Monday, February 16, 2009

SI XC Cup Round 3; Conquering the Peak

Oliver puts the hammer down in a lightning fast start
Photo: BikeNZ

Monday, February 09, 2009

SI XC Cup Round 2; Lost in Timaru

Round 2 of the South Island's premiere XC racing series was closer to home for Ventana's Elite XC racer. Oliver and his El Fuego needed only to drive 2 hours south to reach the bustling MTB mecca of Timaru.
His initial fears of a patsy gravel road bash reminiscent of a road race were dispelled in a cheeky pre-ride on the way down to Dunedin the week prior. What in fact lay in store for the riders was a 7 course degustation of singletrack.

Roots, rocks, gullies and mounds were strewn about Centennial Park and qudos must go to the skilled track builders who painstakingly weaved a sinuous ribbon of singletrack bewteen the parks features to create a symposium of singletrack.

Race day dawned hot and clear, but overcast cloud meant the forecasted 40 degree temperatures didn't eventuate. The start was as furious as expected, with Oliver catching a holeshot around the first corner on a young George Bennett's wheel, catapulting him up the order in a race where start position was crucial.

From the outset the pace was smoking, with the negligible elevation gains forcing riders to attack flat sections in order to make and close the gaps that formed on the singletrack. Long 14km laps allowed plenty of time for the race to play out, with the front runners trading positions and blows as heat and fatigue began to take their toll.

After his smashing start, Oliver was well positioned in fourth place for the first two laps, smashing the climbs and flats and using his best pump track impressions to recover on the downhills.

Oliver reeled in a fading Ash Hough within the final half lap and gave it everything to put in time on the latter part of the course. The deciding point in his race was a savagely steep pinch with 4km to go. Here Ash made his move and left Oliver in wake. Despite efforts to rally and climb deeper into 'the box' no gains could be made and Oliver finished only 20 seconds off the third position that was one of his season goals.

Still an exceptional effort in tough conditions and Oliver reports that as the season reaches it's pointy end that legs and head are starting to step up and punch with the heavy hitters of NZ XC racing.

Hard luck story of the day goes to Mr B Miller who had the misfortune of a triple puncture, the final tire tear sending him careening down a bank. He wasn't the only soul so suffer misfortune, and reports of heat stroke, crushed vertebae and shredded tires were abound at the conclusion of the tough course.

Focus now shifts to the final of the series at Coronet Peak in Queenstown. Look for Oliver to be hitting peak form as he claws his way up the Elite podium, one step at a time!

Mountain Pedaler out...

SI XC Round 1; Return to Dunnas

Grinding up the first climb of the day

The eagerly anticipated first round of the South Island XC Cup was held on an undulating course that traversed Otago's rugged peninsular coastline.
Early rain that put a dampener on the field's nervous warm-ups didn't eventuate to much, and riders were fortunate enough to be greeted with a glorious headwind of similar ferocity to those sung of in sea shanties of old.

Ventana's pro XC rep Oliver kicked the race off with a terrible start, and as the riders funnelled into the congested first climb (the biggest of the day at 350m vertical) the jostling for position became vicious.
Fortunately the usually mild mannered Oliver took to the challenge with vigour, and muscled his way to the back of the lead bunch in time for the first descent.

Slick, wet and slippery was the order of day, with careful brake use required to keep bikes on course and avoid the dreaded grass burn.
From here the course became a flat gravel bash, punctuated by steep climbs and whoopy paddock based descents. Midway through a flat section of the course Oliver reported running out of gears, clocking a speed of 50km/h as mother nature gifted riders a free ride to the finish.

With finish in site Oliver dug deep, pulling in several elite riders in sight of the finish. One gutsy passing manoeuvre proved worthy of TV superstar status; earning Oliver 2 seconds of fame on TV3s national news. Look for the Fuego rider 42 seconds in.

A solid 6th place and 8th fastest time was Oliver's reward for a day of graft. The highlight would have to be the tremendous tailwind. In an age where nature's climatically driven air movements are the ire of so many cyclists when faced with them head on, it was fantastic to be treated to a gale of such epic proportions from the tail.

Mountain Pedaler out...