It’s 7pm now and the last riders are just getting off the water taxi. That makes it a ten hour day for most. Yes there was a mandatory one and a half hour lunch break but still, day two of the Santa Cruz NZ Enduro might just be one of the most brutal days in any enduro stage race anywhere. Four timed stages with three climbs totalling 1162m climbing and 1580m descending – 35km. Yes thats right only 35km with pretty tame climbing stats, but in the thick NZ bush where the climbs are criss crossed with a spider web of roots thicker than a fully mature hundred year old eel and the descents are even tougher and rougher its a long day.
Last year saw the racers tackle the infamous Nydia Track in a torrential downpour, basically making one of New Zealand’s toughest tracks near impossible, but guess what, zero injuries. This year saw perfect conditions, which of course means higher speeds and more confidence. Unfortunately this often leads to injury. Today saw a handful of riders have to make use of the early exit safety boat after stage two with a combination of bike and body malfunctions, luckily nothing too bad.
How does one even describe the skills and techniques needed to master Nydia Track. I will try. You need stubborn beast strength harnessing all your power and momentum to smash through and over roots rocks holes and sometimes bikes but you need to combine that with finesse flow and precision. A tough combo but one that the ever experienced Jerome Clementz has in spades. Four wins out of four stages clean sweep and the race lead. Yesterdays winner Keegan Wright took a spill on stage one and as a precautionary measure pulled for the rest of the day. Its looks like he is ok though so no worries for the upcoming season. Mitch Ropelato took three second place finishes today showing his potential in his new found enduro focus for the upcoming year, however making a mess on stage two left the door open for Joe Nation and Sam Shaw to take second and third respectively. In the womens, Emily Slaco took the lead away from Harriet Harper after a near perfect day. Uriell maintains her third position.
The best war stories always come out on days like this, take Jamie Hubbard for instance. Snaps his chain, mangles his derailleur right out the shuttle vehicle before stage start and despite having 35 kilometres and over 1000m climbing ahead of him drops into the day anyway. Gets about halfway through the day pumping, scooting and running then snaps his handlebar, but not even that can stop him. Some good old kiwi ingenuity and can do attitude, a quick stick for a splint/sleeve and off he goes. Sadly it did not last too long and he had to pull out and take the water taxi out form the lunch stop.
What a lunch stop it was, not one you would expect to come across this deep into Marlborough sounds with nowhere a road in sight. A wonderful ECO lodge with venison patties and full spread for everyone before the final two stages.
More good news is that its looking to be a blue bird day tomorrow which means the helicopter will be ferrying riders up for the final days racing. Catch you tomorrow.
Photos: Duncan Philpott, Boris Beyer, Digby Shaw, Sven Martin