Just so I’m not going to be remembered as “I’m going to be hanging off the back tonight – Ron” (note to self again, cycle muscles aren’t run muscles): my up-front race strategy as per Friday was –
- Go out fast
- Hold position on climb
- Pick way up Pukapuka
- Fang it from Pukapuka summit
Did strategy meet reality? It certainly came close.
Took off in a group of 9(ish), Kuegler trying to sprint off the front, me and Litchwark trying to hang on the back. This state quickly dissolved with a Sam (aka Camelbak) and Litchwark duel nearly unhitching me in the first bush section.
I had planned to out fast (see point 1 above), but not quite that fast. With me and Litchwark now in tight formation, Ed and co. gradually glided out of view with flashes of Sam ebbing as the valley section went on.
Then they were all gone. Quick. We were running well but aside from the two of us (me and Lictchwark) it was eerily quiet. A quick discussion resolved that the race was in front, not behind with me declaring that we’d catch some in the jungle above.
Out of the bush tracks on to the service road I before the climb, I did take the chance to take on water and fuel before the climb (point 2). At which point we happened across Mike Hale, if that wasn’t confusing enough he told us that Ed hadn’t yet gone by (my main mark for the race who’d disappeared off the front 20min earlier).
On to the main climb we’d hit the tail end of Long course entrants who were inevitably walking, though the track was accommodating enough to let us through. Again Litchwark stretched out a bit. Though in keeping with strategy I didn’t try to reel him in, I just held what I could (point 3).
With a drink station at the summit we regrouped entering Pukapuka. Picking our way through the Longies and the tangle that is Pukapuka (point 4), we both got overtaken by Sam who earlier left us behind on the valley floor(??). Confused again.
As we were close to the top of Pukapuka I opted to use the ‘drag of Sam’ go a little earlier with point 5. While Sam again vanished with disturbing ease, Litchwark too disappeared from the rearview along the neverending Pukapuka (and clumps of Longies).
The only other contact thereon in was from the masterful Troy Harold (who I think won the Masters series). He caught me and explained a bunch of front runners took a wrong turn in the valley, hence the Sam and Ed situation. In the long downhill finish he drifted back a little as I finished just clear of Troy, Litchwark, and Ed.
Have to say though, it would have been pretty darn close had Ed not taken a duff turn in the valley as he clocked up an extra 1km for <4min.