Feb 26 Tuesday – Coronet Peak
A frosty cold but glorious blue sky day greeted us for our first day in Queenstown. Damn what a change from the past few days. Feeling somewhat okay about today’s race as I have ridden some of the trails here before. We get driven up to Coronet Peak base lodge and then we ride or if you are me, push all the way to the top. Up, up, up we go. While I’m huffing and puffing like a whiskey chugging, cigar smoking mafia mogul, I realise this is the trail we to have race down.
At the top, I get my fan girl on. Mops is here! Mops is the current Enduro World Series Masters Women World Champion. Never too old to be a fan girl and I’m super excited to be riding with her (okay riding the same trail as her). I’m the only other master female competitor so they have scrapped the Masters division and put me in the Elite Women category. We get a lady train on (all the female competitors head down together. Which is kinda cool, also it is nice not have to get passed on a perilous bit of trail.
This stage is tight steep corners all the way down. The biggest challenge is paying attention to where I’m going and not the awesome vista that is sprawled out in front of me. 9 minutes of riding as hard as I can within the limits of ability with only a vague idea where I’m going. There are no trees today thanks to the ski slopes of Coronet peak just knee high alpine grass.
The next stage is the famous Rude Rock to Skippers Canyon trails. The trail is called Rude Rock as there is a sizeable rock that looks just like penis. Not very original name but it does provide an endless source of jokes. You can’t see Rude Rock from the start as it is halfway down the trail so the giant penis only gets a cursory glance as you dash past. This trail is super fun flow trail. The only trick with this trail is you come up and over sharp rise with no idea which way the trail goes. By the time I launch down into the trail, there are tyre marks off and evidence of crashes all over the place where poor unsuspecting souls though the trail went one way but alas it curved the other way. I was too busy chatting at the start line and realise I had forgotten to put my googles on. Doh! It continues on into another crazy trail with a sheer cliff on the left down to the canyon. At least I can see the bottom unlike the other day. There is a creek crossing then a short but ugly hill climb, throw your bike and yourself over a fence and then continue down the mountain at rapid speed. There is nothing too technical but if you read the trail wrong you are going off a cliff face in split second. Chloe was standing looking confused on the side of the trail covered in mud. I slowed down and ask if she was okay and she said she was okay. I keep moving as I’m nearly at the end, I hope… I’m shattered by the time I get to the end; 17 minutes of racing – a huge difference from 5 minute race stages that I’m used to. Pretty sure that is the longest race stage I have ever done.
The feed stations here are sensational. A table is filled with everything imageable from chocolate to muffins to sandwiches to well, you name it. We stuff as much as we can get down and then start the long, long, long climb up. I get dropped on the climb as it weaves around the mountain edge. My friends have long since disappeared up the hill and are riding with the media crew. My friend is completely infatuated with the Canadian guy and he is now main focus of her NZ trip tee hee. There was a photo stop midway cause the opportunity was just too good to be true.
Stage 3 was a short fast trail with lots of options. Brain was going into overload trying to find a rhythm with the options however so much fun. It was here I realised that my GPS has crapped itself. Looks like the crazy wet weather from the first two days was just too much for my trusty garmin. This is the same garmin that navigated me through South America in 2014 (and survived that tango with the car). It is saying my elevation is at 10,000m hmmm somehow I don’t think that is quite right.
Then we pile into the shuttle vans and get driven back up to the Coronet Peak lodge. It was nice to sit down for a moment. way up to the final stage of the day but there is always a climb. The infamous Slip Saddle; double black aka the hardest, most technical trail of the whole week. This trail is stupidly ridiculous steep, rocky and rough, with sheer cliff on some sections. My friends are already at the top so by the time I get there, they are ready to go. I need to gather my breath and get ready. Chloe (super rad lady from the Isle of Mann) is freaking out at the top as the start is a bloody steep rough as guts chute. At least it is wide open and no trees anywhere. Chloe nails the steepest section then crashes at the bottom. It is more of a gentle lay over in the grass then a crash but gives us an indication of just how rough it is. She jumps up waves back at us and off she goes. Shantel (another super rad lady but this one is from Canada) goes down with no problem at all.
My turn, I barely have my breathe back from the climb but I’m loathe to spend anymore time at the top. The first section was fun but little did I know that was the easiest part of the trail. Maximum concentration is required as my brain is going into overdrive trying to process the crazy technical course that is rapidly appearing. It was freaking insane. I’m doing my thing when I hear the call “rider”. Oh shit someone is behind me. There is nowhere to stop or pull over, let alone glance behind. I keep going until I find a section where I can pull over without falling down the mountain, when I do there is no one behind me. Hmm I pull out onto the trail and keep going. I get the call again “rider”. I’m riding down a narrow ledge and to stop would be to fall off the mountain, so I keep going until a can clamber off the trail. There is no one behind me. I’m starting to get pissed off as this is fire trucking with my concentration. It happens a third time and I’m pissed. I don’t mind getting passed and don’t mind pulling over for people to pass me but damn, make sure you are ready to go before you yell ‘rider’. I grizzle while I wait for this rider and then Frenchie appears. Oh this is bullshit and I’m not happy.
Frenchie is the lady I share a room with. She was born in Paris but has lived her whole life in Canada and is a special sort of soul. She has an air of arrogance, obnoxious and pretty much annoyed or rubbed everyone up the wrong way. However she is an excellent roommate, super quiet and tidy. The joke is she is going to stab me in my sleep. Well, it might be me doing the stabbing tonight.
I let the arrogant rude French wench pass and then I continue on the stage. I later find out she dropped in right behind me and didn’t wait for the standard 30 seconds gap. She is going slow and I’m on her tail. I’m cranky and yell rider. Oh yeah wench, how do you like those snails?! Then she crashes, falls off the trail and tumbles down the side of the mountain. I might be secretly wanting to rip her eyeballs out however I also know that we are on a big mountain in the middle of nowhere where her body would go missing for weeks before being found. Hhmmmm. Damn me and my stupid caring conscious, I stop and make sure she is okay before continuing on. As she as she yells she is okay, I’m gone faster than a stolen bike. Karma wench (she is winded and bruised).
Once I had ditched Frenchie the rest of the run was intense but okay. Holy sphincter puckering asshole batman that was freaking intense. I really like technical trails and this nasty bit of work was the kind of challenge I love. That was 9 minutes of terrifying fun (would have 7 minutes without my French interruption). There is still a huge relief when I get to the bottom without a single crash.
The ride out was really enjoyable. Lots of creek crossing with rolling sections of ups and downs then a gorgeous section through a forest and along a creek. There was a huge steel pipe running at an awkward angle across the trail. I was too busy looking around and not paying any attention, before I realised what was happening the back wheel slipped and I went down like a 80kg sack of potatoes. Boom. I hit the deck hard. I rolled around on the ground winded, gasping for air with a weird sort of chuckle coming out of me. I just rode survived a suicide downhill run with no incidents and then crash on stupid pipe. The pipe was super slippery and had claimed several other riders. Ha.
There was beers and food waiting for us when we finished. We sprawled out on the grass and swapped stories from the day. Just when I was starting to relax for the day, a crazy plan was formulated and gathered momentum. The luge at the Queenstown skyline gondola was calling us. We grabbed some beers, loaded up the bikes and took over the bus for the ride back home. There it was a rapid washing of the bike, shower the body and then reconvene for an evening of luge wars.
Ten mountain bikers hyped from the day with a healthy beer buzz going on, heading straight for the luge… This had all the makings of an insane evening and it was. The poor staff there were so patient with us while we redefined the term sledging. We were only allowed to go off in groups of 4. However we would take off and stop around the first corner and wait for the others. Then it was ON!! The luge is not meant to be a crash dodgem car style of ride but with us, it was. We crashed em, we flipped em, we crashed and flipped em, then we crashed and flipped em into each other, we launched them into the air and launched them into each other…. Not sure how this is legal but damn did we laugh. We spent the whole time laughing so hard we nearly wet ourselves. There were more injuries from the luge then from the last three days of biking.