Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bog snorkling at the Karapoti Classic

While event organisers claim the Karapoti Classic is the Southern Hemisphere's longest running MTB event (at 24 years), the 2009 edition could have also laid uncontested claim to another more dubious title; NZ's unofficial bog snorkeling championships.

Rain overnight left the 50km course slick and damp, with tire choice a bone for contention amongst the riders.

Oliver opted for Continental Race King Supersonics in 2.2" width. While not suited to loose conditions, the massive width provided just enough grip to keep his El Fuego in check on the infamous parts of the course including he Rock Garden and Big Ring Boulevard. Race Kings roll fast and their out and out speed in a straight line made them an ideal choice.

The race began with a full on swim through the Akatawera River, with riders crossing up to their shoulders through the rain swollen river. As the bunch regrouped on the other side, Oliver was well placed in the lead group, pushing the pace all the way up the Gorge and even staying in touch with the leaders past the first climb, cruelly dubbed the 'warm up climb'.

As soon as the climbing began in earnest he lost touch, the furious pace of NZ and Australia's star riders proved too much to bear. Understandably a bit demoralised, it took him till the Rock Garden descent to get back in the zone.

Those lucky enough to have ridden it will know that this single descent is enough to justify entry in the race. The 1km stretch of gnarl strewn with boulders, drops and baby sized rocks left Oliver grinning like an idiot, providing ample stoke for the hike-a-bike grovel up the Devil's Staircase that was to follow.

It was big ring Boulevard where he made his move. Dropping his Fuego into the 44 -11 and pinning the high speed corners, he ended the descent in a comfortable 10th place, with only the final Doper's hill to climb.

Determined to smash the final climb, Oliver dug deep into the receptacle of hurt, holding off a hard charging group right on his heels.
From Dopers it was only a long downhill stretch to the finish, with more of the same pace seeing him pull in several riders within sight of the finish.

A splash and dash across the mighty Akatawaera followed by sprint to the line and the race was done, Oliver securing 8th place in a quality Pro Elite field and finishing right on his goal of 2:40.

This year race organisers appear to have adapted to rider feedback regarding finishing the race in a filthy state. Crossing the raging torrent that was the Akatawera gave punters a complimentary high-flow pressure-wash for both bike and person.

A fantastic race despite testing conditions, with post race atmosphere and festivities rivalling the best in NZ. It is easy to see why the race is dubbed 'the classic'. Despite the odd bog to throw riders off, not one rider finished without a grin (or grimace) of some description.

Mountain Pedaler out...

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