Yeti Trans New Zealand | Day 2 – Slip Sliding Riding
Yesterday’s riding was a brilliant way to start the Yeti Trans New Zealand, a multi-day enduro race. It rained but the trails were sweet and pretty straightforward only becoming exponentially harder the faster you went. Today, day two of the five day enduro, wound it up another gear altogether not only due to the trail choice but also owing to the recent weather front. Things were hotting up in more ways than one, the sun was out and the brakes were smoking!
Day two saw all competitors up at the crack of dawn, well 6am, to travel the hour and a half to Mount Hutt. The summit of Mount Hutt standing at 2190m, which houses both natural trails and then a bike park covering the lover half of the slopes. The higher landscape here is not too dissimilar to Craigieburn, the peak of the mountain is sparse and bare of vegetation, looming over the lower slopes menacingly, today shrouded in cloud in the early parts of the day. The bush then becomes increasingly thick as the trails reach the bike park. The views from the top over the Canterbury Plains are out of this world though! The mountain appears to have risen out of nowhere, a flat bed on the plain to sheer and steep mountain faces in no distance at all. We were luckily treated to a clear and sunny day at Mount Hutt and could see for miles, it was remarkable!
Race organiser, Megan, had planned our day today to take in a good selection of the riding on offer here over varied terrain. Day two was also due to be the shortest of the days riding as this was the day we would make the long journey to Queenstown, changing base camp to ride out days three, four and five here and in surrounding areas. So, after an early breakfast, with all bikes and kit loaded into the respective vans, the period of organised chaos was over and we set off.
We were treated to two shuttles today and although the first meant dropping straight into stage one relatively ‘cold’ I have decided I much prefer this to a 400m climb to start the day. Especially when we fill our bus with some slightly dubious party tunes donated by volunteer Quinton! After a pedal up and down the fire road to engage my brain into bike mode I was ready for the off.
Stage one began on an open tussock where the media team were taking advantage of the views and giving the drone some flight time. Dropping down on a rutted double track the stage soon crossed the fire road and from here the work of the previous few days’ rain was evident. The lower slopes of Mount Hutt appears to consist of a clay like soil and the trail was slick! A deep single track rut wove its way down the hillside, with what looked like little variety of line choice. I’m sure some of the braver and faster riders may have taken advantage of the clean grass next to the rut, hopping down into it for a corner, a good but dangerous tactic if it goes wrong! It was pretty much like riding in the UK, tyre clogging mud and slip sliding fun! Nothing to technical to start the day, a good warm up in the testing conditions!
Next up, stage two also held a shuttle to take us back to the top, up to 1600m in fact! This is where the race cranked up a notch. The trail used in this stage was called ‘Behemoth’, it is a trail built by a local downhiller as his training ground. If this guy is training on this then I think he is going to be pretty pinned! The first part of the trail was part of the transition so after alighting the shuttle we began the quite lengthy walk down to the start of the stage. To put it simply, the top part of this trail was far too gnarly to be raced especially so in the slick conditions. I struggled to walk down, let alone ride, the entire trail has a percentage decrease of -28%!
The trail dropped down on the crest of a ridgeline taking us down to a small clearing where the stage began. This stage was equally as wheel clogging as the first, I gave up with furtive attempts to remove some of the mud before the stage as it would just be a waste of time once I hit the trail. The stage began with a steep churned up muddy chute which I surprised myself by actually riding out, the two more that followed I didn’t even attempt, fellow competitor Amy found sliding down on her bum much more economical than ride and crash, I followed suit! Past these chutes though and the stage was much less steep and much more fun! I had a blast navigating over roots, concentrating on only braking in safe straight sections of the track and pushing into the ruts created in the mud. The stage ended at the creek, where all racers were furiously trying to rid their bike of all the mud they had collected!
With the sun beating down and the caked on mud rapidly drying we set out on the 600m climb to stage three. This was a long fire road we had previously shuttled up so we knew what was in store for us! It was a slog made worse by heavy bikes, one glance to your left though and your eyes were greeted by the amazing views over the Canterbury Plains. This was enough to lift spirits and endure the pain of the climb, the higher up the better the view! Stage three is known to the locals as ‘Scotts Saddle’, it traverses the hillside dropping down into some man made switch backs before taking you off to the bike park.
This was one long stage, what I would call a proper enduro stage with steep descents, flat sections to test fitness and short sharp climbs ensuring you are firmly in the pain cave. The trail took in about 600m of vertical descent in a trail 4km long, it covered a multitude of different terrain. The upper part of the tail was open, exposed and rocky, the middle combined loose rocky rubble with mud and the lower parts were composed of greasy clay like earth especially when winding through the forest, the tree cover had done nothing to keep the track dry! Even though this was a shorter day, I certainly felt myself tiring as this stage went on, I felt my weight too far over the bars and as a result encountered a few sticky situations saved only by the swift plant of a foot into the verge. I was pretty glad to have opted for flat pedals to race the day though, I reckon 80 percent of the field of riders would have spent a majority of time riding with just one foot clipped in as the mud jammed the cleats.
Day two was one pretty awesome day of riding! The mud might not be everyone’s cup of tea and it undoubtedly isn’t that welcome come race day but it definitely improves your riding and it is quite amusing to ride in, if it’s not you involved then someone else around you will be having some pretty humorous crashes!
Results on a running tally from day one sees Stu Dickson still in the lead with a combined time over two days of 37 minutes and 55 seconds. The men seeded themselves, using peer pressure to send Stu down first! In second place as per yesterday is Deon Baker just 50 seconds back in a time of 38:45 and in third is Zac Williams in a time of 40:03. The women’s results stay the same as day one too – Raewyn Morrison in a time of 45:03, just getting over an illness Rae says she felt much stronger today now the sun was out. I managed to take second place for the first two stages but still chasing Amy Pryse-Phillips and her time of 53:23, my time came in as 55:45.
On leaving Mount Hutt in the early afternoon, all competitors piled into vans to make the long journey to Queenstown. Tomorrow we will be riding Coronet Peak, the sun will be shining and it’s going to be rad!
Words: Rachael Gurney | Photos: Yeti Trans NZ