This Sunday 9 August, 200 people will converge on Moonshine Park in Upper Hutt for the Grand Finale of the 2015 Hüttcross series. The series has breathed fresh new life into winter, giving people a reason not to scour out their local trails, but to hack up the Council's reserves instead.
The damage done to the grounds is considerable, and the subject of much hand-wringing from the roughly half dozen dog walkers who traverse the grounds every Sunday and find themselves put out by the sight of over 150 people having a good time. The Upper Hütt Council must be applauded on this front for their sensible attitude: "grass grows back".
Round V at Awa Kairangi Park saw a drop in the numbers as predicted. What started as a niche discipline was always unlikely to draw record crowds for six consecutive rounds. Course designer, de Snor, rigged the lap to suit himself, and as the rest of the A Grade field teamed together to consult topomaps and deduce how to navigate the tight direction-reversing corners, he drove a 3 minute deficit into 2nd place, twizzling his Snor triumphantly and reclining to observe his good work.
The finale is set to send the series off in whimsical fashion, and celebrate what has been a lot of fun for organisers and competitors alike. Costumes, prizes, coffee, music, food, and an embattled and bedraggled (but somehow still invigorating and captivating) Australian import MC - the finale will have it all. Moonshine Park is the connoisseur's venue, and a long and varied course should hold plenty of action not only for racers, but for the loved ones, moochers, hecklers and passers-by who together comprise the crowds as well.
It’s also the final tilt at bragging rights for the year. Burglars will make their last ditch efforts at crushing the beginners and good timers in C Grade; the gloried heroics of B Grade will play out their final 2015 scene, and A Grade should see at least 3 people who've held the National Title compete among a ragtag clan of hopefuls vying for an upset. Amongst it all, dozens of women will infiltrate the ranks to battle it out amongst themselves and show many of the men how it is done. It looks set to be the CX race of the year.
With the major spot prize draw on offer, you can bet competitors will be hanging around to hurl their encouraging - and not at all disparaging - comments at the racers during the day's full suite of races. Anders Waiker of Crucial Custom Cycles is putting up another frame, built to the customer's specifications and imbued with the magic touch of the reticent giant himself.
Last year's major prize winner Richard has raced the frame he received during the 2015 series, and drawn many a modest crowd of oglers. Richard found, in not-atypical-self-justificatory-cycling-enthusiast style, that the money saved by winning a free frame justified a bit of a splurge on the spec. Abandoning his Ritchey Swiss Cross (the Toyota Corolla of Wellington CX) his go-to rig is now a hand built steel cross bike with Carbony, Whisky, Campy, TRPy spec. "Maybe it's still the honeymoon phase", Richard reflects, "or maybe it is true love."
Either way, there'll be one more delighted client of Anders' come Sunday. The man's generosity is another cherished part of the vibe of Hüttcross. He was in at the grass roots stage, when the series promised nothing more than a few weirdos taped into the confines of Upper Hutt a few times a year, and to offer a frame built with love enhances the genuine nature of the series.
And so what of the Hüttcross future? You'd be surprised how quick schemes roll around. The crew is pleased to announce that they will be running the 2016 National Champs. While this exciting prospect will allow Wellington to showcase its CX scene and hopefully lead to some permanent course features and specific shapings at the heralded Upper Hutt reserve of choice, the crew will not be neglecting their series. They'll be looking to build on the momentum gained and bring more of that invited masochism that has struck delightful quivers by the hundreds during this fair winter.
If you haven't got round to tasting the delicious (if acquired) flavours of Hüttcross so far this year, this weekend will be your last chance for a good while. Whatever the weather, the crew welcomes you to join the party and help send the 2015 series off in style.