April 11 sees the dawn of the annual Naseby 12 hour day/nighter mountain bike race. Thankfully dawn is what we see as it is a lovely autumn morning with the sun coming up over the mountains.
After missing a couple of years Stephen has entered a team in this year’s event – Sultans of Skid and the team riders are Stephen, Colin, Ewen and Heather with support crew of Jan and Jean (Colin’s wife).
With some table trash talked over a healthy breakfast and the bike gear ready we head to meet Colin and Jean at base camp. Colin and Jean came a couple of days earlier with their caravan and managed to secure a premium spot to set up the base camp for the duration of the race. Tent is all set up, deck chairs are awaiting, bikes are lined up ready to go – just need their rider at the ready.
Waiting for all the competitors to arrive and the count down to the start there is a great vibe amongst the camp sites as everyone is getting themselves set-up, finalising any last-minute bike repairs, food options for the race, clothing etc. There is a lot of banter between teams and an edgy eagerness for the race to begin.
Then it is race briefing time and on to the start line to get this show on the road. The first rider has to do a short run through the camp site to collect their bikes before the riding begins. The rest of the team and any support crew are usually up with the bikes. The start gun goes and we’re jockeying for position to see our rider come to the top of the hill to find his bike. This year it is Ewen’s turn – mainly because everyone else managed to come up with appropriate excuses as to why they couldn’t possiby do it!
Yep you could describe the run and the riders trying to find their bikes as mayhem but it is all in good fun and helps break the riders up ready for the single track and the racing to begin proper.
Ewen arrives amongst the sea of runners – over here, over here we yell, get him onto his bike and he is off. I think lingering stress levels should fly off now and adrenalin will take over. Have fun we yell.
Backdown to the base camp and tension and apprehension is still high amongst some of the other team members. This will disappear once they get their first lap in but it just builds as they await their turn. Soon enough the front riders start coming through the stat/finish and we’re on the look out for Ewen. Here he is, change over time and Colin is off.
It is amazing how quickly the lap times go. Jean is doing a great job in the caravan, set up as the chief time-keeper. She gets it spot on when Colin comes round from his lap, they are synchronised with their timing. We develop a system where we can see our rider come in off the actual trail for the lap around the camp site so have time to go back to base camp and let the next rider know they have about 3 minutes and it is change over time. Team work – it is a wonderful thing.
Colin is all smiles after his lap – he loved it. Stephen’s turn and he is off. By now Heather’s tummy is doing cartwheels in anticipation of her lap. 2 hours into the race though and soon enough it is her turn. Stephen comes around the last corner towards the changeover straight. The sun is starting to warm up now so he has sweat dripping down his forehead. Not quite the same smiley face as Colin – he didn’t enjoy his lap so much. Arriving late last night he didn’t get the opportunity to pre-ride and is feeling a bit under the weather. That’s ok though, we’re all here to have fun so just relax and enjoy the day for what it is I say……. I get laughed at…..all right for you they say, you’re not racing! The thought is there though eh!
Another smooth changeover and Heather is away finally for her lap. The boys enjoy comparing notes on the trail, the drop-offs, the tree roots to look for etc and start the refuelling process for the long day ahead. We’ve all come well prepared with food for champions – lollie cake, banana chocolate cake, bacon and egg pie, vegetable quiche, coke, electrolyte drinks, the list goes on. Stephen jokes that it must be the only time you exercise your heart out and put weight on.
Lap after lap is completed and the whole team are full of smiles now, everyone enjoying their time out in the saddle and the sunshine.
Stephen takes advantage of the gaps between his laps to take a wonder amongst the camp site. With 160 teams and 60 solo riders it is like a little city here – ok, so slight exaggeration but it is a full camp site that is for sure. Everyone is in good spirits, yelling support as other riders go past and words of encouragement to the solo riders – yep solo riders, out there riding for 12 solid hours – legends.
The event is organised and run by the Otago Mountainbike Club and it is all volunteers here helping out with the marshaling, official time keeping, rubbish, questions, DJ-ing and Emceeing (don’t know that either of those are words but they are now!). They are doing a stirling job. Most stirling job of all though would have to be the first aid crew. This year it is Red Cross and there are heaps of them set out strategically out on the trail as well as their base camp at the main camp site. They are kept busy with lots of minor injuries but thankfully nothing major requiring evacuation to the hospital.
Stephen comments it would have to be one of the most relaxed events with a really nice vibe amongst everyone around – both competitors and the volunteers and also given the varying skill level amongst the competitors – sometimes it can get a little “bossy” and tense out on the course but not this time round.
The sun stays out for the duration of the daylight section but soon enough it is the night-time section of the ride. We move inside Colin and Jean’s caravan for this bit – nice and warm and a total bonus but it does remove you a bit from the race scene. We make mention of this, look at each other and don’t care – warmth and comfort verses social inclusion…. mmmm sorry guys warmth and comfort wins the order of the evening.
The final countdown beings – Stephen takes the last lap with the team not quite being able to fit one final lap in to count and the racing is over for Sultans of Skid for 2015 by 9.30pm – think they call that beer time. We were supposed to meet Stephen on the finish line with beer in hand but again the warmth of the caravan put paid to that. We did have it waiting for him when he came in through the door though – that counts surely. All in all a great fun day in the sunshine, with good friends, good riding, good banter and another great event.
Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth. They enjoy getting out and about and exploring the many things to see and do on the West Coast and road tripping whenever they can.