Tokoroa Summer Cup #2 (Postponed)
2 weeks after the Rotorua 8 I was still not back to full strength. The Helibike Rotorua 8 really drained me. With almost no riding for the previous week leading into the Tokoroa Summer Cup I was going in weak, low confidence and I had lost the edge of my fitness. Not to worry though. My Coach Chris Willet and I had planned for this to happen as the ‘pushing boundaries’ exercise prior to Italy to establish some limits. Now that the Rotorua 8 was over my goal was to recover and get back to full strength for the Moonride on the 11th of March.
(Top) Gun goes off. Bang! The race is off!
(Left) Me riding passed James to claim the lead before heading into the forest.
(Right) James Taking holeshot leading the race around the first few corners.
I lined up on the front row alongside two of my best mates. James Kirkham had made the voyage down from Auckland and found the time in his busy schedule in between National XCO Championships and Oceania Continental XCO Championships to race the Camelbak Summer Cup. Ben Mcleod lined up next to my other wheel so some quality start line banter and smack talk was taking place in the minutes leading up to the start. Other big names to feature on the start grid included multisport legend Sam Osborne, XCO hitter Taylor Johnston and younger brother Conner along with a few roadies from across the North Island. The 36km race awaited us. BANG! The gun went and more than 50 riders were gunning for the hole shot. James snuck through on the inside of me to grab the honours with me in 2nd as we rolled around the first few turns.
30 seconds later I was leading the pack out over the bridge into Cougar Park. Within the next few minutes Sam Osborne worked his way to the front and began to lay down a strong pace. Before we reached the top of the first (of two) climbs for lap one (of three) laps a lead group of five riders had developed. Sam was still leading and now Taylor was hot on his heels with James and Karl following with me on the back in fifth. I however couldn’t hold the pace. My back wasn’t playing ball today and I had no choice but to drop. My back was in agony and my body wasn’t feeling the love. I pushed and pushed and by the time I reached the top of the first climb on lap two I had caught James and Karl but within the next few minutes a lapse of concentration caused me to washout on a pine cone and I hit the deck. As I stood up and remounted my bike I struggled on. Now James and Karl had already skipped out of my sight and I didn’t believe I could catch them again. My break leaver and suspension remote had been bent and twisted around and I struggled to use either.
(Top) Taylor, James, Karl and I chase down Sam on lap 1.
(Bottom) The lead group of 5 riders forms.
After a bit of frustrated hitting and whacking I bent both around to line back up (enough to carry on with) and continued to push on to salvage my fifth spot. It wasn’t to be however as Neil Martin and Connor Johnston reeled me in like a fish hooked on a line and before I knew it I had been spat out the back and now in seventh. With the goal for the race being top 5 and now I was slipping away from both fifth and sixth place I wasn’t having a very good day. I continued trying to keep momentum going forward and my mind focused. Just minutes after being pushed back to seventh place one of my bottle cages had wiggled itself loose and now I had a mighty racket to carry round for the last lap and a half.
(Top) Lap 2, I am in contact with James (3rd place getter)
(Bottom) Loss of concerntration cause me to wash out and crash on a pine cone.
I continued and found myself entering a dark dark headspace. Mentally that third quarter of that raced was very tough. I was back much further than I would have liked to be and the time gaps to the riders in front were increasing. Why couldn’t the race be over already? I went out on my final lap with one of the countries best riders (in his day) Brad Jones hunting me down. I took my body to the limits but continued to make mistakes costing me more time than I was making. Eventually at the half way point of lap three Brad caught my wheel and sat behind me all the way down to the finish area. By now my back was so tight I found it easier to sit down on the descents losing more time but fortunately Brad was in no rush and patiently sat behind me. It came down to a 1v1 sprint for the last few hundred meters.
Photo Credit: BW Media Photography
(Top) Me in the hurt box desprately wanting to reach the finish.
(Bottom) Me tired but struggling on.
I managed to hold Brad off for a seventh position in a race where I hindsight I was capable of coming second if my day had gone right. It was a tough pill to swallow but I got it down and got over the downright awful day. Congratulations to Sam Osborne for winning, Taylor Johnston for snapping up second and James Kirkham for rounding off the podium. Moonride 12 Solo was meant to be the next big event but unfortunately has been postponed until the 22nd of April which is the same weekend as National Single Speed Championships. So decisions will have to be made around which event do I do. With less than three months until we leave for Italy I have some series work to do in order to keep up with the European boys come race day on June 2nd 2017 in Italy.