Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Black Stump Adventure

It has been mentioned on previous TCA posts that part of the ethos of its members is to continue onwards even if conditions are unfavorable. The previous week in the North Island had seen torrential rain following the tail end of Hurricane Catherine and conditions underfoot even on surfaced roads were at best described as 'wet'. Billy-Bob knew it was time for a ride and, when faced with the choice of staying in bed Saturday morning and listening to the howling rain, wind and splash of cars passing by outside the flat or ‘kit up’ at 8am and head north to the rolling volcanic hills of Glen Massey to take part in the endurance Black Stump ride, there was little choice…Bring it on!

A gathering of riders

The Black Stump Adventure Ride mountain biking event is hosted on a local family run sheep and beef farm and is into its second year. Race categories were 40km, 30km 18km and 12km: Knowing full well it was 100% off road action, with no metaled track or gravel surface in sight, Billy-Bob opted for the 18km ride. The average 18km time was given on the entry form as roughly 2h 15m, which would mean he would be back nicely in time for breakfast before Mrs B.B. awoke from her slumber…or so he thought.

Pre-race nerves

The race rules were simple; complete the course against the clock and make it back in one piece without injury. Billy-Bob arrived early and promptly registered ready for the challenge. Riders were herded into the four empty sheep pens depending on which race they had entered. Riders then assumed their positions to noises of Grrrr and Baaaa and waited for the staggered start at 5 minute intervals. The farm was rustic and the facilities were basic, with the owner standing on the back of his pickup and starting each race with a fire of his rifle. The shot echoed in the early morning mist and must have pierced an overhead cloud as seconds later it started to rain, hard.

The start was a steep climb, up and up some more, which immediately sorted the men from the boys. Billy-Bob felt his lungs rip and knee joints crack in this first mammoth ascent. It was so muddy under tire that it was hard to get any form of traction in low gear (a condition known only too well to TCA riders), and the rear tire just spun in the mud, the descents were not much better and saw many a rider lose it in the side ditches.

What was great about this ride was the huge cross section of riders taking part ranging from the hardcore full suspension crowd with energy supplements coming out of their ears, to the older rider on his/her shopping bike. Old and young alike were there and they meant to get muddy. After the second downhill Billy-Bob had to stop and give aid to a young rider, by the name of Scott who must have been 8 years old, and who happened to have lost his balance and gone head over heels on a sharp slippery downhill bend. He had landed awkwardly and sadly dislocated his little knee and embedded his SPD peddles into his thigh. Billy-Bob stopped and gave aid until his father arrived a few minutes later, but sadly it was the end of the race for this brave soldier deserved of a TCA junior merit badge.

Not a flat route

Not deterred by the sight of blood so early in the race Billy-Bob continued on this unforgiving rolling hill circuit and was reminded at many a juncture of a TCA ride in Dorset a few years back where hill after hill tested the stamina and sanity of riders. The circuit continued to get churned up by the lead pack and many a time were weary riders seen walking their bikes up steep mud chutes. The 9km point was reached at 1 hr 20 minutes. Surely this could not be right but the cycle computer did not lie! At the 11km mark, to Billy-Bob’s relief, the sun came out and the gradients became gentler, although the tracks were just pure clay. Some riders on the 30km race had taken the option to abort and switch to the shorter 18km circuit even though their times would not count. Billy-Bob was glad he had opted for the shorter circuit.

A tad on the muddy side

The ride was long and hard but the landscape was stunning with its rolling unforgiving volcanic hills. Whilst each ascent was hell in the mud Billy-Bob was grateful for the opportunity to once again get off-road on this private farmland which would otherwise be off limits to riders. The midday sun arrived to coincide with the emptying of Billy-Bob’s trusty CamelBak. The last 5km would be long and tiresome without hydration and cramp had started to set in. The finish line was a welcome site and crossed at 1pm - what he would have given for a cake stall at that minute but only a burger stand was on hand. To cap off a muddy, wet, sodden ride the bike was hosed down and then dunked in the communal bike bucket/sheep dip. To his amazement Billy-Bob’s name was called out and he had won a spot prize! – one months gym membership… perhaps they were trying to tell him something.

A quick sneaky burger then home for brunch.

On the Black Stump web site comments page one disheartened rider had said that the track was ‘far too muddy’ and that he had to ‘dismount far too often’. This comment was followed up with a stout retort worthy of the TCA ‘if you don’t like the mud stick to road riding!’.

Route Profile:

Male Age 18-34 Results:

(Posted by: Paul)

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At 9:50 pm, April 05, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

Hey 12 out of 13 ain't all bad!

Good work Billy-Bob... looks like you've lost more weight too, is she feeding you properly?

At 10:43 pm, April 05, 2007, Blogger Maalie said...

Did you see any interesting birds during your cycle ride?

At 12:14 am, April 06, 2007, Blogger simon said...

f*&k me! it looks Awful! I can just see all my beautiful XTR equipment grinding to a pulp in those conditions!

Well done!

BTW Alun:- read the previous post. Makes a lot of sense to have a training bike:- i was going to set up my Jeykle for the same. road riding seems to work the body different.
Does anyone else feel the same?

At 12:23 am, April 06, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

TCA:smoke and mirrors mate regards the weight. Yes I thought 12th was excellent until I found out there were only 13 in that catergory! -doh. Oh well I finished.

Simon: I had to spray wash my bike down afterwards in a car wash to de clog the gear mechanism! my chain has turned to rusty wire.

Maalie: sadly I did not see or should i say identify any birdlife on route, as I was concentrating too hard on staying upright in the mud. However I did spot several Kaka a few weeks back in the Coromandel.

At 7:15 am, April 10, 2007, Blogger Ju's little sister said...

I'm glad you got in some fantastic photos of the New Zealand scenery, and met with a real Kiwi Goer - at only 8 years old!!

Good job BillyBob, and hey - you weren't last!!!

At 10:06 pm, April 15, 2007, Anonymous Mrs BB said...

Fantastic effort Mr BB! I don't think the other readers quite understand that you have to make a real effort to seek out these rides over here... for such a stunning rugged outdoors country there is a woeful lack of OS type maps and bridle ways! Well done you and great blog!

At 8:07 am, April 16, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

Here, here Mrs BB. A top blog of the highest order as we have come to expect from our far-flung members!


At 8:07 am, April 16, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

Here, here Mrs BB. A top blog of the highest order as we have come to expect from our far-flung members!



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