I was fizzing to ride this event for a few reasons. After a couple of years not having raced a Tarawera 100, I now had the ultimate tool for the job. This great event was made extra special as we celebrated it’s 40th anniversary, and I had an awesome team.
An important part of the build up was happening to converge on Pirinis the same day as Cody Cooper, who was joining Mitchell Rees and myself as Team Honda for the event. An hours worth of riding with him on my tail was great practice, but it was our starts practice that really helped. Along with advice a past Tarawera 100 contender, Chris Wilkinson, we bounced off each other until we had discovered what would prove to be the ultimate technique. Using the electric start in conjunction with the kick starter we were able to blast the bike into life with the bike already in gear. I mentioned our findings to Mitchell, who decided to give it a go for himself, with brilliant results.
Exploding Into Action
The big day had arrived, and after all of the usual “Racing” to park our bikes in a good spot on the line, we were ready to go. At the shotgun blast, all three of us burst off the line with Cody leading the way. I was able to display the awesome power of my machine by boosting past some of the top contenders down the first two straights, putting me right in behind Cody. Brad Groombridge had also gotten a great start, and despite a scary moment that would have sent anyone else over the handlebars, he held on for third place into the second corner.
Cody was great to ride behind, so I tried to get into his groove. Even on the narrowest of tracks, he is able to open his turns up by getting his wheels wide and starting his lean early.
Four minutes into it I overshot a turn and temporarily got stuck on the stump of an old Toitoi bush. It was enough for Cody to get away and Brad to get past. Fortunately I came free in time to slot in behind him, really enjoying his style of riding as well. He also sets up early for the turns, but with less aggressive bursts of throttle. So that was how we came back through the start area for the second time, a great way for the spectators to really be a part of the action.
Shortly before getting back into the trees I realized too late that I had left the door open for Hadleigh Knight to make a pass, putting me into fourth position. He was also riding very well and I liked his pace, but I had been riding quite tense and my arms pumped up to the point where I couldn’t grip the handlebars properly. It was a shame as I couldn’t ride aggressively and missed a few turns, eventually falling back to seventh after the first pit stop as Callan May and Mitchell Rees passed me on the trails, with Ashton Grey getting me on the pitstop.
I received pressure from a few riders along the way, mainly in the tighter sections. The moment things opened up I could let my bike loose and pull away again. It turned out to be quite the good strategy, making me appreciate the CRF450RX even more.
The pressure also helped me ride harder, which was good because I was pacing myself more than I needed to. My endurance actually turned out to be much better than expected and the race relatively short compared to the four hour marathons that we used to have. I regret not pushing harder, especially on the final lap, but I was stoked to finish without any spills and not feeling like a wreck the following week.
All of my gear worked perfectly. Most important being the CRF450RX of course, but having my 3L Leatt CamelPak working perfectly was crucial. It was also the first time I had used a set of the new Asterix knee braces and Scott Prospect WFS goggles. They really were the business. I mustn’t forget the Bridgestone tyres and Gaerne boots that have served me well for so long, and a big thanks to Strini from Physical Impact for the personal training that he continues to smash.