On Sunday 9 August, the Hüttcross series capped off with its grand finale at Moonshine Park. The course was ambitious. Moving away from the compact layouts of rounds previous, the chief dickhead designer opted for a stretched out lap that saw only the big guns do consistent sub-10 minute laps. At the south end, a favourite run up feature from the previous Moonshine round was turned into a short, rowdy descent that claimed a few good scalps.
Through the middle, momentum was tested with two creek crossings and a good dose of high speed off camber, and at the north end a tight, awkward route through the trees threw up a few flatland challenges. It was all connected by flat smashes along the stop bank that dipped briefly into off camber in places to see who had faith in their tyres.
Nelson furnished the finale with a good contingent. In addition to the current national champs Anja McDonald and Tristan Rawlence, Mike Stylianou, Sean Christensen and Chris Sharland all made the pilgrimage to kneel at the altar of the Hütt’s sacred winter temple.
The result was quite an A Grade race. Brendon Sharratt expiated his defeat in Dunedin by putting in an exemplary ride, taking the lead in the first lap and holding onto it for the whole race. Behind, de Snor and Tristan duked it out, with mistakes unstitching the moustached man in the end to allow Tristan to nab 2nd. With no women to challenge Anja, she turned her sights on the men and put in a great ride to finish in the top half of the A Grade field on the same lap as the leaders.
But behind the pointy end of the grades lied the true spirit of the finale – costumes, beer handups, heckling, an irreverent MC and fresh beats. The crowds came together to enjoy the spirit of ‘cross and farewell a series that has gone from strength to strength.
After six rounds, the organisers were certainly ready to hang up their gumboots for the year. At the end of a winter of very early starts and the accompanying organising miscellany, soaking in the festive atmosphere of the final round brought welcome cheer. It was clear that the series had brought a lot of laughs and smiles to a good mob of people, and for that any amount of effort is worth it.
Quite what the future will hold is uncertain. What began as a niche code – a few dozen people trotting about restrictive venues like California and Harcourt parks – has blown out into Wellington’s most popular cycling series. It has tested the limits of gear and logistics alike, but crucially lost none of its charm. The finale made it abundantly clear that Cyclocross is still the ideal forum for the weird and wonderful oddballs of cycling to come together; to relish in a code that challenges them endlessly, but doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Whether the series continues to grow or returns to its more esoteric and intimate roots, the Hüttcross crew will be back in 2016 to tape out some fresh and zesty lines along the dewed banks of Upper Hütt, and bring the noise for the 2016 National Champs race that Wellington will host. But for now, the worm is turning, the days are lengthening and the moisture is slowly being drained from the trails. It is time for the cyclocross hordes to turn their attention again to their mountain bikes.