NZ is throwing a little bit of everything at the Aussie MTB orienteers. Heavy rain is forecast for Friday’s event at Wanaka, whilst up at “Snow Farm”, at Saturday’s relay site, the forecast is a maximum of 1 degree and 8 centimetres of snow! True!
The 50 strong contingent of Aussie mtb orienteers spent the rest day in Queenstown. With so much adventure stuff on offer there were actually few who “rested.” Some chose to practice their bike descent skills on the local mountain, courtesy of repeated chair lift rides to the top, whilst others sought out various water pursuits.
The toughness of the long event on Wednesday was a rude shock for many who hadn’t taken the pre-event course description of “open terrain with significant contour detail” literally. The aptly titled “Linger and Die” map definitely needed mental and physical stamina. Many had almost a 400m climb to the first control!
Comments from Chris Firman: “The long distance race was harder than any course I have ever competed in. The steepness of hills we had to climb this day was extreme and there were many gratuitous climbs. All who finished this day were impressive. On this bareback mountain everyone struggled. If you weren’t going down you were pedaling up and if you weren’t pedaling you were pushing up, which everyone had to do multiple times. The descents weren’t always your friend being very tricky to ride down fast and with the loose rock and loose soil it proved challenging for a lot of people. My goal for the course was to have another clean ride like the sprint. One wrong error could potentially send you down the hill in the wrong direction, and it was everyone’s aim to avoid climbing more then you had to. Similar to the sprint day, I was hesitant double checking the vague tracks on the bare mountain and also pacing myself, knowing I had a lot of climb ahead of me.”
Australian individual highlights were as follows: Alex Randall placed 3rd in open men despite a puncture with 4 controls to go, while teammates Oscar Phillips and Ricky Thackray were 5th and 6th in the 20 person field. David Simpfendorfer retired with a broken chain, as did Ian Dalton with tyre issues.
In open women, on course 2, the ultra-fit Melanie Simpson (122 mins) had a well deserved victory over Maquita Gelderman. Mary Fein also rode extremely well to place a close 3rd and secure the class victory for the Aussies. Jenn Graham-Taylor, on the comeback trail after motherhood, persevered well to place 6th out of 14. The fastest time of the day on course 2 went to M20 Chris Firman with 109 mins, while fellow Queenslander Karl Withers was 2nd (129mins) in M20, with Victorian youngster Tim Jackson 3rd. M40 winner (also C2) Damian Welbourne actually enjoyed the tough conditions to win in 110 mins, just a minute ahead of Greg Barbour, a dual foot and mtbo world champs Kiwi representative. Remarkably Damian rode the entire event with his front forked locked out, after forgetting to re-engage it after a bitumen climb to the first control.
Course 3 saw two victories for the reliable duo of Carolyn Jackson (W40) – 104 mins, and Marcus Roberts (M50) – 99 mins. While Carolyn had a 13 minute win Marcus had less than a minute up his sleeve over Kiwi Phil White. On course 4 Victorian Heather Leslie was Australia’s only placegetter, with her 3rd in W50. Peta Whitford was unable to start and reserve Carolyn Cusworth bravely stepped up into the W50 team and was thrilled to finish. In the ultra-competitive M60class, David Firman (Qld) and Leigh Privett (Vic) rode well in a strong field for 4th and 5th respectively. Course 5 saw evergreen Kathy Liley again take the honours in W60.
Some of the riders will go into the 3rd of the challenge events, the middle distance, aiming to achieve a clean sweep trifecta of wins. These are New Zealanders Chris Forne (men’s open), Ed Corey-Wright (M16) Bruce Meder (M60) and Aussies Chris Firman (M20), Carolyn Jackson (W40) and Kathy Liley (W60).