After missing the 2020 event I was more than excited to head back to tackle the St James Epic course once again. At 100km in length and taking in some of NZ’s best high country scenery it’s always a great day out on the bike and a solid training day in the legs.
A massive hail and thunderstorm blew through the Lake Tennyson area the evening before the race which brought down a couple of slips on the access road to the start but luckily no major damage to the race course itself. Race day dawned and it was a foggy day down in Hanmer Springs but as we drove up through the clouds we were greeted with a beautiful warm, blue sky day. Normally starting at 8:30am at 1100m elevation it’s freezing cold but this time it made the usually very difficult clothing decision easy as it was warm enough to just start in my short sleeves.
I rode my own pace from the get go and soon found myself alone off the front on the first climb up Maling Pass. It’s always a fun descent down the back side of Maling and probably the most beautiful part of the course is the loop beside Lake Guyon early in the morning. Riding solo I was able to take in all the views which make a journey through the St James much more worthwhile! I kept a solid tempo on, careful not to overdo it and drinking plenty of fluids and eating lots as the heat built into the day. The last 30km or so of the St James always twist the knife in, especially on a hot day. Temperatures can reach 40deg on a hot day and there are some steep climbs up the Charlie’s Saddle and also over the last climb of the day just to finish you off. I managed to finish in just over 4hrs 22mins to take another couple of minutes off my course record set in 2019.
I look forward to returning again hopefully in 2022!