Oceania MTB Championships
Signal Hill, Dunedin
10 Feb 2018
The weekend before the Oceania Champs, I had raced in the South Island XC Champs in Christchurch. This was a great warm up race with some top competition! I placed 4th in elite women, but behind a Comm Games rep and two ladies about to head to SA for the Cape Epic. The Monday after this race I met up with a good friend, Rachel, for a mini road trip on the way to Dunedin. We had a lot of fun during that week and did many cool things, such as geocaching in Geraldine, walking the Hooker Valley track in Mt Cook, doing a core workout on the lakefront of Ruataniwha, exploring the unbelievable pillars of the natural Clay Cliffs near Omarama, visiting Moeraki Boulders, spotting seals and penguins at Kaitiki Point, riding my bike up the steepest street in the world, and clambering down the tunnel in the cliff to Tunnel Beach for a spontaneous swim. I had such a great week that you’d hardly think I was also preparing for my biggest race of the New Zealand mountain bike season! However, I still got my training in and had plenty of time for rest and recovery (thanks to Rachel for doing all the driving!).
I had two days of practice on the Oceanias course. For a quick run down on the course, it was three main climbs – the first one very long and relatively steep, the second was what I nicknamed the ‘Wheezy Climb’ because it was so steep that nearly everyone was gasping for oxygen up it, and finally, a nice gentle meander through some native bush (which was a welcome relief from the heat)! There were then three main descents, the first was a long, smooth rockgarden with a drop at the end followed by steep, dusty switchbacks. The second was a fun, flowy bermed section through pines, and the third was a long, rooty and steep descent.
I think a lot of people for desperately hoping for the rain to hold off until after the race as all the dirt was clay, which would be super slippery if it was wet!
Luckily race day was a bluebird day with not a cloud in the sky, and the start gun for my race went off at 12pm. I managed the holeshot position off the gun, getting the best line choice for the first corner of the start loop. When we hit the first climb, a couple of the U19 riders and another U23 rider (from Australia, coincidentally also called Charlotte) passed me and I struggled to hold on up the first long, gruelling climb – I didn’t want to go completely all out up the first climb, I had a whole four laps to do! Got past the rock garden, then it was time to tackle the Wheezy Climb. All of a sudden I was passing all but one of the U19 riders that were in front of me (all wheezing hard), and then further up I passed the Aussie Charlotte who’d lost traction up a loose gravelly bit and had to walk. It was then U19 rider Teagan from Australia and myself out the front of the race. During the second lap, Teagan dropped back and I kept my eye on how far back Charlotte was to make sure I was extending my lead. I had a bit of a scare on the rockgarden on one of the laps, my foot accidentally unclipping half way and so I had to ride off the drop at the end with only one foot on the pedal! I whacked into the back of my seat (a dropper post would’ve been handy in this instance!) which was really painful, but I managed to stay on the bike.
Going into my last lap, I knew I had a decent lead, so I rode conservatively so as not to crash or puncture. When riding through the event village on that last lap, it was so heart-warming to hear the loud cheers and yells of encouragement. I was absolutely over the moon to win my first ever Oceania title!
Massive thank you to Rachel for feeding me during the race and all her help during the week, to the organisers and volunteers who did a stellar job of putting on such a great event, to my boyfriend Hamish for giving my bike a fresh service before I left Auckland (he does servicing by the way if you’re bike needs some love), to my family and friends for all being such great supporters, to ALLFIT gym in Beachlands for top quality equipment and setup they let me use, to Spring Energy for the whole food and delicious gels I use when out riding, to 4Ever Racing NZ for the tent set up at the event village, and to Camelbak for supplying fresh bottles and pack. It definitely takes support network to win a race like this and I can’t thank everyone enough!
Author: Charlotte Rayner