Sunday, March 30, 2008

Monsoon attacks at Nelson Enduro!

Sue winds it up for her first dry lap...

Last weekend a team of Ventana Gringos embarked on their first 12 hour assignment; the R&R Nelson Enduro.
Usually renowned for it's awesome course, the organisers didn't fail this time round, although pinch climbs and the threat of an impending monsoon served to halve the number of teams at this normally well attended event. Hard core bikers who did turn up were treated to some premium single track riding.

Jane Rose on her maiden race aboard an El Fuego pumped out smoking first laps, Oliver following with another two, powering the El Padrino 29er to a position at the lead of the field. Sue and Jo aboard El Saltamontes put in some solid times before the rain began to set in, and the track began turning to mush.

Climbs that were previously on the edge of rideable became traction sucking quagmires, and water began to pool on descents, giving the riders a muddy but refreshing shower.

Still team Ventana soldiered on, braving the tough conditions to spit out consistent lap times; no mean feat given the deteriorating conditions.

Many riders enjoyed the conditions so much,
they took home part of the track with them!

It was no surprise when the organisers decided to shorten the event to 8 hours, and after 6 hours of hard slog in the rain the pop-up caravan was hastily popped-down, and muddy bikes and bodies were stashed in the comfort of the car.

Recovery of the day to Jo, who after being headbutted off the side of a bridge by a wayward solo rider jumped back on and pulled off another lap, a testament to true grit!

Munter of the day to Oliver who was so caught up in his first lap excitement that he took a two minute detour. Perhaps his failure to attend race briefing had something to do with it!

Kudos also to Aaron whose single speed team placed first overall. His choice of an El Toro with 2:1 ratio was ideal given the chain suck inducing muck that was being thrown around. Aaron also scored the fastest lap time proving irrefutably that gears are indeed an unnecessary luxury (if you have the determination and legs of an ox!)
Aaron shredding the course on his Toro

The Ventana team recorded fastest lap times for both genders in the mixed division, with Jane and Oliver pulling off flyers during the early dry laps.

Finishing second in the mixed category, the team showed courage and determination in the adverse conditions. It is riding experiences like the one they survived that make mountainbiking challenging yet rewarding, and despite mud caked bikes and faces it is safe to say that not one of the Ventana Gringos would have rather been somewhere else!

Mountain Pedaler out...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Coppermine Epic; madness on MTBs

In the current age of dumbed down MTB races (particularly in the Christchruch MTB scene with its infamous Bottlelake and McLeans island road races) it is refreshing to see a growing group of truly challenging XC events, none more so than the aptly named Coppermine Epic held in Nelson on the 22nd of March.

Race day dawned cool but clear, and Ventana rider Oliver lined up against the quality field with a mixture of World adventure racing champions, National XC champions and even an Olympian roadie!

Pace off the gun was furious, with local whippersnapper George Bennett putting on the early pace and leading up the Dun Mountain walkway, the classic gut buster and all the way to the top the 900m Fringe Hill climb. With a strong group of riders ahead at this point, Oliver was some minutes back, choosing to leave some juice in the tank for the 25km of technical gnarl that was to follow.

And follow it did, as the track ducked and dived through the beech infested Black diamond ridge much to the delight of riders who enjoy a technical challenge.

Up the front of the race, single track demon Dayle McLachlan had passed George Bennett, and was clearly in his element, holding off the hard charging Nathan Faavae who is renowned for his bush bashing prowess.

The race then joined a rocky mineral belt trail, where toxic elements that prevented bush cover also made for a unique riding challenge akin to riding a set of stairs laiden with fist sized rocks.
Here is where Oliver made his move, pulling in 1, 2 then 3 riders as he charged through the hike n' bike section and through recently cleared scrub.

The race then hit Boulder Valley, where all but the craziest riders were forced to shoulder bikes and embrace a cyclists worst nightmare; a downhill run!

Gradually the Boulders got smaller and the trail more flowy, carrying riders down the valley on with a a perfect amount of gnarl. The descent was so good, Oliver rates it as the single best section of his race season!

The final dash to the line was a 5km blat down the Maitai valley, where Oliver came across George Bennett spread eagled on the track. In a bizarre turn of events George had survived the technical challenge of the upper part of the course only to crash and injure himself on a baby-bottom smooth section of road!

Another unfortunate victim of the trail was local crazy guy Stu Thorpe, as the front tire on his rigid single speed gave out on the drop before the final river crossing, throwing him over the bars and hopefully knocking some sense into him!

Oliver crossed the line in 6th place 2 hours and 38 minutes, some 15 minutes behind winner Dayle. After some bad luck in the past weekends race is was great to see him bounce back and pull off an amazing result, especially in light of the quality field he left in his wake.

As always, Oliver's El Saltamontes was faultless, despite the beating dished out on the hike and bike sections. With 4" of travel, the frame made an ideal compromise between steep-hill rideability and plush travel to take the edge of the rugged Boulder strewn descent.

Also aboard an El Saltamontes was Ventana Veteran racer Susan Heydon. She completed the slightly shorter Enduro course in a respectable 4hrs and 32 minutes, navigating the same technical descent with aplomb.

The Coppermine Epic was an amazing event. It was exceptionally well run given the remote and risky nature of the course. Events of this kind which push the boundary of XC riding should be supported, and if the raving of some racers at the finish line is anything to go by, it should not be too much of a stretch!

Mountain Pedaler out...

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Rollin' through the Rainbow

The Toro at rest after a hard day at the office

Ventana rider Oliver pulled off a stunner at this weekends Rainbow Rage; a 106km adventure ride from St Arnaud near Nelson to Hanmer Springs.
Riding his El Toro with a monster 34-13 gear, he powered his way to 4th overall and first singlespeed by half an hour!
Despite numerous mishaps such as loose handlebars 10km in, and a puncture at the 30km mark, he dominated the field, proving that one gear is indeed all you need.
Oliver describes the final 6km brake burning descent as the highlight. Approximately 1 minute down on 4th at the top of the climb, he drifted through the deep gravel corners to catch then pass the rider at the penultimate corner. The El Toro's legendary geometry no doubt assisted this smoking downhill run.
A great finish to an awesome ride, and excellent preparation for the Single Speed Nationals in Rotorua where a field of no less than 4 El Toros is expected to front up. Expect to see Oliver and the Ventana crew dish out a lesson in one-gear riding.

Mountain Pedaler out...

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Ventana conquers Triple peak challenge!

This just in from Steve, a recent addition to the Ventana whanau...

"Just a note to say that me and my Buddy Anton did the triple peaks challenge yesterday. The El Ciclon performed admirably, she didn't miss a beat dealt with everything with no problems at all. The rider let her down a little and pushed up a few hills instead of riding her, but all in all a good day was had, finishing time of 6hrs 50mins. "

Steve also reported a few endos from his team mate Anton, which I'm sure were very amusing (expect for he man himself!)

Nice one Steve and keep up the good work!

Mountain Pedaler out..

Monday, March 03, 2008

Pass to Pubbed

Loaded up and ready to party!

Three Ventana riders hit the road last weekend, loading up the Land Rover and heading south for a popular South Canterbury event called the Pass 2 Pub.
After arrival in Burkes Pass and registration, Will, Ollie and Nicole hastily made for the start line and headed for the hills.

With trail riding's growth in popularity, 'old school' farm track based events have lost favour amongst hard core mountain bikers. But depite low expectations, all three riders raved about the undulating course. Highlights included river crossings, rocky descents and the odd monster cow pat thrown in for good measure!
The course itself dropped 300m through 10 backcountry farms which farmers were kind enough to open for the duration of the race.

Ollie off the front

Ollie reported having his best race of the season, powering his El Padrino to a close third place in the sprint finish, narrowly missing out on second to a local rider with inside knowledge of the technical finish.
Will (riding an El Fuego) finished an awesome 9th place, an astonishing result given the quality of the 800 strong field.
Will puts on his race face...

While in her first ever race, Nicole pulled off 65th in the fiercly competitive female category, a sure sign of riding talent!

Spangles and Gringo after a hard day at the office

With race over and prive giving complete, muddy bikes were packed back on the Land Rover, and it was back home to Christchurch.

A great day out and proof that fun on a bike does not necessarily need to involve roots, rocks and gnarl!

Mountain Pedaler out...