Apparently last Sunday everyone really did get an extra hour in bed on Sunday morning. Even so, it still somehow felt like we didn’t as we headed out to Sanders Reserve early in the morning for the first of three Auckland Secondary School MTB Champs races. Despite a chill in the air first thing, the sun was up and ready for action with Sanders Reserve looking stunning. The car park quickly filled to overflowing as the competitors rolled in. The course was marked and groomed with a noticeable amount of grass piled high beside the tracks showing the preparation in trying to avoid that pesky issue of a hay bale forming around the rear cassette! The course was well prepared but had its share of tricky sections to test the unwary. One poor rider from Auckland Grammar was duly carted off to sample the delights of the local Accident and Emergency after unexpectedly getting the urge to dismount via the handlebars. No damage to the new bike, but a little problem with hand and wrist movement meant a start for this rider was out of the question.
He was not to be the last casualty of the day. Maybe it was just the AGS riders. Cosmo Bloor suffered a buckled rim after snapping a spoke and needed a new rear wheel which was generously donated by an apparently anonymous benefactor (although he did promise to give me credit!). Meanwhile Jason Callesen was spotted busily swapping his pedals onto his brothers single speed following a severely mangled chain ruined his bikes drive train during warm up. And this was all before the race even started!
The course was typically Sanders – full of tight twisty stuff that it is renowned for and included some interesting course deviations running some trails in reverse. This lead to interesting scenarios that were not usually encountered with the odd very steep, off camber, pinch climb all whilst negotiating a very tight corner and some rocks that were rideable in one direction but not so easy in reverse! This along with the landmark log roll over which picked up a few more scars from the big chain rings of the majority of riders bikes made for an interesting ride.
Spectators had a great view of the progress of the race with the course weaving and returning to a central knoll several times a lap.
The start was located a few hundred metres down a gravel road that lead up a hill into a hairpin turn and into the single track. Causing a bit of a bottleneck, the initial sprint up the hill at the start was vital for a good position into the single track.
With all 84 riders underway, it was not long before some of the riders hopes were dashed by the cruel hand of the local MTB Taniwha who must’ve been wondering what all the commotion was up on the hill. Chains got dropped in very inconvenient spots and once on the side to fix it there was little option other than to re-join at the back. Not long into the first lap, last year’s mud collecting champion, Isaac Schuurman from Massey and AGS rider, Jack Fisher both wandered back to the start / finish area minus their chains.
It wasn’t long before the first of the senior riders sprinted through to complete their first lap. Cosmo Bloor (AGS) was hammering along pursued by Elliot Wright, Tom Coombes and Peter Bethel. Next group to arrive were the hordes of intermediate boys lead by Aaron Carr from Howick and hotly pursued by Robin Page, Kim Wright, Ryan Craggs and AGS rider Jason Callesen.
Harriet Beavan lead Charlotte Rayner and Sarah Russell in the senior girls, while Kayla Russell was riding a great race to lead the intermediate girls round and had pulled a small lead on Diocesan riders Emma Simcock-Smith and Gabrielle Wright who were having a great battle with each other.
In the juniors, Jake Craggs had pulled a bit of a lead over Liam Bethell who was coming under pressure from BMXer Jayden Fleming. Meanwhile Jessica Manchester in the junior girls race had already pulled a commanding lead over Isobel Welsford-Ackroyd, guest rider Paige Weir (still only 10 years old) and Zoe Callesen.
Once the lead riders came round to complete their second laps the start / finish area became pretty much a constant flow of riders. And with over eighty riders circulating, there were constant cheers of support as the riders funnelled through.
First to finish was Jessica Manchester in the Junior girls after completing 2 gruelling laps. Leading in Isobel, Paige and Zoe. Just as these were finishing JakeCraggs came in to finish the Junior boys three lap race with Jayden just managing to pull a little gap on Liam Bethel in the closing lap.
Meanwhile in the intermediate boys a charge by Jason Callesen was netting big gains, He had passed Ryan and Kim and had his sights firmly set on second placed Robin as they entered their final lap. In the final close it was Aaron who took the victory, having pulled out a lead of a few minutes. Robin was safely home in second but Jason did incredibly well to close to within 25 seconds of Robin – a quite impressive ride from Jason, and all on a single speed – even if it was actually a very nice and light single speed!
In the intermediate girls, Kayla Russell rode a great race to win ahead of the two chasing teammates Emma Simcock-Smith and Gabrielle Wright who were locked in battle within a bike length for almost all but the final lap of the race,
In the senior girls Harriet Beaven lead home Charlotte Rayner and Sarah Russell from the rest of the pack managing to lap all her other competitors except her fellow podium placers. The final race to finish was the senior boys who had five laps to complete. Lead home by a very strong riding Cosmo Bloor, Elliot Wright and Tom Coombes got up to take the honours on the podium, though in truth there was still some great riding going on away from the podiums of all the races even though no prize today.
Spot prizes were keenly snapped up by a very keen audience at the prize-giving and we now all look forward to a return to the Awesome Riverhead Forest for the second round of the AKSS championships.
Deane Tetley’s photos of the event can be found here
Results Below with Jafakids highlighted in Blue