Monday, December 21, 2009

Ventana trio tame mystery mountain

Three intrepid Ventana riders embarked on a crazy four hour 'hike a bike' up the slopes of a mystery mountain. Planed by expedition leader Ollie who chose to ride the monster of his Ventana fleet; the El Terremonto. Two other braves comrades followed in pursuit; Chris Harte a local pro mechanic and private Speck, who rode with vengeance on his workhorse the El Commandante.
The trip consisted of 1000m vertical ascent done largely with the bike over the shoulder, followed by a relentlessly thrilling descent peppered with an aroma or roasted Juicy brake pads.

After the grueling climb to the top a quick lunch including Chris's crackers and vitamin B-winegums allowed us to catch our breath. Zealousness quickly grew in anticipation of what was waiting for us below.
The ride started of with 'twist plot' style ride down the moderately steep tussock clad ridge from the summit. Tussocks make harsh mistresses, and a wrong turn left me with a hockey puck size bruise on my inner thigh. Brushed this off, the track became more defined and we continued along the open ridge trying to maintain ourselves on the track as the strong westerly threatened us with its presence. This quickly subsided as we reached the shelter of the bush whilst navigating down a string of rock gardens that can only be described as nuggety.

The bush offered an action pack 90 minutes of undulating descents ranging from semi-steep to 'F*^K did I just ride that?!' steep. The track had a continuous mix of tree roots, rocks and fast fine gravel tracks leading to technical chutes. The steep loose section midway through the descent required a combination of 1, then 2, then 3 finger braking to reduce the strain in our fingers.

A quick rest before a suicidal drop allowed our fingers to regain their strength and the sizzling brakes a chance to cool off, before the next crazy installment. Towards the end the slopes became flatter but sky grew dark with an approaching storm. A frantic dash back to the car ensued when I ripped the rear tire off the rim in a tricky up-hill root huck. With his mechanic hookups Chris's offered up a 26 inch tube which was duly stretched around my 29er wheels. Frantic pumping from Ollie failed to dispel the clouds which lost their grip and let plump raindrops fall to the ground.

The track changed from dry to soaking in the blink on any eye, forcing us to push harder into the pedals and enjoy the complimentary shower. On the home straight with 200 metres to go I pinched flatted, and in an ironic full circle I ended up like I had started the climb with the bike over my shoulder.

As I'm writing this now I have gained a sense of empathy for methamphetamine addicts; as I now too share an addiction for the expensive body numbing exhilaration of speed. The only real difference is that my addiction for speed is legal and will not result me having to share a cell with some guy called big Jim.

Words by guest writer and Commandante captain, Michi Speck. Photos by Rico.

Auckland XC Champs Round 3 - Woodhill

The day dawned cool and fine for the hotly anticipated final of Auckland's XC series.

Racers converged on the much loved riding hub of Woodhill, where a twisty but fast course was put up for racer to get stuck in to.

After a solid 6th place in Elite at Christchurch's Festival of Cycling the day prior, Ollie's legs were less than fresh. With a carrot as big as the Auckland crown he was amping to race, however an adjustment to tactics was required in light of the marshmallows that had taken the place of his legs.

The usual furious start still made an appearance, although settling into a rhythm came much earlier than usual after cresting the sandy pinch climb after the start loop.

By riding at a steadier pace than usual Ollie could take advantage of the narrow tracks and force the tight lead trio to ride slower than they'd like. When it came to the road, it was into the biggy and smashing it, ensuring he'd keep his place at the front of the pack for the next narrow stretch.

And so the race unfolded, with Ollie's conservative tactics becoming the source for some good-hearted sledging between himself and a local pinner (and windsurfing champ) JP Tobin.

A promising young rider Tom Fox was in the mix at the start, and the three traded places as the laps ticked over. Riders were afforded great spectator support, with Ollie cheered on by boisterous cries of "Put it in the biggy" by Pete Fyfe; Ventana rider and recent receiver of a hip-op. Ollie and JP snuck in before the 5 lap cutoff and therefore enjoyed an extra lap on the swoopy trails. Endurance came to the fore here and Ollie extended his slender lead, coming in a minute or so ahead of JP.

So with the win and Auckland Championship title in the bag, Ollie reflected on the tactical battle which had been just as enjoyable as a race with fresh legs. Despite lacking the full arsenal of power he'd adopted a devious strategy that favoured endurance and pulled out a win!

Double high fives to the Auckland XC club for a great series on some fantastic courses.

Mountain Pedaler out...