Saturday, September 16, 2006

Taupo Day Night Thriller

Present: Paul, Ian, Robert, Mark and Dave

This is the 2nd 12hour mountain bike race to be held this year in New Zealand. Billed as ‘the largest 12hr mountain bike event in the world’, this was like the proverbial red rag to a bull for Billy-Bob.

After much persuasion and group organisation, of which the other founding father would have been proud, Billy-Bob managed to assemble a suitable degenerate rabble for the challenge. The team consisted of Billybob, Ian (old pro from the multi-sport event – see June 2006 archive), Big Robert (of rowing fame), Mark and Dave.

The team (left) travelled separately to assemble down at Taupo, a two hour drive south of Hamilton. This time the team had a more professional support crew in the guise of Stef and Lori, Robert’s wife. They arrived supplied with home made chilli, pasta, salad, garlic bread and various energy snacks, as well as enough camping equipment to make the tent resemble an army mess kitchen.

Having bagged a well appointed corner pitch, the team erected Ian’s tent, and upturned all their bikes to give the impression of a professional team HQ like the other teams (above).

The Race rules were simple; complete as many 8km laps of the forest in 12 hours, in a team tag relay. The first lap was 1 and half times the usual to break the marathon like bunch at the beginning. This required the most experienced rider in the team, and Billybob gamefully stepped up to the plate.

Race off (left) was at 10.30am, the going was good to firm and the weather overcast and dry – perfect cycling conditions. An accident on the first bend saw an experienced local rider plough into the watching crowd and then run over by several pursuing cyclists. His motionless body was carted off by St John’s ambulance on quad bikes. (If only the TCA had such effective back in the past, Billybob thought to himself). The first lap was, as expected pretty slow and bunched up, with few passing places on narrow pine needle tracks. The track was loop circuit, with a gradual, slow and painful first ascent into the woods. followed by 2 further shorter sharp ascents as one skirted the margins of the river. The mid section was more undulating with banked corners peppered with exposed tree roots. The final kilometre saw a gradual descent followed by a more plummeting drop down towards a log bridge, which caused some riders to dismount but not Billybob. For TCA readers the route was akin to the Hambledon Route 2 for the most part wit the final section reminiscent of the Forest of Bastard but without the sand and only a metre wide in place. Lap times ranged from 26 mins (Ian) to 45 mins (Robert) Billybob was happy with a consistent 2nd place around the 30 minute mark.

The day of course was not just for the lycra-clad, glucose gel swigging, shaven legged professional team riders, no, not at all; it was a day of fun, evident by the many examples of fancy dress. Notable appearances this time was the cast from the Wizard of Oz (I’m sure Al would appreciate) complete with Dorothy, Tin Man, Lion and scarecrow (Paul was close behind the tin man for most of his laps), and also the somewhat more risqué naked in bubble-wrap team. This was most off-putting for Billy bob, when he was behind the male members (of the team). Also of note were the crazy couple on a tandem, who cycled non-stop for the first 6 hours.

Dusk was around 5.30 and once again BB was first up to use his new Powerbeam night lights. Everyone else was relying on their Mag light/botched helmet arrangements. Needless to say Billybob’s lights were fitted to bike after bike, elongating the change over routine, although disappointingly they weren’t as bright as his trusty Vista Lights back in Blighty. Laps times remained consistent in the dark hours for Ian and Paul, although the inexperience of the virgin night riders was evident.

The day was long one with some inactivity between rides, which was made even more pleasant by the ready supply of hot grub and tea. The end of the day saw the team completing a respectable 20 laps, 4 a-piece. Billy bob was glad he declined the fifth lap in the final 30 minutes of the race, as if you were not back by 10.30 the ride did not count and the team witnessed many riders who were racing towards the finish only to fail to make the line before the final buzzer.

For the record there were 2 TCA worthy offs, Billybob was one of them. Fortunately the well practiced stunt roll paid off, and no damage done. Five bikes went out and five came back intact. Hurrah for disc brakes!

Post your entries for the caption competition in the comments!

(Posted by: Paul)

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At 9:09 am, October 08, 2006, Blogger TCA 2006 said...

It's just a jump to the left.
And a step to the riiiiiight...

Billy-Bob warms up listening to the usual atrocious slection of tunes on his iPod


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