Well, Phase 3 of Dirty Mega March is a GO… In a slightly confessional manner, I can admit that rolling into the third week of a mission is not only slightly surreal, but also just a touch tiring. Slightly concerning given the biggest week is nigh, so managing the reserves is going to be key.

Day 1 in Rots, how to best sum it up? The three C’s… No, not C-Bombs, although there were a few of those to be fair. So, today’s post is brought to you by the letter C…

Curse

Astute readers may recall that previous trips to a drought stricken Rotorua has resulted in torrential rain. Indeed, I can’t recall the last time I managed to get here without it pissing down at some stage. Given how epic the NZ summer has been, surely this time the curse would be broken? A quick look at the forecast leading up to my arrival on Sunday and it appeared the curse had other ideas…

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Fine at first, turning to rain when the Dirty Prado arrives in the outer limits of Rots

You know it… When it was time to saddle up and head out for the first recon mission into the favoured forest, down it came… I suspect it had been pissing most of the night, but plenty had been saved up for the debut of the Nomad 3 in Pumice Heaven…

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Tall timber

Given the volume of new trail here, it was prudent to call in the experts… I was fortunate enough to be joined by Annika Smail today, who will be racing in the PRO category on Saturday. If you need someone to give you the low down on what’s going down, then head here for the details. To say Annika is experienced at shredding the Whaka forest to pieces would be a bit like saying Tom Boonen is just ‘ok’ at riding on cobbles.

Confidence

Ah… Now this is a funny topic, funny to think about and funny to write about. I’ve said it before, but in my view Mountain Biking, and how you perform, has a lot to do with confidence and momentum. This of course can be applied to a whole range of different topics like career, any other sport or Tinder. Confidence is an essential ingredient.

From an MTB perspective, confidence allows you to commit to lines, ride without questioning yourself and ultimately ride relaxed. This then translates into smoothness and as anyone will tell you: Smooth = Fast.

The confidence to not brake, the confidence to take the faster line, the confidence to send it off that drop when you need to… These are all awesome moments that aside from being faster, allow you to get that awesome feeling that you’re nailing it – The buzz anyone is looking for. A lot of mountain bikers I know would be happy to trade outright speed on a trail for the feeling like they smashed it with some grace and finesse.

The other thing about confidence is that its not unlike cash… Takes hard work to build it up and its fucking easy to blow it on dumb decisions or mistakes. I can’t claim that my confidence account was flooded with riches, but I managed to cash out what I did have down here:

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Quite possible I ended up on/in the stump to the left… Twice…

Innocuous looking section of track? Yes… Unless you add rain and then try to ride it too fast. I think that the final crash count down the aptly named ‘K2’ trail was 4, each one adding a big fat heavy “Hmmmm” on top of pavlova strength confidence.

This is where the annoying part starts… You know logically it makes it worse to tighten up and become tentative, as this then leads to the downward spiral of doom: More braking, less traction, less commitment and bad lines. Spiral, spiral and more spiral.

By the time I got to the bottom of Hot x Buns and had fucked up two parts that I may have to race on Saturday (turns out standing and looking at a drop off before trying to ride it is the worst possible approach for me…), I was in confidence overdraft, like a drunk uni student standing at the ATM screaming “Well fuck you too ATM!” when they realise its not only refusing to dish out more cash, but its macked on their card as well.

The only thing to do was head down ‘Billy T’, massively an old favourite and get some mojo back. Thankfully its sweet turns and drops had managed to resist the rain and allowed for some stoke factor to be resurrected from a mind clouded with doom.

Annika then called out it would probably be good to scope out some of the new stuff that may or may not be announced as an EWS stage… By new, I mean freshly cut new. What does new trail hate more than rain? People riding down it whilst said rain is still coming down.

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Annika commences laughing at the invariable “What’s this one like?” question

The ‘Frank N Furter’ into ‘Rocky Horror show’ scenario was all new to me… And it seems to itself as well, the result? About as loose, off camber and as slippery as you can imagine a place to take a bike. This photo doesn’t do it justice at all, but it was at the start, which was coincidentally the only place I could stand up without slipping down a bank:

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Freshie

The good news is that no rules were broken, as ultimately I didn’t really ride down the track… It was more like watching a donkey covered in jelly making love to a badger. To say that it was slippery wouldn’t be really explaining it… It was more like trying to run on ice that was covered in oil whilst wearing lycra socks. Oh, with some massively tight and steep switch backs thrown in now and then:

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A combo of clay and wet doom

If you made the mistake of clipping out, then you’re faced with the slightly complex situation of being unable to clip back in, this mud was hungry for not only the cleats on your shoes, but also for VPP linkages. How hungry? Well, once it had finished consuming every cavity of the frame, it moved on to snacking on the rear wheel… To the point that rotating was out of fashion…

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“Best thing about Rots is how quickly it drains cos its pumice eh”

It did occur to me at this point that the dust of Queenstown was a distant memory… And that it was a massive contrast going from hard rocky terrain to a set up that wanted to literally eat your bike. No shit, with this mud load on board, not only was the fucker 10kg’s heavier, but it was starting to look like a dreaded fucking Fat bike, or worse, the next hideous invention by the bike industry:

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Debuting the new 27.5+ set up…

The interesting part was that by the time we got into Rocky Horror, not only were the bike unrideable, but the trail was as well… Literally I have no fucking idea how they’ll get 350 or so riders through here on Saturday, especially if the forecast for rain holds up. Apparently this is Stage 3 of the race, it’ll be a race alright, an MF running race. So lucky I have ENDURO shoes. In spite of having to push our bikes on a downhill trail, the only thing you could do was laugh, which Annika managed better than I:

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That smile all the more impressive given it was my idea to continue on down the Horror show…

Whilst we didn’t know it at the time, this would soon become stage 3 for Saturday… Slightly concerning given all I wanted to do when getting to the bottom was go home, Horror show an apt description in the wet. Feeling slightly fingered on half the distance and a third of the climbing that will be faced on the weekend does have me raising an eyebrow at the moment. After the weekend off, I felt those 700m of climbing a LOT today, more than I expected to. Fart noise. I was even too tired on the way out of the forest to harass Greg Minnaar and Brook McDonald for a photo, what’s happening to me?!

Not to mention we now know the time limits for both transition and race stages. Tipping all these components into an equation and its slowly starting to form the hypothesis that this will quite possibly be the hardest-slash-most challenging day on a Mountain Bike, ever. As one VERY knowledgeable local mentioned to me “Don’t worry so much about results, just getting through that day will be an achievement“. Hmmmm… Welcome to being an amateur participating in a PRO World Level event.

Cleaning

After wiping essentially all re-sale value off our Nomad’s, it was time to keep the destruction going with a fucking good hosing… We all know this is bad form, but 4 hours later the last thing you give a fuck about is unleashing a good hose down…

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Nothing like a good two hour wash down…

For those that wanted to know, yes, the Dainese knee pads work extremely well, I spent plenty of time today testing both the left and right hand sides, as you can see, the only downside is the vents fill up with shit when you fuck up stuff you should be pinning…

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Mud is thicker than blood… Allegedly

Finally today, how do you know the race you’ve got coming up might be kind of a big deal? Not often they hold the course release live on-line… It makes for a fun evening sitting at your PC going “Oh fuck, I haven’t ridden that…” or “Oh fuck, that will be a nightmare in the wet…” or “Oh fuck, how am I going to get through that transition stage within the cut off time?“…

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“We designed Stage 3 just to fuck up Dirty Nomad”

A massive thanks to Annika for the day of insider knowledge and line tips that will be added to any other advantage that I can scrape together for surviving Saturday. Its time for the Crankworx and EWS fever to kick off tomorrow onwards! Rego, briefing, official practice times… Shit is about to get MEGA real!

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