Kaiwara Classic Challenge 43km Race
Guest blog by Libby Hurley
Chocolate yoghurt, a banana, peanut butter toast and Gatorade – the breakfast of an athlete. I woke up without that pre-race feeling, but that fantasy disappeared as soon as we tied the bikes on the rack and jumped in the truck - all ready to roll.
Race rego had a Kiwiana twist, a gazebo on the grass verge at the corner of St. Leonards and Isolated Hill Roads did the job nicely. The morning was cloudy and it felt like it could rain, but we put all our trust in MetService and didn’t pack our rain jackets. Fortunately, that decision paid off.
Race briefing was slick and well executed. Everyone was at the start line waiting for the countdown at 10am on the dot. Right on time, the horn sounded and the race began.
The first section was more or less a road race. We headed East down St. Leonards Road all the way until it turned to gravel. There was a lead bunch, which was fairly large, but it was travelling at a reasonably calm pace as nobody wanted to go out in front. It seemed half of us were conserving energy for the unknown and the other half for the known. There was just the right amount of flat road to warm up on before the first climb up to Kaiwara Road.
The first climb surface was much like Rapaki Track, a wide well-graded road with very little loose gravel. This section was steady, a good climb to just grind away at. Time didn’t drag while getting to the top at 508m above sea level. Soon after the climb, it was time for a speed fest on the downhill. There were a few small pinches in the second section, but the majority of the next 15km was downhill.
At the 25km mark, the second major climb began. This section shot left off Kaiwara Road onto a farm track. The track was in great condition as the area hadn’t seen rain for a few days. It was a wide track with two tyre tracks most of the way to the top but it paid to be selective in which side you took in order to avoid the dips and rutted out areas. The track was well marked and easy to follow.
Eventually, I could see a couple of guys standing on the top of the saddle. They were running the drink station. One of them held up a pink cup as I came closer, he yelled out that he had a pink cup for me as I was the first woman to reach them. I was thankful for the drink and this encouragement gave me some extra mental energy for the last section.
From the saddle, there were a few extra little climbs but the overall it was downhill into Cheviot. The farm track joined with nicely with Random Spur Road, and by then I could smell the sausages at the finish line. The descent was fairly rough in places, but you don’t sign up to a Mountain Bike Race expecting an asphalt surface. Very quickly, Random Spur Road joined another road and all that was left was one long straight into a head wind to finish.
It was fantastic to see the Cheviot Rugby Club rooms and therefore the finish line. Smoothly unclipping my cleats at the finish and not falling off my bike in front of everyone was one of my major successes of the day. I was the first woman to finish the Challenge course (43km) in a time of 2:12, which I was very happy with.
Overall, the Cheviot Lions annually host a very successful and well run event. The course is amazing in more ways than one; the views are spectacular, the tracks and roads are in good condition, the prizes are worth sweating for, it’s a community fundraiser and the climbs are challenging, but not so hard that you wouldn’t go back again for another crack next year.