Highs, Lows & Mojos

Free your mind and your legs will follow

Racing is full of ups and downs. Literally and figuratively. From a racing perspective, the final round of the NZ National Cup was a bit of a disaster for me. In fact, I was beginning to think my racing mojo had joined the leather suite as part of my settlement agreement. But it only follows that after a down must come an up.

This weekend's up came in the form of Coppermine Epic. It's a big up. Twenty kilometers of up followed by twenty kilometers of down. It also happens to be one of my favourite courses in the country and a race with a super cool vibe, which is just what the doctor ordered. Nelson always seems to put on an amazing show with stunning weather, top notch trails and fabulous pinot. Fringe Hill provides plenty of Karapoti-esque steep climbs, Black Diamond Ridge brings on the super techy rooty stuff and the post '11 makeover Boulder Valley descent is smiles all round. I highly recommend it. All of it.

Boulder Valley awesomeness

With a heap more climbing umph in my legs this year, I was pretty keen to see if I could crack out a new women's course record. Fuelled by a combination of the "right" food and cream donuts (a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do to get back on track, right?!) and with my super fly steed (go to Mud Cycles boys and girls) I was ready to give it heaps. Heaps were duly given and a rather determined me emerged back in the paddock two and a half hours later, gunning it for the line. Yey. New course record. And, more importantly... Yey. Back in my groove.

Gunning it!

In fact, there were girls saying yey on both islands this weekend. Rotorua Bike Festival showcased some superb racing with Karen Hanlen defending her Kiwi title in style and fellow Wellingtonian Sam Sheppard claiming the bronze spot. For those who don't know the story - the raceworthiness of Sam's bike was looking a bit dicey just before the Mt Vic round of NZ National Cup. That day, she needed a small race ready hardtail within a few hours and ever since I've been unable to get my bike back. It also appears to have grown bar ends. So while my bike was winning at Coppermine, my other bike was claiming a podium spot in Vegas. Yey. I'm claimng credit for some of that. Great weekend for the stable.

Sam Sheppard ripping it up on my other bike... 29ers are go for small chicks!

I guess that brings me to why I am so happy to be part of the eclectic little community that is bicycle racing again. It's full of a whole bunch of characters who share common goals and aspirations. Sometimes they even share bikes (it would appear). People help each other out and enjoy exchanging stories afterwards (invariably in the form of banter and smacktalk). It's the journey that's the fun bit rather than just the destination.

For a proper race report check this out in Spoke (my tee shirt even got a mention)... http://spokemagazine.com/2013/02/18/press-release-glover-and-hurst-dominate-the-santa-cruz-coppermine-epic/

Seven Year Itch

That hurt. A whole lot. In fact, I'd forgotten just how much it hurts to race XCO format. Sure, I've played around doing odds and sods over the last couple of years but the body certainly realised that it had been a while. At the end of lap one.

Wellington - the home of tropical weather conditions
Photo credit Ricoh Riott

Wellington's Mt Vic course was always going to provide a baptism of fire. Five laps, each a smidgen over four kilometers with a mix of pinchy climbs, rooty descents, sweet drops, some stadium steps and a lap of the velodrome for amusement with the thermostat cranked up to red hot provided an uber value for money first hit out.

Rod's Drop
Sweet bike set-up thanks to Ricky Pincott at Muds
Photo credit Wayne Jones-Nevrilk

My relationship with XCO has always been a bit of a love-frustate relationship. I love it cos it was how I first started racing bikes. I still remember rocking up to a junior National Cup race being hosted by my mountain bike club in various bits of kit I had borrowed including my Mum's helmet (sorry, I don't have a photo - phew!). My brother made me borrow his clipless pedals out of fear of being embarrassed by his big sis who had no clue what she was doing. His parting advice on the startline was, "Ride as hard as you can from the gun and don't let anyone pass you" followed by "and never look back". I stuck to his game plan and surprised everyone including myself, my Mum and my little bro with a great result and couldn't be kept off a startline for the rest of the summer. Or the next one. Or the one after that.

Last time I checked, no female Junior World Champ MTB XC racer has ever gone on to win an Elite World Champ MTB XC title. Julie Bresset may have changed that stat and sure, some of them that do achieve rainbow stripe glory move to road racing (like my fellow countrywoman Nicole Cooke) but nevertheless it goes to show the transition to senior racing is a tough move to pull off. I never got close to winning a major junior international championship (my best was 16th at Worlds, in the Southern Hemisphere funnily enough) but I was even further away from where I thought I should be in my first season of elite racing and bailed after half a season for a whole number of reasons.

I had another stab at it in 2006 with a calendar of National racing interpersed with full time doctoring and military deployments and came out with a bronze medal at the British Elite XC Champs and finished my only World Cup race without being pulled out under the 80% rule at Fort Bill. I decided that I was probably never going to ride quite as quick as I wanted and downgraded my racing aspirations. In hindsight, it was probably a tad premature to make that call but I've never been a particularly patient person.

This year, seven years after my last elite outing and following a winter of dabbling in riding at pace in the mud with a whole heap of encouragement (plus some back rubbing) I took the plunge to get on an elite XCO startline again. The rentacrowd at the summit of the climb made it worthwhile in itself! There was an awesome buzz while an exciting women's race unfolded and I almost snuck on to the podium with some class company.

This hurts!
Photo credit Ricoh Riott

Now that I've started it would be kinda rude to stop without giving it a good go. So, this time I'm in for the long haul. Even more than one season. I reckon, at least until I turn forty - which seems like a reasonable milestone.