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.