Race reports here tend to subject you the reader to a smorgasbord of differing flavours of near misses, failures, incidents, malaise or just straight up mid-pack mediocrity.
But this post, well, this one gets to be different for a change. It gets the chance to be a lonely atoll of radness in an ocean of ‘what the fuck are you doing?’ A rare change indeed. Before you start putting the roast chicken in the oven, no, let’s not overdo shit, it’s not a race win, but how about the next best thing?
A bonafide M40 Enduro Stage win in Rotorua
Holy fuck, isn’t this exactly the content you’ve been looking for? The yardstick by which all stories should be measured by? Let’s face it, none of you give a fuck about what happens in Bandito land, other than wanting tales of cramp, crying and extreme self loathing as I vomit up cashew nuts, but an Enduro stage win… Yeah, fuck yeah, that’s what we click on the refresh button for.
Admittedly stage wins are as rare as a new bike in the size and colour you want in the middle of the current Bikepocalypse, or office orgy’s (Excluding you Legal firms!), so much so that I’ve decided to zero in on just a single stage for this from the recent Triple Crown event in Vegas, arguably/allegedly one of the oldest Enduro events in the country.
More exclusive than a Billionaires tax evasion scheme, if you manage to grab a Triple Crown entry you can be sure to be fed into the wood chipper that is riding against the locals finest on some of their raddest trails. In all seriousness, this is one chilled event, with competitors doubling as a mobile heckling squad pumped up to hang shit on their mates as much as they can squeeze in on the 3 stages.
The first two stages had been pretty good, I found myself scratching around inside the top 10 in M40 as I survived riding yet another new iteration of Taniwha (7th on stage) and then gave a better than usual effort down Te Ruru (5th on stage) than my 2W performances… But I definitely had a loving eye on the third and final stage of the day…
Stage 3 was laden with variety, just how I like a stage; Top of Tuteata, into Hot X and then into lower Tumeke – Not everyone’s idea of a good time, but as it rolled off my tongue I could already feel it helping itself to my frothed up honey hole.
And with a beep of the fanciest timing system you’re likely to see at a local Enduro, it’s time for the TLDR low down, which still replays vividly in my mind.
Bang – Straight into the first drop of the stage, mind that off camber left hander and hold the speed, but critically don’t blow your Enduro load in the top section of Tuteata, something which it wants to suck you into doing as it wiggles its hips when it starts to flatten off before the exit onto the road, pump, pump and pump some more instead of unleashing a giant over the top sprint.
The fact that I could find the time to think through these aspects was a good sign, instead of my mind just turning into its usual screaming mush of stage froth.
I didn’t even panic when I went to give it some power across the transition from the end of Tuteata into Hot X, a flat section which can eat time if you’re passive. My legs felt…. Well, on a number of other days, they felt like legs which would send me into a state of mental decline, but today I had the capacity to realise that we’d stood around at the top for too long and they just needed some warming up, and they’d be more than ready for when it really mattered.
But for now, it was all about putting the glory of the new 50mm stem to good use and relishing the front end grip it provided on the top turns of Hot X as I embarked on an unusually aggressive carving of the Buns, the Assegai helping itself prodigiously to the pumice and G Muzz’s handiwork (Bless that mans work).
As the Megatower ate up turn after turn, I felt like I was floating towards another level of riding, something that had been perhaps 22 months in the making. But before reaching any glorious peaks, there were going to be two feral pushes to the summit and the first was rapidly closing in.
I hadn’t ridden the slightly updated entrance to the dip on Hot X, but it didn’t matter, as the plan would have been the same – Go fucking flat out, jump as far as you can, carry more speed than The Rodfather on his London OE and make sure you were in the perfect gear at the top of the dip, because this was a moment of truth.
As I hooked the gear and cleared the first few corners of the climb that can frustrate many, I got a clear message from the engine room; Full Power was available… Head down, control passed over to the inner Bandito and half the matches were pulled out of the box. Fuck, any more cliches to drop in here? Cashing in half my chips? Whatever appeals to you, I was doing it.
As I passed my 30 second man, a moment of disorientation struck me trying to find the transition to Tumeke, but this momentary lapse was soon replaced by a near miss navigating down to cross Direct road, bringing us to the second date with lactic death.
The drag into Tumeke isn’t overly steep, but it felt like it wasn’t going to end, and as I stood on the pedals and flicked down the gears, it was here where I needed to burn the fucking boats. There was no way back… It was either full gas here, or nothing. Luckily for me then that I had a moment where no matter how hard I pushed, my legs seemingly felt like they had no limits.
“Fucking MORE, pour it on cunt, today is the day!” they cried.
My lungs weren’t exactly on the same page it seemed, so there was some disagreement as we blasted into an all time favourite of Lower Tumeke as to whether or not emptying the tank was the best strategy, a debate which got louder when the realisation struck that we had just saved some fucking wild moments in the first few sections.
“Slow the fuck down, keep it smooth” I implored myself
“Fuck that, you’re flying, don’t lose momentum now cunt! You’re not on a heater, you’re balls deep IN a heater!” I replied, almost ready to unleash a LinkedIn fuckwit level lecture about ‘destroying comfort zones’ or “Feeling the fear and doing it anyway”
Ultimately the internal debate was inconclusive, so general agreement was made to get on with loving riding lower Tumeke, an absolute gem of a trail. A gem which was passing by with unusually high speed from my perspective.
Breath, lightly brake, watch that shiny root, hit that cut line, stay high, jump that, don’t fucking jump that, watch the camber, breath again and then finally, steady yourself for the crescendo of Tumeke where you know the hecklers will be parked up and ready.
Naturally it’s changed in nature once again, ready to punish out of towners who are silly enough to not ride here regularly, but just go with what you know and improvise accordingly. Up on the left line, a little slower than ideal to drop in, but cleanly through… Let the Megatower run, probably a bit too much, over jumping the next drop and catching yet another wild moment all thanks to 15 extra millimetres of front wheel bias. Must remember to kiss Rodfather’s weather & jungle beaten face next time I see him for that suggestion.
Holy fuck, I’m absolutely pumped, frothing, fighting, flowing and unusually on it. Only a few corners to dispatch and there’s The Creator, snapping pics like a fucking pro:
All I had to do now was let the Megatower dance beneath me like teenager at its first post Lock down rave and stay away from a smattering of shiny roots and I knew we had banked a more than fucking solid stage to close out the day. For a change, my mind was clear and my crazy eyes were on the amateur prize:
As I heard the beep of the timing chip making sweet love with its digital partner I couldn’t contain the whoops of stoke that exited my mouth involuntarily. I was awash with amazement at how I’d ridden the stage, utter relief I had saved some big moments and absolutely giddy on the sheer speed of the whole thing. The post endurogasim shakes started before I could even get my gogs off.
The timing board confirmed what my frothed up persona was telling me, it was a banger of a time, in relative terms… I almost didn’t even care about pondering if it could hold as the other M40’s began to arrive. I hadn’t left anything on the table, so this was going to be as good as it gets.
Ultimately, it was enough, by a scant 2 seconds to a chasing local pack of M40 demons. A rare stage win in the bag and enough to cement 4th on the day, just missing out on that elusive Rots podium love.
The hyper critical part of me could easily find ways to discount this stage win… No Creator in the field, no Big Bad Byron, only one ex-Olympian Pro in there, only a 3 stage race, a slight Bandito flavour to a couple of sections, or that Conor Hamilton went 55 seconds faster overall (WTAF) etc etc.
But in that moment and the days after, that part of me could fuck up faster than that person in meetings who pretends to ask a question but simply ends up talking about themselves endlessly and instead, it was time to bask in the stoke of that solitary stage win.
They don’t come along very often, and no-one knows when the next one will be along, so it was time to seize the stoke:
Special thanks to the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club for putting on rad events like this and fuelling the amateur Enduro fever. Thanks also to The Creator, who unwittingly wrapped himself around a tree, had to sit this one out and thus gifted me the stage, because let’s face it, would have been a shit write up to have come second.