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?