The Motatapu is an iconic off-road sporting event in the alpine environment near Queenstown. Pure Sports Nutrition was the main sponsor responsible for hydrating over 4800 athletes during the event. I was looking forward to being part of Team Pure. It was also a great opportunity to meet Simon, Marewa and Rosa- the faces behind Pure.
Rosa kindly organised me a lift with her brother from Christchurch to Wanaka. So after a quick flight from Nelson to Christchurch, I arrived Friday afternoon in Wanaka. I stayed with a friend who I first (and last) met 4 years ago in a very different place. Frank was the chef at Scott Base in Antarctica and we quickly found a common interest- bikes!
Riding in Antartica
The weather forecast for race day had been marginal all week. As predicted, a big storm came in during the night and I woke up to heavy rain at 4 am. Unable to go back to sleep, I got up bright and early and prepared for a wet and cold day.
The Pure Team braving the rain at the start.
The start area was covered with about 2800 cyclists each with their own strategy to stay dry and warm. It must be pretty bad weather if hanging out in a portaloo appears like a good idea. Unfortunately, the start was delayed by 20 minutes. Eventually the horn went and after 10 minutes into the ride my teeth finally stopped chattering. The bunch moved quickly up the gravel road. With a number of undulations I warmed up quickly and had to stopto take my jacket off because I was over-heating! The road winds it's way up slowly through the Motatapu station following the Motatapu river. It would be a truely stunning place to ride through in good weather. On the upside the rain had stopped and the temperature wasn't too bad.
Stunning scenery riding through Motatapu station.
From the half-way mark the course continued to climb through magnicifant high country valleys. The grassy 4x4 track resembled a swamp rather than a track. My mind was kept busy with constantely trying to find the fastest line or the least energy zapping way through.
One of the many river crossings along the way.
I ended up riding most of the way with fellow Nelsonian Tim Miller. Tim provided free entertainment at the first decent river crossing. He hit the water with full speed, stopped dead half way and went head under- brrr. He did caught me back at the last few river crossings with 2 km to go. The Arrow River was waist deep and had a very strong current. Tim had his crossing dialed and beat me by a minute! Not long after us, a few bikes (and people) good washed away in the rising river. As a consequence, the finish line was changed 2 km upstream and people were diverted on a high route to make it safely to Arrowtown.
To my surprise I was announced as the 2nd Elite Women behind Kate Fluker who had a superb ride. Judging by my Garmin and Kate's previous record, I assumed I was miles off the pace. It turned out that the difficult conditions added about 30-40 minutes on to everyones time.
Thanks to Tim and his family, I had some warm and dry clothes waiting for me at the fnish line. They also pointed me to some secret, hot showers - bliss! The finish area provided a great atmosphere with people cheering on finishers, lots of food and hot drinks, and plenty of promotional stalls including the Pure tent, of course. It was a well-organised event and the team did a great job adjusting to the quickly changing weather conditions. I'm looking forward to return- but I'll bring the Nelson sunshine with me!