As I stand at the start line of writing up 5 days worth of Race Reports for the Trans NZ Enduro, I find myself mixed up in a cocktail of laziness and reflection which has resulted in the two week gap between the mission briefing and actually publishing the first post. Yes, its taken me a while to shake off the writers block and post ‘Trans’ physical beat down to start weaving story from it.

Sure, I suffered the same hang over post Trans Provence, but this is a different feeling entirely. Is it easy to explain? No. Will I use the upcoming Race Reports to try and elaborate? That’s the aim.

My other aim is to avoid the usual chronologically enforced march through stage after stage of ENDURO racing. I’m sure that you’re as bored as I am with the usual “I rode to the stage start, it was hard, I put my goggles on, then I rode as fast as my legs and ever reducing testicles would allow, got my stage times and then lamented not enough build up time while saying cunt a lot” formulae.

I’ll also try and save all the logistical nerdiness for the wrap up post at the end. Having said that, before change freaks you right the fuck out – I will ram these fuckers with epic scenery pics, plenty of C Bombs and mucho anguish about handling skills. Without further wanking on then, lets get into some riding and scenery frothing shall we? Day 1 on Trans NZ awaited…

Key moment – Just as I had imagined it

Wetness has a time and place, and Craigieburn on Day 1 of a 5 day race is categorically not one of them. I already knew this of course, but it was firmly reinforced by the horror stories told with zombie eyes around the camp by last years veterans. If you’ve seen the video and like me, physically shuddered at it, then you can imagine why I was slightly more than a little bit stoked to wake up to this arrangement here:

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Mon-Ton time

We had everything you need at an ENDURO race of course: 110 eager shredders, goggles weirdly mating with half shell helmets, more Go PRO’s than an amateur porn studio and of course a drone that was shooting rad footage now, whilst I’m sure it was actually secretly refining its techniques for hunting humans (#judgementday). Head of the list though, we had golden Craigieburn trail awaiting us:

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Lining up to Luge it up

As I lined up to start, nervously eyeing who may have been queuing up behind me like Bree Olsen on a prison set, it occured to me that not only was this only my third MTB ride in 2016, but the first time I had been poised to hear a start beep since I dropped into the last stage in Finale… Possibly not the best thoughts to have before stage 1, but the mind will wander where it will. BEEP!

Key moment – The end of the #Road2Recovery?

Then all of a sudden I think it dawned on me that this was the first time I was taking to a downhill on my Nomad since I fucked up the Rodfather’s afternoon on Mt Vic in November. A strange thought to have when you’re heading towards this:

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Ignore the flashbacks…

Thank fuck then that we were on the Luge trail, as if you’re going to decide to get back on your big bike for the first time in 5 months, then this is probably one of the most enjoyable ways to do it. I spent the stage reaching into the recesses of my brain to both remember the trail (Fail) and also how to ride the Nomad with a bit of class (I’m writing this up, so a pass I guess).

I won’t spend the whole report performing literary masterbation about the Craigiburn trails, you can scope that out here in more detail, but, just in case it wasn’t clear: They are shit hot…

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Accuracy remains a key priority

I guess its fair to call the Road to Recovery complete given I was back riding the bike that I love the most in the world, and as elating as that was, I had both eyebrows raised at the fact that I was very much in the deep end all of a sudden, not just cruising around on it, but trying to ride it as fast as I could in narrow single track.

A timely bar clip on a tree and a big save a mid-stage reminder of my pre-race commitment to just cruise through it… I turned to Sam for some advice on how to react to nearly eating shit 3 minutes into the cumback race:

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Thanks Mr Jackson

Just cruise through it… Hmmmm, how many of us have had that best intention and then lost the battle to the thought that enters our head and says “Cunt, you’re on the clock here… Do you really want to be beaten by that guy on the Merida?” Instinct, red mist, fever, history, ego – They all like to combine to make you do things you didn’t want to do and yes, break promises:

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“That’s pride… Fucken with ya… FUCK pride”

I went into a bike race to take it easy” said no one, ever. Having said that, I was being more conservative than a Donald Trump voter, just buying time until the mojo started to flood back in plentiful supply… I hoped.

Key moment – Making new friends

Making new friends… You’re either good at it and love it, or aren’t and don’t. I suspect I am somewhere in the middle, leaning slightly to the latter, after all, its an exercise that involves a lot of small talk conversation littered with cliches: Gross. I was therefore lucky enough to be inducted into the rad riding GC crew for the week, which included the Carl & Katie show:

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Liaisons had a distinct PRO aroma to them

Ex Champion Bandits (Elite national winning ones at that), they know a thing or two about how to pedal the utter fuck out of a bike and had also seen the light, going as ENDURO as fuck on it. And really who can blame them? Who wants to spend 1.5 hours ignoring this scenery while being hated on by a hardtail?

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Craigieburn doing its thing

Forming the rest of our crew, Doug and Johan from the city of the future, both of whom were firmly focused on enforcing an ENDURO form of submission on the other throughout the week. I didn’t know it at this point, but they were absolutely pinned to fuck all week, not only stoking a classic friendly rivalry, but also haunting the fringes of the top 10.

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Doug is stoked to be initiated into the awkward Dirty photo taking regime

And yes, the hike up to the Cheeseman DH trail is considerable, thank you Trans NZ organisers for the strategic placement of the aid station at the top… If the pics aren’t a give away, motherfucker was a hot day.

Key moment – I’ll have extra cheese on that thanks

The only trail I hadn’t ridden before on Day 1 was the Cheeseman DH trail… It appeared to be the longest stage of the day and with the DH title, was guaranteed to be pretty rad. The guys ran me through it in depth and as I listened intently, it became apparent there wasn’t too much to be worried about really. Yes, well, that would have been the case if I had turned left here:

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What remains of the ENDURO gang banged pink tape… Full speed ahead!

What you’re looking at there is what my brain didn’t process at ALL when I arrived on the scene. I sort of saw the tape, but it was pretty clear that based on those that had come before me it was time to go straight ahead. Like a lemming who harbours a fantasy about being a sheep, I ploughed on straight ahead.

Turned out very quickly that straight ahead was not only NOT the race course, but was a very rad fall line DH trail. Whilst the Go PRO is lying to you here (machines have no respect), let me assure you that it was fucking steep… The kind of steep where you love it, but also wonder how many more sections of it you can take before you lose your shit. I will confess to having a few Mt Vic flashbacks on a couple of sections here… Fart noise.

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Is it overdone to say “Steeper than it looks” again?

When I wasn’t having flashbacks or trying to pick a line, two thoughts entered my hectic mind:

  1. Fuck the dudes I am riding with must be rad cunts if this section didn’t warrant a mention
  2. Thank fuck I did my bare minimum gym sessions 3 times a week so I could hold onto the bike

At the end of the run, I accosted my new BFF’s on point 1, where I was reassured that actually, no, that wasn’t the race course and a whole lot of us had piled down the DH line as opposed to the marked course… Not that it mattered, as Carl pointed out based on my pussification, I hadn’t even gone full rad anyway:

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“Bro/Pussy, you know its a 160mm fork right?”

Ultimately about 30 riders had the privilege of hitting the rad line down Cheeseman DH, which was then taped back off, a fact that got a few people more than a little bit excited… I haven’t seen an ENDURO controversy before, so it was good shits & giggles to see people firing up over a 30 second deviation in the context of a 5 day race… Before we get into a shaky voiced argument on that topic, look, its more banger scenery!

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Too awesome for controversy, let’s just chill and enjoy that shit

3 Stages down… 2 to go and I was slowly starting to feel ‘normalish’ on the bike again, granted, racing was a shock to the system and an odd way to make a comeback, but the weather was epic and the trails were mint, so on we rolled.

Key moment – The early climax

For those that knew it, there was a slight eye brow being raised at Stage 4. No, it wasn’t going to deep throat you with gnar or technically proficient booby traps, but it was going to demand a lot of pedalling – In fact, the most pedally stage of the day for sure, perhaps even the week?

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“Remember, what ever you do, don’t blow your load in the first act… There are 4 more to come”

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was busy pedalling my ass off on Stage 4 with little bits of spit coming out on my way to my best stage placing of the entire race. You, fucking, roadie. Yes, I ended up 30th on this stage out of a field of 70 at that point.

So, even though I’m the guy with the terrible gimmick T Shirt on that says “I’m not here for the results YO” on it in crumbling adhesive, I would say that’s right where I expected to be. Yes, that’s a slightly odd expectation given the circumstances, but its important to maintain that tight linkage between unrealistic expectations and self-loathing.

Oddly, it didn’t feel like my best stage of the entire week… I had blown plenty of corners and had to pedal out of stuff that should have been railed. I guess when you do almost 3,000km’s in a couple of months on the road then you should go well on a stage that demands the cranks be turned quicker than the Nike Lawyers can find the out clause in the Sharapova contract.

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We all agreed it was best to ignore the fuck out of that epic scenery

The top of Stage 5 is a rad little piece of track… Literally full gas given you know you had the track to yourself and the only thing that was going to pop out at you were trees that liked the idea of ENDURO width bars. I will readily admit the scent of conservatism was filling my nostrils at this stage and the odd brake check was ably contributing to my pussification.

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The moment you’re validated for not having 780mm bars

Still, I managed to bag my second best stage result of 37th… I don’t mean of the day either, I mean of the entire fucking week. Yes, spoiler alert up in yo grill – I didn’t manage to crack back into the top 40 on a stage result for the rest of the race. More on that later.

Still, as B-Rad pointed out to me, taking it easy did have its own business case:

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How it looks to come all the way to NZ from the US for a one day race

Don’t worry, for those that like results and transparency, I’m keeping that tradition alive in summary format, stage times don’t mean so much here, so its mainly stage placings. Out of a field of 70 in Open Men:

  • Stage 1 – 44th
  • Stage 2 – 44th
  • Stage 3 – 40th
  • Stage 4 – 30th
  • Stage 5 – 37th
  • Overall Day 1 – 38th in 29.44

For TNZ we’ll run with the usual ‘Dirty unrealistic comparison’ to race winner and ENDURO power couple of the Carl & Katie show to provide some perspective on daily stage results:

  • Carl’s overall day 1 time – 24.22… Yes, that’s right: Pinned as fuck taking 4 stages out of 5
  • Katie’s overall day 1 time – 30.20

Given I’m too old to know how snapchat works, I’ll take that on my first day back racing. Craigieburn in the dry is a must do, every stage was awesome and well, that scenery fucken sells itself now doesn’t it? Even though it was only day 1, it was easy to tell that the Trans NZ crew knew how to run a quality event.

Daily Dirty ENDURO tip – Riding a 4.5 hour day with 1,300m of climbing in 26 degree heat with people who are A) Faster than you and B) 15 to 20kg’s lighter than you is obviously quite taxing. I didn’t do a whole lot of talking, instead doing my best impersonation of a hairy caboose. Choo fucking choo.

Given my penchant for finishing in the top half of the field (ok, totally ignore all EWS results), it was a pretty good day one and as my inner narcissist liked to think “By joves chaps, we only improve as these things go on!” Would that be the case here? Would I get that surge of mojo or would creeping signs of pussification take over like a zombie virus, leaving me to mindlessly wander the lower pages of the results sheet?

Or more importantly – Was I spending too much time thinking about results instead of just riding? Stay tuned to find out.

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