Today's C2P relay is run on a slightly different course since much of the current track was not built back in 2001. Only a little of Sally Alley was in place, and while Missing Link was there, Aratihi was not, and nor were Ridgeline Extension, or Big Tom's Wheelie. Having been the organiser in 2003-6 and a co-organiser in 2007-8, it was great to have Pete Mora take the reins for this year's event, and I was free to race without constraint. With a play on the vorb thread "Simon and Sifter Ride Around the Block", Simon and I paired up as the relay team "Simon and Sifter Ride to the Top and Back". I was allocated the first lap, due to my "fast start". Within less than 10 minutes of the start, I was in last place...
Pete had us line up in the carpark, and we began with a road lap. Among great names like Jonty Ritchie, Clive Bennett, Al Crossling, Jordan Blake, Alex Revell, and the star-studded Roadworks Cycle Repairs riders Tim Wilding, Alex Tashkoff and Oli Brooke-White himself, I was going to have my work cut out for me. I was on my Kiwi Brevet race bike sporting a brand new Stan's Raven rear tyre, not yet in tubeless format. The start was brisk, and I found myself dangling off the back of the lead bunch. Rather than bury myself, I gambled on congestion on Koru slowing them down, and made my way down South Karori Road about 20m back, neither cool nor calm, but collected.
I almost came a cropper on the new Koru bridge, which last year's Rally proceeds and a 75% contribution from the fantastic Wellington City Council had made possible, but managed stay rubber side down. No more than 200m up Koru, I had Jordan's wheel in sight, but there was a detectable shimmy in my rear. Another 100m up the track, I dismounted, cursing my luck, and commenced repairs... By the time I got going again, I'd been passed by the entire field, or at least those that I'd managed to stay ahead of. I managed to re-pass all but three of these riders, on what was a pretty unmemorable lap of the park. Simon was good humoured enough when I finally tagged off to him back at the carpark.
In the afternoon, things were better, but not much. Simon had paired up with ace Jonty Ritchie leaving me to fend for myself. Seeing as I don't often ride in Makara Peak, I opted for the complete tiki-tour, and a hard day out. Regretably, I have in my possession a fantastic route for this event, but not the skills nor engine to match. I was not the only one who headed up Lazy Fern to start, followed by the Snakecharmer up to the summit. Mike Thompson on his single-speed was a sight to behold muscling up the steeper sections while I enjoyed the luxury of several slightly easier ratios. I had a clumsy ride of T3, and was soon walking my bike down much of Trickle Falls. I was riding relatively well on Vertigo until I burped my front tyre on a series of steps just before the track dives into the bush. Luckily the tyre had leapt back onto the bead, so I was able to put more air into it and get going again. Just above the stream crossing, I grabbed a bit too much front brake on a corner, and peeled the under-inflated tyre off the rim, with no chance of recovering it. Careful not to get jizz all over my gloves (my Karapoti ones are still sticky), I popped a tube in and got going again.
The rest of the ride was actually very nice, as I sampled the park's fantastic single-track with very little disruption. Per attempt, I've crashed more on Leaping Lizard than any other track in the park, and this day was no exception. Just after the big berm at the end of the ridge, my tyre succumbed to a rut hiding in the long grass, and over I went. Luckily I didn't impale myself on anything, and was soon "hurtling" down hill again. After a quick gidday to previous Tour winner Josh lazing in the sun with a book and a first aid kit, I was enjoying the climb up Possum Track. I was in much better shape than this year, and didn't suffer nearly as much on the long climb through Nikau and Aratihi to the summit. Ridgeline was reasonably uneventful despite some lousy route choice in places. I managed to finish in just under 3 hours, about 7 minutes down on the previous year (only the direction of Rimu were different).
The Makara Peak Rally's a great way for the supporters to bolster the coffers, and also to promote their hard work in the park. Unfortunately the event has never really flourished, despite significant attempts to innovate, and excellent support from the local bike industry. With the recession making life hard in 2009, and the sheer effort needed to organise sponsors, this year's edition was run on a shoestring. Hopefully someone will take up the reins in the future, and we'll again have an orgy of spot prizes in the South Karori Sun. With Wellington and the park being mostly raced-out by early December, there's talk of moving the event. We might well see the 10th as a pre-Karapoti event in mid February 2011, and one which uses "the track whose working title was North Face" for the first time.
Two races, two punctures, and two tired legs. Cheers Makara Peak Supporters for all your hard work in the park. And thanks for being something of a leader of track network development in Wellington. Thanks to your great relationship with WCC, and your responsible approach to track building, there's new riding all over this fine city...