Round 2: Moonshine
Moonshine Park, what a venue. The Dean's course was party all over. Flat double-backs where competitors scrutinised one another with deranged eyes - juggling deficits and observing technique. Greasy corners that unhitched riders and spat them sideways. As one handsome bystander remarked during the A Grade race: "you know shit is rowdy when a flat 30-degree corner sends dozens of people flying into the tape."
At some point during the day the immense downpours in Kaitoke Regional Park forced some anonymous controller to open a floodgate - and the ditch we had routed the course through became a creek. That event alone was enough to claim a few good scalps.
Riders across the grades pitched themselves against the elements. There were compelling reasons to stay at home, but fortunately there were more compelling reasons to attend.
But, for as much fun as everyone seemed to have, the final race was doubtless the feature. Many times, even a greasy course has been rendered rideable by the time A Grade gets to it - the sun bakes the sludge into tacky playdough and riders can up the speed. But not this time. This time the showers that had drifted through the preceding grades grouped together and set in as rain.
Spectators scrambled to fit beneath the pop tents and gazebos that are currently stretched out drying in a garage somewhere. One observer remarked that the racers plugging away - plagued by cold, hard sheets of rain - was one of the loneliest things she had ever seen. The desolation expanded across the reserve, hearts hardened, teeth gritted, fingers numb, and many found the minutes delivered to them in slow, painful drips. At the head of the race, a brutal swapping of the lead played out. The lead riders dug into one another and forced themselves clear, attack after attack unhitching competitors until just two remained.
It was deeply impressive to see the riders claw a little more from themselves and plunge it into the mud, just to gain a metre, maybe two, and have it fall through their fingers in the space of a corner. In the end, Kyle Ward snatched it in the sprint. That day, everyone gained something. Rather than turning their blankets closer, the riders had entered the world. And the gaunt, splattered faces at the finish line betrayed the raw truths they had all found.
All photos courtesy of Digby Shaw Photography
Results are archived here.