Saturday, October 4, 2008

MTB Racing - the Taupo Day-Night Thriller

P and I went down to Taupo to race with "The R**inator" in the Taupo Day-Night Thriller. It's apparently one of the biggest MTB races in NZ. A few things to note - there is no scramble for spots (as there is in Moab or OP) as they assign you a "section". I think this might be a feature of Kiwi culture - many of the Europeans came here (and I suppose the Maori initially as well) as part of a land grab - and having a "section" or small plot of land was the goal. Another feature of Kiwi culture is really nice grass, and I can report that I've never camped on nicer. It was a superb mix of cushy moss and thick turf. Here was our little chunk of the land for the weekend:
Note that the neighbors had some of those fantastic, huge Kiwi tents. These put Springbars to shame (sorry Jem and Clem). We had our backpacking stoves and tents, they had teak deck furniture, full beds, heaters, etc. Our camps at Moab and OP with CTR were definitely larger and more robust, but, man - it would have been out of place to have a cuppa and discuss the cricket scores in them. How very civilised.
P raced as well - in the "Little Devils' Fun Ride". It was sponsored by the local demonic pizza chain. She stood out in her pretty blue outfit. That guy to her right was at least 13 years old, the cheater.
R (baldy in background) gave some thoughtful advice on race tactics before she was off. ("make sure your bike makes lots of creaking sounds...") I rode alongside and can report that she's a fantastic trail rider (it was her first real MTB riding). I'm so proud of her! Here's some video:

Next was the race start. It goes off at 10:30AM and ends at 10:30PM - R and I were racing in the duo category so we were looking at 6 hours of riding each. He did the start in good form - more of an uphill prologue than a LeMans style jog.
Here's R doing a double lap - that's right, the course went right through the campsite! In fact, of the ~8km course, I think half was spent winding through the pits (the other half was beautiful forest above a fantastic river). We each rode 11 laps (umm, actually I did 12 including the one with P ;) and finished in the middle of the pack even with a hour-long soak midway through at the nearby thermal pools. That's the way to race! The race ended with a very cold awards ceremony. The emcee was genuinely funny (this is rare for MTB races), but mostly he was engaging due to a loose tongue, lots of cussing up the Aussies (there was an All Blacks rugby game on that night), and I suspect, no small amount of beer. Afterwards the crowd watched the rugby game on the big screen.

I was warned before I raced that this was one to do once, and I think that will be the case. The course was second-rate and was too crowded for my taste. After 11 laps I was ready to just veer off to explore more trails. R and I are planning to race another 12hr event in November before heading to the South Island for this MONSTER in February.

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