After my last post where I went horrifically off piste into a Gravel wasteland of highly choreographed photos and more black & white filters than you can shake a beard at, its time to get things a little bit more back on track with a large helping of pumice dirt and something sort of brand new, but not really. Its time to knee pad the fuck up and get across to the Promised land for some summer ENDURO racing froth:
And not just any racing, a 2W ENDURO none the less. Whilst indulging in the grotesque bourgeois lifestyle of ex-pattery, I have gazed from afar as the 2W series sprang up and quickly appeared to become the pre-emminent race series in NZ for the latest craze in Mountain Biking. With XC racing dying a skinny and long overdue death and DH racing either scaring the shit out of people or becoming a mullet growing contest, the 2W series seemed to have hit the battleship when it came to providing exactly the kind of racing hundreds of Endurophiles so desperately craved.
Not anatomy destroying hard like an EWS round, and not so easy that its not worth the trip, 2W appears to have got out the curling irons and pretty much made itself the hot goldilocks of ENDURO race series. It would be fair to say at this stage its probably introduced hundreds if not thousands of riders to the discipline, plus dished out a sulphur smelling shit load of fun in the process.
As I was now in tantalising striking distance of the hallowed pumice grounds of Rotorua, it was time to see what all the frothing fuss was about and put my Dirty mouth in places it shouldn’t be, by finally making my debut at a 2W. Significant chance I may be the last Mountain Cyclist in the North Island to have done so, losing my Wirginity was significantly overdue.
I therefore took a break from asking a baby rhetorical questions to keep the Dirty quest for ENDURO legitimacy rolling, loaded up on froth, fuelled by a JC Superstar multi course artisanal breakfast and disgustingly over-confident in my repatriated abilities it was time to get it the fuck ON. I’m going to go all weird and eclectic on this non-chronological Race Report, mainly as (spoiler alert) I want to detract from results and there’s no point giving a Dirty blow by blow on very well ridden trails, besides, this is all about the vibe, so let’s get started with the cherry picking.
I’m talking real freedom too, not the faux kind American’s seem to labour under the illusion they have, this 2W set up is as loose as my parenting, which is a refreshing change from some of the recent Liaison death march action I’ve experienced in 2017. On top of the relaxed approach, there were more choices available than a Russian brothel (Source – Rodfather), so for those not familiar with the set up, here are some of the highlights:
- 4 or 6 Race stages
- Shuttle or no Shuttle
- Ride stages in any order you so please
- DIY liaisons – You have artistic licence about how to get around for the day
- Re run a stage if you fuck it up
- No liaison time limits, just an overall time window for completion
- Tag into stages whenever you want – Which is great for those with a penchant for running a train.
With this freedom comes an element I hadn’t encountered before at an ENDURO race, strategy! Holy fuck, you mean we can pick the order we race stages and how we get there?! What is this witchcraft! Enrico would lose his fucking mind! I was literally breaking into a sweat trying to work out how best to consume what was, according to the map provided, a large & engorged day spread out from one end of the forest to the other.
Ultimately I stole an idea for a route that would balance all these challenges from a teenager on the shuttle bus the day before (AKA the Roy Moore Protocol), quietly pick pocketing ideas from the locals is an excellent way to go, as I will elaborate later, they have the place on total lock down. There’s also the strategic element of working out which trails won’t be traffic rammed, how to minimise your transfers, best refuelling points and which stages to attack when you’re still relatively fresh. After being an ENDURO zombie for some time, I was beside myself over this newfound freedom and creative licence.
There was some initial discord in our GC Crew, with some alternative views on how best to unpack the day route wise, but this dissent was quickly and ruthlessly snuffed out with a smile and quiet word by The Creator, done so in a manner that would have brought a tear of respect to the eye of Vladimir Putin, the resistance put down quicker than a Crimean uprising.
Real people who actually exist!
Given we live in a world of on-line Avatars now, it was refreshing to actually meet some of the people who i’ve been involved with mutual Gram stalking, which turned out easy to do given I’m narcissistic enough to wear a jersey with my stage name emblazoned across it. Finally getting to meet and fist pump real humans like mikeoutdoors88 or _lieutenant.dan_ was definitely a highlight and pretty much underlines a big part of what 2W’s appear to be all about: The Good Cunts.
And this wasn’t just your normal GC crew, I was rolling with some shredders who would put said equipment in the White House to shame… My pumice berm destroying crew included local Shredlebrities and people who will forget more about mountain biking while taking a piss than most of us will ever know:
- Jeff Carter – AKA JC Superstar, AKA The Creator: 3rd in his Masters category. You may remember The Creator from such adventures as Wairoa Madness and some of the best dirt days ever known to man, an impressive and opulent resume
- Mike – Mike won his category for the day and also confirmed that I would never be recruited to milk his cows
- Scott – Not only was Scott 8th in Senior Men, which means he’s excruciatingly fast, but as far as I can tell from on-line stalking, he has no surname… Intriguing.
- Erin – The quiet assassin, solidly working his way to a top 10 finish in his masters category
- Vanessa – Holy shit, 2004 World DH Elite champion in your riding crew for the day?! Not to mention more NZ titles than I can count as high as, basically a legend of the sport, but more on that below*
And then me, comparatively the navel lint of ENDURO, busy humming “One of these things is not like the other ones” as we rolled out and into those legendary Vegas trails.
*Speaking of Vanessa Quinn, Ex NZ National DH champion many times over plus World OMFG Champion, if you didn’t have a crush on her in the 90’s then you clearly weren’t in the NZ MTB scene or a frothing teenager. In what may have almost been Mountain Biking’s first #metoo moment, instead of playing it cool riding with Vanessa, I managed Kevin Spacey levels of creepiness when I blurted out “I remember watching you at the National DH finals in Christchurch in 1996…” To be noted that “Watching you” is a significantly sub-optimal wording selection if you don’t want to come across as being scary as fuck.
My well documented (and hysterically critiqued) public bus phobia meant that the 6 stage no shuttle option was on the cards, which based on the first couple of liaisons is definitely the more ‘Fight Club’ option to tick on the 2W menu. I was content to grind away based on it being Andes Pacifico training and I had to have something to show for the ridiculous amount of grinding I’ve been balls deep in recently.
Taking this all into account, I’d have to say this is one race format where rolling with your GC Crew is not only infinitely accessible and easy, but in fact it demands it… The casual nature of design your own liaisons, coupled with no cut offs other than the 6 hour window you have and it all adds up to being the Maldives of ENDURO events.
The great back pack betrayal
I apologise to Marco Osborne in advance, but I finally relented and surrendered to fashion over my phobia of running out of water. Yes, I bottled it up, under the guise of attempting to appear like I casually knew what I was doing “Yeah guys, who the fuck needs a pack when there are fountains right?”
Why not spend 6 hours in the forest in roasting heat with nothing more than a compact water bottle and a small Camelbak pocket bladder, counting every pedal stroke until I could get to that sweet sweet refuel… After all, I needed something to have anxiety about other than the usual racing induced conversion into being a Dirt Muppet. I therefore proceeded to spend the rest of the day with a mouth which (I assume) felt like I had gone down on a camel for an extended period of time, assuming of course said camel had just returned from trekking balls deep through the Sahara.
Yes, every turn of the cranks of the 1,500m of vert ascending was spent recalculating how many precious sips were still washing about in my bottle, all while self hating that I had buckled to the fashion pressure of local ENDURO racing, goddammit man, you’re a fish for fucks sake! Not ideal when one of the stages is on Tatooine:
Whenever you come to Rotorua you always end up wetter than Ivanka when Justin visits town, either through pissing rain or sweat, given this was the latter, the learning is to always design your 2W routes around the water stops.
Delusions of Grandeur
For some reason I was convinced that my first repatriated ENDURO race would finally see me emerge from my chrysalis of riding like an uncharacteristically large dog shit and instead see me floating down beautiful pumice based trails, flowing like water, effortlessly moving my body around my shiny new Nomad 4 like a Beyonce back up dancer and generally shredding like I was the hairy love child of Sam Hill and Cecile Ravanal. The Dirty Transformation was upon us! #imkindofabigdealaroundhere
As it turns out, Mountain biking don’t give a fuck about your delusions, nor is there anything in the fine print about international galavanting and prodigious word wanking translating into devastating shred form just because you’ve arrived back in the country your passport was issued.
If anything it was a reaffirmation that I am ultimately destined to be a hairy ENDURO lifestyle model without a cover shot, and no matter how many times I screamed “Don’t you know who I am?!” to the trails, it had zero impact on the fact I once again felt like I was riding like a muppet who had ODed on meth. I know that at times you have to accept that when racing an ENDURO you have to be comfortable with feeling like a cunt in terms of how you get through a stage, but I was convinced I had ridden sections faster the day before when I was out having a casual sneaky peak…
I also hold a PhD in how to prepare for MTB races like a total cunt, so I can also confirm that a shit load of Gravel miles may be handy for the liaisons, but aren’t your friend when you hear the Beep when tagging into a race stage. Thanks Captain Obvious fuckbag. These 2W courses demand respect, especially when you consider Hatu Patu was part of a stage, so EWS level shit right there.
There’s also the not so inconsequential matter that when you rock up here, you’re walking into the Lion’s Den of the most feared weapon in the Mountain Biking world – Local Knowledge.
And we’re not just talking any local knowledge either, we’re talking about perhaps one of the most active Dirt communities in the country. Places where you can go if you really wanted to be reamed the fuck out when racing: Rotorua, Nelson and Queenstown. The locals here know every root, every cut line, where to pin it, where to huck it, where to roll it and how to get medieval on yo ass with the appropriate pliers & blow torch combo while you’re still busy trying to work out if you should take the high or low line in the middle of your race run.
Yes, out of towners arrive here bright eyed and bushy tailed and leave jammed between sesame buns and covered in aioli like a delicious and fingered lamb burger. There’s no escaping the massacre that a local on a Giant Trance with Shimano STX can dish out to your highly pampered Global ENDURO ass. If you’re running low on self loathing, then get here immediately.
At one stage I even started to hate myself for not bringing a 29er for some of the ultra pedally work I found before me… Then I realised that I needed someone with a particularly harsh German accent to scream “NEIN!” in my face so intensely I’d have to blink away the little bits of spit that hit me in the eye, followed up with a vigorous and semi arousing face slapping. This was not about equipment! This was about talent and application muthafucka.
To the uninitiated who roll their eyes and wonder what the fuck I’m talking about – You need to think about it like Sex. Pretty much everyone wants to be good, or even great, at making sweet sweet love, correct? No one really wants to be a shit lay… So imagine if you will spending hours and hours trying to get awesome at dropping the hammer in bed, only to find every time the big moment arose, in-spite of your best efforts, your lover frowned, patted you on the head and then outlined to you that it was actually just average at best:
Your positioning isn’t quite right, you didn’t maintain momentum, you didn’t concentrate when going down, you hesitated at key moments, you didn’t seem to commit to really smashing it, you seem to be panting a LOT and then you blew your load before the end of the stage… Plus, gross, dry mouth dude.
Have I made my point yet? Hopefully, as I will now fuck up about my average midpack performance before we all get bored. The quest for Dirt greatness will march on relentlessly into 2018.
Irony loves 2017
By any standards, when you look at world events, Irony loves 2017. As such, it makes no surprise that when analysing the results sheet, my best result of the day stage wise was what I was fairly certain my worst. To sprinkle some bizarreness on that thought, it was also the first stage of the day, which history suggests is usually laced with fuckbaggery.
As they say “Don’t judge a stage by how much of a cunt you thought you rode it like“, I managed to get down K2 in 32nd place, which is exceedingly mid pack in my age group given there were 61 of us. I’m more than happy to embrace that sweet warm duvet of mid packery just quietly. An important point to note that most 2W events get around 350 to 400 people allegedly, so a nod to their popularity.
Of course, this is mainly driven by the location… I’ve gone on enough about Rotorua as a destination, but every time I cum back here, there is something new to endurogasim about. This time its the new ‘Burning Heart’ trail, an absolute banger which needs to be ridden immediately if you haven’t yet hit it in the Whaka Forest. Allegedly one of the longest drops in the forest, its been hand built and designed in a way that makes it so fun it sits just one spot below a Rusty Trombone in the “Fuck that’s awesome” life list (I double dare you to google that on your work PC). A weaving roller coaster which is rammed full of all the things that make Mountain Biking simply fucking awesome.
Whilst all the stages had a lot of variety, don’t be fooled – If you didn’t have a bit of pedalling firepower in you on this day, you were going to be fucked. Come prepared to lay down some gas to these races, its an all round test of eAbility.
Riff Raff 3 – Dirty Nomad 0
When you’re rolling with an ENDURO Spec Ops squad like the one I found myself in, its fairly ruthless at chopping through the stages and liaisons with local knowledge precision and efficiency. After the oven fan bake climb up Moerangi Road it was therefore time to face my nemesis, the Frankenfurter, Riff Raff & Rocky Horror 3 headed beast gang bang. Some may recall this is where it all really fell apart back in March, but with only 2 stages to go and sweet dry trails, I was arrogantly overconfident that it was going to be payback time and that I would get on the board against my ruthless adversary:
I had even set off with the clearly stated strategy of keeping in smooth and not making any mistakes, focus on the flow and remember that you need to get home with both arms fully operational to fulfil your nappy ninja responsibilities. This strategy worked exceedingly well… For about 3.5 minutes, then it all went fully cunted in a split second:
As I was being rag dolled over the bars for reasons still unclear to me, it occurred to me that my bike was folding over me and HOLY CUNT it was twisting my still clipped in ankle. I’m not sure how many more degrees or seconds would have been needed to actually snap something, but that shit went about as far as I would ever want to go towards finding out. The next 5 minutes were spent alternating between ‘Fuck’ and ‘cunt’, A for creativity, as I attempted to weight bear and generally tried to hide on the side of the trail…
Just to add insult to what was clearly now an injury, as I tried to coast out like a wounded Eagle/Turkey, I was set upon by a squad of Groms who ran a train on my humiliated ass. I promptly pushed the last one down the bank… Jokes, he managed this shit all by himself, but in my head it was a full Jedi move fuelled by powerful self-loathing:
I still had Rocky Horror to negotiate, which based on the sharp jab of pain every time a shock was transferred into my right foot, probably wasn’t the greatest move, but I suffered on with ego dribbling out my ass in an effort to rejoin the herd and report another searing defeat at the hands of the three headed beast.
So, for the second time in a row, I found myself back in the race village early, wondering if DNF really stood for ‘Dirty Nomad Fucked’. Except unlike France where at least I enjoyed an ice cold coke, now it was just some left over ice garnished with regret I came up one stage short of completing the day. I was left to ponder if this is what I deserved for wearing goggles with an open face helmet…
The Nomad 4 ENDURO debut
Billed as not an ENDURO bike, but then seen winning EWS stages, its fair to say the N4 isn’t exactly everyone’s first pick for a race bike in Rotorua.
Given we’ve only done a measly 184km’s together, I was intrigued to see how the N4 would roll on its debut in Rots and in a relatively pedally race. I am starting to love this machine, but its definitely a BIG bike, and I mean that in every sense. Its long, it has more travel than any bike most people have probably ever owned and its an absolute plow beast when you point it downhill.
It doesn’t really want to negotiate with terrain, it just wants to mow it down and terraform whatever’s in front of it with a viciousness that even Third World Dictators would shy away from. I’m still getting used to just hanging onto this deviant machine and letting it do its thing, but I am frothing to spend more time on it ASAP back in the Promised Pumice lands.
Not that my riding or results support this (However, I expect to be validated on this soon) but let me proclaim that the Santa Cruz Reserve wheels are the best MTB wheels currently available on the market. Don’t hesitate for a moment if you’re Christmas shopping for yourself.
So then, in summary, if you haven’t yet got remaining GC’s you know together to smash the fuck out of each other at a 2W, then its definitely worthy of your time. The instant results at the end allow for hours of post race shit giving over beers and its a legit big day out if you make the call to pedal the whole beast. Thanks to the awesome crew I got to roll with for the day, it was a privilege as always to pop my 2W cherry with such rad company, next time I promise not to cunt myself up.
I’m off to glue my fucking hands to my MTB handlebars once my Kankle recedes, and then ask Santa for petrol vouchers so I can get back over to Rots in a forlorn attempt to beat the locals at their own game in April at the final round. Cue Mission Impossible soundtrack.