The WHAKA 100 was totally new territory for me and was a key target of mine for 2020. With The Pioneer being cancelled as well as plenty of other events around the country, this was the event that was getting me out the door. Mountain biking is still relatively new to me, I have the fitness from road cycling but technically have many things to work on. The Whaka installed plenty of fear but most of all it made me up-skill in a relatively short space of time. Added incentive was lining up against some incredibly talented competition; it was going to make for an interesting two days of racing.
Day one, started with the shootout, 1.9km full gas to establish the start line seeding for the main event the following day. This shootout, despite short, had plenty of technical riding including the water jump at the end of Rosebank. I literally learnt how to jump this a few hours before the event! I finished 2nd, nailing the water jump and only a few seconds of first which I was super happy about.
Day two, the big dance, 100km through the forest. The start was fast and aggressive, everyone jostling for position before we hit the first single track. I was pretty well positioned as we started the first climb, I could see two of my main competitors around me so I just needed to focus on holding my position and build into the race. The rest of the day was spent with various groups, riding up to them, or them riding up to me, riding together for a while before a climb would separate us all and I would be back on my own. I was conscious of getting through the three most technical tracks unscathed - Hot Cross buns, Kung Fu Walrus and No brains. I managed two of them fine, but unfortunately had a bail when I decided to take the A line down the last section of Kung Fu Walrus. My inner mountain biking confidence had clearly grown throughout the day. I managed to clip my bars on a hanging rock which sent me flying over the handle bars and my bike landing in front of me. Initial thoughts was that was likely my day done, but although I was now covered in dirt and inherited a few more scars to add to my collection, I pulled myself together and jumped back on my bike. The only issue was my brake lever had moved so far round that I could hardly reach it, with lost allen keys and not being able to move it back, I had to ride like that for the rest of the day - made for some hairy descending down no brains!
I felt better as the day progressed, and felt my strongest in the last 3 hours of the race! I made sure I ate every hour and I had gels every 30-40mins. I find it incredibly hard to eat while riding full gas in the mountain bike, you don't often have time to take your hands off the handle bars so would take the opportunity to eat on the rare occasion we rode on a four wheel drive track otherwise I opted for GU liquid energy and Roctane Gels for most of the day.
To win this race after 5.5hours of racing on your limit is incredible, and to be able to ride tracks I couldn't 12 months ago brings me a huge amount of satisfaction. Roll on 2021.
GU ATHLETE - KATE MCILROY