Just when you thought it was safe to return to Dirty HQ for something, well, Dirty, its more Road Porn action… This will result into half the readership hissing with loathing and wanting to unleash their inner car window smashing hooligan, whilst the other half carefully select the right length & colour socks, sip on a double shot espresso and gently adjust their cycling cap.
I’m well over a week late referring back to the NZ Elite Road Nationals, but given I took a shit load of photos and there isn’t a lot else to talk about at the moment, it only seems natural to insult your eyes with the least accurate and informative race report on the internet.
In perhaps one of the classiest honeymoon’s that only a cyclist would think of, it just so happened that the Elite Road Nationals were going down around Panther HQ, meaning it would be rude not to spend the morning sitting around in the sun eating croissants and both agreeing that thank fuck we didn’t have to ride in such a race.
On the drive into town it was pretty clear that it was blowing like a colleague who wants a promotion, or as it seems, like anyone who was invited to an ANZ Markets offsite. The wind doing a good job of savaging the peloton while it was taking on the initial part of the race out on those superb empty back roads I so prodigiously wanked on about during the Festy 500 action. Fun to ride on, but I suspect very hard to race over.
Given I was too fucking lazy to head out to watch the 81km ‘rural loop’, my first glimpse of PRO Nationals road action was the chasing peloton hunting the break on lap 1 of the Napier hill circuit… In what was to become the theme of the day, it was Paddy Bevan on the front, providing a case study in why he is on his way to the PRO Tour this year atop of a Cannondale Evo:
If you’ve ever turned up to a local road race and been utterly tea bagged by the best local riders, usually semi PRO in nature, then I can thoroughly recommend attending Elite Nationals as a spectator. Yes, park up, get some snacks #artisanalpopcorn, choose a good heckling position and then remember each time you’ve been bleeding from the eyeballs only to glimpse said local semi-PRO ride off up the road to make the ‘Fun ride’ into the ultimate oxymoron. Yes, Elite Nationals is awesome for a very good reason:
Its food chain Judgement Day
If you’re slightly lower down the cycling food chain, then this is the day to witness your tormenters have their turn as the hunted when they get into the cage of lactic death with REAL PRO’s. If ever there’s a time to let your inner Roman out to turn its thumb upside down, then this is it.
Having said that, based on the quality of some of the locals, its not a full on slaughter in this multiple Davids Vs Goliath’s scenario, its more of a slow choking exercise, except without an agreed safe word.
On the side of the locals? Its the peak of their season and well into the summer action, so they should in theory be flying… As opposed to the Euro PRO’s, who aren’t even really through their pre-season training and staring down the barrel of a VERY long and hard year getting flogged silly across anything from Strade Bianche to the brutally hard climbs of Lombardy (not to mention: Olympic year).
My Dirty money was on Jesse Sergent rolling on his new AG2R set up, but it was obvious on the first grinding laps of the city circuit that even though he looked like an anorexic racing sardine, it was not to be his day. Holy fuck, is that Focus he’s on a nod to DN colours potentially?
And then along came the first candidate for Ride of the day… Paddy Bevan was like a green argyle train all day, so much so it almost made me proud to be the owner of an Evo. Ignoring the helmet/glasses combo, he was on the front and dragging the absolute living shit out of what remained of the Peloton back up to the break, in a manner that made it look like he was idling:
Much like when I race, I’m fucking crap at counting laps and instead attempted to grab as many pics from different locations as possible, which ultimately means it feels like you’re not really watching the race per se. I can tell you though that the inner city circuit had the grind up Spencer Street, which had the DOOM combo of a nasty head wind and baking sun to help weed out the field over the 7 or 8 laps. How hard was this scenario? How does only 16 finishers from 63 starters sound? Yeah, the kill box:
Speaking of the break, second candidate for Ride of the Day: Robin Reid… An early instigator of the break and still at the front of the race and driving it hard. No big deal you may think, but then just remember that the dude is 40 years old and was putting cats half his age to the sword in the searing H Bay conditions.
Speaking of searing, so was my support for the Kiwi PRO’s. I didn’t recognise most of the local talent in the race, but when I saw PRO tour kit I instantly lost my mind like I was in a mini skirt waiting for Justin Bieber to arrive, you can see here George Bennett’s immediate concern for his safety:
But Curious George had bigger problems to deal with than my legendary PRO stalking skills… Initially I thought he was just being a tough cunt when he started climbing up Spencer Street out of the saddle in the big chain ring at 30rpm, but turns out that it was a flat Di2 battery. As John Connor says, give a machine a chance to fuck you and it will seize it with a big metal stiffy.
Speaking of Robots… Paddy was back again, driving the utter fuck out of it and giving that Evo new BB intolerances it never knew it had:
It felt like the whole landscape of the race was changing on each lap of the Napier Hill circuit and my attention span had no chance of keeping up with it, especially as I didn’t have a clue who most of the field was if they weren’t adorned with the obvious World Tour kit.
However, my nostrils did pick up the scent that it was business time as the final laps approached and you were either going to end up a hero or as nude as fuck in the final ascent up Spencer Street. In the nude column, the PRO as fuck combo of Jesse and Sam:
Meanwhile, back at #mancrush HQ, Mr Bevan was giving zero fucks about suffering or pain as he continued to force what sort of resembled the remaining peloton into single file submission as his one man mission to hunt down the break continued unabated. He was wiping away their advantage, but was he about to run out of handitowel?
Third candidate for Ride of the day? Jason Christie of course… Not only did he ride across to the break, but then he attacked the utter fuck out of it at the right moment to hit the last lap solo, setting up a lopsided duel between himself and the 4 chasers… With a Keira Knightly slim gap. And all of that on an Avanti. I had to replace my iPhone after I accidentally took a photo of it, an amateur mistake I’m sorry.
Did I mention that the 4 chasers consisted of 2 team mates? Dion Smith and James Oram quietly ignoring each other and avoiding that inevitable conversation about who was going to walk the plank and sacrifice themselves to the chase while the other prepared for the win… Christie dangling a tantalising 10 to 16 seconds ahead of them chasing 4 ball…
Clearly that conversation never got bottomed out, as in spite of the efforts of the hunters, the Avanti mounted hare stayed away to win in what was truly baller style. Bridge across, attack the break and then solo away for victory against 4 dudes? Not to mention beat a shit load of Euro PRO’s whilst doing so. Now that is a way to win an Elite National title – Full respect Mr Christie.
And finish line photos and podium shots? Oh, fuck no, I was waaaay too lazy to rush around town for that action. Instead the Panther and I sat in at the big screen on the hill and managed to watch the live stream feed jam up just as the chasing group was about to sprint for the minor places, correcting itself just in time to show an empty road. Good times.
Getting the chance to watch the best cyclists in NZ smashing each other to pieces to wear the National Champs jersey for the year was an apt end to a trip that saw an orgy of awesomeness – End of #Bracelyfe, Festy 500 smashing, the Dirty Stag ride, getting married and catching up with an army of rad GC’s.
Sprinkle in some PRO racing and it went a long way to offsetting the fact that it was another NZ summer trip where I didn’t get to turn an MTB wheel… Something that the planning committee is working on when the MTB ban is lifted on 1 Feb 2016. Watch this space…