If you stand back from it all and take history into account, life has generally become pretty fucking sweet and soft as we make our way through 2017. Yes, there are plenty of places you can go in the world where that isn’t the case right now, but if you roll around on modern sculptured carbon ENDURO hell machines, read Pinkbike or the Rodfather from your phone, swipe right, Uber it, snap it, tweet it, Gram it and enjoy a craft beer or 6, chances are we’ve never had it better, or easier for that matter than we currently do.

Especially here in the cHub with its endless warmth, domestic bliss and bizarre economics. I can insulate myself from any hardship, spend time cultivating any number of social media anxieties if I so please, order anything I like from my phone without even needing to remember a password. I don’t even have to trouble myself with getting my wallet out of my pocket any more as I can now nonchalantly wave said phone near my artisanal coffee order to pay for it. Dressing oneself is now the biggest hassle each morning.

Shit is so easy I’m left with more time to worry about what’s the ideal internal rim width, if my bars should be 770mm or 760mm wide or to ruminate on if I think I can ride an ENDURO race packless… First World Problems queue here please. We’re being battery hen guided into a loop of Technology, convenience, click, tap, easy to prepare, simple to use, on and on to an inevitable end point: Being as soft as fuck

The point of my melodramatic opening is to say that from time to time we absolutely need to be reminded how good it is when we’re thrust into a situation that is ‘Epic’ or just straight up fucking hard without our choosing or planning, thus forcing us to dig deep inside and pull out that cunt that used to relish this shit on a regular basis. As a baseline, bike riding can be hard, but we still need a day now and then to grab us by the throat, slap us about in a manner thats just enough to cause concern and remind us where we stand in the pecking order of life:

EWS Round 1 Rotorua was that day

To put the race report in context so its just not my ranting & raving skewing perceptions like I’m a Fox News employee, let’s set the scene with some Instagram hijacked quotes from PRO’s on what they thought of what seems to be fast becoming a legendary/Infamous event based on how your day panned out. To be noted, these Gentlemen know just a thing or two about how to ride a bike…

Sir Grubby: “Diabolical!!!!! Is the only way to describe today’s race conditions for @world_enduro round 1…. Never experienced anything like it! To the amateurs who competed and finished I have limitless respect for you!!!*”

Cody Kelley: “The hardest race both physically and mentally I’ve ever partaken in. If we’re being 100% honest it was a little much. 8 hours in the rain and axle deep ruts is a little more than anyone was expecting and or wanted…”

*I naturally assume he was thinking of me with this last comment.

To be fair to these esteemed gentlemen, given they weren’t on Hightowers they were always going to have a cunt of a day, but even Ratboy who was on an HT said it was the biggest day he had ever had on a bike, which I think can be taken quite literally. 62km’s and 2,000m of climbing over 8 hours on a big banger? That’s getting well up there on the Fisting scale even if it was bone dry.

Ultimately this wasn’t really just a ‘race’, I don’t think that word encapsulates it properly… To sound like a total wanker its easier to say it was ‘an experience’ that had about 4 different types of races wrapped up inside it:

  • Dry Vs. Wet
  • Early Vs. Late
  • Transition warfare and panic
  • The actual race stages themselves

As we like to say in Corporate cuntland, “there is so much to unpack here” that it makes my blogging head want to explode like I’m an Orange Hitler surrogate on a Saturday morning following a Twitter bingefest. I shall therefore do my best to cover all those 4 angles as we dive down the rabbit hole of innuendo, mud, melt downs and just general Yuuuuugeness. Be warned, I have so. many. words.

I think Crankzilla as a term has already been used historically by that Whistler EWS round, so perhaps this was pedalpocalypse? Crankageddon? All I know is that the motherfucker was so big I’m going to have to two part it (to be fair it felt like 2 days at times), so hopefully with this days credentials firmly established in this overly elaborate opening, let’s get into the mythology of EWS Round 1 Rotorua – The VERY Dirty perspective.

Don’t for a second complain its dark

As humans we’re awesome at being able to self adjust rapidly to complain about what happens to be the thing that insults our senses at the current moment in time, whilst expertly ignoring the greater strategic orientation which may in fact be significantly beneficial to us. This is cuntspeak to say we were like “WTF its fucking dark when we’re starting” while overlooking the key fact it wasn’t raining… YET. Yes, we didn’t know it at the time we were nervously pissing on trees in downtown Rots, but the darkness was actually our best friend:

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Upside – All the hecklers were still asleep

Knowing what I know now, like a drunk idiot voter, I would’ve been happy to have started at 6am… But like a fat, happy and hairy ENDURO Lemming willingly jumping off the stage into the slaughter, little did we know what was in store…

Lost in Transition 

Speaking of Lemmings, given this wasn’t my first Rotorua rodeo, you’d be fairly comfortable assuming that I wouldn’t be able to actually get lost on Transition 1 from the lake front to the fucking forest – But the early start & single coffee scenario combined with race nerves meant that pretty soon I had that panicked taste of “Oh motherfucker…” in my mouth. Yes, Lost in Transition…

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We feel you Bill – It was a ball ache for us as well

Hold up – Before you liberally smear me with cunt paste, I did happen to be the lemming at the back of a group that included the current Masters World champ, plus Coach Karim and a few other Kiwi’s who had actually done 2W races, so I’m not guilty of being a total fuck head. Same probably can’t be said of the person marking T1 however, as by the time we got to the 3rd unmarked significant intersection, people were letting the “WTF’s” fly with vigour. I’m a full time supporter of race organisers and volunteers, but even I was raising an eyebrow at times.

It even got comical when a whole squad fucked off unwittingly up Katore road heading to Stage 1, which was actually longer than the intended route, which I now found myself alone on. I had bigger problems to contend with though – I felt utterly fucked. As I started the assault on the most hated of Whaka forest climbs, Direct road, my lower back and sore legs sent me a clear message: You’re under the pump today cunt, ALLLLL day long.

So far in my short EWS infatuation, masquerading as an unpaid career, I had managed to avoid blowing a Tranny, but I had a horrendous sinking feeling that I was going to be on bended knee for the first time today and having to gobble down on the penalty in the full nose pinching scenario. It didn’t help my cause when Nate said:

Its cool, its about 25 mins from here, how much time do you have left?”

“22 minutes”

“Oh… yeah, you’re a bit fucked then”

Suddenly ominous theme music started to play in my head and only an hour into an 8 hour day I was reaching for a gel. Holy Fuck – Its going to be the D Day of ENDURO. As I ground up the final stretches of Frontal, I was stuck between the panic of failure and the horror of feeling significantly more fingered than I should of at this point in the day, I also don’t think I was alone looking at some of my ComRADes faces. Oh oh… Spot the cunt that did too much practice!

Stage 1 – Te Rua

I’m not sure how, but in the end I managed to get up to the start with about 5 minutes to spare (Drama queen). That may sound luxurious, but after almost 1.5 hours of slog from the lake front to the shuttle drop off point, 5 minutes feels slightly more militant when you’re about to drop into your first race stage and they’re already calling you to line up. What the fuck was there to smile about?

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Photo courtesy of the Rodfather – Soaking wet already and it hadn’t even rained… I think I’m smiling because he said something about being an ENDURO Gerbil/sex toy

But fuck all that, the most important thing is that it was DRY. After spending all teenage and adult years in a sometimes futile search for wetness, to be this ecstatic about dryness is perplexing, but I wasn’t about to look the ENDURO gift horse in the mouth. It was time to drop in and get the race against the clock and the clouds cranking.

Stage 1 – Short, sharpish and luckily we had gotten a pass at in during the #ohmyfuckinggodbestdaysever adventure in December. All you had to do was not fuck up the roots at the top and it was actually pretty straightforward as far as Stage 1’s go, certainly wasn’t a Finale scenario if you get my drift.

I promptly arrived at said roots and in spite of my delusions of grandeur implanted by instructions from the Rodfather, proceeded to muff the fuck out it. Intention: Wallride over the whole thing to the right, reality? The hole on the left:

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I’m still confused why I didn’t just practice jumping the whole scenario

All these trail shots are from practice mind you, my Go Cunt Session 5 melting down yet again on race morning after a random run of working perfectly in an attempt to deceiving me into not sending it back for warranty replacement. Te Rua is a rad little trail, some decent elevation drop and sections like this to keep you more than occupied:

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Whats with all this diagonal off camber shit?

As I cunted up the roots with my usual ruthless efficiency and profanities, somewhere on my shoulder I remembered Greg’s deadpan commentary from the Roubion Enduro Massacre a few years back, which seemed more releavant now than ever:

“Everyone is a shredder… Until they get to the roots”

As far as stage 1’s go I wasn’t completely blowing my load in the first scene like I usually do, perhaps I’m cured of that awkward habit in 2017? When I made it through the blown out off camber right hander towards the bottom in a smooth and tidy fashion it even occurred to me that I was having fun… Holy fuck, was I getting sick? As the U21’s would say “Fuck yeah, sick as cunt!

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Barry conducts a case study in getting loose as fuck on it

I was mainly excited that it was dry, that thought competing for space in my ill disciplined mind along with the message that “Fuck me, we haven’t been caught by anyone yet“, which spurned me on in full pug panting mode as I railed the Hightower through the final lower sections of Stage 1, which are fucking rad just quietly…

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Classic Rots trail goodness

In what seemed an unreasonably short period of time, the big wheels burst out of the forest and I was unleashing my first series of post stage expletives in front of bemused spectators. But unlike usual practice, these were more celebratory than flagellating in nature. Dry trail, not caught and clean run aside from getting a bit rooted up top… We were underway!

Stage 1 results

For today’s trademarked ‘Dirty Self Loathing results comparison‘ exercise, I’ve kept Mark Scott in there for consistency purposes with NZ Enduro, plus to also try to highlight the early vs. late conundrum that transpired. New to the mix this time, none other than Jeff Carter. Given Jeff is basically Neo or a white Morpheus when it comes to the trails in the Whaka forest, big things were expected… And just so we’re clear, based on his results and riding in general, its fairly likely his initials aren’t a coincidence.

New for this race report we also have the ‘Fist-o-Meter’ to give an indication on the level of fisting that went down. I have left this open to interpretation so deviants and happy people/those that have never used google can both enjoy its vague meaning.

  • Mark Scott – 3.38 for 53rd in Open men
  • JC Superstar – 3.53 for 5th in Masters
  • Dirty Nomad – 4.32 for 137th in Open men
  • Fist-O-Meter – 2/10 to start the day, as first stages go this one was pretty kind to be honest, well, unless you were a top 25 PRO man, then I think it was relatively cunty.

Ok, so these results don’t fully illustrate my point, but the top contenders got fucking slammed by the rain on stage 1, so fucked over that even Richie Rude was 79th on the stage… Oton was 126th! with a 4.12 time, for me to get within 20 seconds of the World Champs runner up is a classic example of what happened to the later groups. Mark Scott fucks up my example a bit given he’s A) Scottish and loves this shit, plus B) Rad cunt was on a ‘Hightower’, sort of… But as you can see, the rain seriously fucked things up.

Heading up to Stage 2 and I was not only quietly stoked that it still wasn’t raining, but it was dawning on me that today was going to have a distinct Marathon XC vibe to it. As I ground up the next bad ass motherfucker logging road in a 46T first gear (thank fuck) and looked down at the time cut and tried to calculate it in my head, it became more and more obvious that the girth of these Tranny’s wanted to stretch and hurt us. Eye watering and concerning.

Stage 2 – Tihi o Tawa into Billy T

I was fucking amped to drop into stage 2, as was everyone around me. Not only was it fun to ride, but what was instilling panic into the amateur herd was the fact the rain was about to seriously roll in… It was now 9.37am, I was about to hit Stage 2 and some of the top PRO’s hadn’t even arrived at Stage 1.

You could here the echo’s of “Here it fucking comes” up and down the line of ENDURO warriors as we all initiated ‘dry goggle’ panic and tried to work out if we could make it down 2 before the whole place got fucked over.

Some people will nod when they read this – A dry Tihi to Billy T is fast and an absolute blast, but as practice reminded us, a wet one is quite a different story and as the sum of all fears was being realised on the weather front, we knew it was last chance saloon for a dry-ish run. Its a slog in the middle once it moist’s up, here is how it looked when it was ‘dry’ in practice:

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Wait, this isn’t December at all…

Stage 2 was also the first time my Non-EMBA status really started to shine. I only had 32 riders or so in front of me all day, so I was not only lucky enough to avoid having a train run on me like Carter Cruise at a pool party, but I’d get the salvation of relatively unscathed trails… In theory.

As we dropped into Stage 2 it quickly became clear that the early birds not only got the worm, but we turned it into a cock ring as well. While my brain was busy trying to get through the maze of roots on Tihi, I did appreciate that anyone getting in here later was going to have some shit to deal with as the water started to win its battle with the native canopy.

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Much pedalling to be done on 2

It was hot and heavy work up on 2, just getting wet and slippery enough that every bit of speed you could carry was at a premium. It was such hard work that even the Smith Gogs gave up the ghost and fogged up, an achievement in its own right. I was simply stoked to be having a relatively drama free run as I frantically tried to outrun the escalating downpour.

Stage 2 was also pretty much one of the only stages all day that was a complete replica from 2015, so when you consider that, the bottom section of the stage felt the same as 2015’s race report, just add water:

“down Billy and constantly willed myself to not collapse down into the saddle, but get up and sprint out of every corner, look up cunt, don’t brake and rail that turn…”

Copy and paste yes, but the only difference is the way the Hightower wanted to just hoover up this flowing trail and even though I resembled a flogged out cunt, it pushed on with me as a meat popsicle passenger to complete stage 2 around 16 seconds quicker than 2 years ago, even though it was sloppy wet by the time I broke the beam at the end.

Stage 2 results

Given it was 2km’s long, the carnage for the later groups was starting to show:

  • Mark Scott – 5.41 for 17th in Open men
  • JC Superstar – 5.56 for 4th in Masters
  • Dirty Nomad – 6.47 for 138th in Open men
  • Fist-o-Meter – 1/10, Sorry to disappoint the S&M crowd, but there isn’t a whole lot to fuck you up on Tihi Vs. Billy, it was mainly the pinch climbs and sprinting at the end that meant this was more finger than fist territory.

Here’s one for the maths geeks to enjoy – I’m usually 47 seconds per Kilometre slower than Mark in an EWS race stage, but on Stage 2 I was only 33 seconds per KM slower. Had I magically transformed into a bus worthy millennial shredder? Could I take off my ENDURO flavoured gimp suit? Er, well, fuck no – 33 seconds is enough time for a wheel swap, but that reduced margin is classic FAKE news. I had a relatively sweet trail to enjoy, Mark starting later and after 5,000 people had finger banged it didn’t. My Santa Cruz contract remains on hold.

Stage 3 – Hatu Patu into Dammit Janet 

Heading to stage 3 was a decidedly mixed blessing, combined with mixed messages: It was the first time so far that the Marathon XC vibe had abated a little bit on the Tranny’s, but as we made our way like stray & weary ENDURO soldiers to the start of 3, it was now absolutely pissing down so hard you’d be forgiven to thinking you were staying in an FSB safe house.

None of us were under any illusion as to what this meant – The free ride (no pun intended) was over and shit was about to get messier than the Courtenay Place Burger King at 2am in the early 2000’s (you had to be there). Among the debate, A line or B line at the end of the stage? Not something most PRO’s were debating obviously, but a talking point amongst the early starting Band of Brothers. Spending some time catching up with the riding crew from practice was good times and I got to yell at the SwissMissile as he launched himself down into Hatu Patu.

As we relished the first decent Tranny break of the day, it was proper pissing down geezer, much to the delight of anyone from the Northern Hemisphere, or who had handling skills for this kind of scenario. The great sort out was definitely about to be unleashed. But first, we had to hide under the native canopy and I managed to snap pretty much one of the only pics I got all day:

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Cranks level for fucks sake…

I also ran into Coach Karim and given he had time to spare in his extremely intricate preparation process, he gave me two pieces of advice via his soothing accent that says “Yes, I can see the French Riviera from my front door” he had a simple view:

  1. Stage 4 was more important than stage 3, so only go 70% on this one
  2. Above all – Stay clipped in and the feet on the pedals

Noted! I was pretty sure I could expertly deliver on point 1, after all, riding at 70% is my fucking bag baby and I dropped into the stage with the conservative approach locked in. Unfortunately I immediately screwed the pooch, hard, on point number 2.

Call me naive or mildly stupid, but I hadn’t expected stage 3 to be as cut up as it was… Alarmed by how hard it was to keep the power down and not to mention how cunted my drivetrain was sounding as the mud tried to eat it alive, I could feel the first “Ohhh fuuuuck” moment of the day coming on like a drunk cougar. Once unclipped and fucked up, it felt almost impossible to get back in again as well. Good times.

Chill motherfucker, don’t lose your shit… What would the Rodfather do? Fuck, he would mount plus wheels (mouth vomit), drop the pressure to 13 PSI and then dance and slither his way out of here like a Mermaids dancer, except with more wetness. As my front wheel became possessed and wanted to do its own thing, there was only one thing to do:

Keep calm and Tripod on

Oddly, all the stuff that really gave me the shits in 2015 seemed to have been dumbed down a little, plus they were distinctly short on Rabid Roman hecklers. Case in point, this section gave may of us horrific 2015 nightmares, fast forward and its seemed strangely well mannered in 17:

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I believe a handlebar and many dreams were shattered right here back in the day

But that was traded off with Hatu rapidly turning to boggy shit before our wheels. The further down I got, the dodgier shit was becoming and whilst it was vaguely still rubber side down, you couldn’t actually see any rubber due to the trail carnage making love to our tires. Imagine this sort of section if you will in the wet, when this was it ‘dry’, everything is relative:

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Before the real rut showed up

As I slithered my way out of Hatu making sure I didn’t get my fluffy tail caught in my back wheel and with my ‘Amateur As Fuck’ tattoo on my forehead starting to glow, there was a slight sigh of relief to get into Dammit Janet, hitting a grade 3 suddenly feeling like cheating after Hatu.

Except the end of course… The A line is actually pretty straightforward and I ironically complained it was even too dusty riding down it in December behind JC Superstar. Having said that, I almost killed myself down it in practice – Luckily someone was actually praying for Dunc, as I nearly committed Squidicide with going out the front gate…

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Dunc’s commitment to the shot about to be seriously tested

So, with rain pinging off my grill, and with someone putting a saucer of warm milk and a ball of yarn down the B Line, self preservation won out over valour and I scurried down what turned out to be an awkward back up option. Jono from our crew had other ideas though and hit that shit… A decision his ankle wasn’t completely aligned with:

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Jono spends some time finishing his Hightower business case

Holy fuck, this wasn’t just ENDURO, this was a war zone… I resisted the urge to take Jono’s boots and empty his pockets of ammo while he waited for the Medivac and instead commenced the trudge on to stage 4 whilst attempting to regroup from the 50 shades of fuck my face experienced during stage 3.

Stage 3 results

  • Mark Scott – 5.02 for 34th in Open men
  • JC Superstar – 4.55 for 5th in Masters
  • Dirty Nomad – 6.40 for 141st in Open men
  • Fist-o-Meter – 8/10, definitely felt the knuckles on this one, not quite into full melt down territory, but somewhat embarrassing given we had the trail relatively ‘fresh’, its hard to think how blasted it must have been for the top lads. Taking a look at the Master’s times vs the PRO’s starts to validate the beat down of getting to sleep in.

Stage 4 – Kung Fu Walrus, cunty road section and into Extension

I made a strategic decision to not go back to the feed zone and stuff my face with muffins after stage 3, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise as A) I spent that time shit talking with the Rodfather about how fucking hard this was and B) I got to the start of stage 4 with fuck all time up my soaking wet sleeves.

By this stage it was 10.59am (EWS is very precise) and I was starting to main line gels like a junkie, never a good sign, especially if you’re my room mate for that evening. Any form of eyewear had been completely abandoned by this stage as well and the vibe was somewhere between Predator and Apocalypse Now. It had fully dawned on me that a distinctly epic day was in progress.

Still, I felt oddly optimistic and even though the bike weighed an extra 5kg’s with its new mud decor, I was even having fun. I attribute this in part to the hardening up I got from having my shit pushed in during the Nydia Bay fight club scenario. As Sven had pointed out, everything should feel easy after that.

And he wasn’t wrong… I had struggled on Kung Fu Walrus 2 years ago, but fast forward to present day and I was fucking loooooving it, especially when it opens up and is straight up ‘Endor on a speeder’ fast:

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About the point where the left eye took a massive mud hit… Yay

KFW has clearly settled in the last few years and unlike Hatu, it hadn’t really turned to total shit yet, some sections were slutty, but for the most part it was running super sweet and I was revelling in being able to keep both feet on the pedals… Well, you know… Aside from the irrational fear that diagonal off camber shiny roots strike into the heart of those that have an aversion to losing their front wheel:

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Note to self – Ask the Rodfather for jumping lessons

I think most of us had best intentions, dreams, ambitions or delusions that we were going to keep it hard right all through this section and pin these fucking roots, but when you arrive there in the rain, feeling somewhat rooted yourself, the self defence mechanism is more than happy to kick in and shrivel your balls up:

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Jon takes to the low line after rightfully declaring “Fuck this is hard”. I vigorously agreed

I have to say it was a bit of a head to head between 4 and 6 as to what was my favourite stage of the day, but I think 4 maybe gets the nod just slightly. Ok, so it did have the downside of that absolute cunty road section towards the end, which forced everyone into going much deeper than we wanted to in a horrendous slow motion big bike sprint up to the cock extension.

Praise be the suspension gods then that I had been lucky enough to switch over to a Fox DHX2 with lock out switch, which I managed to have the faculties to activate when I hit the road. What a fucking excellent piece of kit that is too, but more on that in the wrap up. Right now it was time to get ready for some wet tightness to finish us off completely on stage 4:

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Flashback to practice where we laughed like lunatics

Stage 4 was fucking excellent, but it was also a quintessential ENDURO scenario by this time – Big Tranny’s, dropping into stages half or 75% fucked and then having to either hang on like a titanic passenger or pedal your ass of like a TDF sprinter. Its no surprise then when many of us got to this hairpin down the bottom there was a lot of carnage as I understand it:

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Many a GC getting fucked up right here allegedly

Aside from a slight miscue with a massive pile of shit blinding one eye which almost translated into a crash, I came out of stage 4 feeling pumped – I wasn’t supposed to be having this much fun in these conditions, nor was I supposed to be this stoked whilst feeling quite cunted. I was supposed to have melted like an ice dildo at a BBQ… But it was going suspiciously well…

Stage 4 results

  • Mark Scott – 6.46 for 3rd in Open men
  • JC Superstar – 7.28 for 5th in Masters
  • Dirty Nomad – 8.44 for 132nd in Open men*
  • Fist-o-Meter – 2/10, relatively fist free here, felt pinned, had fun aside from the road section and didn’t totally cunt up the lower section either. Would have been good to get within a minute of JC, but I think he can ride this one blindfolded.

*Spoiler alert – Best stage result of the day, and on the longest stage of the race as well… But back up to the de rigour 48 seconds per KM lag time on Mr Scott, clearly I need more power…

"Pretty sure that's a terrible 'Dad' joke fuck head"

“Pretty sure that’s a terrible Dad joke, fuck head”

Exhausted yet? Fucking hell, we haven’t even got started… Coming out of stage 4 it did dawn on me that we weren’t even halfway through the day time wise and with the rain still tumbling down, there was a fucking long way to go given we were now at the ass end of the forest.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where the Tranny’s get bigger and stiffer, the fatigue gets the upper hand and the melt down of the day has its way… There’s still a lot of EWS Fever to be unpacked here!

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