It wasn't the best reason to be at Auckland's 440 Bike Park, but a funeral in the family meant a last-minute trip to Auckland and a spare Sunday to boot. I convinced half of the family that a day spent out near the beach at a shuttle-accessed MTB park was a good plan; Emma and Elliot bought it and out we headed. It was my first time at 440 and I'd thought I might shoot a photo or two, but after my first race run in the searing heat and the off-the-charts fun factor that the trails provided, the bag stayed in the car until prizegiving.
Like all good enduros should be, the vibe was super chilled. Matt Walker even popped down to the nearby swimming hole between stages for a quick dip. SRAM provided free Frujus and free race support as well as shade and beanbags; after the racing was over Dave Meikle (Cannondale and GT's NZ product manager) sparked up his three 20L kegs of homebrew for those old enough for a little post-ride recovery drink.
My 12-year-old son and I had no idea what to expect hopping off the shuttle bus. Event mastermind Byron Scott had informed us that a trip to stage 1 and 2, 100 vertical metres above the shuttle drop-off, was the best way way to kick things off, beating the heat of the day. Surprisingly loamy off-camber roots greeted us for the first couple of hundred metres before the trail kicked into bermed-up, flowy radness. But keeping on your toes is the name of the game at 440; around every corner are little surprises, they come in many forms but mainly consist of small doubles, rock drops and bus-stops. Elliot and I, both racing blind, did our best to maximise these features but given that the Saturday was practice, local knowledge would have been a bonus. However, only two crashes between us (both mine) over a six stage day shows that both 440 Bike Park and the event are pretty much suited to riders of all abilities. Hell, I even got my best result of all time, a 7th in Masters 30+.