March 7, 2004 – Karapoti Classic, Wellington

Last year I missed the Karapoti since I opted to race against the world’s best roadies in the Geelong Women’s tour and the Geelong World Cup. But there was nothing to hold me back this year. The National series was over. The traveling around the countryside was done and what better way for a tough training ride but to race the Karapoti Classic.

It is so aptly named, as only one word springs to mind when I think about the Karapoti…. And that is CLASSIC. It certainly is a classic race. Not only for the demanding 50km circuit with hill climbs the height of the Rimutuka’s, bogs up to your hubs, knee high river crossings and some good old rough rock descents, but for the atmosphere and the friendliness that brings the mountain biking community together for a full on day of action.

At the beginning of the season I had planned to race the Karapoti. I wanted a win and I wanted a personal best time. I wanted to break that elusive 3 hours as there have only been 5 women to do so. I was starting to believe that the Karapoti and I didn’t go together.

The last time I raced in 2002 I didn’t finish as I broke my derailleur. That was after I had a substantial lead at the top of the first climb. The year before that I was in the lead when I punctured on Dopers descent and had to settle for 2nd. This year didn’t look like it was going to be any better as weeks out I read reports of the damage the floods had done to the tracks and knew a record breaking time was out of the question.

Just a few days out from making a decision on whether I would race, my head filled with memories of the wet 1999. Despite those horrid thoughts there is something that just draws me back to the Karapoti. Maybe it’s because it’s one event so many mountain bikers relate to and maybe it’s those epic adventure style events that make you feel you are a true mountain biker.

It’s funny that when you tell people you’re a mountain biker, the first question they ask you is “have you raced the Karapoti?” and “what time have you done?” But what also draws me back is the profile of the event, the sharing of the sport with hundreds of others whether they be racers or Sunday cruisers and the fact that it’s in my home town Wellington. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for punishment? Well, there were 998 of us that were suckers for punishment in 2004.

The pro women started off at 10am with the hordes of Pro Men so it was all elbows as everyone started edging forward into the icy cold river preempting the starting horn. The rivers and the first couple of kilometers on the road spread things out a bit – surprisingly it wasn’t overly crowded down the gorge.

Things were a bit rougher than usual with the slips that had forced loose rocks onto the track. I jumped up to Sonia Foot and we lapped it out for a bit once we hit the wider 4WD track. It was just before the warm up hill that Aussie and 2 time Junior World Champ, Lisa Mathison caught up to us and set the pace. Soon after, we dropped Sonia and Lisa paced me up Deadwoods until she was forced off her bike behind another rider and I managed to ride around them. It was my momentum and consistency up the remainder of the Deadwood ascent that gained me a minute’s lead over Lisa.

The infamous rock garden wasn’t too bad at all. I was expecting worse. Though I know my technical skills have improved over the last 3 years since I last raced down there. Then onto the dreaded 2nd hill climb – the bike push/bike carry hill known as Devils Staircase. This ain’t my forte, and combined with a bit of foot slippage Lisa pulled back the time I had put into her and passed me while we were both pushing.

After Devils and all the bogs I had lost sight of Lisa and set into my own rhythm along big ring boulevard not taking too many risks as I was aware the course had some nasty carnage areas. Then came the final hill, Dopers. It was 100% rideable except for the first bit out of the river. It was around 2 hours and 15 minutes when I looked at my watch on Dopers – could I beat the 3 hours?

I had no idea of the time gap to Lisa so kept an even tempo and spun a good cadence on the climb. Then I was on the home stretch and I put the hammer down but it was a little late. I came in two and a half minutes after Lisa in a time of 3 hours and 3 minutes. I was disappointed that I didn’t break the 3 hours but still it was a personal best time for me and it was with less than ideal course conditions. Roll on 2005!

My Karapoti history:
1997 – Sport Class – 5th, 3:59:13
1998 – Sport Class – 1st, 3:28:21
1999 – Expert/Pro Class – 4th, 3:44:55
2000 – Expert/Pro Class – 4th; 3:12:59
2001 – Expert/Pro Class – 2nd, 3:06:50
2002 – Expert/Pro Class – DNF
2004 – Expert/Pro Class – 2nd, 3:03:42

I’ve had some great support over the season. Firstly thanks to my support crew - Christian – chief bottle babe, driver, bike washer and cook – he’s been through the ups and downs in all conditions and I couldn’t race without him. Secondly thanks to my coach Reidy who creates the challenging training programmes. A big ups to Scott bikes – they just rock. Both my hard tail MTB and road bike are made from scandium, which give a really comfy ride and are really responsive. Thanks heaps to Penny Fathing Cycles for looking after my bikes, especially the day before the Karapoti. Thanks to Pearl Izumi for kitting me in the best clothing – check out their awesome website And last but not least thanks to Tama for his help with my website and for organizing my very own server.