Words by Tom Adams
Experiments tend to be held in inhospitable places. Last weekend a couple of Wellington riders tried to test a new event format mid-winter up at Makara Peak. At least if it went wrong it could be blamed on the weather. Turns out, it went really well, and this is how.
Enduro Golf. What? If fission is the process of pulling things apart, and leaving uncomfortable radioactive waste about the place, then fusion is its conjugal cousin of pulling things together to make something better. On this premise some 80-odd isotopes of Wellington biking––some heavier and some definitely less stable––embraced the coming together of Golf and Enduro in one radiative new hashtag #EnduroGolf.
The elemental aspects of Enduro applied were downhill timed stages and no rush on the climbs. Compounding this was the ‘par’ system of golf, where different tracks could be compared interchangeably by subtracting a ‘par’ time from each result. Mix in a touch of orienteering, where riders had three hours to hit their chosen three tracks in any order before returning to base, and you have the basic formula of the event.
The aim was to create a race that was inclusive but still gnarly, a tricky balance to strike for any organiser. By allowing a choice of tracks, intermediates got to race alongside pinners, but weren’t forced onto tracks that might kill them. Likewise pinners could relish their margins on tracks that would sufficiently test them. Spreading riders across the hill, waiting times were short and the vibe relaxed. The logistics of several simultaneous racetracks was taken care of through a self-timing system of Dick Smith kitchen timers and Pitch’N’Putt style score cards. As hokey as that may sound, the race briefing clearly stated that importance of not being a dick, and honesty prevailed pretty much throughout.
The idea seemed like a good one, until the evening before the race when the sun set behind a mask of cloud to a 120kph southerly and blasts of sleety showers. But by the time Wellington spun back into the light Banks Peninsula was cleaving the showery flow in two, leaving the local hills snow-capped and blue skied. As the mass-start filed out of Mud Cycles for the long ride to the top, the weather was as perfect as could be hoped for four weeks out from the shortest day. The trails were greased perfection; ranging from slick, tough and rocky as the oldschool remembers them, on Trickle Falls, Nikau and Ridgeline, to the smooth lines of Peak Flow and the less frequented climbing trails of Koru and Rimu run in reverse.
A few hours later, riders trickled muddily back in from the hill brandishing score cards like beaming lotto winners. With two crafty kegs on tap and several kilograms of Whittakers for the young and sweet toothed there was no rush for results, but when they came it was Matt Page, Sarah Atkin and William Johnston who took top honours in the male, female and junior categories. Matt was one of only a handful of riders who managed to come in under par on every stage, with a time of 2:03 under par, followed in second and third by Stefan Gardner and Jamie Lyall. In the women Sarah came in 56s over par, followed by Nadine Geddes and Abbie Bull, while in Juniors Hamish Paice and Nick Tweed rounded out the podium behind William. Tactics played a big part, with a tougher par on some stages than others. Tacticians noted that a reshuffling of par times would lead to a reordering of the leaderboard, with some riders down on the times by choosing the sandbag stages. EnduroGolf – where tactics count as well as speed.
The frantic post-race facebooking indicates that the day was a success, and with over $1100 added to the Makara Peak coffers we’ll probably get the green light to do it again someday. Big thanks to all the volunteers who gave their time, Ricoh Riott of Running Quail Photography for taking the pictures and Maxxis, Rock’n’Roll lube, Adrenaline mtb, Whittakers, Spoke, Hashigo Zake, Mud Cycles, PNP cycling club and Wellington MTB Club for helping us put it all together. ‘Till next year.