[0010hrs] Finally in bed and now my fears catch up with me. In seven hours the Bay Trust Motu Challenge starts and I don’t feel ready. I planned to—I planned to race through the winter. But admission, the mountain, a move back to Wellington and its awful weather and a month in Europe all conspired against me. Sure, I felt the same last year and then went on to take the fastest split. But it had been after a big battle with Carl Jones and Ash Hough and I’d ridden the Whaka 100 the week before. This year I hadn’t, and they had.

[0400hrs] Aarghhh! Stupid alarm clock. Why do I race?

[0655] On the start line. It’s warm in Opotiki but Ash just told me there’s meant to be snow up on the hills. My Pearl shorts and Roadworks jersey suddenly feel a little thin.

[0700] Start. Holeshot! Mmm… headwinds.

[0720] Still on the flat and rather frustrated. As is normal, there are four or so guys driving the pack. The wind makes it exasperating though and a little concerning—should I be working this hard this early on? There are a few ‘cross bikes in the field this year, probably intending to do the Motu 160, and one of them is taking it for the team, shouldering a fair proportion of the work.

[0745] Still on the flat but on the gravel. The wind is buffeting and our speed fluctuates with it. The surges must be hard on those sitting 50 riders back. Carl has dropped back in the pack. No, wait… He’s on the attack! Yeehee!

[0746] Attack over and unsuccessful. Rats. The hills are fast approaching though. The first climb always sorts them out.

[0750] Climbing. Every time Dirk Peters goes to the front he surges and shells a few more riders. There’s only a handful of us now, though Richard Ussher looks like he might bridge. The pace isn’t as fast as last year and it kind of suits me. The legs are holding up.

[0802] Crested the first climb. Rich did bridge but then popped off, along with Ash Hough. I didn’t see it happen and I’m confused why; the pace stayed pretty constant. I just hope that they haven’t shared a mechanical. There are five of us in the front bunch: Dirk, Carl Jones, Dave Mann, and our man on the cross bike and we’re going well. Significantly, I am the only multisport rider; the rest are doing the 160. It’s a great position to be in. Let’s go down!

[0810] Along the valley. Only got a brief glimpse of the chasers—they’re some way back and I go to the front to try to build our lead. The surface is much rougher than last year and when coupled with the wind make it tough going. Not as tough as for the cyclocross guy though. Having survived the descent he just punctured and has had to stop. I feel sorry for him as he deserves to be with us.

[0845] The four of us are on the final climb now. Dave has done a good job of sitting in and looks strong. Carl is battling a bit but that tends to be his style. I want to ramp up the pace on this climb and crest by myself. I’m only half an hour from putting my feet up in the comfort of the car but the others have a further 90km ahead once they get to Motu. Surely they won’t try to stay with me? Or maybe they can without fatiguing? No, Carl and Dirk are off. Dave looks comfortable. I’ll try to push the advantage.

[0901] This third climb goes forever! I’ve raced this three times now and do my best to remain mindful of it, but it still never ceases to amaze me. My legs are starting to fatigue a bit, and I feel a little light headed when I stand. I’m really grateful to have my Rotor Rings. Coupled with my Blur they make for a pretty quick climbing rig. Of course, the Santa Cruz descends fantastically also, though not so well today – there is air in my front brake, probably from packing it down to fly last night, and the lever travels almost to the bar before engaging. It has made descending pretty interesting and I’m a little more cautious than last year. No matter, I’ve dropped Dave on each descent so far and am counting on doing so on this last one. There will be no hill following for him to get back on so I should be sorted. Oli will sort the bike out with that magic touch of his when I get back to Wellington.

[0915] We’re out of the bush and about to descend down into Motu. The wind is still gusting and failure to account for it could blow me off line and into the bank or down the slope. I’m trying to push my speed a bit too much. Calm down and get some flow on. On the main descent now and I’ve managed to gap Dave. Good—he can’t follow my lines.

[0919] The last flattish section before transition. Wind, I hate you! I have a couple of hundred metres on Dave and should have it sewn up. Relief. When you have James Kuegler, Aaron Strong, and then Gordon Walker in your team you don’t want to let them down. Stoked to have set up Discover Health for what will probably be a convincing win.

[0923] Motu. Cross the bridge, dismount, rack the Blur and pass the bib and transponder over to James. Good stuff, time to get warm, dry and help the team and Usshers out with crewing.

Postnote – Team Discover Health went on to win convincingly, finishing only 6min slower than the record in what were pretty tough conditions. Each of us posted the fastest split: myself on the mountain bike, James on the run, Aaron on the road cycle, and Gordon on the paddle / multisport. I had a whole lot of fun crewing Elina Ussher as she proceeded to win the individual woman’s multisport race, and break her own race record. Along the way I came to realise that jandals are not suitable crew footwear. My bruised soles will attest to that.
Despite grumbling about the start time and the early wake up it entails, I love the Motu Challenge. It’s such a cool race to follow and the catch-ups over prizegiving are almost as good as the race itself. I only wish that Opo’s seemingly single decent cafe, 2 Fish, would open on race day!

Next up is the Wild Wellington at the start of November. I’m riding in the 6hour solo division so had better get training.

Thanks as always to my awesome sponsors: Santa Cruz, Roadworks Wellington, and Maxxis tires.


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