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...

1 comment:

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