You arrive early morning to see the camp half filled with cars, tents, people and all the bike candy you could think of.
The race was set to start at 9am yet I was due to be at work by 10. Perfect! Just enough time to pull out my new Commencal V4, fresh from the boys at Blueshark, jump to the start line and put down the first lap for the boys at Team 360.
Nerves were high on the start line. It felt like there were hundreds of riders lining up to race. The trigger goes, and we are off racing with the adrenaline suddenly pumping. It’s easy to get caught up in the stoke and find yourself going too hard out of the gate, which seems to happen every time to me no matter what. The first lap went down drama-free, with the usual passing and being passed on the tight single track, until you find your grove and can maintain some sort of pace.
My motto for the race was “train on your weaknesses and race on your strengths”. So that was it, I was aiming to maintain my speed through most of the course, then open it up and pin it through any flowy, techy descents I could find. Finding my strengths really came into play on the last section of the trail, helping me put down a 31min lap to set the tone for the team. Suddenly it was a quarter to 10 – time for me to head off to work and leave the boys to it.
7hrs later and work finally finished, so I was straight back out to the race. Pulling into the team tent and noticing an element of exhaustion, yet also hearing about the day’s antics, fun times and crashes that were had by all.
I was strongly resisting the urge to grab a cold beer, settle in and spectate the last couple of hours with my buddies, but I managed to jump back on the bike to put down the last couple of laps for the team. First lap in, I was still fairly warmed up from my lap in the morning, so I found my rhythm quickly and managed to put down another 31min lap, getting to the finish line and heading straight out for another one.
Only a minute into my second lap I was greeted by a friend and colleague who was sporting a new Trek carbon 29er. After a bit of cheeky banter, our egos quickly got the better of us and the competition was on. As soon as we got to the straights he was off, leaving me with nothing but desire to smash him on the final section. Not long until we got into the forest, with the slightly more technical riding, and I managed to sneak a glimpse of him ahead through the trees. It wasn’t long until I was yelling to him “get off the breaks”.
After catching and passing him on a techy descent, I knew it was going to be a similar story to how our last lap finished together the previous year… close but ultimately me taking the glory!
We pushed on, with me leading into the uphill section, all I could do was bide my time and hold him off as long as possible. But once we hit the vehicle track out of the forest he left me alone once again, wondering if I could close the gab before the decent. Sure enough, there he was again, in my sights, and I was up out of the saddle.
I finally caught him and stuck like glue to his tail through the flowy lower section. Then it was an all too familiar sight; the corner where I got him last year was coming up and I knew it was time to go. I slammed the dropper post, took the outside line and pushed hard to get in front before plaguing the bike hard into the left hand berm which spat me out perfectly ahead of him. Snap, I got him just like that!
That’s where I’d like to finish the story, but unfortunately the last section had too much flat open trail for me to fend off a carbon 29er beast like the one he was mustering.
And just like that, the Deans Bank 10 hour was all done and dusted. Another fantastic local event, that pulls all sorts of riders from around the South Island, from families with young children (Bike Wanaka ran a mini kids race this year too – check out the shots below) to work colleagues and groups of friends, and even the race serious lycra-wearing bandits!
I’ll be looking forward to this race again next year at the end of my winter. Until then, the biking season is off to a great start and I can’t wait to see what other events and missions the fantastic people of this area will plan.