The actual racing is just part of the action in China. Either side of it comes gear prep, food, cleaning, planning and resting. On the final day comes prize giving, eating, cleaning (to NZ customs’ high standards) and dismantling/packing of bikes etc. This is a round about way of saying, I am sorry I havent updated on the final two days of racing but I simply didn’t get time!
Day two was solid, as was day three. The difference being we raced day two from in front all day where as day three we raced from behind, but still won both stages and the overall. We didn’t have enough of a margin to feel comfortable after only winning the second day by 2.5 minutes over fellow kiwis SOS Rehydrate which gave us an overall lead of just 7 or 8 minutes – not much in this style of racing. So we hoped to race consistently for day three and ensure our lead was kept safe. However when we were over 10 minutes slower than SOS in the opening stage – an orienteering stage, we were left to race under the very real feeling that we might have lost our overall chances.
There was a very obscure CP in the orienteering that took Braden nearly 10min to go and get. This left us suspicious SOS may have missed it as they were simply far too fast through the stage to have picked it up. A 10 min penalty applied for a missed CP, so although we raced like this wasn’t the case (hard as we could), we also knew deep down that it probably was.
It was a good chance for us to race under pressure and from behind and we started the 48km bike ride way back in the field. On a mission we caught and passed heaps of teams including Thule who had started the ride 6 min ahead of us and were 3rd overall! We had a superb ride and hit the kayaks in 2nd place. Then we were into our work paddling with the confidence that we were the quickest in the kayaks (as proved in the previous two days) and set about closing the gap further to SOS who were about 5min ahead and putting up a good fight.
Once out of the kayaks it was a final 15.5km run stage including an up-and-over 500m hill section. We were slowly picking back the seconds on SOS (as we could see them at times and had the gap down to 3min) but as we hit the hill our progress slowed as we began to suffer. We spent a lot on the bike and kayak playing catch up and perhaps we were paying the price but we kept doing the best with what we had and kept towing and encouraging one another so that our pace remained fairly constant.
Once up and over the hill we put on a final burst of leg speed to cross the line 2nd and about 5-6 minutes behind SOS. A nervous wait followed as we waited to hear if they had in fact collected all CPs in the orienteering, which they had not and consequently received a 10 min penalty – giving us the clean sweep of stages and the overall by around 12-13minutes. A great feeling for our team and a really awesome way to finish our China racing for the year. A 3rd win from 5 races (2x 2nds). We are already excited about improving further and launching into more China races in 2015. SOS raced fantastic for 2nd and will only get better with time and Thule were typically consistent in 4th.
Right now I am flying between China and Melbourne and headed towards my 4th race in 4 weeks, this time Challenge Shepparton in Australia. I figure its a good chance to get some practice in before Challenge Wanaka in February. But in all honesty, all I am thinking about right now is seeing my wife Amy and my boy Flynn in Melbourne. 2 weeks away from them isn’t ideal but certainly keeps my appreciation of them fresh in my mind! Cant wait to see them.
Challenge Shepparton update to come next week. Check it out here: http://www.challengeshepparton.com.au/