The finale of the Nduro Winter Series for 2015 took a slightly different course shape from the earlier rounds. The power based course lacked a true long climb, and instead included a bunch of shorter, more punchy hills. Combined with the small rises and falls of the Chinese Menu and Old Chevy the course tested a different set of rider qualities. One thing that changed little from the previous rounds was the precipitation in the leadup to race day. Some sunshine the preceeding day was undone by early morning rainshowers on Sunday. A short punchy course, slick surface conditions and plenty of riders wanting to push in the series finale set the scene for a good battle.
Before the race I was sitting in 5th overall for the series. This meant that I scored a front row position for the start. After my ill fated surge at the last race my plan was to lock into the front group and follow moves. The front row position meant I wouldn’t have to fight too hard to put the plan into play. With a long countdown we were off, furiously sprinting around the Waipa Mill Carpark.
Things settled down pretty quick. The procession line formed along Tahi and Creek trails. The group stayed pretty large until we turned up towards Tokorangi Pa road. Here the group slowly whittled down. No hard attacking required, tempo riding just slowly detached people. Dirk managed to get off the front on a steep pinch near the top. I was a few riders back and didn’t chase, I just held my place in the queue and piled into Tokorangi. Through here the bunch did separate a little but no meaningful gaps really opened – aside from Dirk off the front.
Things regrouped up Katore road, this smooth climb gradually ramps up. The lower slopes invite a ferocious pace, yet no one seemed too keen to light it up. Olly Shaw took up pace making, with me locked on his rear wheel. We reeled in Carl Jones at the entry to As You Do. Things stayed pretty tight up along Tokorangi Pa, I got around Olly for a short section, while Carl also got past. Our group broke up and reformed a couple more times on the way up Hill Road to corners. I played the same game of riding tempo and keeping things steady.
By the bottom of corners things had shaken out. Dirk was well up the road, Olly and Carl were just out of sight, while Harry Phipps, Gareth Cannon and I formed the 3rd group on the trail. The next half hour was a contrast of riding styles. Gareth and Harry both had much more punch than me. They would hit particular sections of trail hard, often opening a small gap, I would hold my tempo and pull them back in again. I kept things tight on Gareth’s wheel through the Chinese Menu, thinking desperately about how to get the better of the pair.
An attack up to the Red Tank didn’t work. I wasn’t able to hit Genesis Uphill first, so had to sprint to counter their constant surges. I lost the wheel in the back end of Genesis – they attacked the climb hard and I stuck to my tempo, but didn’t lift enough to close the gap again. This was the pivotal part of the race for me. I was stuck behind with no selective portions of trail to chase on. To make things worse Carl was now a rabbit for them to chase. I dug deep up the tarseal of Long Mile and along Radio Hut Road. I had the Superfly fully locked out up the climb, riding out of the saddle like a road bike. The gap combined with Harry and Gareth pushing meant I couldn’t make a dent in the margin.
Boulderdash and Rosebank flew past and before I knew it the race was done. 6th place, a consistent finish to the Nduro Series. I was a little frustrated I had let the elastic snap so close to the end, but happy I had played to my strengths in the early part of the race.
The Nduro’s have stoked up the mountain bike fire. A great format to motivate mid winter training miles. I have felt my familiarity with the trails grow through the series, even still I have alot of work to do to match Carl, Dirk and some of the faster guys on the singletrack. My climbing legs are coming back, with some focussed work they might be where they were back in 2006-07. I’m pumped for Whaka 100 and some summer racing.
Cyco kept the Superfly rolling fast all series. Aside from Dirk, carbon hardtails abound at the front of the field, with 29ers in the definite majority. The Trek felt confident on everything the Nduro threw at it, I still haven’t found the limits of the bike. Vitasport and Hansells kept me fuelled for racing, especially key having to fit the races in around work. Being hydrated and fuelled up in the days before the races is a building block I felt I got right. A big thanks to Tim, Belinda and Cabin (and the rest of Nduro) for putting on such a great series. Bring on the 2016 Winter Series. Long live XC!