The Port Hills Classic was scheduled for March 2017 as a 30th anniversary of mountain bike racing on Christchurch’s Port Hills.
Then, in February, this happened:
Rescheduled to April, the event went charging ahead at the trails of Halswell Quarry. While the original Port Hills Classics had, in various forms, consisted of riding various forms of early mountain bikes up and down ridiculously sketchy fire-roads, the race has now evolved to embrace all the various quirks and genres of modern mountain-biking, offering a multi-day, multi-race format with:
- XC race
- Kids Race (despite his childish maturity levels, your author was not permitted to enter and was spotted sulking minutes later)
Although the true spirit of the thing would have been to have done the races on a rigid steel 90s hardtail with cantilevers, I had a rather nice bike at my disposal, and still went for the “One Bike to Rule Them All” philosophy, taking the multi-talented Revolver FS out for every race.
The XC Race was the first and classic venue. On a pleasant Autumn day with a frankly fiendish Southerly, the course wound out of the quarry park and away through adjacent farmland, before plunging back down through the trails of the quarry.
Upon starting, the presence of the Oliver brothers was immediately noticeable. On transitioning onto the grassy climb, I scrambled to close a small gap. As the climb ground its way slowly and inexorably through the howling wind, the small gap ballooned into a gaping, cataclysmic void. Swapping off with local stalwart Brent Miller, I was soon blown and struggling on the descent, and threw myself into the ground, landing awkwardly on the right hip.
With all the violence of the race blown out of me, the remaining laps were a struggle, with the climb transitioning into a mountain, and then into a monumental cataclysmic matterhorn, scraping home for a 6th amongst a strong local field decimated by the Oliver brothers.
The Eliminator ran on a small sunny track around the quarry. With three short pinch climbs and descents, it provided a violent, chain-snapping quick endeavour. A few violent blasts, missed pedals, and an entertaining spill or two later, the racing had been won and done with Craig Oliver taking the spoils ahead of Logan Horn blasting through on a fat bike.
On an ominous Sunday morning, the enduro was held in the howling wind, following three quick stages in short succession and similar to the XC race. Christchurch’s strong local downhill and enduro contingent was out in full force, with some quick times on the descents to the follow. After running characteristically late, I was soon sprinting back up the hill in the stinging rain for a second time with timing tag in tow. If nothing else, it provided a good warm-up!
Soon plunging down the hill, the attraction of Enduro was easy to see. Racing limited to the fun, with a nice smattering of lazy climbing and trash talk in between. The dress sense, on the other hand…
The weather changed violently for the hill climb with a tiny patronage, with the wind howling in and the freezing southerly rain driving through. They say there are three types of Fun. Type 1 fun – fun at the time ( the Enduro). Type 2 fun – fun in hindsight and at completion (the XC, and the CX). With the weather, the race was Type 3 Fun (not fun at all).
With thoroughly horrendous winter conditions driving in, it seemed the perfect conditions for a good cyclocross race. With a fiendish course set amongst the grass of the quarry and a small climb to the cliffs atop, it provided and entertaining 45 minutes + a lap. With the rain driving in, it wasn’t long before the course had softened with the grass becoming slushy. The mountain bike tyres soon became unstuck on the soft and off-camber spiral of death, where the cyclocross bikes cut-in better. (at long last I understand them!).
The men’s race and women’s races panned out the overall from the weekend – Hannah Miller taking home a strong win in the women’s, while husband Brent and I were locked in a tight battle with Logan for the overall. Brent charged away in the CX for the overall win, bringing a great (and positively freezing) weekend of racing to a close.
You can find results and info on the Christchurch Singletrack Club here