Minutes into the race and that belief was reinforced as I emerged from the confusion of the Le Mans style start to see riders stretching up the road as far as I could see. Congratulations must go to whoever relocated my bike as they did a great job - I just couldn't find it! It's a feature of the event that the bikes are rearranged and so I was expecting it, but figured that my Ibis was distinctive in orange and I wouldn't have any difficulties. It turns out that there are a large number of orange bikes out there. I know. I ran to nearly every one before finally stumbling across mine!
From there it was a case of chasing, right up until the last lap. I really put myself in the box getting back on to the second bunch before we entered the first section of singletrack and from there it was just a case of picking off riders when i could. By chance, the course consisted of three of my most favourite Rotorua trails - Pondy, Old Chevy and Yellow Brick Road - and i had a ball taking the Tranny through them. In contrast to my Xterra ride, I just felt connected with the bike and really smooth. My Maxxis Monorail tires provided exceptional cornering grip and i took full advantage.
The racing was tight heading into the final lap. I was with Matthew Gorter and Eric Drower was closely chasing. Both are talented mountain bikers who have been doing great things on the road recently and i didn't want them to be too close coming into the final BeerCut. I can't skull to save myself. Matt was proving difficult to shake but when he had a small crash on Pondy i was able to gap him and break the elastic binding us together. With half a lap remaining i started to entertain thoughts of winning and tattoo placement, much in the same way as Cabin had done last year before being caught by Garth. History nearly repeated itself when Eric clawed back some 20sec in the dying stages of the race and all but chased me into the beer tent. I was fortunate to have just enough of a lead to exit in front and make the sprint for the line, caught quite nicely by Tim Vincent:
Yes, i was pretty excited to win.
So I now have a tattoo. It's pretty cool and if you have a snoop around vorb.org.nz 's excellent coverage of the weekend you should be able to catch a glimpse. Otherwise, have a look on trexterra.blogspot.com in a couple of days time. Yes, I've joined all the other diligent athletes with a blog. The intention is to update it quite frequently, which is why you shouldn't look at it for the next 24hours.
Thanks to Pearl Izumi for their great riding gear, Ibis Cycles for the amazing Tranny, Oli Brooke-White for his mad mechanic skills, and Maxxis for their great tires.