Race Report: Craigieburn Enduro

February 26, 2013

Oh man, I don’t even know where to start…

What. A. Race.

Craigieburn, as I’m sure you can gather from my former posts, is a little forest sort of in the middle of no man’s land, 90 minutes west of Christchurch. I actually made a funny little map in another post. Anyhow, it’s between a couple of mountain ranges, and the nearest civilization is Castle Hill Village, which is just a cluster of vacation homes. No stores. No cell reception. No petrol. So, being that the setting was po-dunk middle of nowhere, I assumed the race would be kind of the same.

You know what they say about assuming.

This thing was, as they say here, “full on”. There were about 120 racers, so it was a good moderate size. But the race… ohmygawd. Seriously, I wouldn’t have done it if I knew what I was in for. But in all honesty (Scott, stop reading here)… I’m glad I did it. I never would have known that I could.

All pics courtesy of BikeCycleNZ’s Facebook page. I didn’t have my camera- but even if I did I probably would have forgotten to take photos, as one does during a near-death-experience. Anyways, thank you BickCycleNZ for all photos.

The race began with a shuttle. Normally, these events begin with a shuttle to the top of a mountain, or at least to the top of something. This shuttle was just up the highway. Sure we probably gained 100 feet of elevation, but it really had nothing to do with gravity-assisted riding and everything to do with racers not getting smashed on the road. Pictured above are riders taking off after the shuttle, ready to begin the ascent to stage 1.

A quick run-down of “enduro” racing for those of you who don’t care know much about it…

The format of the race is supposed to mimic that of a good ride with your buddies: you all ride together on the flats and uphills, you race each other down the fun downhill bits. The enduro race usually, but not always, starts with a shuttle (ie: a van that carries bikes/passengers) to the top of a hill or mountain. There are transfer stages (flats/uphills) that are non-timed but must be done within a reasonable amount of time. The idea is you can ride this with your buddies, chat, stop and eat, conserve energy, etc. They may take anywhere from 10-60 minutes. Sometimes a transfer stage can even be a shuttle.

The transfer stages lead you to the timed stages, which are downhill oriented but not totally gnarly downhill MTB type tracks. Race stages may include small climbs and pedal-y bits, and technical sections, etc., so good mountain bike handling skills are pretty necessary. Race stages usually last 2-20 minutes, it just depends on the race.

Here’s a map of the race at Craigieburn:

So it’s a bit hard to decipher. Blue markings are transition stages, red are race runs. Not pictured: elevation gained during blue sections. Also not pictured: my disdain at the start of each blue section…

If you don’t ride a bike and you’re still with me, I’m impressed! Here’s the gist of it: I did 4,100 feet of uphill climbing, and about 4,200 feet of downhill riding and racing. I was on my bike for about 5 hours, but technically I only raced for a total of 29 minutes total (the red sections). Although it was neither the longest distance I’ve ridden on a mountain bike, nor the most challenging of downhill tracks, this ride was definitely, by far, the hardest ride I’ve ever done.

It felt like there was “no exit” around this time! But actually… 2 guys quit because it was so hard!

Scott and I have done several Enduros in Oregon and California, as well as the Dodzy Memorial Enduro last month in Nelson. Every single race in the past has had much more “gravity assistance” (i.e.: shuttle vans) than this race did. And I have to say… I miss the vans. I’m just not that tough. However… riding (and riding, and riding, and riding…) up the mountains did provide incredible views. Here’s the view from the start of Stage 4. The climb up to this stage was awful. I actually probably would have thrown a fit if any of the guys were around to endure it. Thankfully I was alone. Anyway…

It’s amazing to me that 120 racers showed up for this event. Of course, goes to show ya, there’s a lot more fit folks out there than you realize… and that’s pretty inspiring.

After I regained the will to live, which took a good half hour, I joined the guys for hamburgers and beers as we waited for results.

Our buddy visiting from the states (pictured, sitting with beer) managed to get his photo snapped… looking grumpy.
Scott and a friend (both in green) talking about the important things in life… undoubtedly bikes and beer.

The most shocking part of the whole weekend, aside from my feeling at the bottom of every mountain, was the results. No, I didn’t win or podium (that wouldn’t be shocking, it would be impossible), but I did manage 7th out of 13! Not too bad for a girl who really isn’t even in the same class as these athletes. Of course this did not include the climbs, because then I’m positive I’d have been last.

More impressively, Scott got 7th overall. The list of competitors included some world cup pro cyclists, so I’m quite proud of him.

So what’s next for the bike wife (and the cyclist himself)? We have a few events over the next couple of weeks, which I will post about as they happen, but the next big thing is the Queenstown Bike Festival. We’re entering as a team (man, he has his work cut out for him), competing in a 6 hour gondola assisted Enduro. And our team name… ‘Merican Muscle.

Oh man.

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