THE MOTATAPU MTB EXPERIENCE
We’ve just had one of those life changing, never to be forgotten epic rides. One of those rides where you just think “how good was that”? The people, the location and the event organisation can only be described as “fantastic”. Topping it all off, I was lucky enough to share it with my family who ground crewed on the day while I raced the Motatapu Mountain Bike race with my 14 year old son Mitch. This chapter started a few months ago after chatting with some bike-minded friends, Greg and Narelle. It was their suggestion to have a crack at the Motatapu and I’m stoked they suggested it.
As a team, our race plan consisted of; have fun and enjoy the scenery, don’t go out too hard, keep a steady pace and see what happens. Simple.
The event started at Glendhu Bay on the shores of Lake Wanaka with the towering snow-capped peaks of Mt. Aspiring to the west, and finished in Arrowtown, 47km to the south. For sun-drenched Queenslander’s the alpine scenery on show was just so different and breathtakingly beautiful that it was pretty hard to focus on the ride ahead.
It was cold at the start and the legs weren’t that warm so we let the fast teams go and settled into a pack which matched our pace. The race route takes you through a stunning alpine valley with the Treble Cone and Cardrona ski fields on either side. The first 32km is mostly uphill with lots of steady climbs, fast downhill sections and pinchy climbs out of the creeks.
There’s upward of 20 creek crossings along the course, and the snowmelt water was numbingly cold. Mitch found out how cold the water was at about the 25km mark when he went for an unplanned swim. Personally, I didn’t think it was that hot to warrant a swim, but each to their own. You can hit these crossings at pretty high speed and it’s the luck of the draw if you get through or not. It wasn’t until we crossed the finish line that I found out that Mitch wanted to scream due to the ache from the cold. As usual, he didn’t complain and just toughed it out. As cyclists, I think we find a certain amount of pleasure in pain and suffering which often adds to the sense of accomplishment.
About 100m after Mitch’s swim, I got a flat tyre and we lost about 10 minutes. Oh well, that’s racing. The next 10km or so involved riding through a paddock of grass which felt like riding through soft sand. Add a cold headwind to the mix and it was slow and punishing with the elite riders only managing about 15km/hr. We adopted some roadie tactics here and sat at the back of the pack behind some stronger riders.
At about the 34km mark you could hear the cheers from the riders as the course pointed downhill through a gorge for the next 13 km. Arm pump and aching hands and fingers were welcome additions to our tired legs. What I wasn’t prepared for were cramps like I’ve never experienced before. We hit a creek which was just above thigh deep. The icy water contracted my hamstrings and I lay on the ground impersonating an ironing board. Not fun. It was an experience I never want to repeat. We crossed the finish line soon after in 6th place in the Open Men’s team category.
As a father and son team, Mitch and I worked well together and I couldn’t be prouder of our achievements. My days as the lead rider are seriously numbered. Mitch is a quiet achiever and just keeps upping the bar and gaining in confidence.
Once again, thanks to Erik from Beerwah Cycles who’s been doing the race prep on our bikes for almost 10 years. I’m happy to say that our bikes worked faultlessly and we weren’t one of the riders scootering across the finish line with a mechanical.
After the race, we spent the next week and half exploring, riding and sipping latte’s in the South Island and have now added some family bucket list adventures to the list. NZ is very bike friendly and their cycling networks are fantastic.
I’m fast approaching 50, I’m going grey and as my kids reckon I won’t be able to hear anything soon, let alone remember (don’t you love the honesty of kids?) But the experience we just had will be with me forever no matter how old I get. Put NZ on the list, pack a bag and just go. You won’t be disappointed.
If you want to achieve your dreams and tick off a bucket-list ride, get a training program from Performance MTB, the hurt box won’t be quite so huge.