I’m still not sure if it was the fog or the sky full of stars that made this early Saturday morning as epic as it was. Maybe it was the music played at the start of ‘the centurion’ at the Lake Hawea Epic that made it feel like something special. One thing was certain, this ride was going to be amazing. Starting at 05:30 ,hours before sunrise, has something special to it. It just makes racing so much more exciting. The world looks small with only your front light peaking through a thick cloud off fog.
Does one have to be well trained to ride 160 kilometers on their mountainbike? Yes, of course, but I think being well trained isn’t even the most important. It is more important to be totally knots. Someone with a healthy mind isn’t capable off doing long distance mountainbike races. Maybe that is what makes it special. Because you have to love cycling so much that your mind can’t think about something else, you have to be so passionate about it that nothing else seems more important then riding your bike.
As a Dutchy with some experience in long distance races I just couldn’t resist this opportunity to ride New Zealand’s first 100 miler. It is a long lived dream of mine to be able to ride races like these. After all the stories I heard about mountainbiking in New Zealand I was finally able to expierence it myself.
As the saturday morning is showing more and more of its beauty my wheels already spun for 1,5 hours. Behind the moutain tops the sun slowly started to rise. For me it still didn’t feel like the race started. Everybody was so relaxed, maybe they were just trying to save there energy.
After a long section of tarmac we finally hit the gravel again. The front group was splitting apart quickly, I decided to follow the pace off the group. My legs felt great and this wonderful scenery made it inresistable to go faster. So, that’s what I did, I pushed harder uphill and cleared myself from the first group.
It felt so good to ride on this never ending gravel road only accompanied by the rising sun, this must have been one off the best feelings in the world. I was enjoying it so much that I forgot to eat. As the kilometers started to count my energy level started to drain.
After 75 kilometers the course really started to get rough. The gravel roads got replaced with steep rocky climbs and speedy downhills. In the meantime I tried to fill up the gas tank with some energy gels. My pace was slowing down and I didn’t have the power to ride up the hills as easy as I did before.
At this time I started to realize that maybe I underestimated this race a little, which is always dangerous. After a while riders started to pass me, luckely most off them were epic riders, which were doing 125 kilometers. I still wasn’t able to get my energy level back to normal, eventhough I emptied 6 geld into my stomach. I now was suffering from the mistake I made hours ago.
But, even with all this suffering, I still was enjoying the ride to it’s fullest. The view kept on amazing me on every kilometer. It was so tempting to stop and take a picture but I couldn’t because I was in a race.
After 90 kilometers both my bottles were empty. Luckally the race course is passing some moutain creeks. The water running through these creeks is so pure you can drink it. So I filled up my bottles and continued the race.
I just realized that this is so different from mountainbiking in Europe. In Europe the organization puts a feed zone within every 20 kilometers. Where here the first 100 kilometers I couldn’t find even one, which was oke by the way. That makes the race so much more exciting. Being dependant off nature and yourself.
So while crossing this feed zone I decided to take a quick stop and tried to get some more fuel in. I already gave up on the idea off riding a nice result so getting to the finish line was priority number one by now. As is swing my leg over my saddle I feel this major cramp shooting into my right leg. Maybe that says something about the thoughness off this course.
I was really glad that only 60 kilometers where ahead of me. If I could stop by now I probably would have done it. All these little steep climbs really add up and they make your legs turn into solid acid. Slowly the course started to flatten out and after a long time I felt some power returning into my legs. Finally all those gels and bars started to work. It’s better to end a long ride with a good feeling than to be totally wrecked at the finish.
The last 30 kilometers seemed almost as easy as the first one’s. My legs weren’t hurting anymore and I started to pass people again. At one hand I really was looking forward to finish but on the other hand this experience is so beautiful I wanted it to last.
But, like all things, when there is a start there has te be a finish. This race maybe doesn’t end up as the hardest race I’ve ever done, but it sure was the most beautiful one(and no worries, it’s in the top-5 off hardest races I’ve done)
So much thanks go out to all the volunteers and people who make these events possible. This was New Zealands first 100 miler but I’m sure it wasn’t the last one. I’m glad that I could be one off the few people riding this very special event!
©Photo: NoSprinkles – Jolien Hendriksen