Motu Challenge 2011
Story by: - Photo by: Sportzhub.co.nz
Motu Challenge 2011
It had already been a hectic return to NZ with only a few days actually at home before we hit the road for Opotiki and the Motu Challenge.
It was looking like a minor miracle with fine weather predicted but in a not usual situation it quickly appeared to be incorrect as torrential run fell all night. By morning it cleared just long enough for us to start before we all got a good soaking on the MTB. There were still positives though – no snow and light wind, which definitely was a first.
The first MTB trundled along at a pretty amicable pace on the road, everyone waiting for the first major climb to show their hand. When we got there, national MTB champion Carl Jones dropped the hammer and the rest of us scrambled to get on his wheel, there was still a much bigger group of riders than normal halfway up the climb and when Carl and Mark Leishman stretched it out a bit they slowly disappeared up the road. I was quite surprised not to see Dougal Allen try and jump across and so decided to keep a little bit in the bank incase he took up the attack later on.
The pace in our group remained pretty steady and gradually the number of riders whittled down to about five or six. The other big surprise was Sam Clark from Whakatane still with us, which showed he had made some big steps since last summer.
Heading into Motu for the change to running shoes my feet felt like icicles, which is normally par for the course at this race, and it took several kilometers to get them warmed up. Dougal was right on my tail still but after about 4km I noticed he’d just started to fade a bit and gradually I was able to stretch away from him.
Heading back for round two on the bike I was feeling pretty good, the legs were working well and once aboard the TT bike I was still able to put some good power in which is always a good thing to find on this particular ride, especially when Dougal Allen is right behind.
I caught up with the two leading teams, one of whom was Courtney Lowe who I seem to ride with every year. She was riding really strong and rode away from me up the hill but luckily I have a few more pies on board and I was able to catch back up on the descent.
Arriving at the Kayak I was surprised that Dougal hadn’t caught me on this ride so I was in bonus territory as had fully expected we’d be battling it out right to the river.
The river was running at a good level with all the rain and I settled into a good rhythm. About halfway I heard from some supporters that Dougal was closing in, which was mildly concerning, so I upped the rating a bit and stole a few looks over the shoulder on the longer straights to see if I could spot him. I never did see him but at one of the corners near the end some of the spectators reckoned I had taken back the time so I arrived at transition feeling pretty happy.
My gluts weren’t so happy being made to jog up tot the waiting bike but it was good to be back on dry land and I cruised through the 8 kilometers to the final run of the day.
Some of the races I’ve had at Motu the last 3km have felt more like 10km but today it seemed to fly by.
Finishing a 7 hour race is always nice and it was especially rewarding as I’d sacrificed any taper to train right through Motu in pursuit of a top result in Maui at the Xterra World Championships just 2 weeks after Motu. It is always hard to know how the body will cope when it is a bit tired but apart from early in the MTB I’d probably felt the best I ever had at this race. Thanks to some favorable conditions I also managed to sneak under the race record and also get the road bike record for the individuals which was a real bonus
Dougal came home second just over 5 minutes down, he’ll only get stronger at this race as the first time up it is hard to know what to expect, especially pacing wise for the second bike. And in what can only really be described as a break out performance Sam Clark came home only 5 more minutes down for another 3rd place but about 45 minutes faster than his previous best effort.
In the women’s race Elina had a great tussle with NZ MTB rep Karen Hanlen on the first ride and managed to come out on top of that battle, while also lowering her MTB record by another few minutes. Her time was just 7 minutes slower than my time – I will have to watch out soon!
She had a little drama at the end of the run with some gear but was on her way again quickly. By the time she reached the river nothing short of a disaster was going to derail title number 5 but she still put in a good paddle with only Rachel Cashin bettering her on the river by 2 minutes.
Elina stopped the clock in 7 hours 58 minutes to become the first woman to complete the course in under 8 hours which was a great effort.