You may or may not have noticed that I spent the past few weeks making the most of the sun down under in New Zealand. After a couple of weeks riding in the amazing climate on road I put myself forward to take part in the Triple Peaks Challenge, an off-road duathlon taking in 3 of the biggest hills in the Hawke’s Bay area. I was to ride the (mountain) bike leg while 2 of my brothers ran the on foot sections. My part was to be a 21km (13 mile) climb & descent of Mt Kahuranaki, while the runners each had a 13km attack of Mt Erin & Te Mata Peak.
The runners set off at 6:55am, it was still dark out but the early start would avoid the intensity of the midday sun (for most competitors). The first leg finished with a river crossing (one of many through the course), and we were pretty happy when our runner came through in around 4th position, all I had to do was keep a decent place in the bike & we’d have a half decent chance of doing ok.
Next up was my bike leg, I haven’t ridden, let alone raced a mountain bike for well over a year, so attacking a 2,000ft climb from the off wasn’t going to be a fun occasion. The first stretch was on road, I was fortunate enough to have borrowed a bike with front & rear lockable suspension, so I turned the bike fully rigid & dragged myself up the road drag. This went on for 2 miles, which is a long enough climb for my liking, and then came the off road…
I don’t have a clue how to climb off road, and using gears isn’t a speciality of mine either, so I stuck with the middle ring & used a couple of the easier gears on the cassette, I found a cope-able cadence & stuck with it, I had no idea how long the climb would be, but I could see the peak of the hill a long way off & knew the pain wouldn’t be over till I reached it. It turns out the total climb was 5.5 miles, and took me just under 50 minutes to complete. The biggest climb I had ever done, and I was stoked to have over taken a large number of riders on the way up (some people doing the entire race on a bike).
I assumed the way back down would be the easiest part, it wasn’t. The 7 mile ‘descent’ was so steep in parts you weren’t able to ride down it, and so undulating that there were sections to steep to ride up, it was mostly across farmers’ fields & paddocks, any hardly resembled a descent at all. This made the second half more of a technical challenge than the first, which wasn’t a bad thing, just not what I was expecting. The flat drags were long, the ditches were deep & the waist height river crossing was cold. I managed to keep a high place in the bike section & was one of the first riders at the hand over, disasters averted, I was pretty stoked.
The final run was a steeper one than the first, I’ve ridden up Te Mata Peak & that was hard, so I couldn’t imagine running it. My 17 year old brother had never run that far in his life, he was unsure if he would complete it, we had faith in him & his couple of training runs in the days leading up to the race paid off as he appeared out of the woodland section fairly highly placed. He only had a couple of miles to go & looked to be putting in a very good time. We drove to the finish to await his arrival & to our surprise he came in just seconds before a close competitor. Giving us second place in the team event with a total time of 4:27:43, with just a 4 second gap between us & 3rd place. Needless to say, I’m super happy & a little shocked at how well we did. I’m not sure if I’ll do anything like this again, but I’ve proved to myself something I didn’t realise before – I can actually ride a mountain bike up a hill without it killing me.