The first round of the 2012 Canterbury Cyclocross series got off to a nearly perfect start at Living Springs on Sunday. Dreams of snow built barriers were a distant memory in the sun glazed valley as conditions presented themselves as ideal for rider comfort and spectator enjoyment. This ensued that simply getting to the start line was not filled with more excitement and action than 50 minutes of cyclocrossing!

Fifty keen riders formed a long starting line in several waves to test themselves on the challenging course which weaved its way up (did it go down?) the undulating paddocks in the valley. Start man Jeremy bellowed starting orders, and for one minute I thought he was going to stand mid field acting as a start line obstacle before he disappointingly jumped to the side and yelled “Go”, or something along those lines; the exact words lost in a symphony of tensioning chains, screaming calf muscles and pure aggression.

With tactics that worked so well for him last year, Tim sprinted to the first obstacle like it was an almighty bunch finish and the field soon stretched out nicely behind him before it negotiated the Maxim triple hurdles, the last of which stood out the ground obstinately higher than the first two assuring any momentum still had, was thwarted completely before the nasty pinch to Macpac bend.

An awful piece of rutted descent followed which ended with a beautifully carpeted fence style – next time your in Dayle’s house check out the slightly darkened rectangular patch in his lounge. A quick run and remount saw those of us that hadn’t changed down before the style, clanging and clanking through the gears, while the single speeders smiled gleefully at the folly of such things. The cursed course then pinched upwards in deceptively hard turns to the highest point or the course.

Then it was down, through the sweet dry single track under the trees before the nasty switchback to the first stream crossing. Some rolling stream benches followed, affording the riders the first real rest of the relatively restless course; however this was short lived as the second stream crossing appeared, a much more challenging dip of questionable ride-ability. On the home straight now, through some dark dank puddles for effect, and then the finishing chicane, the stock yards, before a tight left hand turn returned everyone to the lower field for another lap of pain.

By the end of the first lap, Logan – carving up the course as if it was Christmas dinner, had taken over charge at the front leaving the rest of the field in his wake. The race from this point on becomes a bit of blur for me. Endless corners and pinches of pain as well as spectators on Maxim hill edging hapless participants to attempt bunny hoping the hurdles. The reality was, for those shorter than six foot tall, they were a challenge enough to simply jump!

After fifty minutes, Logan passed the start finish line and the bell sounded. It was sweet music to those out on course that could hear it, knowing that with just one lap to go, the pain would soon be over. Logan was followed in by Tristan and Tim in the men’s cyclocross. The women’s race was cleaned up by Anja who placed a dazzling 7th overall. Karin and Rae filled in the minor placings with Karin, in hot pink, proving that fancy dress was no hindrance to her speed. Jason and Sharon won the men’s and women’s mountain bike divisions respectively, with Jason also taking the third fastest time of the day. The single speeders were led home by Dayne.

The finish line was a buzz of smiles and deceivingly clean people and thanks to Basic Bikes, Macpac and High5, the spotties were plentiful and well received. The barbi and lolly dish went down a treat.

All up a great day out and a superb course to kick off the season with. The dreaded pinch flat will have many rethinking tactics (and tyre choice) for when we line up at Living Springs in a month’s time, however for now, attention turns to Steam Park – location ofthe second race in the series in a fortnight’s time. Expect a very different course there, with fast hard packed earth and a flatness that will no doubt have the organisers searching for every bump and crenulation they can find. More details will follow, but in the meantime, enjoy the winter riding and we hope to see you (and you friends) at Steam Park on June the 24th. Remember – Steam Park is on the road to Maclean’s Island, NOT Ferrymead – bring your family, there be trains!

….and so the battle begins!

(First published June 2012)