Sunday, March 2, 2008

Karapoti - the one that got away

Yesterday was the 23rd Karapoti Classic - 50 km of big climbs in the rugged Akatarawa Ranges, with 1299 other mad-keen bikers. I was quite excited by the weather forecast which predicted rain, and by the possibility of winning back the Family Teams title which the Averys won last year. Big Clinton Avery holds the course record, but he's off racing in South Africa. And my twin brother Jonathan would be racing this year - something he does once every decade. So, despite being a bit off form I thought we might pull it off.

The start sees us all running across the Akatarawa River - it's normally a fairly controlled sort of chaos (the pic is from '95). But this year it was a real shambles. There were three different crossing points, with the shortest having a chest-high hole in the middle of it. With my dodgy achilles, I chose the smoother middle crossing. The start countdown started at 10 and most people seemed to be moving by 8. I started in the front row, but by the word 'Go!' I was in 100th place and looking for room to get round guys with toe-clips and baggy shorts. And this was the Pro start. Big props to Wayne Hiscock who was in a similar predicament and ended up coming 2nd.

After 10 km I'd worked my way into the top-50 and was climbing the steep stuff better than ever. Along the tops a few guys slipped past me, but no more than the number sitting on the side of the track fixing flats. The Rock Garden had such a sweet line running through all the rough stuff - it reminded me of painting-by-numbers. At the bottom I stopped to add a bit of extra air to my tyres and was amazed to see a dozen guys go past in just over a minute - it was rush hour in the wops.

I had to repass them on the Devils Staircase hike-a-bike - no easy task when every second person is carrying their bike sideways across their shoulders. From there on nothing much changed. I passed a few riders down Big Ring Boulevard - so much fun; lost a couple of places when my new drivetrain overshot; passed a few up Dopers Hill; got passed by a couple when adding a few more psi at the top - none that I wouldn't repass in a hurry except for single-speeder Garth Weinberg who was absolutely flying; solo'ed it down the Gorge into a headwind; crossed the line and began waiting.

Tick-tock, tick-tock....Tom and Ant Bradshaw came in and then my twin, with a punctured tube slung round his shoulders. After almost 3 hours, we missed on the family title by 21 seconds. So close.

My time was 2:45 - which was what I expected, 12 minutes slower than last year. It's frustrating to be off form for these standard length races, but there's so much riding to be done between now and June that I can't be at race weight now and still healthy in May. It's just not the way I'm built. Perhaps I should skip racing this summer, but it's more fun doing a 50 km MTB race than a 150 km solo training ride, so I'll live with the poor results and enjoy the company. Including commutes between train stations, it was a 75 km day.

Today we met up with a few friends and family for a bush walk and picnic in the local reserve. Then it was time for a little brick-laying on my 'never-ending garage project'. Oh, and time to fondle my Great Divide Race wheelset that arrived from Stan at NoTubes yesterday. Sweet! Just waiting on some forks and we'll be ready to start building - this is way better that Christmas!

PS: Wednesday was 'Go By Bike Day'. Check out the Wellington event video here


David Benson said...

For a man who used to race in running shorts over polyprop longjohns, you are being a mite snooty about the baggy-wearing toeclip guy.

Simon Kennett said...

HA! That was my first race - I was also wearing a bush-shirt (and I was a punter). Rest assured I wouldn't have entered Pro-elite (if that category had existed 22 years ago). I thought I was going to come last!

You turned up in some road racing costume, if I remember rightly. Hope you've still got it - would be fully retro now.