Monday, 30 June 2014

Round 3: Yearning for traction in the Derailleur Graveyard

Round 3 at Moonshine Park was experimental for us.

For a start, we'd let Calum loose on the course design. Do you know Calum? He's the guy in A-grade with the dark green skinsuit that says Moist and Chewy across the derriere. He's often got his head down, tongue hanging out, and he'll be chasing someone down with a sort of glazed demonic expression. One time he went so deep in a race that he couldn't ride home afterward - simply got off his bike and sat down to eat a muesli bar next to the motorway. That guy designed the course.

So no surprises it was tough.

We hoped that the week's rain would stick around, but it didn't. In fact we were treated by another crisp, beautiful day. 130 entrants showed up, with a 30-strong A-grade field. Excellent numbers yet again.

The banks held a frustrating level of moisture. It was enough to cut up and turn to gummy mud, but not quite enough to turn to proper slop. That might've been easier, believe it or not. Many bikes picked up great big reels of that sticky grassy muck, some of which would later collect a stone from the stop bank and send it into the drivetrain. The result? A tortured straining noise that abated for just a second before a violent crack sent their derailleur flying off down the chain.

You're drawn to the sound first, and then you spot the mechanism hanging absurdly from the midpoint of the chain. What else can you do? You twist your face into a cringe and go oooooh.

The course was hard, for sure, but I'm certain we saw a few smiles. Those who might have lacked the fitness on a faster course could get icky through the tricky technical bits, stealing back precious seconds. I've no idea who won what, because as a spectator I was focussing on the adversities and small victories that the racers clawed from the earth. It was fantastic. I saw more than a few people with blades of grass hanging from broad silly grins. Hell, I think we'd get up at sparrow's fart any day of the week if we knew that was to come of it.

We had strong spectator numbers, which was promising. The north end of the course held several vantage points: the wonderful off-camber chicane; the nibbly, awkward woodlands section and a greasy hairpin that coaxed big rude two wheel drifts from even the most conservative of gentlefolk.

Though most appeared to relish the first few laps, there were some decidedly unhappy faces by the later stages. The recurrent demands of a technical course can bleed you dry of enthusiasm, and if you're not up to the challenge the only thing you can do is collapse into survival mode. We're not sure where to draw the line on that one. Certainly that chicane pushed the envelope, and nobody was riding it by the time B grade had finished. But it's always a balancing act - who wants to ride round in circles on a flat field?

We'd be interested to hear your feedback on that.

As for things to look forward to (apart from Round 4 at California Park on July 13, of course), the Kapiti series kicks off this weekend. Check out their Facebook page for the deets. And CXHB have opened up entry for the National Champs on 10 August. More info here.

And as for your merry crew, we'll keep the wheels greased to deliver you up another lusty round of 'cross in a fortnight's time. Can you believe we're halfway through the series already? The atmosphere of the events is something we're immensely proud of, and the proliferation of dedicated 'cross bikes shows commitment to the cause. We're kindred spirits, lovers - united by the crude bonds of mud and sweat that suspend our souls over the frosty banks of the Hutt valley. And for what our dance lacks in glamour, it more than makes up for in truth.

See y'all at the fourth round to get loose and leery. Let's do a little rain dance, shall we?

Forever yours,



Saturday, 28 June 2014

2 Loaner bikes are available again this weekend

The biketec guys have made 2 Loaner bikes are available again this weekend. Drop me an E on huttcross@xnet.co.nz  to book one : ) or if you have a spare then bring it along for your neighbour to ride! Spread the love!

Monday, 16 June 2014

Round 2: California Dreamin'

Yesterday was one of those days that makes it all worthwhile.

Almost 150 riders joined us in mostly sunny and calm conditions to sample the second round of our burgeoning cyclocross series. The interim results should be available later this week, there will be a slight delay as a number of registrants opted not to write down their race number. 

The course was some 2.6 km long and took in the best features of California Park. A particular favourite of mine was the greasy hairpin around the tree at the south end, which by the end of the day necessitated staying well away from the brakes and embracing the art of the two wheel drift.

The C-grade field had a few kids who had opted to step up from the Kids' race. Even on an easy course this would be admirable, but on the selective parcours we'd set out it's damn impressive. Even with a relatively clean run, the course looked demanding. Troy Turner nabbed the win, ahead of Craig Anderson in 2nd and Rowan Cordwell in 3rd.

An enormous B-grade field lined up, with certain competitors making themselves inconspicuous on the start line for fear of being promoted to A-grade. The course spread the field out well, but there were still some severe bottlenecks. Local roadie hard man Brent Backhouse looked good for his debut, and we might have even gotten a smile out of him once it was all said and done. Kelvin Arthur took the win, up from 3rd the previous week, while Gary Moller grabbed 2nd, and the obviously virile Hugh Jorgen came in 3rd.

The Kids' race was not without its drama. Most seemed to have fun, but I was present to witness a brother/sister sprint where the sister just managed to edge out the brother, prompting the brother to throw his bike down in disgust and let his emotions flow. A poignant reminder that even on these seemingly innocuous and remote grassy slopes of Upper Hutt, a lot can hang in the balance.

The A-grade race was another good one. Brendon Sharratt cleared out like a cut cat from the beginning, and wouldn't be reeled in again. Meanwhile Alex Revell duked it out with young gun Simon Lawson, who was assisted through the technical sections by being on his mountain bike but unable to match Alex's finesse in the later stages of the race - with Alex securing 2nd place. Big T-Rex flapped about for half the race having his lunch cut by yours truly before he remembered how to lay down the power and motored his way up to 3rd place, passing Simon and the classy 'cross regular Ben Knight in the process. In the main field, Jon Barnes had stepped up from his post as a competitive B-grader. Unfortunately he encountered problems early on, but came back to put in a solid ride. With a couple more rounds following wheels in A-grade and learning the tricks of the trade, he'll be one to watch for sure. Also present, having thrown himself firmly in the deep end, was the good sort on the loaner bike from Biketec NZ - check out their website for this great service that they're offering.

We'd also like to extend our thanks to Cam Wood and the Barnes family for their assistance with timing, and to Dave Sharpe, Malcolm and the various others who helped us to pack down the gear.

We were stoked with the reception of this cool little series, which seems to be bringing a lot of smiles to a great many dials. A few choice photos appear below; there are plenty more on the Hüttcross page. Stay tuned for results, once we're done divining the identities of the various competitors.

See you all in a fortnight at Moonshine Park.


Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Key Info Update

Good evening, crossers.

Your merry band of enthusiasts was very pleased with how the first round of the series went. Everyone looked to have had a great time - the organiser's perspective is set out in the post below.

We've made a tweak to the race schedule, with the Kids' Race now sitting in between the B and A grade races thusly:

C Grade - 0900
B Grade - 1000
Kids' Race - 1050
A Grade - 1115

This will give those kids whose parents are turning up for the A or B grade races a greater opportunity to participate, and should hopefully encourage more people to hang around and watch the rest of the racing.

The second thing we'd like to note is that those competitors who wish to race in two grades should:

(a) Pay an additional entry fee; and
(b) Refrain from competing for the win in the "lower" grade.

This keeps things fair across the board.

The weather for Round Two looks to be fine and calm - but there should still be a good amount of slop from this wintry week we seem to be enjoying.

We look forward to seeing y'all at California Park on Sunday to do it all again.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Round 1: Sun Shines on Moonshine

Our first round on Sunday dawned with a misty, frosty complexion but this soon gave way to one of the clearest, calmest and generally perfectest winter days you can get in Upper Hutt. Right on time at 8am registration, no sooner had we got our wits about us than we had eager 'crossers of all ages, bicycles and experience levels numbering up and breaking trail through the crispy white grass.

By the numbers and level of enthusiasm, C grade started with a bang - 41 entries, 14 of which were women and a big bunch of youth - most trying it out for the first time. Jono Baddiley led the field from the beginning, perhaps finding his years of mountain biking transferring helpfully into the discipline of cyclocross despite it being his first time, finishing 1'38" ahead of close-finishing Ross Leslie and Richard Henderson. Jane Mcree rode her way through the field after a slower start to finish 6th overall and 3 minutes ahead of 2nd placed female Jo Miller. Both stayed on the leading lap, ahead of 3rd place Karen Hunn.

While steam emanated from sharp breaths and hot coffee, the children and families got together for what became the first of two kids' races. Much whooping, chortling and speedy manoeuvring ensued from the youngsters, happy for the attention at last and the chance to ride with the big kids on their turf.

B grade saw another big field of 44 starters, with NZ marathon national champion Dougal Thorburn steadily moving up and past fast starter Ryan Champion, to take first place despite  the haggard remains of a cold. Not far behind were Ed Banks of Wellington and Kelvin Arthur of Pahiatua. Within the race lone enduro star Simon Morton was shredding it siqq in padded bovine splendour, just ahead of the close battle between Charlotte Ireland and Amy Champion. Charlotte gained enough time early on to withstand Amy's late charge. Martine Barnes, less than half the age of her competitors, put in some consistent lap times - another of the talented Barnes brigade making the jump to cyclocross. Notable also was the presence of road time-trial specialist Joel Healy, observed genuflecting on the ground on numerous occasions, as part of his familiarity process with off-road cycling.

The final event of the day, A grade, again featured a cross section of old and new faces. Brendon Sharratt led from the beginning as he often does, but was kept alert by the teenage MTB star Eden Cruise. Although Eden held on close for the first half of the race, the combination of Brendon's experience and Eden's relative lack thereof - only his second ever ride on a cyclocross bike - meant the gap crept wider until it reached two minutes at the finish. Two and a half minutes later, and the last rider to finish on the lead lap, Masterton's Ben Knight came through in 3rd out of a total of 17 starters. Lantern rouge star, Pat Garrett had some of the more erratic lap times of the day, no doubt due to the combination of zebra-print lycra and a handmade ghetto bike that looked like the fork had been bashed backwards.

With so many new faces present since last season, and many more back on 'cross bikes after slugging it out on MTBs previously, it was the best confirmation we could have hoped for that this is a sport people love and a community that we want to keep growing. We look forward to seeing you all again with your families and best friends to race and cheer you on at California Park on June 15th.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Interim Results now available


Let us know if any amendments are required. We'll finalised the results by Wednesday 4 June.

Many thanks to everyone who attended today. The weather was excellent, the course appropriately slick, and the participants appropriately entertained/broken.

If you took photos today and you're willing to share them, please send us a link (either via this blog, or in the Facebook group) and we'll post it for all to enjoy.

See you at California Park in a fortnight!