Monday, April 28, 2008

Lake Hawea Epic

Saturday was race day - specifically the 116km Lake Hawea Epic mountain bike race. Luckily I could take it easy on Thursday and Friday. Sarah borrowed my bike to do the Wanaka Outlet Track while I played with Miro and fiddled with David's house foundation a bit more on the Thursday. On Friday I spent hours trying to get my bike into shape. That involved scraping and brushing three weeks of crap out of the drive train, which revealed some nasty burred teeth on the smaller chainwheels. It was out with the file to get rid of those and scrape the brake blocks clean. At such short notice there was nothing to be done about the noises from the bottom bracket, water in the shocks, or 2 cm crack in the carbon seatpost.

On race day David and I were up early and out the door at 6am for the 10 km ride to the start. It was freezing, literally, so good to get a warm up done. I bumped into Steve Gurney at the start and he shared some advice about dealing with sleep deprivation. There were about 560 entries - pretty impressive for this events first year! We were off at 7am and cruised the 25 km of seal to the beginning of the dirt at a civilised pace (around 30 km/hr) - then things got serious. Although I was with the front bunch, the flatter sections were a bit of a struggle. But on the first big hill I found myself in the 'zone' and surging to the front. Did I feel in the zone because I was passing people, or was I passing people because I was in the zone? Not sure, but I liked it.

An hour and a half into it I was in a group of four that included David Drake and Marcus Roy (the NZ MTB Marathon Champ). The sun had risen above the mountains and was directly into our eyes. I put on the sun glasses bought from the local service station after mine broke a few days earlier - they are polaroids and although they look cool, they are terrible in high contrast situations. As we descended through a wee patch of beech forest I was looking stylish right up to the point where an unseen object sliced a large whole in the sidewall of my front tyre. "Curses!"

After sorting a tyre boot and tube, going for a leak and shedding one of my woollen tops, it took a long time to get back into race mode. I caught up to Justin Freeman and we rode together and chatted for about half an hour. That was pleasant, but after crossing the river at the head of the valley I started to hammer the hills again and haul people in.

The scenery and weather were still magnificent (even better now the sun was behind us). This is a really fun, old-school course.

About 5 km from the finish it was back onto the seal and fairly flat. I got overhauled by 3 riders with just 2 km to go, but still snuck into the top ten and cracked six hours (5:11) so both my goals were ticked off and I was a happy chappy. David came 3rd and Marcus won in 4:44. Everyone seemed to have a good time.

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