So I got excited the other day as I worked out that an important 20 year anniversary was upon me… Nope, nothing to do with virginity or crashing Subaru’s into trees (based on a true story), nah, this was more about paying tribute to a true legend and influential figure. Proving that I’m good at maths after 14 years working in a bank, it actually turns out that the anniversary in question was 19 years ago and not 20… Er, fucking awkward or what?
Especially when I was already well into crafting the post, so I will blindly carry on celebrating this ‘almost 20 year‘ milestone! If you’re ever thinking of hiring me, just ignore this whole confessional paragraph. Anyfuckingway, lets jet back basically 20 years to Jan 1996 when I was doing this:
Yeah, that’s massively old school DH action at the NZ Nationals Round 1, where we did mental fire road races on hard tails with 80mm travel forks, then swapped the bars and put the seatpost up to, er, race XC the next day. At the time this seemed mega RAD, but of course no one knew how crazy shit was going to get in the years ahead. In this particular shot, its racing down the Ohau ski field access road, which at 9.5km’s long, was completed by the PRO winner in around 9 mins and 18 seconds from memory… Yes, that’s right, it was fucking MENTAL. Just doing practice runs left you cunted, and I didn’t really cry too much when soon after this picture I got a flat tire, thank you ultra light XC tires, until I realised I had to walk down about 7km’s and thus I felt fried for the XC race the next day.
Stop with the digressing and the ME ME ME stuff FFS. This is all about the life long friendship that was forged that same weekend at Nationals Round 1 with none other than the legendary Lizard. I couldn’t find a pic from the 90’s of him smashing it to win the National Masters MTB XC Series, but this pic of him pouring lighter fluid all over a local climb does a good job of portraying what I mean:
That weekend racing in Ohau, which is essentially the middle of fucking nowhere, Spanky and I happened to be rooming next to what appeared to be a science experiment where there had been a fusion between a mountain lion and a, well, Lizard. He quickly set about either imparting advice or looking PRO as we nodded or looked on in wonderment. Little did we know at the time that this character was more commonly known at that time as the ‘Red Baron’ and would soon be busy winning a National Title.
You never know where great friendships will come from and given we were goofy fucking grommets on a van road trip, I wouldn’t have expected to meet one of the most influential figures in my cycling world that weekend. Ultimately it was the Lizard that first bestowed the ideals of what I would call “Riding Properly” on me, including what was correct and incorrect in the world of cycling and what the word ‘Training’ actually really meant. This included outlining what the spring classics were, I had no idea, and how to actually smash it in a race instead of riding around like you were in the Rec grade. Also of note, when someone says you may need to take the seatpost out of their bike, this doesn’t mean ram it down into the frame and scratching the fuck out of it, important lesson.
How did the name ‘Lizard’ come about? Aside from the fact he didn’t seem to notice heat, ever, it started with him turning up to 100km rides with only one small drink bottle, and finishing the ride with it half full… Yeah… When I had usually been through 2 and felt dehydrated. But what really sealed the deal was the legend of one particularly hot and long ride when someone had been shall we say, a bit cunty, asked around the peloton if anyone had a spare bottle. The Lizard, never one to miss an educational opportunity, turned and said “Yes, I do” and in front of the parched individual, took the bottle, flipped the lid and deposited its contents on to the road in front of their horrified face… Before attacking ruthlessly. To this day, this still sets the benchmark for me in terms of sending messages.
Yes, whether on the MTB or the Road bike, it was an all encompassing battle to contain the Lizard, who had limitless energy supplies and from a tactical perspective, made me feel like I was a low IQ donkey with fleas going up against a chess grand master.
One of our favourite battlegrounds was the Aka’s, which is dominated by the main climb along its route. The two sides are distinctly different climbs, but over the years no matter what I tried or what I did, I was unable to arrive at the summit on either side with my front wheel before the Lizards. Every time I tried, whether it be an early break away that was snuffed out, or a late sprint as the summit came into view, I was reminded by the base code that was hard wired into the Lizards DNA:
You… Will… Not… Beat… ME
So, one day, after he’d had some time off the bike due to minor surgery and still nursing some recovery action, I managed to get the Lizard out to attack the hard side of the Aka’s. Sure, I had been training my ass off and he had been in bed, but never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I figured perhaps now was my time to take a low moral fibre victory at least once in this never ending game of chess.
As we climbed the Aka’s on the steep side, I began to apply the pressure to see how he was faring… There wasn’t a lot of chat, which was a good sign, so I kept it pretty constant and then eventually I was able to create a gap. Like a cheap fucking robbers dog I was off with this, finally ready to nail a victorious moment on this battlefield. I didn’t dare look back as I time-trialled to the summit… The one time I did check, it was empty road behind me.
As I got close to the summit and my nostrils could sniff victory, I moved to the middle of the road and finally allowed myself a glance back at the road over my right hand shoulder… Seeing an empty road, I allowed myself a little moment and much to my deep regret, I let out an audible:
Then, in a moment that I will never ever forget, from my left hand side, there was a booming note slapping my left ear:
Almost crashing, and in total horror, I spun around to catch an accelerating Lizard grinning as he unleashed what he knew was a winning sprint… I was agar, unable to respond, my mouth open in amazement and in the wrong gear to counter attack, I could only marvel at his stealth bridging and then perfect placement to ambush me, knowing I would naturally look to my ride due to the curve of the road. To this day, it remains 134 to 0 in the ‘Lizard Vs Nomad’ Aka’s summit tally.
Aside from being put in the hurt locker on the road bike every weekend, some of the best MTB trips I’ve ever had were with the Lizard, the 1998 Nationals tour and the subsequent regular Rots and Taupo expeditions were like laying the foundations for the future Dirty Nomad lifestyle, even though I had no concept of what that entailed at the time.
There are more stories from those weekends, where I learnt how to do an MTB road trip properly, and from our various K2 Race adventures (coming soon in another Flashback post) than I have the ability to ever remember, including the introduction of the legendary call of “ONE Mistake…“, which I shall elaborate on at the appropriate moment in the future.
Whilst never appearing directly in any DN Missions, the Lizard did feature in an old post about final rides, as it was back in 2009 that I last had the privilege of rolling with him, AT and Hams through the Aka’s on my final ride in NZ before disappearing to the Global Hub, apparently this was summer?
Any way… the point I’m trying to make is that as I gear up for what will be a pretty big year riding and adventure wise, its important to appreciate, thank and show respect to the people that got you to where you are today. From a riding and friendship perspective, the Lizard is an absolute legend and I would have never been able to do some of the things I have done cycling wise without his advice, encouragement, yelling, wisdom and “Fucking get up early and stop eating all those chips” interventions. Chur Bro:
If you’re ever able to help guide someone onto the path of cycling correctness and away from cuntiness, then take the opportunity to do so, you never know what rad adventures it will bring your way.