Cold mornings, wet days and dark evenings conspire to make long training rides less appealing over winter. It’s usually not a problem once the first 20 minutes are done, but getting out the door can be a real drain on the motivation stores. Last year the Nduro winter series was 3 races that helped tilt the motivation balance in favour or some solid winter sessions. Naturally I signed up for the whole series this year, despite some less than optimal work rosters around the races (it will be good adventure racing training).
The first race is set to take place on July 3. The course release took place around a week prior, and provided a good loop to take in on a long steady ride during the week.
I set off from home in ideal conditions – chilly, persistent rain. I joined the course at Dragons Tail. Diving off this trail into Te Ara Puna is the first of a few variations from commonly ridden routes in the forest. The second being dropping out of Turkish ‘short’ to head across the road and into Grinder. Both are welcome variations from my usual trail choices – another good reason to race – it reimagines common rides.
The rain had mercifully eased by the time I arrived at the Waipa Mill Carpark, what will be the start for Sundays race. From here the course takes on the Verry Safe Trail before looping around the back of Kakapiko. I looked at this on paper and anticipated a procession. Out on course however, I got thinking that the rolling gravel roads and 4wd tracks will be selective. The ride around to the start of Taura requires a sustained effort and includes a number of rolling hills. Assuming a bunch will enter Long Drive together, I think there is plenty of room for a higher tempo to put riders in difficulty before hitting the singletrack. Given this is the first race of the series too, there will likely be a whole lot of glancing sideways as riders feel out who has form and who doesn’t.
Taura may catch a few out, or more accurately, the roots may catch a few people out. The trail has a few very sneaky diagonal roots that are just waiting to kick riders off course. Taura is quickly becoming one of my favourites, with its mix of high speed and tricky little awkward turns.
The middle part of the course provides a nice counterpoint to the roads of the start. Old Chevy and the Chinese Menu offer plenty to the smooth rider. Carry speed, save energy, consolidate for a fast finish. These trails are likely to be WET, especially if forecast rain for Sunday eventuates. Both ride well in the wet, it will just increase the pressure on bikes and components.
I’ll do little to change my usual setup for race day on Sunday. I’m still undecided on the choice between Trek Superfly hardtail and TopFuel full suspension. The wet conditions has me leaning towards the Superfly, if only to save the TopFuel from a super moist session. Both bikes are shod with Vittoria Saguaros 2.2in, so I will run these regardless. The Rotorua wet tends to be more watery in most situations, and these tires deal well with the specific sort of slop the course is likely to offer.
Strava from the pre ride (including so wrong turns and a ride from home):