Sunday, March 29, 2009

The DUAL - Race Report

It was the start of a very long day! My alarm went off at 4.45am and I gulped down a quick breakfast of muesli washed down with a cup of tea before my ride turned up at 5.15am. We got to the ferry terminal in Devonport in plenty of time and the excitement slowly built as more and more competitors arrived. Eventually the ferry made its way across the harbour from downtown Auckland and we clambered aboard to join the rest of the racers. 

The trip over to the islands took less than half an hour on a very calm sea and after disembarking we wandered off in near darkness to find our bikes and prepare for the 8 o'clock start. 

I am not competitive by nature but was a bag of nerves before the start. I have been having so much pain in my ankle since the operation (especially after riding on bumpy terrain) that I wondered if I had 50km in me. 

The start was very slow as 600? mountainbikers of varying abilities climbed up a long and winding farm road heading over toward Rangitoto. Most riders were in their granny-gear and I was barely turning the pedals on the Pugsley as overtaking was nigh impossible. 

This procession continued up to the summit of Rangitoto where the cautious riders slowed down even more and the skilled and impatient (me) finally had some room to move and took off like madmen down the other side. 

My new Barbie racing mojo did the trick. 
No cramp, no crashes and no flats.

The Rangitoto part of the race was over very quickly and we then crossed over a bridge to Motutapu again for the remainder of the race. At this stage we were mostly on farm roads (double-track) and without the impressive views the riding would have been a bit boring. I was feeling really good up to the 35km mark and would power past geared riders uphill only to be overtaken again when we reached the flat parts. 

Motutapu and Rangitoto islands could not be more different. Motutapu is now mostly covered in farm pasture but 800 years ago it was minding its own business when a volcano erupted out of the sea right next door to it. They are almost touching and while one is covered in grass on top of rich soil, the other is a mass of volcanic rock covered in native bush.

The last 15km was a real grind as the terrain changed to riding the ridge-lines of farm paddocks. At least the grass was dry, but it was still energy-sucking to ride on up endless hills. I was walking a lot of the steeper sections by now as I didn't have anything left in my legs, but I was not alone. The sides of the track were littered with cramped-up riders doubled-over in pain or rolling around in agony. I must have also passed 15-20 people fixing punctures. 

With a light bike and a granny-gear 99% of the course was ridable. I might put two chain-rings on the Pug next year and double my gearing options. A slightly lower gear to make the hills and something a little higher so I don't lose so much time on the flat sections.

It was with great relief when I crested the final hill and looked down on the finish line far below me. One last burst and a wheelie over the line and the pain was over. 

I was mainly aiming to finish and hoping to get under 5 hours if I did, so I was really pleased with my time of 3:54. If I get a bit fitter, alter my gearing and don't take any photos I reckon I could break 3:30.

As soon as the race was over I hobbled into the cool sea to stop my ankle from swelling too much. At this stage I was thinking the last thing on earth I ever wanted to do again was a 50km mountainbike race on a volcano, but after a sit down, something to eat and a cool beer with my new riding buddies I was making plans for the next one...

Why wouldn't you?

When we got to Motutapu it was well before 7am and we had to walk from the wharf to the start-line in near darkness. This was the view looking back east to the ferry as the the sun was coming up. 

I borrowed a set of friends for the day from my mate Dale. A good bunch of guys and I enjoyed their company both on and off the race-course. I'm the tall old one at the back.

The race briefing. I should have been listening properly instead of taking photos.

This was taken on Rangitoto half an hour or so into the race. You can see the jagged volcanic rock to the right, much like parts of Kona in Hawaii. 

I was flying downhill from the summit of the volcano as the Pug's tyres were ideally suited to the fine loose gravel. I passed a ton of riders on full-suspension bikes and was even catching some air on the bumps. 

When we reached sea-level and the road flattened out a singlespeed was not the ideal mount to have and I thought I may as well stop and take some photos. If I passed 50 riders on the way down I swear 100 rode past me as I was taking this shot!

About halfway through the race on Motutapu I saw a guy ahead taking a photo of the view so I pulled over and we did the camera-swap-bike-portrait thing. My home is in the distance somewhere in the East Coast Bays.

The run to the finish line was down that hill in the background (steeper than it looks) and through this chute. By that stage the marathon runners were sharing the same track and it was really rather dangerous but the pug just loves downhills and I was scything through runners like a slalom skier. Great fun!

Bike and rider resting after the finish. I was so exhausted I actually felt a little light-headed.

We had to wash our bikes after the race and they came back on separate boats the next day for collection in downtown Auckland.

It was a long line for a locally bred lamb-burger but well worth it.

The event was very well organized but there was a bit of a wait for the ferries as lots of people were leaving at the same time. We just missed out on this one and had to wait 45 minutes on the wharf for the next but everyone was still buzzing from the race and the time went quickly.

A last look at Rangitoto sitting on the back of the ferry enjoying a another well-deserved cold beer.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pugsley Ramble on the North Shore

I've been feeling a bit guilty about the lack of local vistas in my posts lately. The inspiration that got me started on this blogging journey was the wonderful scenery on Doug's cycling blog up in Minnesota. 

My posting has turned out to be a sporadic diary of my cycling life when I think there's something people might be interested in. Lets face it, my routine of bicycling to work, school and the shops doesn't change much from week to week. I guess you're not too interested in commuting, unicycles and kids so I made the effort this weekend on a four hour training ramble to get my camera out and snap some of the places I ride often. 

I had to go to Albany to get my bike safety-checked for my big race this weekend. The salesman at Avanti Plus North Shore (Cycle Store) glanced at it for a fraction of a second and said "Where do you want the sticker?". I guess they can spot the kind of bikes that are showing neglect, but I did expect a bit more attention than that after a half-hour ride to get there. 

I stopped at my LBS on the way to order some skewers for the Cross-Check build and a spare tube for the Pugsley. I had my first flat tyre in three years of Pug ownership last weekend and I don't want to be left stranded, out in the middle of nowhere on a volcano in the harbour. 

It wasn't really a proper flat. We had just arrived at the forrest for some trail-riding and the valve-stem had separated from the tube while in the back of a friends truck. I have heard about this happening with the low pressures we run but thought I would be OK as my tyres tend to self-glue themselves to the rim with the adhesive at the edges of the wide Surly rim-strips and I didn't think they shifted under load. You live and learn. I think I'll run them above 10psi for a while and see how I go. That will get me through all but the softest of sand. 

While in Albany I explored around looking for some gravel (dirt) roads to ride but although this area was "the country" not that long ago all I found was sealed roads and million-dollar homes. The traffic was light and I was enjoying the riding all the same so I eventually made my way across to Long Bay and started hopping from bay to bay on my way home. I usually ride on the beach as much as I can but I tackled plenty of inland hills this time to give myself a bit of a work-out.

Climbing up Gills Road out of Albany looking for dirt roads.

The highest point heading towards the coast. That's Rangitoto (look for it in other shots) in the distance. A dormant volcano in the middle of the Waitemata Harbour, just across the water from my house! That damned volcano haunted me all day and is the location of next weekend's epic race.

Developers want to build housing on this land behind the beach at Long Bay. There is much opposition and it will be a real shame if it happens.

Climbing out of Long Bay on the cliff-top (walking) path.

Waiake landmark. The Pugsley makes stuff ridable that you would be walking on other bikes.

Waiake (Some call it Torbay). Quite muddy sand but popular with boaties and swimmers when the tide is in.

Waiake self-portrait. This could have ended badly and people were watching.

Browns Bay. Big, but pretty scungy. I don't know why it is so popular.

Sampling the local Baker's Delight at Browns Bay. Apple, walnut and cinnamon scroll. It was divine.

Rothesay Bay. Looks nice but smelt really bad. I like riding down into here from Browns Bay because on the way out you ride up one of the biggest hills on the North Shore. I like hills!

Murrays Bay, home of the local sailing club. If you view large you can see dozens of children out racing in the harbour.

Mairangi Bay. A lovely day but nobody swimming for some strange reason. 
(View large for impromptu brown-eye)

The author riding along Campbells Bay, the last beach heading South before I ride up the hill to home and a nice cup of tea. I can see the beach from my house.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hired Help

Tried out a new mechanic in the workshop today for a pre-race tuning and lube. The standard of workmanship was good but it cost me a fortune in orange juice and biscuits. 

The pink race-bike and Dolly's pram got a service while she was at it.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Susitna 100 - Fat Tyre Snow Biking Video

Saw this little video on my friend Doug's cycling blog. Brought a tear to my fat-tyred eyes.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

CBS Cyclones T-Shirt

I've been working on a t-shirt design for the School unicycling club. 

They liked the original concept and the CBS Cyclones name but I had to modify it so it prints as black and white on a light blue t-shirt (school's colour). Parts of the blue shirt show through adding a bit more colour.

Not as much impact as the version for white backgrounds but I think it looks OK.

Nasty & Evil Weather

Nasty Evil Bike sulks in the garage humiliated by my ghetto commuting set-up of an old day-pack inside a plastic bag bungied to his back.

Just got home from work after riding through a storm. 50kph winds, heavy rain warning, 90% humidity and although it's 11 o'clock at night it's still 20ÂșC. Weird!

The wind gusts were so strong (and the roads so wet) I had to ride 1.5m out from the kerb and keep my speed under 25kph because I was getting blown sideways up to a metre. 

On an uphill section that I sometimes ride in granny-gear the wind was so strong at my back that I was being blown up it without pedaling. 

Why don't more people commute by bike? This was the most fun I've had all week!