When one is on the road to recovery, literally at this point, there is one characteristic that you crave above all others every time you clip into a pedal and roll out for the next ride in the rebuilding process:

To feel like a cyclist again

Its not all about fitness and in truth, this feeling is somewhat intangible, but for most of those reading this, you will know what I’m talking about and I hope you’re slowly nodding now in a form of literary compliance. Its an unspoken confidence and presence on the bike that only comes with time logged in the saddle. Waiting for the moment when unconscious competence returns, second nature takes the reins and says: “Relax cunt, we’ve got this“.

Even after day 3, I still felt like an ex-golfer who was squeezed into kit that was a size too small for them – In other words, I wanted to vomit on myself and wear a pair of Rapha head phones. However, self loathing would have to wait, there was a Festy 500 to Fist into submission and only 5 days left to do so.

At the end of Part 1, 225km’s had been spank banked and a solid 275km’s still loomed ahead. Ordinarily not a great ask, but after 7 weeks off and with the neck of a baby lamb, it wasn’t feeling all that routine. But to outstrip my pussiness, things were looking up:

  • Reinforcements were on the way from the DN Global Collective
  • The Motherfucking H Bay was locking in epic weather and roads to match

So, stand back or lean in while I attempt to make slow road riding sound interesting in written form.

Day 4 – The Return of the Panther: 55km’s

Yeah, so utterly fuck riding 500km’s by yourself in 8 days over the festive period… Yes, I know plenty of Cyborg units punch that type of mileage out on a weekly basis, and power to you my metronomic friends, Fuck knows how you manage it. But with the sun shining, quiet Bay roads for miles and nothing doing but putting down a base it was time to get back to sharing the experience with Good Cunts. Cue the Panther:

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Unleashing the Panther for the first Dirty Festy collaboration KM’s

The Big Rig/Mayor of the Bay had been out of town on Festive duties, but fortunately for me he had returned to help hold down the Festy while I shanked it mercilessly with crazy eyes as it was waiting in the shower queue. Translation: I fully intended to shelter from the wind behind his massive carcass whilst marvelling that holy fuck, it looked like I was drafting Tom Dumoulin. Only difference? Scenery was basically better than the Vuelta down Middle road:

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Looks busy today

Whilst Day 4 was supposed to be an easy/short day on my Festy regime of long/short rides, the Panther was powering out a big point to point mission. Some may recall his appearance around this time last year also whilst recovery gimp mode was activated, but for newbies when he’s not impersonating a Dolphin which was genetically modified to impersonate a torpedo, he’s busy making that uber large Cannondale wish it was never poured into a mould somewhere in Taiwan.

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“Your phone, give it to me”

Dirty Tip – If you’re in the Bay then riding Middle Road from the Patangata Pub through to Havelock North is a must do. Grab a beer at the pub and then a coffee at Havelock to cover your bases. Its an easier ride north, but that assume the northerly isn’t pumping through like Mandingo after he’s snorted a line of coke laced with Viagra. Pick your battles and route wisely.

Day 5 – The King Panther stage: 110km’s

Usually in a cycling trip there is a day which will stand up and lay claim to being the Queen stage… Unless you’re riding in the Japanese Alps, where pretty much every day tries to take that honour. But Day 5 was in the hands of the Panther, who had decided it was time to unleash his private training grounds onto my feeble aching quads.

It occured to me rather early on Day 5 that I was absolutely missing the fuck out of yoga. Whilst I wasn’t really missing the Evo thanks to the goodness of the CAAD10, 8 weeks without a downward doggie style in sight and I had lost all the flexibility that I had grown to take for granted. For me, its ended the debate once and for all: Cycling is better/easier with Yoga in the mix. No time to dwell on my inflexibility however, the Panther was on point and so was the Bay weather, yawn, again…

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Out Raphaering the Rapha Insta account

The plan was to pop a 100km cap into the Festy 500 to essentially break its spirit. Panther had the plan, but he hadn’t mentioned that it was going to essentially look like we were cruising French back roads for a good portion of the ride. I mean, seriously, do you even Vineyard bro?

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The Mayor bemused by my frothing when its just BAU Bay

I have to admit at this point my inner roadie was getting out of its gimpbox with a massive stiffy and running around making highly excitable noises. How can you not love this shit? Plants with grapes on them, rolling brown hills (#scenerystiffy), sky so blue it looks fake and a road that seems to have forgotten what cars look like. Throw in some cliche Rapha porn modelling and its like a Road Nirvana…

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“I’m fine being back on the bike, don’t worry, being safe as…”

I’m not talking about a little section here and there that was dominating on all the things you look for when pedalling a road bike, no no, I’m talking about miles and miles of the good shit that any roadie wants to snort up in endless supply. The Panther training grounds were delivering in a manner that would make Amazon look like a fat slow donkey with herpes.

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Hawkes Bay Tourism’s dept’s job done for the year

Don’t let all this beauty fool you, fuck no, with 30km’s to go I was being attacked by double Quadzilla’s and it was head wind time. All I could manage to do was avoid being blinded by the Panthers excessively white Sidi’s as he churned away at a metronomic rate, almost like a Terminator on EPO, or, for the historians out there, like the other giant Panther you may have heard of:

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Das Panther – Rapha uniform sold separately

And thank fuck I was able to hide in the giant vortex hole being punched through the head wind, as I was in deep road shit. On the drops, holding on and trying to not get dropped on the flat at 38kph as the Panther continued to impersonate Tony Martin/Another German Tank.

I’m a stickler for always taking my turns, but when I tried a couple of times, the Panther was left wondering if I was having some sort of mechanical or seizure. I was therefore consigned to sucking wheel like a cheap Rapha whore and counting the KM’s until that desperately needed coke stop:

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“By Joves, the chubby chap in last seasons Rapha seems to be enjoying that giant coke”

If you’re in the Bay, then the Crownthorpe loop is a must do for sure. Here’s a map and shit, as I wouldn’t have found it easily without inhaling Panther rear Ksyrium. Key point, make sure to take Ohiti Road out and back, pure gold.

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So, it was pretty awesome to smash out a 110km session on world class roads with the main Bay GC, but its highly possible that evening that a couple of sweet sweet Voltarin tablets may have passed through my lips given I felt like I’d been to a New Years eve party at Doctor Huxtable’s house. I’m not sure if Voltarin is cheating, Anyone?

"Yeah Boi, high line as"

“Only 2 bro? I say smash 4 as a starter and then go from there”

Day 6 – The un-recovery spin: 46km’s

Sticking to the doctrine of Long/Short to get the Festy fisted, it was time for a shorter one and more Bay back road exploring. Fuck me if A) There aren’t endless awesome roads to ride here and B) My legs weren’t really starting to feel the punishment of day 6 of riding after 7 weeks of Netflix marathons. Oddly, I wasn’t complaining…

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The Dirty Private loop – Undisclosed location (I suffered like a cunt to get into the Top 10 on this climb and want to stay there)

I haven’t dwelled on it much, but I have also been reunited with the CAAD10 on this trip, and its continued to remind me why its probably the best Alu road bike you can buy, although I assume that the CAAD12 is even better at this point. Surprisingly the 10 year old Campy Record its adorned with was shifting smoother and with greater ease than my contemporary Super Record on the Evo. Perplexing.

Almost as perplexing as my bizarre route section for a “recovery ride” which saw me taking a grill full of wind for what felt like the whole ride… #noeasyday.

Day 7 – The whole Rivet & Panther collab scenario: 85km’s

Rolling into day 7 and all that was required was a seemingly straightforward 60km’s to make that Festy gag on dirty balls and fly its white flag while defeat filled its nostrils. Not one to shy away from making sure that all the best routes were on show as we closed in on completion, the Panther had another personal favourite lined up to complete our virtual glory quest.

For insurance purposes the Day 7 route had 85km’s on the cards and the Panther had outlined in his briefing notes that it was “A bit of a grind“, which meant it was prudent to draft in Rivet reinforcements to help us cut this up. Luckily Harvey and Chris Horner were both in town and more than happy to get a Dirty Collaboration going to smash out some K’s. And what do you know? Another one of those perfect days…

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The boys ride in silence, each trying to digest the fact that yes, that is a Kona road bike

So then, we were off to Patoka, which yes, is so fucking small its not even really on Google maps… And no bullshit, it was definitely a grind on the way out:

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Check that profile, interesting for an out and back innit… The Rivet climbers were chomping at the bit too. Before I knew it Horner had his head cocked to one side and Harvey was reading the manila folder with interest (yes, thats a very obscure ‘Suits’ joke).

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Only really put this photo in to avoid having ALL the pics from behind in this post

It’s weird being back to writing posts where I can’t endlessly wank on about how rad, banger, epic or mental the trails are and lets face it, that’s 90% of what I do in between self deprecating humour. With that in mind, I can talk about the road surface on the outward leg to Patoka, in a word; cunty.

Stunning scenery, again, awesome weather, again and dead quiet roads… But make no mistake, the heavy chip seal out here wants to suck your will to pedal or maintain any form of effort. Suspect if you wander out here when its a northerly and the usual Bay 30 degree temp, you’d be on for some mega beat down. Our squad of 4 went to work on it with our unique blend of powers, mine being getting dropped while taking photos.

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Caution: Men at work

Like any good tour guide does, the Panther had created a fantasy of a store at the turn around point that only sold Ice Cold Coke. Harvey quickly threw a Paolini style melt down when this turned out to indeed be a steaming pile of shit… Even more head cocking ensued.

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Harvey works on lodging an appeal for emergency coke consumption

Whilst it took us around 1.5 hours to get out, the return leg quickly revealed that shit was going to be ON all the way back. And like any good road ride when the turn for home was made, it was time to slip the leash and lap that fucker out. Here’s proof that I was actually involved in the proceedings and not just taking pics all day. I have no idea how Harvey snapped this, as we were macking at this point, that Kona would have been like trying to fuck a jack hammer:

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Enjoying the black hole the Panther is punching into the atmosphere and thinking about taking a turn

If you’ll recall at the start of this now out of control length post, I had been yearning for the return of feeling like a cyclist. I think that it was on the smashfest back into town that I finally started to feel that old goodness returning.

The art of confidently riding to the front for your turn, being able to follow wheels closely, giving some shit on a small power climb, recovering and chasing back on… It was all starting to feel how you want it to feel and that only spurned me on. Until we got to any real climb, cue people in form…

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Horner and the Panther resume normal service smashing out the elevation

The return leg assault continued unabated, chatter was replaced by silence, small chainrings swapped for large and that vibe of shared determination descended over the quartet to make this road our bitch. Panther and Horner spurred on by superior climbing form whilst Harv and I were fuelled by the knowledge that every pedal stroke took us closer to coke and pastries… Encouragement. I think we shaved about 30 mins off the return leg thanks to the geography and TTT approach.

Dropping back into town it occured to me it was mission accomplished: 7 days riding in the bag, all in banger weather, 524km’s locked in and one Festy 500 challenge thoroughly fisted, with a day to spare. It was like a box ticking frenzy after 7 weeks of sitting around getting Brace rash. It can be rare to get so many good rides in on awesome roads with this run of weather, so massively stoked.

Whilst it hasn’t been ENDURO as fuck, it was a reminder of the joys of riding deserted back roads with good cunts still ranks right up there from an experience perspective. Thanks to all the GC units who smashed out the KM’s this festive period, good luck to everyone repairing their family relationships.

The only thing left to do of course was coffee the fuck out of the end of that ride. Harvey schooled us massively on the correct post ride refuelling etiquette with his fully legalised one man buffet:

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“No no chaps, its custard square and then on to the scone… I’ll draw a diagram”

So what’s the one thing I’ve taken out of the Dirty Festy cumback mission? Aside from the fact that cycling is fucking awesome? Well, ignoring the massive history of epic drug cheating and the odd race being brought, its that cycling is a very honest sport.

You can possibly hide for a little while, but if you haven’t done the miles or the work, you’re going to get nuded up pretty fast. Not that I didn’t already know that, but it was reinforced to me over the 7 days of Festy fisting fever.

Also of note – Nothing beats having a little goal to aim for. I’m not talking a BHAG here, but oddly the little virtual target of 500km’s in 8 days not only helped legitimise us all riding on Christmas day, but also meant that there was some intrinsic motivation to punch out the miles.

With a base now in the bag and feelings of normality returning, its time to keep pushing on to rack up base miles for whatever lies over the horizon in 2016… Happy new year!

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