The first round of the 2015 Hüttcross series was a resounding success. Despite the long weekend, some 160 entrants turned up to Awa Kairangi Park in Upper Hutt to see what it was all about.
The weather was settled, grey, showery at times. A low sun slung its way flat across the hills that cradle Upper Hutt. Lean trees sat resolute in their wintry skins. On a distant hill, an antenna rested against the cold light like a silhouette and from the lush green those 160 people plucked their Sunday morning triumphs.
The lap was long but fast, wide open, plenty of room for passing. The off-camber was rideable all day, provided you got your weight right. Banked turns swept from the ends of long straights inviting flat out lean in entries.
The day was a victory for cyclocross in Wellington. Alongside the familiar 'cross cohorts were many newcomers, eager to see what all the fuss was about. Some set and achieved certain goals, while others simply wanted a taste. Yelena Hill set off in C grade and undertook one lap of the course. Setting her bike down, visibly puffed, she grinned. The field was given new depth. While a good clan of mountain bikers showed up, some new, some old, a number of roadies from the local Wellington factions showed that all they needed to turn up was a little goading. They put in very respectable performances and substantiated the intuitive image of 'cross - a unique forum that blends power and fitness with technical ability. Big legs may gain you an extra ten seconds in a lap, but you will bleed that margin out very quickly if you have to foot down in a technical section.
It was a familiar scene at the front of A grade, with Brendon Sharratt showing everybody exactly what smooth and powerful riding looks like - the only person on the day to go sub 5 minutes for the lap. Despite a concerted chase by loveable local miscreant Tom Bradshaw and Wairarapa powerhouse Ben Knight, Brendon finished a lap up on the rest of the top 10. A and B grade saw 5 seasoned 'crosswomen enter, with Sasha Smith showing her smooth style to top the women in B, and Kim Hurst showing over half the A grade field how it's done. But most of the ladies' action went down in C grade, with 22 women partaking - Ann Hunn coming in at the front.
Round Two is set for Sunday 14 June at Moonshine Park. The Hüttcross crew are amped to bring more of the same. The coffee caravan will be on site again and there is talk of setting up a spectator zone at one of the prime spectator spots, replete with music and shelter. The courses at Moonshine Park are vintage Wellington cyclocross, punchy stopbank climbs, loads of off-camber and drifty flat corners. Round Two promises to provide hours of entertainment for participants and spectators alike.
Be sure to check it out.
Round One photos courtesy of Tighe Nutsford.