I know it’s time to start my bike season when I’m told to hang up my running shoes. I won’t see them again for the next six months. Keeping me off my feet seems to be my coaches’ mantra.
The spring calendar is usually filled to the brim with races to choose from. The XC series put on by the Nelson MTB Club are an invaluable early season practise. Racing on home turf, I can experiment with nutrition and bike set-up, while chasing the boys and fighting hard for the pecking order on the next training ride.
Amongst the local races, I threw in a couple of bigger ones to add some extra excitement and a chance to visit some new places. One of them is fast becoming my favourite event of the year. The Milk and Honey race in Takaka. Takaka hill is not known for being kind and racing up it might get you to the top slightly quicker than usual but there is no discount with the toll you pay. My race went well until descending the Rameka. I decided to take a closer look at the vegetation followed by a double puncture. Golden bay has some of my favourite riding. It also has a uniqueness that makes prize giving more entertaining than usual- well worth staying for!
December came round fast. And fast was what I had to get over the next few weeks. I went down to Christchurch to pick up my new race steed for the season. We had some ‘bonding’ on the local Mt Hutt trails, and with a few minor tweaks I was all set for the season.
In mid-January I jetted off to the Capital to race round 1 of the National XC Cup kicking of the 2014 season. The Mt Vic course had all the traits you would expect from Wellington- steep and technical. One of the many advantages of living in Nelson is having great trails to build up bike skills. I loved the course and my seat dropper paid for itself 10 times over in those 90 minutes. I rode the whole race in third position to be out sprinted at the line byKaren Hanlen. I was happy to take 4th spot- my best result at national level.
Two weeks later I lined up for round 2 of the National XC Cup in Nelson. Home track, home advantage. Two years ago I raced my first elite XC race in Nelson and came dead last- definitely no home advantage then. In this years’ race all my focus was on the track, and the cheers from friends kept the endorphins pumping. I worked my way through the field to second place, which I was prepared to fight for until the finish line. Silver medal on local trails- I couldn’t be happier.
The XC cups helped me to fine-tune for the main focus of the season- the National Champs. I arrived in Rotorua with a day spare to memorize the course. After a few laps, I was comfortable with the technical sections and enjoyed the challenge. Race day brought a buzzing atmosphere as the Whakarewarewa forest filled with spectators. The biggest field of the season assembled at the start line, making it a more exciting race. The pace was hot off the gun- it didn't slowed down. Even with the best preparation, it’s difficult to tie everything together on race day. On that day I just wasn't firing as in previous races. I worked hard for 5th place. Another year of racing is another year of experience.
The plan was to finish the season after the National Champs but the following month the Oceania Champs were being held at Mt Hutt. This seemed like too good an opportunity not to miss. A small but quality field lined up from Australia and NZ. Having no expectation of myself for this race, I just rode as hard as I could and enjoyed every moment. The course took in some of the old national downhill course, which put my 100 mm of travel through its paces. I sneaked on to the podium with a 5th place to top off a great season.