Sunday, July 12, 2009

Come-back ride: Long Gully MTBO (from the vorb files)

Finally I have an appropriate moment to write about riding...

This thread has been pretty dead sinceI had an absolute shitter of a Karapoti, and found myself struggling to pedal to and from work. After 16 years as a cycle commuter in Wellington, this was a clear indication that all was not well with my body, so I had some time off. Eventually though, signs reappeared of an interest in cycling, and before long I was enjoying myself on the bike again. I had an absolute shocker of a race orienteering on Mount Vic. Despite navigating well, and riding strongly, I first broke my own chain, and upon running for about 5 minutes back to the start managed to borrow Simon's bike, and then punctured his tubeless tyre about 30 minutes later, and opted not to put a tube in. Effectively two DNFs in one race!

One cold Sunday a few weeks ago, the first round of the Wellington MTBO series was held at Long Gully. The day was clear, but there was a strong, cold southerly wind blowing. Craig Starnes and Ant Bradshaw had planned a course starting at the top of Wright's Hill Road. It was a two hour rogaine (same format as the Ak-Attack, but a quarter the time limit). Traditionally I do well in these events, but psychologically I prefer the fixed order races. The winning of rogaines is very often in the planning, and what seems obvious at first, may not have been so smart with hindsight.

Anyway, getting a fresh map is about as exciting as it gets for me. My bike had been given a bloody good clean and lube during the week by Alex Revell - not only have I been too busy to write, but also couldn't find the time to clean my own bike, nor get it to the incomparable Oli Brooke-White at Roadworks for its pre-race tickle. Work's been crazy...

Upon collecting the map about 30 minutes from the start, I fell back on my age-old strategy for these events... Go for a fun ride. This day, it involved two main priorities - (a) ride a bunch of single track on Wright's Hill that's normally out-of-bounds, and (b) check out some tracks in Long Gully that I've never ridden, including a climb from South Karori Road. With luck, this strategy would net me enough points for a decent result. If not, I guarantee myself a fun ride. Despite the cold, there had been an awesome turnout, including most of Wellington's best MTBOers. Cool! It was great feeling to be standing astride my bike at the start line, fully decked out in Roadworks kit - shorts, jersey and arm warmers!

One of the advantages of rogaines is that you plan your own route before the race starts (rather than after and on-the-fly, in fixed-order events). I knew exactly where I wanted to go, and also knew that I needed a fast start. Queuing at controls is no fun at all. Go!

I tore up the sealed road from the grassy area above the road-end towards the summit of Wright's Hill. I was first around the gate, but as I glanced back at the first corner, sensed someone on my tail. Not much to do, but keep pedalling. As I clipped my first points at the top of some foreign and usually dodgy single-track, I handed the clipped to young Tom Bradshaw. No wonder I wasn't able to shake me off on the climb. Down, and left, and straight into oncoming traffic, including Ian Paintin. Funny how everyone comes up with different ideas. Left at the next intersection, and a push/run up to the next control (Ian's first). Back down the way I came, and left, Tom just heading up to the control. More illegal track down to the road, including a bad choice at a junction which put me down a bunch of steps... Eek!

Onto the road, left and up... There's Simon blazing down... Left and around the reservoir, Graeme Silcock just leaving it, Tom getting closer. Up the road towards the top of Salvation. Tom passes me, but stays on the road - headed for Long Gully apparently. I shoot down the old singletrack to Landsdowne Terrace. Left onto a connector to Salvation, 10 points. Back up and down to Landsdowne, down the road, left, left and up to the end of Woodhouse Ave. More illegal singletrack (w00t) and 20 points as soon as I hit Salvation (w00t). Down the track, having missed out the most torturous section, and up Deliverance. A bit of pushing required here, and there's Dave King heading out. Soon after, another 20 pointer! Gotta love this game!!!!

Back out of Deliverance, and down to South Karori Rd, calling out the Makara Peak Supporters tree planters as I hurtle past. I lose a few seconds stopping to look at the map carefully before noting the 4WD track I'm looking for is down opposite the exit of Leaping Lizard. Pedal pedal...

Over the gate, and into granny gear, and onto my first 300m climb in a long while. I'd stepped on my rear wheel during a ride a Belmont the weekend before, crushing my rear mech a little, and so I was bummed to realise it was rubbing my spokes while in granny gear. Luckily the shifting was OK, and all other gears were fine, but I was reluctant to give it full-welly in case I do some damage. Not only that, but my legs were playing up a little...

I didn't catch Dave King on the climb, but managed to scope out the next control, up on the ridge above the 4WD track, by watching some other competitors come away from it. Up and back down to the control, and then south into the teeth of the southerly. Until this point, I'd had a pretty sheltered ride. The next control was down a stream gully from a funky motocross area - like a scaled-up BMX track with some huge jumps. I almost went over the bars as I dropped my front wheel into a surprisingly deep puddle, and then lost my nerve a bit crossing a washout and ran a little. 30 points, then turn around and push back up to the BMX track. Then some more ripsnorting 4WD track down to the main Long Gully track by the farm house. Straight across the intersection - there's Mike Wood, master map-maked - and back into granny gear. I was looking out for a fence line off the left of the track and soon found it. It was surprisingly ridable given the grade of the track shown on the map. Hi Magnus "this was a terrible idea", he said... Remarkably ridable in the this direction Magnus!

Another 30 pointer, and the only decision I really regard as poor. I had the choice of an obvious push up an 80m climb, or a longer route further south. I was sick of being off the bike, so chose the longer route, but it turned out to have a lot of walking anyway. Right at the next major intersection, and I lost about 40m in a few hundred metres grabbing the next 30 pointer. At this stage, I was about 2.5km south of the radome (as the crow flies) and about 70m below it. Time to cut this ride a bit short! Eek!

I met Tom Clarkson as I overshot my final control just after the castle. "There's not enough time" he said... Pah! 20(vertical)m down a steep grassy bank, and then back up with the bike across my shoulders crucifixion style. Hammer hammer hammer down the road, with the great big southerly wind up my jacksie! Left into Long Gully at the main 4WD road. No time for the 20 pointer about 300m and 30m climb from the intersection. Down to the glade, across the fence, and up towards Wright's Hill. There's Tom - he won't be back on time... A shout from Ian Paintin behind me. No chance really to react to it, and no choice but to keep pedalling. The track flattens out, and Ian blasts past. No power left to jump on his wheel, but after about a 60m gap, I manage to hold on to him. No time to take the singletrack to the summit via 10 points. Around the 4WD towards the road. I couldn't quite remember if I could go right and then left at the gate to get to the finish line, and couldn't quite find the brain power to analyse the map on the fly. Go with the safer route down to the road and up the road to the finish. Jump over the fence and up the bank to the finish line, a few seconds behind Ian, and 1 minute before 2 hours! Nice not to have any penalties. I hadn't checked what the late points were, but it probably would have been worth taking a hit for the 20 pointer at the top of the Long Gully Rd. No matter!

All in all, I had a super ride. Didn't hurt myself or my bike, and my legs were remarkably good despite little cycling. Simon took out the win, by going clockwise around the sanctuary, and popping up to the castle, and down into Long Gully for one control. I was good enough for second on the day. Nice to see the Makara Peak Mudslingers at the top of the table, and both with smiles on their faces.

Originally published on vorb