The Chocolate Foot events are always a lot of fun, good atmosphere, good people and excellently organised and supported. Round 3 of the 2014 Singletrack Mind series took place at Awaba, a trail that I’ve raced a couple of times as part of a team of 3, however this year I was riding the Open Solo Men’s for the SXC Racing team, a solo effort for the first time! Sadly the team lost both Wayne Dickinson and Graham Nisbet to injuries in the lead up to the event, both series leaders in their respective categories and I was looking forward to lining up alongside them as well as the SXC Racing Masters (again series leaders – no pressure then!) team of 3 (Dave, Matt and Gary).
I’ve not raced since the Convict and 2 weeks of working in Wellington prior to the event left me somewhat in the dark as to my fitness and endurance so I didn’t really have any expectations as to how I would go but was aiming for a podium. In the absence of Wayne and Graham I lined up about 3-4 rows back alongside Dave at the start, thinking that he would likely be quicker than me riding as he was in the team. The start at Awaba takes us along the entry road and then into the singletrack. I didn’t want to go too deep off the start so kept it steady. One guy went down on one of the loose corners but other than the bottleneck into the singletrack all was fine. I managed to place about 3-4 riders back of Dave and sat in making no effort to pass. The rider in front of me went down on one of the corners but luckily there was plenty of room for me to avoid him and ride on. Coming into Camelback climb I pushed relatively hard knowing I could make up a few places and did so, just about sneaking ahead of Dave in the process.
From then on it was a case of trying to be as consistent as possible with my lap times, getting my HR up but not going into the red zone, remaining patient and overtaking safely. I was watching my times and aiming to maintain my average speed at 16.5-17kph. After the third lap Gary told me I was in 5th at which I felt quite deflated as I thought he meant in my category, on the next lap Matt told me I was in 4th, so in spite of assuming I was out of a podium spot I was gaining ground and hoping that my steady start would pay dividends in the last couple of laps. One thing I had forgotten was how hard Awaba was on the body, by the 5th lap my hands were getting sore and so too were my arms, neck and shoulders. At times I was grimacing trying to hold on over some of the rougher sections. Coming through transition into my last lap I received some encouraging words from the SXC team and got a bit carried away, almost losing it on the first couple of corners, after having a word with myself I reverted back to a speed I was happy with!
I rolled over the line pretty happy that I didn’t have to ride another lap, it was then that I was told I was 4th overall and 2nd in category.. Deflation turned into something much more positive and justified my effort and pleased to represent SXC on the podium and maintain a good start for the team in the overall series.
Thanks to Chocolate Foot for putting on a great race, the organisation seemed to run perfectly. Well done to the Sxc Racing Masters team backing up their win in the last round and winning with a good buffer. I don’t know whether I’ll make Round 4 at Nowra but no doubt the team will be back and hopefully Wayne and Graham too.