Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Blatant Lies....

....as told to a Master by a Pro.

Pro: "I don't wanna hold you up dude, you're hammering..."

Master: "You should go ahead on this climb..." Pro: "I'm fine, any faster and I'd be dropped..."

Is Ross A: a nice guy? B: a bad liar? or C: a patronising bastard?

Answers in comments section please.

On the road again, and again,and...

The amount of ground I've covered in the last four days has been pretty major, and tiring. After farewelling the staff and menagerie of the Blackball Hilton on Saturday morning, I headed back north towards Nelson, having a couple of German hitchikers for company. I met up with Ross, A-dub and Chris and Tristan, who had just finished the Christchurch-Nelson road race, which started at midnight on Friday and finished 400km and 13-odd hours later. Chris had taken out the solo category in a new record, and Tristan was part of the winning tandem team (actually they were on a 3-man machine...a trandem?). After a feed and a couple of brews, Ross and I headed into town to book the ferry for Sunday. The main street was packed and going off to a freestyle motocross exhibition, with flames and babes and all sorts of extreme shit. I've seen that stuff on TV quite a lot, but in the flesh it's pretty damn impressive. After our dose of backflips and whips, we got the Ferrari booked in (it's now a Ferrari after we decided that Ford just wasn't going to impress anyone). We weren't scheduled to leave until 7pm on Sunday, so a final ride in Nelson was organised, with a tired and sore Tristan showing us a nice switchback singletrack, after the obligatory long-ish dirt road climb of course. Aaron had done a 40k race, and we saw him at the end, 5th outright on his singlespeed, nice going A-dub!Ross managed to lose his glasses on the way down the singletrack, and when he went back and found them, they had been run over and remodelled by some guy on a Stumpy. Then it was back into the Ferrari and the drive to Picton, onto the ferry and arriving at Wellington about 10.30. Next morning we haeaded to the Kirkcaldie's house to drop off Rad's bike case, then to Val and Lindsay's to pick up my replacement AA card and a chat. That's Automobile Association, not Alcoholics Anon. Then, guess what, more driving! Another 6 hours to Taupo, including a sleep break when I was feeling the pinch a bit. We got to Taupo about 6, booked into the half price resort again (same room as me and Christian had!) and jumped on the bikes for a cob-web blow-out around the Huka Falls and down to the damn. I remembered from when me and Kman rode there that a local told me there was a track around the other side back to where the resort is. It started out a little overgrown, and soon deteriorated into a blackberry thorn-riddled-use-the-bike-as-a-machete slog fest. We jumped a fence halfway along and rode through someones paddock, with me getting zapped by an electric fence for good measure. Took my mind off the scratches. But we made it back, not exactly unscathed, and had a laugh about it over a beer. Today we headed up to the awesome Craters of the Moon trails, and rode 30km of sweet singletrack, no blackberries. I was riding about 3/4 pace, and Ross was probably 1/8th, not even breathing up the climbs, or sweating, while I was a drenched, panting mess. Lucky I got him on his down phase of training! We had a great ride though, both agreeing that the flow is so much better than in the South. We are doing the Karapoti Classic on Saturday, and I'm sure there'll be a lot bigger gap between us then. Should be fun. Tomorrow we hit Rotorua, more flow to go...

Saturday, February 24, 2007


That stuff that always happens in NZ, rain, wasn't around the next day in Blackball, but it had been overnight apparently. The book said to avoid the Croesus Track in the wet, but after a quick drive up and advice from the locals, I decided to hell with it, I was here and I'm gonna ride. Another fine decision. The singletrack wound it's way up the old gold mining trail, with the terrain changing between smooth, damp and rooty to rough, rocky and technical. It was great fun, challenging myself in the granny gear for over an hour, but never really feeling that I was working too hard. A couple of sections needed to be hiked, over a few wahsouts, but it was 95% rideable. Finally emerging from the treeline out onto the hillside, I spotted the Ces Clarke Hut, my final destination. I went inside, and wished that I had a change of clothes, some beer and a sleeping bag. The hut was fully kitted out with bunks and kitchen and some amazing views from the big bay windows. It would be great for an overnighter. I read the interesting facts on the walls of the gold rush days of yore, and was transported back in time by the anecdotes. Pretty darn hard men in those days, lugging their supplies up by horse or under their own steam. With a sense of contentment at my own feeble achievment, I pointed the Stumpy back down, and the fun was on again, this time at a much faster, and treacherous pace. Halfway down my rear wheel decided to swap places with the front, and as I watched my knee head towards the biggest, sharpest rock on the trail, somehow the ol Stumpy righted itself and all was well again. The smile on my dial was still there, and then I saw it. Ahead on the track, the magical symbol of NZ, the Kiwi. I was in 7th heaven as it came right up to me as I clicked away on the camera. When I got back to the Hilton and gushed about my sighting, Sue, the owner, said "that's funny coz they're a nocturnal bird". Ohhhkay. I showed her the pics, and she said "what you got there is a Weka". Well, it was cool looking bird anyway, and I wasn't disappointed, if a little embarrassed. Made for a good story though. The night was spent downing pints with Sue's son AAron, his Goth friend Tammy, and Bevan and Claire, two bikers from Nelson (via Ireland for Claire) who were up to do the ride the next day. At 1.30 we dragged our sorry arses to bed, and I readied for the trip back to Nelon the next day. Another great day in "Kiwi" land.
Says it all really....

Get outa town...

Finally. After nine, count 'em 9, days in hell, otherwise known as Christchurch, I finally got my replacement cashcard, and got the hell outa there. I bid farewell to the lovely ladies at the Middlepark motel (highly recommended) and gave them a box of choccies for being the nicest people and the only ones who didn't steal from me. I made a snap decision on which way to travel back north, and so it was that Arthurs Pass to the West Coast won out. Helping the decision-making process was the fact that Craigieburn was on the way, and I dropped in for a shorter loop than the previous sojourn. I climbed, pushed, grunted up from the other side on singletrack, and was quitly wishing I was on the fireroad, a first! But I quickly found myself at the saddle again, and decided to make the final slog up to Helicopter Hill, which I'd gotten halfway up before. This time I made it almost to the top, but the wind and vertigo conspired against me, so I took in the stunning vistas once more and contemplated the ride down the sketchy ridgeline. If Hans Rey coud do it, then I couldn't. So I did anyway. On a knifes edge, I made it down in one piece, and met a couple of bikers at the saddle, Justin and sorry I didn't get your name, from Melbourne and Hell respectively. Then it was time to raise the fun factor and bomb the singletrack back down to the skifield road, and back to the car.A quick wash in the crystal clear stream and onwards through Arthurs Pass, taking in the awesome sights of Lake Pearson and the Otira Gorge on the way. On the other side of the gorge, something was falling form the sky, drops of some kind of wet substance, the likes of which I hadn't seen in a while, that's right, it's RAIN! Remembering that "it always rains in NZ" jogged my memory. By the time I got to Greymouth (the country's most aptly named place), it was pretty well set in, and for some unknown and strange reason, all the motels had 'No Vacancy' signs lit up. Remembering that there was some cool riding and a country pub just up the road which was mentioned in the Kennett's book, I gave them a call and booked in for the night. Best decision I could've made (getting better at them). And so it was I arrived at the Blackball Hilton. That's right. And the rain was now only a drizzle, there was a cat asleep on a bar stool (and another six, count 'em, 6 around the place, and a dog), $35 for a night, and the promise of an epic ride nearby. Things were looking good.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Won't climb, WILL run...

Found this while looking at glenrocktrailalliance.tk It's the Kman, (in 2nd, of course) running into the night at the 12 hrs of darkness.... he must've spotted a bed and a southo n coke up ahead!

Burn, Craigieburn

I had the most amazing ride yesterday. Not because the trails were great, or the company was good (I was alone, so it was ok). What rocked was the fact that it was the first real out-there ride I have done, i.e. away from civilisation, in real mountains, at least the most real mountains I've ever ridden in. I felt insignificant in this setting, a speck of nothing on an enormous stage.

After pissing around with passport photos, temperamental laptops and licence applications all morning, I packed the Laser and only got away about midday, unsure whether I would have enough time to drive the 100km or so and still have enough time to get a ride in. The trip only took about an hour and a half, and the scenery on the way bode well for the ride ahead. Vast mountainous landscape as far as the eye could see filled me with anticipation, and I snapped a few pics from the driver's seat as I went. Before I knew it, I was at the carpark described in the book, and I was relieved to see a bunch of hippies camped there, who could keep an eye on my car. I rode out along the road to the start of the ski field track, and it was up the shaley climb...and up, and up.

I beg to differ..... About 7km's of up, steep at first, then a nice easy middle section, and then a brutal last grunt to the ski tow ropes. As I rounded the last switchback I was confronted with the sheer magnitude of where I was, and let out a "Fark" for good measure. Checking the book for directions, I was soon riding across the first of many screes, not too severe, and a lot of adrenaline-filled fun.

The next couple of screes were a bit more hairy, and I opted to walk these ones, not too keen to plummet to my death, or serious injury, not this day anyway. I rode this one......

Each scree would give way to sweet, wooded singletrack, which was still pretty narrow and hairy in sections, requiring full concentration and skill manipulation.

No shit......

After a few k's of this, the track split and I climbed up to the saddle, and then a push up towards Helicopter Hill, so named for the flat area on top for rescue choppers to land and transport out injured hikers and bikers. I wasn't keen to test out this service, so when I got to a point where the trail went straight up the ridge with sheer drops both sides, I decided that'd do. The ride back down was great, nice, flowing ribbons through the forest, eventually spitting me out back on the ski road, and a short spin back to the car. I thought about how Ross had said he wanted to do a ride just like this one, and that he had missed out big time, so if you get the chance Rad, check it out. I was tempted to go back up there today, but computer problems and an only-just-arrived cashcard have conspired to keep me in Christchurch another day. Tomorrow I'll head back towards Nelson, then it's back acroos the strait to Welly, and eventually Rotorua, still the best trails I've ridden, albeit without the breathtaking scenery.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Schnell gets Rim job done...

And gets paid for the pleasure. For someone with "no form" and unshaven legs, 'Rad' Ross took home the bacon (and put it on a pizza) from the Crater Rim race in Christchurch yesterday. Not only was he the first man home, but he also set a new course record, beating NZ legend Kaschi Leuchs' time from last year (well, technically he was slower, 2.20 against Kaschi's 2.17, but the course was longer this year so on adjusted time blah blah...). Friday night the lads (Rad and Aaron from Nelson) arrived at the motel and had the traditional wrestling match to see who would take the Kmans freshly departed bed, and who would suffer on 'the rack', a fold-out torture contraption with a bit of foam on top. After wussing out of the wrestling, citing something about a race the next day, Radness's Rock beat Aaron's scissors, with Aaron quickly ditching 'the rack' and opting for the mattress-on-the-floor option.

Ross shows Aaron his name on the top tube, and says "you gotta be Rad to get one of those".

Prepping the bikes consisted of getting them off the car and attaching numbers, and with grumbles from the bellies and mouths needing to be dealt with, it was down to the noodle bar, scene of my previous two night's meals. I've never seen anyone eat a box of noodles so quickly as Ross, and a second was devoured as I was finishing my first. Maybe that's the secret... gluttony. In true bike-racer-gotta-sleep style, ol' noodle guts requested lights out at 9, but was soon shut down by the not-so-serious-or-fast guys. Still, with a 5.30 rise for a 6.30 check-in and 8am start, it wasn't long before earplugs were donned (man, those guys can snore!). Race morning was crisp, but not as cold as some of the previous, which was a welcome relief. In the carpark I caught up with the Wayne Train and a few of his mates from Nelson (sorry guys, I'm hopeless with names), and John Hardwick who'd come over to thwart my attempt at writing a story for the mag.

A fast guy, and me.

We were sent off in two groups, fast guys and slow guys. Guess which groups we were in. A quick lap around the edge of the oval, then in typical NZ fashion, straight into granny gear and 6kms of climbing to fire the legs and lungs into action. It's a lot steeper than it looks....honestly. The start of the pain. It ended 3 hours later. A lot sooner for some.

I stayed within sight of the Wayne Train, figuring if I could hang around near him, I'd be having a good race. Of course he soon was getting smaller and smaller in my vision, but I managed to pass him at the top of Victoria Park, after I nailed the Flying Nun downhill section, passing about a dozen riders, and freaking most of them out with some sketchy "onyaleft" calls. Now, I have to admit that when I passed Wayne, he was off his bike and re-attaching his left pedal, which had decided it's relationship with the crank just wasn't working out. Add to this the fact that he had started the race with a buckled front wheel, and you can see how he was kicking my arse just a little. About halfway in, he rejoined me, and we rode together for about 10 k's or so, when I started to cramp in the hammys on a road section. Wayne kindly gave up his free sample energy bar thing, and it helped for a while, but the tar sections were hurting me more than the technical granny gear grunts up the rocky singletracks. I spotted a full flask of gel on the road, and looped back and picked it up, and that saved me, not enough to prevent Wayne riding away from me in the dying kilometres though. The last section of trail, the Anaconda, was a welcome relief from all the climbing, and with a good smattering of spectators on the hillside, and a few photographers, I was hitting every jump and berm and styling it up for their, and more so my, enjoyment. I rolled across the finish line in a time of 3.16, which I was pretty pleased with. Aaron had done a 2.47 on his schweeet Ventana singlespeed, amazing considering the amount of time I spent grunting up in the granny, or off and pushing! But he was "disappointed" with his time... freak! Wayne Train did a 3.10ish, but too wasn't totally happy with the way things had gone... understandable.And ProBoy, well he looked fresh as a daisy, even after doing half of the race without water after losing his bidon over some rough stuff. He picked up a cool grand for the win, plus another 500 for the race record, and a huge rock which he luckily doesn't have to lug back to the States, he could hardly lift the sucker over his head at the prezzo. With the race being a point-to-point style, it was either ride back the 25km along the road to the start, or get a lift back and drive our car to the finish. Aaron took the latter option while we hung around in the sun, my head getting burnt to a crisp, but filling in the gaps from the 'helmet tan' I'd aqquired during the race.

NZ Pro Mark 'Cabin' Leishman flew in from Palmy Nth, rode from the airport to the start, did the race, finished 5th, then rode back to the airport, got on a plane and rode the National XC at Auckland the next day. Dedication, or a nut?

After two hours of waiting for Aaron to get back, everyone had packed up and left, and we were now sitting under a tree, 3 bikes, helmets, a bottle of wine, and a shitload of cash, wondering what the hell had happened to him. The last people to leave (once again forgotten the names) offered us a lift, and we piled all our crap in their van and headed back towards the city. Ross was convinced that Aaron's car was red, but I wasn't so sure, so when I spotted Aaron's BROWN Toyota coming the other way, it was relief beyond belief that we managed to yell at him to stop. Being from Nelson, he didn't know how to get back to the finish, and had spent an hour doing a Magical Mystery Tour of Christchurch's back streets. Fish 'n chips was the victory food of choice, then into town to a cool pub (The Dux) where we met up with a heap of the locals from the race, organiser Rod, Graeme from Bike Business, and heaps more guys n gals that we'd met throughout the day, but of course whose names elude me. A couple of pitchers (bigger than jugs, don't order a jug, apparently) of the pub's own brews went down a treat, after we had to virtually hold Ross down and steal his wallet to get him to spend his winnings. A good time was had by all, and the beer did it's trick and sent us off to sleep as soon as the last bit of pizza was gone. Nice work if you can get it.

Friday, February 16, 2007


It sucks how one incident can sour an otherwise trouble-free experience. Thursday morning was going along nicely... I got to watch my beloved Bolton Wanderers LIVE on TV, in an FA Cup tie against our (now) arch-rivals Arsenal. We were behind 1-0 until the last minute of time, when we equalised, sending me (and Kman) into raptures, forcing extra time. The Arse were doing everything to lose the game,missing two penalties and numerous open goals... but it wasn't to be, and after 1 and-a-half hours of tension, we finally succumbed. Trotters did me proud as always though. What was needed was some hill therapy, and after several attempts by Kman to convince me to ride the flat stuff, we found ourselves in the Port Hills, parking the car at the top of Victoria Park. We were straight away pushing the bikes skyward, and Keeds was grumbling under his breath, until we hit the top and emerged on a road, of all things. Now, it's well known that besides hills, Kman hates any tarred surface, and anyone who dares ride a bike with 23mm tyres on said surface. So I was shocked when he started emitting whoops of delight as he spotted the view from near the top, revealing a long singletrack downhill/traverse alonside the road, and a magical view of Grosvenor Bay over the back. It was pretty spectacular I must admit. Christchurch was starting to grow on me a little. We hit the top of the singletrack and started back down through light, misty rain. A pretty fun track, which I'll be riding in reverse tomorrow as part of the Crater Rim race. It's going to be the most painful 50km of my life, judging by what I saw and the course map. Plus it's a point-to-point race, requiring a 20km ride back along the road to the start to get the car. Anyway, at the end of the trail we found the top section of the National Downhill course, which featured a grated ramp rollover/drop, and some nasty steep rocky sections, which we utilised to take some cool photos (I managed not to wipe these ones off). After ripping back down to the carpark, I was taking off my helmet when I heard Keeds say "the window's smashed..." At first inspection everything looked to be where it was before, our shoes and some clothes were still there, and Kman's cash and cards were under the seat still. My new sunnys were on the back floor, but then I realised my wallet, phone, and reading glasses were all gone, along with K's Rudy sunnies and hat. I let out a few "oh dear me's" and headed to the Rangers' hut, within eye-shot of where we were parked. There were two guys in the hut playing table tennis, and I was ready to insert their bats where the sun don't shine. They hadn't seen anything of course, and while I was restraining myself from snotting the incompetent prick, a lady drove up and said her car had been tampered with too, but she hadn't lost anything. As you can imagine, my afternoon wasn't the most enjoyable, ringing aroung cancelling cards, phones, and organising a new rear window panel. When I rang the cops, they asked me, get this, if I knew who had broked into the car! I wish I fuckin did, they'd be sticking their toothbrush up their ass to clean theit teeth. After I'd simmered down a bit, a couple of young girls drove into the motel, with a smashed driver's window, and had suffered the same fate. We taped plastic over the hole where glass used to be, and they are staying a few nights while they try and find a flat, being in the process of moving here for Uni. Not a good intro to the city for them. Today I got a new phone, allowing me to keep my number and credit, which is some consolation. Stupid thieving bastards, they can't use the phone, or the credit cards, or my Aussie licence, or my glasses. All they've done is cause me a hassle. Something I hope I don't experience again in a hurry. Kman flew out this morning at 7am, meaning a 4.30 start to get him to the airport, which was pretty straightforward. Without glasses, I'm forced to don my Rudy Project riding frames with the prescription insert, not a good look but effective in preventing me running into other vehicles. Rad Ross and Aaron arrive about now for the Rim, and I'm gonna see if the lovely lady at my digs will allow both to stay a couple of nights. I'm stuck here till Monday at least, waithing for replacement specs from home (thanks Mum) and replacement cashcard from the bank (thanks nice lady at bank). A few bad apples (should be strung up).