink. Fortunately, there is always a B line option. Besides I was told that there was a chance the B line could potentially be the same time loss as having to stop and down a beer. But boy was I told wrong. After what essentially was Garths first pit stop and me taking the long loop our tracks remerged at the top of the steep climb. I estimate that I lost about a minute. Obviously, my sources of track info can’t have been too reliable. I couldn’t really complain though as I hadn’t practiced the course. Apparently, I was the only rider to take the long course. (There were a couple of hundred riders) Normally its like a 70% 30% split. I figured out that my detour had cost me another spot and I was now running 4th. Right I’m going to have to down a beer if there is another beer stop. I continued to push on and close to the rider in front of me. Grinding the up hills and making super uncalculated risks on the downhills. Somehow it paid off as I pulled myself back up to the rider in front.
As we wound our way through the forest suddenly there was what appeared to be a naked man on the course. Oh wait, it was Tad, (his outfit resembled a naked body builder, something a USA cheerleader just couldn’t resist…). I spurted out with confusing trying to ask if he was alright. He’d punctured. Poor guy, he was on track to winning yet another national title. Garth was now a wee while in front of 2nd place and me in 3rd. We rolled back through the beer stop and knew that we can’t have been far off the finish line. This time I downed the beer faster than you can say ‘she spilt it all down her top’. Then I punched it, I punched it as hard as I could up the climb. Passed 2nd place through the pitstop and now I was in the number 2 position. Hunting down my mentor and good friend Garth Weinberg. I pushed, and I pushed. I knew he wasn’t going to ease up on the pace because I’d be hot his tale. We completed the last lap, but I still couldn’t see him. He was just out of sight. The riders behind me were no where to be seen either.
Mountainbike Tauranga Single Speed Club Members in their outfits
It wasn’t long before I found myself riding the start loop in reverse through the twists and turns of the single track (not your regular start loop) and soon enough I could hear Uncle Ra (so he calls himself) of the microphone somewhat intoxicated hyping up the spectators as they knew the lead riders were on there way in to finish. Then I heard him call out, “Ladies and gentlemen I preeesaaant your 2000 and what year are we?… 18 naaaaaaathonarl championnnnnnn single speed GARTH WEINBERG”. Within the next minute I found myself crossing the finish. Garth was there congratulating me as I cros
sed over. I could feel the force in the air from such a great master as he gave me a sweaty hug. Uncle Ra had the microphone in my face as I was puffing and panting. Somehow, I got through a real real formal interview with everyone’s favourite Uncle Ra.
After watching the other competitors cross the finish I was stoked to see the lads Troy and Jack who I’ve been coaching in the Tauranga Youth Academy for over a year now coming in only a few minutes behind me in about 5th and 6th position. It was a real proud moment for me. The single speed now sits in the shed but is pulled out for special occasions. I look forward to banking some real Kilometres on that bad boy come summer later this year. Right now though 100% of my focus is on Whaka 100 2018. #oneofthetoughest
Tauranga Youth Acaedmy Rider Hope
Tauranga Youth Academy Rider Troy