Tie a multi coloured bandana around your head, the Volcanic Epic Bandito mosh pit of suffering, gels and lactate stress is off and riding! And with it, welcome to the Day 1 Hot take race report, or for those LinkedIn squatting, Acronym Fiends, the HTRR. I know some of you wanted it to be the ‘Comprehensive Update Now Through’ report, but I also wanted to have another 3 months to train for this thing and didn’t get that, so we’ll all have to make do.
And making do started out as cold as absolute fuck on Day 1 in Rotorua – 2 degs hanging around the start line if you believe the Wahoo, which left me wishing I’d brought my own race gimp to hand my de rigueur puffer jacket to instead of freezing my ass off in the finest Castelli lycra like I did.
Still, the upside to this was watching the amassed horde of thoroughbred Banditos shaking like they’d just hit a batch of spiked MDMA, which was definitely the content I had come for.
With the Pro level crowd clearing off early in Wave 1, we eagerly awaited the start of the eBikes in Wave 2 (Oh, yes, you know there is more on that later), before the greater unwashed got set loose on the course. I was numb by the time we rolled out, which was probably useful given it meant I was too cold to react to the scenes around me, as peoples assessment of their own fitness and skills in terms of where they should position themselves at the start, met head on with the cycling hierarchy – The resulting dropping of wheels, panicked looks for partners and passing manoeuvres designed to put both the passer and passee in hospital in the first few KM’s a sight to behold.
Being a solo unit with heightened self preservation instincts, I managed to navigate the cliche maelstrom of the start of an XC race, and set about remembering how slow I now am. Once people recalled it was a 4 day race and not a 400m event, the fever started to subside – Just in time to hit ‘Creek’. IYKYK, but this is a favourite for Race Organiser, Mr Farmer, who loves to stick as many fresh and feverish Banditos down this single track trail as he can get his hands on. I was lucky enough to get into a good group, which avoided most of the usual traffic jams and antics one would come to expect from such events and the Highlander or Whaka 100.
I then set about making my race as boring, efficient and smooth as I possibly could, attempting to draw on lessons from the past around how its more about racing for the days ahead than today. This vibe became particularly important when I realised on the 4WD sections, a zone I would usually make time on, I was doing the opposite. Throw in a general feeling of having low resiliency and after an hour in, it did occur to me that it was time for Regulators to mount up and dump a few BPM on the old HRM.
Hard to do mind you when you’re working your way through ‘Sweet & Sour’, a sneaky little fucker of a trail which has a buffet of sections to entice you to put in just more effort than you really want to. After being passed by Nathan Rankin, who, fun fact was riding a matching Blur, just like we did in 1995 with our matching Avanti Aggressors (I remembered, Nathan less so I think), it was time for a tactical piss.
The sin of stopping in an XC race (yes, the Welsh Assassin just closed his browser and deleted his favourite link) was a 2 for 1 however – I managed to get an annoying piss out, deep relief, and got the heart rate down to something slightly more sustainable. Bonus cherry was also having a clear track around me, something I was craving.
Turns out, being an extremist, if I am going to do this solo, I really didn’t want to be suffering with traffic around me, also allowing me to reinforce my narrative that I was just on a slightly faster than normal trail ride. It also allowed me to find ways to stop maxing out on the climbs, like this absolutely shit photo I took for you fuckers as a distraction for feeling more average than I should have on the first day:
The plan was definitely not to feel more spent than the Rodfather after servicing a bunch of Posties (Bikes?), but the single track trails were begging for the Blur to rail them and we both felt compelled to oblige. Without the Professor here to provide adult supervision, the next few days will write the tale if what I thought was the right pacing turns out to be either true, or a gruesome miscalculation.
This is where the awkwardness of trying to integrate eBikes and acoustic Banditos started to get on the radar, their ‘slow down & fast up’ scenario the opposite of my vibe, leading to an on-going game of leapfrog with some of them. Everyone was polite as we swapped roles of being mobile chicanes, but it’s hard to not feel this co-mingling experiment needs more work at big events given the inevitable Rise of the Machines. (Yes, it breaks my soul having to tone down the eBike golden shower now that I have one and it made me smile once)
The road to ‘Pondy Elevator’ is always more of a drag than I give it credit for, not to mention the actual climb itself, up to the high point of today’s race at 740m, but I was betting on gobbling up a heap of distance with a run down ‘Split Enz’ to play to my strengths given it was a day of hiding in the single track. You can imagine my horror then when it was the top section only, back out onto a road and then a long 4WD drag down to John’s Corner on Hill road – Legit “What is happening?!!” moment.
Still, made up for that with a sweet run down Whaki to finish before putting Day 1 in the bag. For all you data driven monkeys out there, feast on some bullet points:
- Results wise – 19th out of 46 in M40, better than expected, and about right around my middle-aged mid-pack sweet spot
- Numbers wise – 44km’s, 1,163m of climbing and 2 hours 49 min ride time. Contextually, M40 winner Glenn Haden did it in 2.08 and won by 9 mins. Shoulder shrug. Fastest pair of Sam Shaw and Jon Odams did it in a WTF 2.01. Sam naturally on a Blur 4
- Mental torture wise – Actually not too bad, call it a 6/10, aside from Pondy Elevator, nothing too hard out there today, just the stone cold realisation that I am significantly underbaked for 4 days of this being the tricky part.
Next up is Taupo, which given the wholesale destruction of the Craters MTB park from that hideous bitch Gabrielle, has been switched to Kinloch and a course which I suspect will find me out significantly given it’s 57km’s and not exactly technical. Based on today’s effort, I have a ‘Start Group 2’ sticker on the race plate for tomorrow.
Stay tuned to see how that shit plays out. I’m off to execute on my Nutrition plan, which I have interpreted as eating whatever the fuck I want, and as much of it as possible… Cheers