OCEANIA MTB CHAMPS 2014 - Jenni King

Oceanias2014
Oceanias2014
Oceanias2014

The day after last weeks’ National Champs I started to feel those tell-tail signs of a virus coming on.  The glands were up and my throat started to throb. As much as I tried to avoid, with olive leaf gargling and plenty of antioxidant ingestion, I inevitably came down with the virus. Which one of my sniffling Torq teammate’s I can blame, I have no idea, but I had exactly 1 week to get my health back in time for the Oceania MTB Champs.

As it turned out, I arrived in Christchurch New Zealand, still coughing and spluttering and had little expectation for the race, apart from finishing and therefore claiming some valuable UCI points. Such points come in handy when racing the World Cup events as the more points you have the better your start position on the grid.  Something not to take lightly when there are 100 odd riders all vying for position into the first single track!

This year’s Oceania Champs were held in the scenic location of Mt Hutt; about an hour’s drive out of Christchurch in New Zealand’s South Island. It took a few tries, and a few more swear words, to successfully fit all our gear into an 8-seater people mover and then Mark Tupalski, Scott Bowden Ed and I drove the 100 odd km out to our accommodation in Methven, just at the base of Mt Hutt.  Meanwhile, Ben Forbes and Tristan Ward were left to pick up their much more luxurious ‘Wicked Camper’….

We were a little concerned when we were well and truly settled into out accommodation, 7pm had ticked over and there were still no signs of Tristan and Ben.   It didn’t help that none of us had thought to connect global roaming and therefore had no way of communication.  It was a relief when the wicked van finally showed up and it was revealed that Tristan had in fact missed his flight, so Ben had been waiting at the airport for him to arrive a couple hours later. Apparently the parking signs at Sydney airport had been a little confusing!

The next day we headed out to the race track to get a few practice laps in.  Riding back down the mountain following practice, we were all super amped as the track really was a World class one.  It included quite a lot of climbing, with some super steep pinches as well as some gnarly sections that would call for high technical ability in order to ride fast. There was one steep descent in the pine forest with lots of off camber corners over roots.  If the weather turned nasty this section would definitely prove difficult!

As it turned out, we were greeted with sunshine for our race and the track was in tip-top condition. The elite women’s field was a small one, but of very high quality with Olympians Bec Henderson from Australia and Karen Hanlen from New Zealand being the main favorite’s. I was still unsure on how my health would hold up at race pace since I hadn’t really lifted the heart rate that week.  I tried to block my ill-health from my mind though and just race as hard as possible. 

 

I nailed the initial pedal clip in and got a great start up the first gravel hill before hitting the single track in 3rd position behind Karen and Bec.  Halfway up the first switch back climb, Bec made a move around Karen and opened up a bit of a gap down the technical descent. Following the feed zone, we then headed up a couple of nasty pinches with a rock garden thrown in. I managed to get passed Karen on one of these pinches and got onto the fast switch back descent in 2nd place.  Bec had meanwhile opened up a sizeable lead out ahead. Following this longish descent the track then headed up a long gradual incline all the way back to the feed zone.  It was this section I struggled with most each lap, as it really suited a rider with a huge amount of strength and not so much a rider with better power to weight like myself. Karen and another powerful New Zealand rider Kate Fluker, passed me along this section and I tried to just keep them in sight before going through the feed zone and heading up into the Forest section once again.

On the 2nd lap, Kate was unlucky and suffered a flat.  So I made my way into 3rd position once more and tried to keep good rhythm in hope that I’d catch back up to the leading duo; Karen and Bec.  My energy levels started to drop halfway into the race, my throat was positively burning and green mucky stuff was streaming from my nose.  I took on a few more Torq energy gels than I normally would which gave me an energy boost to get me through the next couple of laps.  I was never able to catch Karen or Bec who had a close battle for 1st and 2nd with Karen giving New Zealand the victory.  I was able to comfortably roll it home for a bronze medal though, which I’m stoked with especially given I wasn’t in 100% good health.

Team Torq had 3 guys represented at this year’s Oceania Champs with Mark Tupalski in the elite men’s and Tristan Ward and Ben Forbes in the U23’s. Mark had some bad luck, with a flat tyre on the 2nd lap.  He chose to stop and fix it himself and then get back into the race, but unfortunately the tyre change took some time and cost him the result he was after.  Ben Forbes put together a fantastic ride to punch out some consistently fast laps and finish the race in 5th place and make it on the U23’s podium! Tristan had some troubles with a recurring back injury and was forced to retire from the race. 

So it was a mixed bag on the Torq camp, with a couple of podium rides and a couple of misfortunes.  All in all, it was a great trip though with endless amounts of laughs and good times!

 

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