Injury sucks. Especially when it stops you from even being able to train let alone compete. Since May I have struggled with calf problems that have hampered my ability to run, to the point where I had to stop entirely. This was the also the reason why I had to pull out of the NZ Schools team. Multiple physio and specialist appointments later and there is finally a plan for moving forwards, involving 4 months of gentle rehabilitation before considering a return to training and racing hopefully in around April 2017. Despite this I have managed to keep myself busy this year with a change of code, to cycling. I have always enjoyed mountain biking, less so road cycling, and always considered it my “backup” sport should I not be able to run. Come late 2016 and a chance to prove myself on two wheels.
The first race of the year was the Mcleans 12hr Relay where our team of 4 school friends would try and complete as many laps as possible in the 12 hours available. Pretty tough spending the full day out there and trying to eat in the 1 hour of rest between each of your laps, but we managed a solid race and ended up 3rd in the junior category (Strava).
Next up was the 3 race short track series put on by the Christchurch Singletrack club. With Anton Cooper and the Oliver brothers racing each week this was never going to be an easy series and so I was fairly pleased to take 2 8th’s and an 11th.
Next up was the Longbeach Coastal Challenge, a race that I also did last year. Sadly this years race also did not go quite to plan. The start was a bit more relaxed this year and I managed to settle in to the front group just inside the top 10. We stuck together in a small group of 5 for the first 25km of the race. I attacked across the shingle beach section that everyone ran to create around a 30 second gap. Sadly this wasn’t to last as my chain snapped just past this section, 10 minutes of struggling with the chain breaker later and I was on my way but I had dropped well out of the top 10 and my position as first junior. I finished in 1:43:55, 69th place and slower than last year. A disappointing end to the race as I was feeling quite good.
Final big race of the year was the Bridge to Bridge, I only decided to enter this after Longbeach as I wanted to finish the year on a good note. This was a much longer race than most of the others that I had done at 58km but due to the high speed nature of the course it would only take around 2 hrs. From the start the whole race ended up as one long train, I slowly worked my way up to be sitting in around 15th just in case a break did occur. Around 10km in a group of 10 split from the front and I managed to sneak onto the back of them. Sadly I couldn’t hold on to the bunch across a section of loose shingle and then I was caught out alone between groups grinding into a headwind. Eventually I just sat up and let the next group catch up. From there we just worked together to set up a bunch sprint finish. I had nothing in the legs for the sprint so I ended up 13th overall and 2nd junior, not a bad result all in all.
Last up was the low key Mini XC series also run by the singletrack club. I had the opportunity to come for a warm-up ride with some of the top guys beforehand, got completely shown up but it was great training trying to stick on their wheels down the descents. Took a 5th and a 9th in the Elite grade which I was pretty happy with.
Overall I’m pretty pleased with my first serious attempt at some mountain bike racing. Some long weeks of training over the holidays to look forward to before the Canterbury schools MTB championships early next year.