Sunday, January 23, 2011

Thunderous downpours fail to spoil Vulcaniser stoke

Weeks of meticulous preparation by Craig, Rebekah and their militia of Singletrack Club helpers could do little to keep the cursed rain at bay.

And as we curled up in our tents the night before, high above the North Canterbury coast, we could only hope that the thunderous rain punctuating our fitful sleep would leave some dirt on the hill. While a little rain was desirable to keep the dust down, the slippery-as-salmon surface that greeted us on an early morning reconnaissance left Craig with some tough decisions. In the end he made the right call, removing the infamous Boar’s Nest descent from the course and looping us back along a 4wd track to the start/finish area.

Photo Brooke Hudson
Doing my small part for the event, I donned a Cactus radio holster and helped out with marshaling. If the various approaches to the log drop by punters opting for the fun ride were any indication, the steep and windy descent to the gully was still sketchy enough to keep things exciting.

Ollie on the log drop
Photo Lyndal Donnelly
Come twelve o'clock it was off with the wet weathers and on with the race face and spandex. As we formed up on the start grid for the first surge up the hill, I was less nervous than expected. This perhaps explains my gutless start which was at odds with my usually strong opening efforts. Still mixing it up in the top 5 and shredding the descent, all it took was a wayward root to flick me off line and into a tree, losing a couple of spots and putting me on the back foot for the steep climb to the top of the course.

Ollie chases Dayle who was stormin' on his Singular
Photo Greg Milne
Fortunately all the climbing work I’d been doing of late was paying dividends, and while I struggled to match the ferocious pace of the under 19 whippets I was comfortably peeling off the steep climbs at threshold for the duration of the race. Had the race been longer then my endurance may have clawed back some of these losses, but alas the rain affected loop played into the hands of the short people.

Ollie gets in the box on one of the steeper climbs
Photo Bruce Wilson
From here on the race was pretty uneventful. The trains of riders had squelched most of the mud off the racing line rendering the descents fast and tacky. Best of all, I found a good rhythm on the climbs smashing them to the best of my ability.

A particularly memorable moment was tussle with a young B. Oliver, who I traded places with till his final lap. In the dash to his finish and spurred on by awesome family support, he put in a gutsy surge for the line. Awesome to see these young whippersnappers following in A. Coopers figuratively large (but literally small) footprints.

Hooking a berm
Photo Bruce Wilson
Finishing second in open men to a charging Nick Clark and seventh overall, I was happy with a solid but not exceptional start to the race season. With a few more smash fests like this under my belt I’m happy that I’ll be up at the pointy end of the field.

As always, the Vulcaniser was a fantastic event, and as we piled into the Little’s woolshed to shelter from the thunderous downpour, an aura of low-key stoke was pervasive amongst the gathered crowd; even overcoming the homely stench of manure dreaded dags of recently shorn sheep. With more spot prizes than the crowd could take including some sweet Cactus packs, racers and supporters alike left warmed by the notion that despite nature’s watery manifestations, there was still fun to be had on a mountain bike.