Feb 25 Monday – Craigieburn (the real day 2…)
Heavy rain fell again overnight and more mist, clouds, rain and snow topped mountains greeted us as we dashed into the breakfast hall. I had spent every waking moment giving myself a good solid talking to. I had survived yesterday and I can do this. This is why I signed up – to be pushed outside out my comfort zone. And day one certainly delivered that.
Today was the official short day of racing with only two stages in the morning as we relocate to Queenstown at lunch time. The prediction was the weather was to clear as the morning progressed. We packed up and loaded all our gear onto the trucks as our stay here was over. I had promised to return the chilly bin but couldn’t find it anywhere. The guys said they had returned it…. Apparently….
The first climb of the day was long and tough. I’ve never been great at climbing despite the hours of training I’ve done. The new bike was helping enormously as it climbs so much better than Poo Brown. It doesn’t help my tattered self-esteem that my two friends are awesome climbers. I struggled up the mountain as they disappeared into the distance. I had to push in many places however the incredible view made up for it for the suffering. I was determined to change my mind set today and not be a miserable, low confidence old cow. I can do this, I know how to ride a bike, I kept whispering this to myself. My friends waited from me near the top and we started to prep for the first stage of the day. What unknown beast waited for us to test everything we thought we knew about bikes? The first part of the trail we could see as it weaved through open grassland before dropping down into the trees.
We start in 30 second intervals, I watched them disappear down the trail and then it was my turn. Off I go, the first part is easy, smooth, fast flat corners however the knee high grass masks the trail and you can only see a few meters in front of you with no idea what direction you will be going next. Then we drop into the forest where the trail gets really steep, really quickly. Tight corners, muddy off camber roots and I surprised myself with the realisation that I was loving it. I’d found a technique to deal with the unpredictable movement of the bike and it was working (tough on the body). It could it possible, that I was having the run of my life? Who would have thought wet conditions could be so fun? Particularly after yesterday’s shit show. I was slipping and sliding my way down an uber steep section and I catch up to my friend who went started first. I ask if she is okay as she is standing on the side of the track. Yes she responds, just struggling with the conditions. I ride with flat pedals (shoes and pedals that don’t clip in) and it is easy for me to throw a foot out here and there (dabbing) as the wet unpredictable conditions throw chaos at me. Then I catch up to Super A. What the hell? She is struggling as well. I follow her for a bit but soon have to pass. That has never happened. I have never caught her, never, let alone pass her. She isn’t able to make her shoe clip into the pedal due to the mud and is struggling. I disappear down the trail and leave her behind. The stage continues with these crazy conditions before drying out and becoming less steep. We finish with a creek crossing just to make sure we have wet feet.
At the bottom, I am pumped. Biggles is back. Yes I can ride a bike! It is almost too good to be true that I passed someone, let alone my kick ass friend. She is pissed off and miserable. It is complete role reversal from yesterday. This was an important learning moment for me.
We had to pedal halfway up the mountain for the next stage. The weather has turned for the better and there is no rain. Small patches of blue sky peak out through the clouds and temperature warms up to a steamy 14 degrees (sarcasm). The next stage is not very steep by comparison but endless tree roots and whoops. Thoroughly enjoyed that stage. All has been restored in the world as I didn’t catch anyone. Today was a good day on the bike.
We quickly shower and change into clean dry clothes. We managed to claim a bus with several of the guys we know and brace ourselves for the 8 hour drive to Queenstown. There were plenty of beers, snacks and food on board to keep us entertained, well for a short while anyway. There was a coffee stop. There was an ice cream stop. Then a stop for alcohol to numb the body and the brain.
The Kiwi’s think of everything. At the bottle shop, you bring any container in and fill it up with beer. After several beers you can imagine the bus was bursting to go to the loo. We were a well hydrated lot by then. We stopped at Lake Tekapo and disappeared into the bush. Phew. Crisis averted.
We then stopped at Lake Pukaki and decided that we should go for a swim. It’s not every day that you get to swim in a glacial lake with Mt Cook looming in the distance. Hold my beer…
Holy screaming tiny balls of ice – It was freezing. Damn locals were trying to convince me it wasn’t. It was so cold that I forgot to pee while swimming and had to do a dash before the final part of the journey. Anyway, you get the idea, it was long and hilarious bus ride.
Finally made it to Queenstown and we checked into our three bedroom apartment. I was sharing with Frenchie again. My two friends were in the other room and two of the guys we knew were in the other room.
At the rider briefing that night, I got roasted. The crew wanted to know what happened to the missing chilly bin and who was responsible for taking it. I was in the process of claiming the ‘theft’ of said chilly bin when one of the guys ‘Napalm’ said he left it next to the truck. Apparently it is still sitting in the paddock as no one loaded it. The rest of the riders roasted us as that meant once less chilly bin full of beer at the end of the day. The guys were happy to take the blame on my behalf as they had their own source of beer for two days. Oh the shenanigans!