Sunday 26 June saw some 170 riders converge on Awa Kairangi Park for the third round of the local Hüttcross series. The series has enjoyed an unseasonably dry run so far, with Wellington turning on fine weather for all three rounds. However, things are not always as they seem, and the large stop banks of Awa Kairangi had a few surprises in store for the unsuspecting patrons.
The lap was a technical one. Awa Kairangi Park has larger stop banks than Moonshine Park, meaning the course designers were able to eke out every last inch of off-camber. The slippery channels, slithering to the reserve floor, lied in relative frosty comfort. Once the tyres began to cut through, they broke out in fresh greasy mischief.
Some riders held it together.
While others were less lucky.
It was a valuable lesson in the nuances of traction. But it also spoke to an inherent tension in running a local race series. Skills levels are disparate, and striking a balance between a course that will thrill the experienced and accommodate the novice is a delicate exercise. The Hüttcross crew place a lot of emphasis on expanding the sport to welcome newcomers, while at the same time trying to challenge existing competitors. Some grumbles may have been heard, but the reward was plain - there can be no finer time than somehow keeping it all together when everything suggests you should be flat on the ground.
This weekend will see Round Four visit Moonshine Park in Upper Hutt. As always, the event will cater for spectators as well, with vantage party points aplenty, music and a variety of heckling accoutrements. Traditionally, Moonshine Park has involved more variety, and this most humble and storied reserve holds plenty of action to keep the riders on their toes. The round promises to deliver all the chaotic euphoria that Hüttcrossphiles have come to know and love.
It will be a test in skill and resolve, an open sheet waiting to be filled with tales of triumph and woe alike. The spirit of Cyclocross has bound itself into the very air itself, and even once the competitors have taken their leave of the Park this Sunday, the scarred earth will tell their stories for them as it begins to sprout anew. Will you be there to be a part of it all?