|Riders pin it off the line in the Outside Sports Super D|
Ollie and Michi teamed up with the two Nicks, and the merry band of travellers left Quakehurch for Queenstown, arriving Friday night in time for a catch-up curry with our Dunedin possie. Despite anticipation and the risk over overcooking in the dorm’s Dutch oven we slept like logs, stirring only for hilarious dream conversations.
Up bright and early on the clear crisp morning we prepared for the excitement that lay in store.
|Gondola to top. Sweet trails all the way down!|
Six hours, solos and teams, with gondola uplifts for the 600m descent. Rather than the full on gnarl of DH courses, Super Ds use trails with more mellow grades, with plenty of passing opportunities provided by wide sections of trail and small climbs. The latter are the constant subject of complaint from gravity riders; while the weenies revel in the chance to pull back some of the losses over their rougher spirited brethren.
Boarding the gondola in pairs for the lift the start, the revelry built to a thrilling crescendo with cheers and jeers as riders left at 30 second intervals on the small climb to the start of the descent. Never before have I experienced such a celebration for the start of a race, with everyone stoked to be riding such an epic course on such a beautiful day. As I saddled up on the inside line next to new friend Jono (the first of many gondola buddies), this elation faded in a haze of breathless exertion as we exploded off the line.
|Hooking one of the epic berms at the top of the course|
Jumps and rollers began to feature amongst the sweeping berms. Passing into mature beech forest with a tight rooty corner giving way to the flowing jumpy descent, tabletop jumps littering the trail all the way down.
Spat out at Warp 10 onto the halfway skid site, it was down the gears and travel, and up with the dropper post for the leg searing grind up to Vertigo. Mellow at first, the climb eased then pinched again for the final awkward turn into the next trail.
A rush of speed and a string of rollers to double and triple, pump after pump and then more sweeping corners spat you out onto the skid site again.
Sliding round a gravelly hairpin we headed back down Singletrack Sandwich hooking off the trail on a dusty freshly cut line. Slicing through ground layered in golden autumnal leaves this delightful line swept back and then down a series of drops and up a dip.
First attempts with an inside line were foiled by roots quickly becoming too slippery for words, so the safe-ish outside line become the default. Dusty and rooty with speed scrubbing uphill turns, we dropped out on a wide track and pedalled hard to hit the intimidating step down, road gap step up combo.
Gathering speed then slamming on the anchors, it was down with gears and travel and up with the dropper again for the refreshingly mellow switchback climb back to Vertigo. Only the odd rooty pinch tested lungs and legs, before a series of wide switchbacks with sneaky hot lines led on to the final set of jumps.
Double, table, step down, double, step down, all hit at an ever increasing pace. Shrieking into the open steaming round one flat corner and another steep one and we were back on Hammy’s.
Seat up and pedalling like a madmen back to the Gondola base, only a tight inside line and steep switchback to break the rhythm.An epic course that seemed to strike a perfect balance between gnar and flow, and by the end of my 16 laps (around 9,600m vertical descent) I knew every bump and berm like the back of my 661s.
|Ollie shreds a corner on the lower part of the course|
On about the 4th lap I was reflecting on the ride up how hot my knees had become. Perhaps it’d be worthwhile taking off my knee pads to air them out? It took an overzealous drift into a steep corner to drop my knee square into the dirt for me to quickly revaluate that position, and knees stayed safely but uncomfortably moist.
My Ventana El Chucho just ate up the trails. A recent switch to some fresh and light WTB rubber gave speed and grip, while the stiff tracking rear end combined with the mega rolling front wagon wheel to give traction and pace. Despite odd appearances which were summed up by a spectator’s baffling call telling me I needed to “swap out the front wheel for the climb”, the 69er proved to be an ideal trail weapon, the unique setup matching (and arguably besting) many of the menagerie of bling setups on show.
|Ollie takes the El Chucho to Warp 10|
Photo Tess Carney
Counting down the laps to the finish I was determined to maintain pace and recent adventures in rock climbing seemed to have fortified my t-rex arms to keep the dreaded death grip arm pump at bay. Blissfully unaware of my position in the field throughout the day, it wasn’t till my final lap when a friend said I was only 30 seconds back on 2nd place for me to recall that I was actually in a race. I ended up catching the other rider, but finished back in 4th, the confusion understandable due to the staggered starts. Mild disappointment paled in comparison to the blissful exhaustion felt at the finish, a level of stoke beyond the realm of written words.
A much needed shower and we were back up the gondola for a meal and prize giving. Kurt who I’d met trail building in Chile showed supreme gravity defying skills to take the win, reportedly riding all the monstrous jumps with his seat up, bad ass XC style. Solo riders took 5 of the top 6 spots, perhaps the solo riders’ unrivalled understanding of the trail that winning out over the freshness of the teams.
It took less than the a jiffy for me to decide if I’ll be back, and with bit more confidence on the bigger jumps that made the difference, I hope to be footing it at the pointy end of the podium.
Mountain Pedaler out...