At some stage when you’re talking to people about doing Trans NZ, especially locals, they may suggest that its a reasonable amount of money to pay to ride trails that you can pretty much access any time you want in summer. Whilst I wouldn’t necessarily agree to that position (accom, shuttles and food sorted is a massive win don’t forget, not to mention that its a Race), the one piece of evidence I would point to when making my investment case is Day 4:
Actually, its as uncool as fuck to call it by its full name, you need to get with that shit and simply call it ‘Alex‘ to ensure you don’t come across as a gumby outsider. Not that you’ll be able to pass yourself off as a local through, something I shall elaborate on below.
Thanks to the golden dudes at Vertigo Bikes in Queenstown, they had somehow managed to fully service my cunted Reverb dropper post overnight (well well, isn’t that B1 redesign timely?) and the result of their marathon open heart surgery meant that I was fully restored to full dropper action, something that would turn out to be critical on Day 4.
Of every day on the TNZ agenda, I was actually the most excited about Day 4, mainly as it was the only day on the race where I would be riding somewhere 100% new. I’d heard about the riding in Alex and we’d obviously all seen the videos of PRO’s ripping it up, so there was a lot of mystic about it. We were also reminded that it was going to be unlike anything else we had ridden so far, or in NZ for that matter.
And this perhaps outlines one of the coolest things about the riding on Trans NZ – Variety. It was clear very early on that the trails we would be hitting on Day 4 would be totally different to the first 3 days, or anything else we would see all week. In a word: Rocky as fuck. Yes, that’s 3, but just saying it was rocky would do it a disservice. It didn’t take long for me to switch to vista froth mode either.
Allegedly Alex has less annual rainfall than Nevada, which is one of those stats that sounds great so you repeat it like a talking head without too much concern for its accuracy #thetrumpprotocol. The surrounding landscape as we ENDURO marched up to stage 1 made a good case for that fact being true however:
Holy shit! Talk about the wild west… I expected at any moment to see the full Dances with Wolves scenario bust out somewhere. Its like every shit western you’ve ever seen was shot right here in this unique zone. I instantly wondered how the fuck I had never managed to ride in here before? Call yourself a kiwi? Disgrace.
You see, the trick here is that this is all private land. Yup, no bike park signs, maps or directions here… As such, you definitely need to either be local, or with the army of local shredders to work out whats up around here. Your best bet if you do want the inside line, go and see the local legend Phil at Altitude Bikes in town. If you have the balls for it, even join their shop ride… #staybehindthelocals.
In return for be able to indulge in this awesome terrain, the locals get to join in for the day and have a race within a race using the TNZ timing system. As you can imagine, they looked more than a bit fast and it was best to get familiar with the sentence “You can go ahead of me dude” if you spotted one trying to queue up behind you:
We had been given the heads up that Stage 1 was the hardest of the day… So selected by the local team as they thought it best that people got amongst it while they were fresh. That alone set the scene well and there was no shortage of nervous anticipation as the ENDURO drain began to empty onto the course. Well, not all of us were nervous, some of us wanted to just rip it to pieces:
Hi ho fucking silver! I was massively excited at the prospect of the Go PRO footage from Day 4 in Alex… Mainly as it was the perfect terrain and conditions for shooting good video – No shadows or trees of note and lots of gnar to make shit look exceedingly heroic in screen grabs, I was frothing at the media aspects let alone the riding.
Which is why I may have said “CUNT” a few times when I got the death beeps letting me know that my ‘fully charged battery’ was actually fully fucked. At least I got this one screen grab:
The most important part of the briefing that day was the single sentence of “Follow the pink dots“… I had no idea what this really met until my first encounter with these mythical dots. And holy fuck, the instruction to follow them wasn’t just a guide, it was an essential order.
Its worth noting at this point that even if you did manage to come out here solo and find these trails, knowing which line to take on their rad rocky sprawl would be a whole other matter. Luckily for us then that the whole course had been laid out by the local Alex crew, who like an army of gnar addicted graffiti artists, had busily made their way through the rolling hills to pink dot out all the best shit just for us. Right there is your business case for the TNZ entry!
Trusting the pink dots lovingly sprayed on the rock formations however was another matter, and it took a couple of sections to get my head around not only trusting them, but also making sure that you kept your front wheel right on them. I realise this makes little to no sense without the Go PRO footage that should have been shot.
It only took about 25% of Stage 1 to pass beneath my strange tire combo for me to realise that:
- This was a fucking rad stage
- This was an awesome place to ride your bike
The more it went on, the more I loved it… Rocky as fuck, seemingly ample grip levels and the type of tricky and techy terrain that floods the loins with happy feelings. Someone ordered extra gnar on stage 1 and I was determined to clean my plate. In a number of sections it reminded me of being on some of the trails around Sospel, expect not quite as fast and with a little bit more navigating required.
It was also a bit like that bad ass stage on Day 4 of TP, except a lot easier given the pink beacons we got to follow, or, if you were the poor dude that was colourblind: “What fucking pink dots?”
Stage 1 was possibly the most interesting stage we had ridden so far that week, yes, probably because it was like a virgin to us, but it had some awesome variety in it and the tech was proper world class action as well. I was loving how Rocky this place was.
I was pretty stoked on Stage 1, so when people started to say “Oh man, Stage 2 is waaaay better than stage 1 brah“, it was therefore quite an exciting prospect. Indeed, the start of the stage was, as demonstrated by Carl:
Ok, so I have to use it at least once in this post…. So forgive me… BRRAAAAAAAAP:
With much anticipation then, I gladly rolled into Rocky II for some more of this Alex goodness… And ran straight smack back into a patented DN Melt Down. The important thing to remember here is that much like a Zombie attack, a fart in a lift, a rash on the scrotum or an illegitimate child, the infamous #DNMD can strike at any moment. You may remember such events from Day 2 in Finale, or Stage 22 on Trans Provence, or even stage 1 in the Rotorua EWS. Yes, these events are a hallmark trait of the Dirty racing style.
I didn’t have any clue a Melt Down of Mass incompetence was going to suddenly be triggered, but it came out in spades massively on this stage. I’m not sure what triggered it, but holy fuck I went full muppet on it in Stage 2.
I think at some stage I was convinced I was about to go over the bars on a rock drop and with the aroma of PTSD I completely froze up. So badly that I stalled at the top of a section that should have been dispatched, couldn’t restart and faced the ultimate ENDURO face job of having to dismount and scramble down something you’d ride 99% of the time, all whilst thinking “fuckbag, this is completely rollable”
Much to the entertainment of the media team, who had camped out right at that section like a Roman platoon funnily enough, I also openly referred to myself as a cunt multiple times in what appeared to be a small child like tantrum. I followed this up with going full sulk mode on it at the finish.
Yes, its poor form to be filled with disgust in such amazing surroundings, but it was hard to not just sit in the long grass with “Fuck this” as the primary thought running through my mind, a mind which seemed to have developed an irrational fear of going over the bars. I was even disgusted that I was disgusted… How dare I have a crisis in this place?! I needed some alone time… I needed to get over my Hanger (yes, hungry anger) and get the Dirty system rebooted.
As I wound my way up to stage 3 in my self imposed solitary confinement, with the rich aroma of Thyme filling my nostrils of rage (oh yeah, the place smells like a herb garden that’s taken Lance levels of EPO), it slowly started to register that there could be no possible excuse for a tantrum or any form of melt down when one was being subjected to such awesome surroundings:
It was fully time to FUCK results and go back to the business of just enjoying riding my Nomad on these awesome new trails. Yes, Radness not Madness needed to be the new theme. I spent the time grinding up to stage 3 in the open having the irrational internal battle about pretty much everything cycling related you can possibly think of.
I had been thinking it was as hot as fuck, but turns out with an average temp of 25 degs, it was about 10 degs cooler than last year. War stories from the 2015 vintage were being thrown down about the ruination that the Alex day caused amongst the ranks. And lets face it, keeping with the Wild West theme, there ain’t fucken nowhere to hide out here:
I had low expectations for stage 3, but that strangely transpired to be a good thing, as it turned out to feel like some sweet sweet redemption. Open sight lines, high speed and with pedal sections that made you feel like you were actually relatively good at that shit. I was blasting through rock like Bruce Willis in Armageddon, except with less faux drama. The mojo was back and just in time as well!
Once again, it was one of those stages where if it wasn’t marked out with expert local precision, chances are you could end up heading off in a million different directions and then eventually get scalped by Apache or eaten by buzzards. Fuck me if that’s how the start of Stage 4 felt as well:
I kept marvelling like a goofy tourist at the terrain… It was seriously unlike anything else I can ever remember riding on in NZ. When you contrasted it with the first 3 days as well, it felt like we were in a different event. The one constant? My riding crew was about to take to stage 4 with a pair of pliers and a blow torch YO:
For Carl this meant an RPM of about 250, literally disappearing over the horizon in a dust cloud… A man that has no time for vista’s that are so sweeping and froth inducing that they almost look fake. This full gas start to 4 pretty much a hint to the theme of the stage – It was fucking ON:
3, 4 and then Stage 5 all turned out to be absolute bangers – Quite possibly all vying for my favourite stages of the week. They weren’t the steepest, they didn’t have the best flow and they weren’t the most ionic, but fuck they were more fun that walking into people who are looking at their smart phones in a crowded street.
They were also quite tightly packed, so I spent the afternoon surfing a wave of stoke and radness in Alex which I think helped cement the place as an absolute favourite destination in my mind. Fuck moving to Queenstown, move here, no tourists, clearly no rain and its only an hour to get to qTown anyway. With the morning melt down a distant memory I didn’t want to head out of these golden Wild West hills:
Stage 5 was a blur of high speed gnar, rock drops, crazy features and a dry river bed type sprint fest to finish off a massive day. Close to 6 hours in the saddle and a shit load of stoked fists being smashed at the end.
And yeah… Yawn, there were some results… Meh, by the time I rolled into the pub at Alex for one of their epic burgers I really didn’t care how it panned out, but predictably Stage 2 was pretty much my worst result all week:
- Stage 1 – 46th
- Stage 2 – 55th
- Stage 3 – 47th
- Stage 4 – 44th
- Stage 5 – 49th
- Overall Day 4 – 32.37 for 47th*
*For consistency I excluded the local competition results from these numbers, but yeah, they pretty much all ran a train on me. To be expected.
And to 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 4 time – 1st in 25.29
- Katie’s overall day 4 time – 32.18
So to turn all my frothing in perspective, its over to the TNZ Media team, who clearly didn’t forget to make sure they had charged their batteries for the day… Hopefully this puts some of my rantings into motivation to get your ass to Alex:
So the final day on TNZ in qTown beckoned… We knew there was going to be bike park radness as well as a brand new trail unveiled for us, so new in fact that as we sat around eating Ice Cream with 2.3 million tourists in town, the awesome locals were up the hill finishing it off by torch light, what an awesome bunch of people!