So it was a big weekend for us. The Taupo Cycle Challenge, with its 10,000+ participants it is the event that argueably holds up the NZ cycling industry so it is a pretty big deal. And we are pretty satisified with our respective 3rd places.
Having the Huka XL MTB marathon as a feature really makes it a must do. Rapidly gaining popularity, the (now) 82km single track fest is as gruelling and tough as it is fun (perhaps with the exception of Kergresse.... participants will now what I mean!). This year saw pretty much everyone who is anyone in NZ MTB line up to test their early season form. And we were no different. Despite a lack of "speed" training we were certainly both keen to put a good result on the board. After last year Nic was keen to finish, and do so with her sight.
A 4:40am start to shovel breakfast into our faces in the dark was quickly followed by an hours more precious sleep before rousing ourselves for the 7am start. At least that meant the race would be over in time for lunch. For the guys, the pace was on from the very start, and we took great pride in beating the roadies (who started beside us) to the top of control gate hill. I was pretty focussed on slotting in at the front... the epic abundance of Singletrack meaning positioning is important. Holding 2nd when we reached craters meant I was then in a position to choose my pace rather than play catch up. It was soon pretty clear Mikey and T-Rex had some very good form and they dictated proceedings. Soon it was they and Dirk Peters cleared off, I was solo in 4th...At halfway I got a time check. 2min down on the lead trio, but more than 1min30 up on 5th/6th. So it was a solo time trialled for the next 2hrs. I held it together, railed some singletrack, enjoyed my mint new Avanti Team Competitor 29er, and eventually picked up a fading Dirk and crossed the line 3rd, a mere 2min after Mikey won a sprint over T-Rex.
Nic's race was a little different. She was pretty conservative early and with "junk" feeling legs from the previous weeks training was in her words "creeping" back in 5th for the first 20-30km whilst Annika Smail and Karen Hanlen danced off the front. By 30km she started feeling pretty good and put the hammer down. Legs were better and she was loving the flowing, and challenging Taupo trails. Riding back up to 3rd but running out of time to chase down Karen. Stoked to actually finish, and see some good results from the last months training block.
The afternoon then saw the highlight of the weekend..... our appearance as escorts/celebrities for the @Heart 5km kids ride. These kids enthusiasm is amazing and saw everthing from small MTB's to 12" training wheel equipped bikes tackling the 5km. The boys from Pure Black were on hand to lead out and thanks to Mark Langlands mad skills (inherited from Paul perhaps?) was able to keep the kids in check. I accompined young Josh from Tauranga who wound up his Ben 10 16" and put in some mean passes out on the grass, took some sweet lines (he really wanted to MTB... I could see it) and consistently informed me how much we were "boosting it" to keep up.
Simply awesome to see the enthusiasm and pure joy these kids got and is a pretty humbling experience really. Also big thanks to the boys from the Avanti Plus team (Hisky, Scott Green, and Josh Page) for answering the last minute SOS call for extra guides. Much appreciated boys.
We then enjoyed a great afternoon laxing in the sun and seemingly catching up with everyone we've ever met in NZ cycling..... before finally making it home to Rotorua around 9pm to hit the hay and get ready for round two on sunday......