Sunday, October 24, 2010

Whaka 100 and Single Speed Worlds - Part 2

Follows from Part 1

Friday 22 October

Jonty and Mike arrive from Wellington in the wee hours. I hear Alex up and talking to them. Poor bugger's still unwell.

Don't these bastards sleep? They're up by 6am. I roll over and fall quickly back to sleep.

I sleep fitfully, and then finally give up. Coffee, toast, cereal, same old same old.

The others are suiting up for a look at the Worlds course, but I want to be on my own.  I head out at about 9:30.  The amazing riding we have in this country never ceases to amaze me.


I head up Tarawera Road, bound for the top of the park. I hook onto the Whaka 100 course.

My knee feels fine. I spin up the hill. It's easier today than when I rode it on Sunday.

I find the start of Tuhoto Ariki, and admire the signage and the manuka gateway.

The Tuhoto Ariki trail-head

I'm reminded of the Akatarawas as I slip and slide through the native bush. I start to regret coming this way today. It's too wet, and I struggle. It's nice to walk from time to time.

I take the turn into Hatupatu. I nail some bits, and some bits nail me. No crashes, but plenty of refusals.

I don't see Chestnut Link when I come out. I reach for my map while a shuttle bus pulls up. Big Gav's sitting in the back seat.

I backtrack a little, and make my way up to the start of Split Enz and a near-continuous 1.5 hour singletrack ride: Split Enz...

 ... Pondy, Rollercoaster, Chinese Menu, and a quick stop to chat to two couples sitting in the sun. They didn't realise the Worlds were in town.

I head into Dragon's Tail. No jester there today.

I'm tiring, and focus almost incessantly on my knee. There's no sharp pain, but a little discomfort. I've been out three hours. Everything's starting to complain.

I exit.

Soon I'm home. I clean my bike. I eat. I clean myself.

I make another coffee for the road, and head into town.

After a spell on the web, I head to Zippy's for afternoon tea.

I chat to Kashi about trail bikes. I love the look of the Yeti bikes, and he encourages me to take a look online. I can't wait.

I sit with Josh, over coffee and cake. Lee stops for a chat.  So many familiar faces.

I head to the Pig and Whistle. T-Rex follows me up the stairs. We exchange the short versions of our respective tales of woe from Sunday.

I'm part of a well oiled machine. Things are slower than I expected, but the trickle of riders grabbing their race-packs is steady.

Paul Chaplow (Paul) and Paul Chaplow (Hugh) check in, amid much confusion. Paul's sporting a huge list of Wellington riders, but none of them seem to have got their names correct. After inordinately many return-visits, we seem to have them all nailed. The list's alphabetical by surname, but occasionally the line between surname and first name is blurred. They collect their last pack. And then, grab one more for good measure. The hours are flying by.

One woman's pack has been collected by her ex-boyfriend. I'm uncomfortable to watch her confusion, anger and eventual worry. Paul drops up for one more pack.

I buy Alex some purple socks, and a pair for myself.  I hope he gets to wear them for the race, like Jonty, back in the day.

I head over to briefing, and bump into even more folk from Wellington. All the cliques are here: the old Cycle Services sifters, the Miramar guys, the Wainui crew. Mike the Hippy holds membership of all three.

I say gidday to Rod Bardsley. He sold me my first mountain bike. My third I suppose, but the first one I actually enjoyed mountainbiking on. He does motorbike-gangster very well.

Rod Bardsley epitomising cool, from Facebook, thanks to The Freditor
The riders are briefed, with a not-so-brief focus on the beer. It epitomises New Zealand's hopeless drinking culture. The beer shortcut is traditional, and a quirky feature of the Singlespeed Worlds. Apart from that though, what's the big deal? The riders have all forked out the entry fees, and many of them have flown half way round the world to be here.  All grown up stuff.  And now we're giggling about beer shortcuts like a bunch of 13 year old boys stealing their first mouthfuls of Southern Comfort from the home liquor cabinet.  I can't believe I didn't use a glass.

When we stop thinking drinking is so cool, perhaps we'll stop beating our wives and killing ourselves on the roads.

I can't walk 10 metres without bumping into another familiar face. It's great to see Tama, without whom I'd probably not be writing this.

I see Jasper, from the Brevet.  Many of the vets are here.  I've had a chance to talk to Oli and Thomas, and of course plenty of guys from Wellington.  I saw Pat the amazing at registration.  Pre-brevet, he'd ridden 90km, once, on the road, and never further.  He got to Picton on the first day.  Most were in Nelson.  Nelson!  He finished in seven days.  Amazing.

I make my way to the gate (10 metres at a time) and go unlock my bike. It's outside the Pig and Whistle. One of the smokers asks me why my pedals are so small. I show him my shoe - “it's like skis” I mutter. He seems to understand.

I ride home. Fuck my knee. It's worsened, but not like before. I guess fixing one thing's started up another.

The room's bursting at the seams.

Alex is still crook. He needed a couple of clear days at least before the race. He's been lucky to have a couple of clear hours.

The others seem pretty relaxed. I wish them sound sleep and head to bed.

Saturday 23 October

I'm front and centre at 8am. The ride to the Waipa car park was cold. I stopped on the way to lower my seat a little.

I'm one of many parking wardens.

I chat to Mike Metz, who's riding lead-moto for the race. His Zerode bike, on the trailer next to him, is one beautiful machine. It sounds like they're about ready for mass production.

I chat to Garth Weinberg's brother Matt and a local fella who rode Tour of Wellington a few times.

Rush-hour never comes.   Good management, with a pinch of good luck.  Well done N-Duro, and so many for turning up on their bikes.

The riders are being briefed in the distance. Eventually I desert my post, and head over. For some reason, there's a stripper at the start, gyrating away.

The 900-odd riders, are riding in a circle, tracing out a donut on the grass. Dean Watson's in the middle of them on a cherry picker, telling them to keep moving. They've been at it a few minutes when I arrive, and are in a group with about a 60 metre outer-diameter, and a 20-metre inner diameter. A peloton of round-Taupo proportions, circling at walking pace.

The outer tape is opened, and the mass of riders flows slowly out, like bath water down the plughole. Calm is on most faces, while on others I see panic. The last guys out are about one minute down on the leaders.

I turn around as the first riders race past, spinning their silly little gears. Jonty's in third, behind a couple of shocked punters. More panic. The donut has spread the field out over a couple of minutes, about three minutes into the 40km race.

I help tape out the all-important beer shortcut. We mark out an “ale hall” and then move to the bridge where riders come back into the finish area. We clean up some taping to make the shortcut more obvious. I offer to stay there for the duration.

I get more and more nervous, as spectators flow through the bottleneck over the bridge. At some point we'll have to shut that down.

Jim stops by. He helps organise some arrows to make the shortcut more obvious. We get regular updates from out on the course over the PA system. Garth Weinberg's had a good start, and is only a handful of seconds down on the Ross Schnell. Schneller Garth, schneller.

The leaders are on Rockdrop. Spectators are still milling about.

Schnell crosses the bridge. I wave my “Shortcut Entry” sign at him. He shuns my glance, and rides the “longcut”. Garth follows him.

Others arrive, and the shortcut becomes increasingly popular. A DNFer has been waiting nearby for this moment since he flagged it on the first climb, and goes through for his first beer.

I notice the guys who take the longcut never look at me. The others smile, or grimace.

Some are undecided until the last moment. I'm almost hit a couple of times. Occasionally someone commits to the longcut, before having a change of heart.

A guy in Black with White Wings screeches to a halt in front of me. “It's Mike” he says as he shakes my hand. I don't recognise his face through the costume, but know the voice of Mike Anderson well. “Go well bro”.

I'm standing their with my arrow and “Shortcut Entry” trying to make it as plain as possible what's going on. A guys stops and frantically asks “which way to the beer shortcut?!” “That way” I tell him, wishing he'd asked someone else. I shouldn't be mean, he's tired...

I'm relieved, and head out over the bridge. I see Roshni, Kashi's girlfriend. She seems happy to see a familiar face. We hang out – this is her first MTB event, and she's spectating alone.  It slowly starts to make more sense to her and becomes more and more exciting.

We head back towards the finish line and I grab some lunch before we sit down on the grass.

The PA crackles.  Garth has passed Ross, and has a slender lead. It grows and shrinks with each bad line. It's going to go down to the wire.

I see Matt Weinberg on the other side of the tape. His nervousness is mesmerising. I watch him fidget this way and that. It's beautiful to watch as his brother toils away out on the course. I'm glad I met him this morning, otherwise I'd never have known what I was watching.

A cheer from the forest, and we see the figure of Garth Weinberg, hunched over the front end of his carbon Niner, shirt open and face ashen. He's handed a beer. We watch him forcing it down.

Schnell arrives and seemingly downs his beer in one tip of the can. He cuts Garth's lead in half, but it isn't enough. Weinberg crosses the line a second or two ahead.  He throws the bike into a skid, which eventually puts him down onto the grass. His wife and daughters are there. He accepts the tattoo, and the race win. Ross Schnell is gracious in defeat.

The finish area descends into chaos. The beer hall was busting at the seams, and now it seems the seams have split.  There are photographers and well-wishers everywhere. Lapped riders start their second laps. The results crew are finding it impossible to work out who's finishing and who's not.

Cabin, Carl Jones, T-Rex, Jonty... No sign of Kashi yet. “He was with that guy on the first lap” Roshni says, her nervousness growing.

The winning woman finishes her beer, and finishes the race. She's provocatively dressed, and is lauded over the PA. She rode past me strongly on the Whaka 100 before the hill overcame her gear, and has had a better day today.

More lapped riders, and more finishers. Those who recognise the chaos head over to make sure they're given a time. I'm keen to move off, but Kashi's still not back. An old friend of theirs finishes, and Roshni heads off, her mind taken off Kashi for the moment. I get up, and get out of the sun.

I chat with Ben and his friend Nathan, who I'd met at Oceanias a few years earlier. Same town, similar circumstance. We chat about our 10 year olds, and our broken marriages.

Kashi and Roshni stop by. They both look happy. His instincts and speed are still good, but not so his endurance. He says he enjoyed seeing people on that second lap as he slid back through the field.

I put my helmet on, borrow Nathan's bike, and do a quick beer shortcut. He has really long legs. The beer is refreshing though I've spilled about a third of it riding back over. I donate the last third to one of Paul Chaplow's Wellington crew. Her arm's in a sling, and she needs something to knock the painkillers down with. “This'll do nicely” I say, and hand the can over.

I see Nic Leary, the pocket-rocket in her Tallbeast costume, as she meets Andrew Durno. He laughs as they shake hands and she does a twirl.

I txt Alex, offering to drive back to Wellington this afternoon. I've had enough.

I find Dean, and give him the 9 of Hearts. Perhaps he'll win a bike from the Jester.

I see a man in woman in Garmin Transitions kit, including aero helmets. There's a fella in an orange leisure-suit being interviewed. I leave them to it.

I ride back towards town flanked by T-Rex and musket. I have pangs of regret about not staying for the after-match. No matter.  I'll see them, and others, another time.

I spend the next hour trying to eat and pack. I never fully commit to either, and it's all a bit haphazard. Geoffrey and his family swing by to see how Alex is. They're glad to hear we're heading home.

Jonty, Mike and Tor arrive back. Tor seems to have had the hardest outing. Racing's like that – there's just something contagious about the energy around you, and overextending yourself at the expense of enjoyment is an easy trap to fall in to.
Alex and I eventually get the car packed and hit the road.

The road south passes by quickly. We see a police car every thirty minutes or so. #6 was a little behind schedule, and #13 a bit early. The one around the Basin had its lights on, for someone else.

I get home. Misty's pleased to see me. I'm pleased to see her. Being away from home has taken its toll.

I fire up the computer, and check out Kashi's site. I look forward to buying a trail-bike.

My legs are stiff after the drive, and my knee hurts. It takes me hours to wind down.

Sunday 24 October

Morning comes too soon. The cat's climbing all over me, and the phone's going.

This morning should have been in Rotorua.

Kaitlyn rings and I tell her I'm home. When I fire up the computer there's an email from her with a link to Dave Dobbyn's Welcome Home on youtube. I watch the first 10 seconds and turn it off before I cry.

I wonder how the yanqui in the g-string's skin is.  Dancing near-naked in the Kiwi sun is not to be treated lightly.

I eat, then head over to Simon and Sarah's with the bike from Taupo, and a bargain Conti Vertical Pro. I test out my trail bike theory, and it seems to pass.

I tell them about meeting a couple of readers.  Sarah describes them as "reading about your life".  I've never thought about it like that.

We head up the road to a cafe, and I tell them about the trip. I describe T-Rex's awesome papier mache Tyrannosaurus Rex head, and how I think it was built around the helmet. Simon asks me if I took a photo of it. I hadn't, but the web knows all.

T-Rex, from Facebook, thanks to The Freditor
I remembered the trip the three of us did last summer - good times.

I pop into Burkes. They've an ex-demo Blur XC for $5.5k, down from $10k, in my size. I quickly slink out, after getting Lachlan to weigh a Trance for me.

I meet Mum and Dad for a coffee. Mum asks how I am, I shake my head but can't say anything.

I'm still looking for an ending. I don't find it at Maranui, but enjoy glancing out the window at the surf boats. I see James, who tells me he's looking forward to Part 2. 

I head back to Karori, park up on the main road and type, this time with Makara Peak out the window and Tool on the stereo. Still no ending comes.

I remember a link I'd seen on Facebook the night before, to an old post of Oli's, and wonder if that's the secret.

It turns out it is.  It's always good to get there...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Whaka 100 and Single Speed Worlds - Part 1

I've done something a little different with this one.  I hope you enjoy...

Friday 15 October

The plane back from Metallica is delayed. I text Alex and let him know I'll be late to pick him up. Wearing yesterday's socks and undies is bearable, though not desirable. My ears feel OK, which is a relief.

Eventually the plane's in the air, and before an hour passes, I'm back in Wellington. I turn my phone on, and have missed a call from Jonty's shop. I ring, and Alex has just left. It's raining. Bummer – I could have picked him up.

The next hour is chokka with fiddle-faddle. I return my Bulgarian and Metallica-enamoured colleague, Vlado, to our building. He's late for his class, but had managed to organise cover from the airport lounge. I head off to Newtown, where Alex and my bikes await. I grab coffees for us, and before long, we're in the car heading back to town.

We make a short call to Revolution Cycles to collect Alex's rear wheel. Jonty wishes us well. We'll see him again up in Rotorua in a week's time.

We leave the rain in Wellington, and enjoy dry roads on our northbound journey. We stop when Otaki starts, and enjoy a late lunch at the Brown Sugar cafe. The eggs weren't great, madam, but sitting outside, in the sun, was fan-freakin'-tastic. I grab a tasty-looking bit of slice on the way out.

Our drive is a short one, and we pop in to the Icebreaker Outlet store. If only we were women, we could have spent up a storm. Little for us fellas though.

The roads are clear, Alex's ipod is dishing up decent driving sounds, and we chat away. The hours pass quickly, and, on the outskirts of Taupo, we're confronted by an unfamiliar roundabout. We take the second exit onto the new SH1 bypass.

We take the road to Reporoa, sort of, back into Taupo. We stumble upon the Camellia Motel, and secure a room for the night, neither gourmet, nor too rudimentary. The air is warm and still, and we set off on foot for the supermarket.

We Pak 'n' Save, and get home to cook. It's never quite as easy as doing it at home, but before too long, we're enjoying a nice hot plate of pasta. Raspberry buns for dessert hit the spot nicely. We save two for the morning.

Saturday 16 October

Ants discovered our pink buns overnight. They now resemble pink kiwifruit covered with little black hairs.

I'd forgotten to ring Simon's trademe cobber the night before. I sort this out soon after the clock strikes 9, and then it's time for some food. Coffee, muesli and toast – I really could live on breakfast (four or five times a day). We collect Simon's new, old bike, and get a second crack at the new bypass. The road's ugly, but not nearly so ugly as the new bridge across the Waikato. I'm on music this morning.

We roll into Rotovegas. We're too early for our race packs at Bike Vegas, and too early to check into our lodgings. Never too early for coffee though – Zippy's lunch menu holds no appeal for Alex, but I tuck into a plate of beans and rice. Dave and Keryn, Dean from Wideopen and his wife, Mark 'Cabin' Leishman and Al Crossling are just finishing off their lunch. I grab a map from Kiwibikes nextdoor and start trying to familiarise myself with the 'new' forest. A lot has changed since the late 90s.

We struggle to free our key from the lock-box, but eventually get the knack of simultaneously pushing and pulling. We unload the car, and then suit up for a ride.

The forest hits me like a cold, wet and heavy fish across the face. So many bumps, so many turns, such sluggish legs. Alex looks like he's cruising.

We meet Carl Jones and his friend. We tag along with them. Down a new Exit Trail, and back up the hill. Into Genesis up a steep, slippery climb that has my legs screaming – I came that way in a Moonride over 10 years ago, when the track had a different name. Goddamn these kids are fast! And they don't sweat much, or run out of breath. I'm glad to be with them. I'm out of practice.

We check in at Bike Vegas, just behind Garth Weinberg, riding as Rick O'Shea. He struggles to remember his name, but gets it eventually. We see Dave and Al again. It's odd seeing familiar faces in unfamiliar places.

Back at base, we clean our bikes. Then ourselves. The shower has a funky slow-drain mechanism to prevent long showers.

A short trip to the supermarket later, Alex prepares a mushroom risotto. He does so very well. It's great to be on holiday.

Sunday 17 October

What do you mean the race starts at 8?! Alarms set off at 6am, and it's up and at-'em. Coffee, cereal, toast, and we fuss about with final preparations. There's rarely not someone in the loo – usually it's me.

The day's overcast, but not too cool. We set off just after 7.

We arrive at Waipa Mill carpark, and separate. I throw my bag into the trailer for half-time. No oranges in there for me. Alex photographs 8 or so New Calendonian riders in front of a promotional “Whaka 100” sign. They look so happy. Dean Watson, the organiser, and I look on – let's see them reenact that at the end, we laugh.

Briefing's short and sweet. Still no rain – it's due after lunch apparently.

I wish Alex luck and line up 4 or 5 rows back.

The race starts, and starts sucking almost straightaway. We hurtle around a paddock, before hitting the first bit of single track – its name, “Tahi”, makes so much sense now I write it down.

We skip the start of Creek Track, before diving onto it 100m later. There's a big queue.

The course takes us through a section of Challenge before a short, sharp climb into Genesis. An older bloke in R&R kit passes me. “Too many gears, sifter”, he says. It's weird being known by that name, by strangers. I hold my own through the single track, barely.

We drop down the ex-Moonride climb and I undo my helmet. Off comes the cotton cap I wear to keep the chill and the sun off my head. Not much of either this morning. I have to stop to do my helmet back up. A couple of riders pass me, and we head into Grinder. I grind my chainring on a log the track rolls over.

A bit of gravel road takes us through to “Mad if you don't” and a long gravel section. Finally, riding I don't suck at. Keryn shouts “Go sifter!” in support. I enjoy the riding briefly, and my legs and body start to recover somewhat from the onslaught of unfamiliar singletrack.

We're alongside SH5 for a bit, on the south-eastern border of the forest. I'm making headway into a small bunch of singlespeeders – highly qualified singletrack exponents, but captives of their single gear on these open sections. We turn away from the highway up Mossy Trail.

I actually say “Wow!” out loud when Rotokakahi – Green Lake – comes into view. I finally pass the singlespeeders, and almost instantly my chain starts skipping. I shift up, stop, and remove a ridiculously tiny stick from the cassette. I say “Who'd ride with gears, eh?!” as I repass them.

We stay by the lake for a bit. We cross a gate, and duck under a fallen tree. It's almost comical. Not even half way into a 100km race, and we're rushing as if we were in a 1-hour sprint. I hook my saddle on the tree and have to stop to free it. I'm a bit puffed, and feeling a bit silly.

My knee's hurting so I stop and raise my saddle a bit. It doesn't help, and now my seat feels too high.

The road kicks up. There's a wild pig's head lying by the side of the road. We grovel up the first of 5 major climbs.

All good things come to an end, and I'm back to sucking at riding again. I jettison whatever skills I possess moments before starting “No Brains”. I get passed as if I was standing still. I might as well have been.

More gravel road and more hill.

Split Enz is much kinder to me than No Brains was, and I feel almost competent. More passers, and one of them asks “Are you the mighty sifter?” I don't feel at all mighty today. “I've been following your blog” he says, adding “I live up Waitotara Valley”. I ask him his name, catch “Dave” but not “Stephenson”, the land owner up there I need to get hold of. “See you at the end” I call, hopefully. Call me, Dave!

Pondy DH and Pondy New, and more passers. Even out in the open I don't seem to be able to look after my speed. What am I doing here? Man, I suck at this.

Old Chevy and I can hear talking. I pop out to see 15 or so people, and the trailer with our bags in. A young fella is there looking like he's just been punched in the face. 30/12/1999 and a broken eye socket on Mt Vic flash through my mind.

I scull most of a bottle of powerade, and put a couple of new bananas and OSMs in my jersey pocket. I put two new bottles on the bike. I contemplate leaving the rain-vest I've been carrying since the start, but hang onto it. Later, I'm glad I did. Rag and chain oil remain untouched. I lower my seat a little.

My stop is short, and little less casual than some others. I'm caught on the next climb by a woman on a SS. There aren't that many women in the field, and I consider it an honour. The next hill's a big one, and I manage to pass and drop her.

After a long while, it's back onto singletrack. I ride “Frontal Lobotomy” reasonably proficiently by virtue of it being a climb. A little bit more gravel and then onto Billy T. I remember how funny he was. I'm not laughing.

“G Rock” is next up, somehow leading on to the Chinese Menu and a climb up to Hot X Buns. I see my first bit of 100km-carnage in here somewhere. Two riders sitting forlornly on a log at the side of the track. The look fine, and need no help. I figure the distance has caught up with them.

I pass a big bloke on the next climb. We're well into the back-markers of the shorter races on this part of the course. You can tell them by their attire and their cheery manner. “The curse of being big, eh?” I say as I make my pass. “See you on the descent” he answers. He does. I'm stopped quickly for a decent bite of bar, and a swig of coke.

Not far to go now, according to some helpful souls I pass (!!!) on the way down Hot X Buns. I pass big-guy and a SSer on Lion Trail. The mouthful of Coke I had at my brief stop has hit my bloodstream almost instantly. My legs feel great, and the track's climbing. I'm on fire. The big-guy's just stopped. I wonder why? The other's started to cramp. Clambering over the log at the start of the track would trigger that, I profoundly think to myself.

I pass another back-marker. “Only 4km to go”, he says. Moment's later, I read “Track splits in 100m”. I look at my speedo. It reads 83km. Still plenty of riding for me yet. I take the right turn.

I head up Katore Rd and remember riding this ridge with Slackboy back in 06. It's all greasy 4WD for this section. I passed by another singlespeeder who seems to be riding in loafers. “Theees eeez amaaaazing!” he shouts in Australian. The city's off to our right. I can hear it.

I turn left onto Exit Trail, and hook into a section I'd ridden the day before. I try to ride fast, but can't. A marker was down at the bottom, and I was confused for a bit. Another rider appears. “This way” he says. I follow.

I'm afraid to think it's almost over. My speedo's barely reading 90km, but I know I'm close to home. A photographer tells me “almost there!” “Literally?” I think, as I bounce down a greasy 4WD road. I know she's right though – I've ridden this bit in a Moonride course.

I stop. “How was that?!” I'm asked as my transponder's taken off my ankle. “I hated every minute of it” I answer, adding “Fantastic event though...”

Thanks to Helen Brumby for the photo

I ask after my bag, with my wallet inside. It'll be here pretty soon. “How soon?” I press. “Come back in an hour”. I can smell hot food, and coffee. I put my vest on, and head back to town.

I pass a guy on a singlespeed. He enjoyed himself. I ask about his gear choice. He asks about mine. “I kept looking for the right gear, but never found it” I tell him. Alex was in the car when I got home. He'd been trying to find reverse so he could come and pick me up, bless him. “There's a trick to it” I replied. But, thanks for trying!

I shower. My knee hurts, and I sucked. Alex had had a great race though. The more I hear about his, the worse I feel about mine.

We pick up my bag, and go to prizegiving. Dean Watson tries desperately to give out spot prizes, but so many weren't there. He called “John Randler” and I get up, muttering “that's close enough!” and sit down with a $50 Ground Effect voucher. Alex wins a VIP pass to one of the local tourist attractions.

We pick up greasies on the way home from a lovely Indian woman.

My knee hurts.

Monday 18 October

I'm preoccupied with my knee, and am quite down. I try to relax.

Alex and I look at a map of the forest and try to work out where the course went. I'm still confused about the Billy T descent.

We walk into town and eventually find somewhere to eat. Alex has pancakes and I have seafood chowder. A shower passes.

I fancy some shopping, but Alex isn't interested and heads home. I grab a $10 DVD set from Te Ware Whare – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and The Hustler. I can't find any togs that fit – turns out Alex was having the same problem at Farmers, down the way. I grab a Pyrex dish.

I can't resist stopping at the supermarket, and avoid a drive back later in the day. I grab supplies for a lasagne, just managing not to forget some flour for the white sauce. The 1.5kg bag annoys me on the way back to the house. All that for the sake of one tablespoon or so.

I enjoy preparing the meal while Alex reads. It takes my mind off my knee.

Alex is keen for a short recovery ride, and I join him. My knee hurts, but he seems happy to wait for me. I keep imagining I'll find him sleeping in the grass. The sun's not really out though.

I enjoy a section of “Challenge” and “Rock Drop”. We see the old “Marzocchi Trail” signs from back in the day when the trails were sponsored. I ride the top rock-drop, but balk at the lower line. I'd ridden it twice in the Single Speed Nationals of 98, both times by mistake. Today I made no mistake.

Alex stops by a fallen pine. He goes back up the trail, and comes past while I watch, in awe. He rides fast, bunny-hops brilliantly over the tree, and races off down the track, issuing sounds of delight. Man, I suck at this! I toddle off after him.

We finished on Rosebank. At least I don't suck as much as I used to. These trails used to keep my on my toes 10 years ago. Today, I rode them slowly and deliberately, barely flinching.

I do some one-legged pedalling on the road back into town.

The house smells like lasagne when we get home. Soon, our breaths smell of lasagne.

We're chilling out when Dean and Selwyn arrive. We've been half-expecting them, so there's not too much mayhem when 4 bikes become 6, 2 men become 4, and all the associated gear doubles. Soon, their breaths smell of lasagne too.

I hit the sack early.

Tuesday 19 October

I wake with a sore knee.

The lads have been wrestling with my coffee machine, to no avail. I play barista, and two short blacks and flat whites later, I'm tucking into a bowl of cereal. Dean and Selwyn head out for a ride, and Alex and I chill. My knee hurts.

I go for a wardrive, though a pretty lame one. A local motel's wireless network disappears when I park up outside. I head into town, pop into Vodafone and the Warehouse, and hum are har about buying a vodem. I keep my hundy, and instead spend $4 at a local internet cafe. I finally activate my 'Out of Office Assistant', and reply to a few work emails.

I stroll down Tutanekae St, and pop into a pharmacy. I get the number of a local physio, and make an appointment. With an hour to kill, I pop into the Pig and Whistle, and help Gaz and David (from NZO and load up SS packs with pre-ordered clothing.

I'm soon at the physio, and leave a little lighter in the pocket, but buoyed with optimism. It feels good to be doing something proactive about my knee pain.

I get back to our lodgings and chat while Selwyn prepares a delicious dinner.

I hit the sack about 10.

Wednesday 20 October

My knee barely hurts. The anti-inflammatory ointment I used last night, the massage at the physio, a bunch of positivity and the passing of time have done some sort of trick overnight.

Dean heads out to a Skills Clinic with none other than Nathan Rennie, who's filling in for Gabby and Dodzy. Not a bad fill-in (Nathan's a top World DHer).

Selwyn, Alex and I natter away the morning. I get thoroughly depressed listening to their stories of mountainbiking, and recounting my own motivations, which seem largely negative. (If I don't ride now, I won't be able to do this or that later.) I need to get out more.

Alex heads out to check out the Single Speed Worlds course. Selwyn and I natter some more.

Dean gets home and regales us with Nathan's tips. Damn, riding has never sounded so good. My knee feels fine.

Alex gets home, and riding sounds better still. I suggest to Selwyn that we head out. We suit up, and we head out around 3pm.

We ride gingerly across town – at least I ride gingerly. We cruise through the racecourse carpark – the scene of my very first Moonride event HQ. Man, I still remember racing through the big marquee, what with the sofas lining the race track, and large diesel-powered fans heating the place.

We head into the forest, and enjoy all manner of delicacies, including Turkish Delight, Bunny Jugs, Sweet and Sour, and Dragon's Tail. Off the menu, but pulling it all together, were A-Trail, The Tickler, and the old Exit Trail – another throw back to my first riding here. I ride easily, and txt Simon half way through. I stop before getting my phone out, and put it away before setting off again. My ribs hurt when I laugh.

My knee seems OK. I spin a high cadence, and stand up for most of the climbing.

We stop and admire some bike porn on the way home. Maybe I'll get myself a trail bike for Christmas.

I'm happy when I get home, and am happier still after I've cleaned my bike and myself.

We all jump in the car, head into town to register for the weekend. We follow a van with a vorb sticker on it. It's Jim, from Wellington.

I pick up my Volunteer's pack, and Alex and Dean their race packs. We have a quick drink in the pub downstairs, while Klunkers shows on the big screen. We can't easily see it from where we're standing.

We walk towards the lake. I have a look at the menu outside an Indian Restaurant. A woman rushes to my aid from inside. I bolt as she appears through the door. “Can I help?” she calls after me. “You scared me off”, I reply, quietly. Relieved, Alex, Dean and I agree. The food comes and we enjoy it. We're the only ones there.

We walk back to the car, and drive to Pak'n'save. Alex guards the car. Soon, we're at the checkout, trying to avoid the queue with the older fellow and his trolley, overflowing with bog-roll and biscuits. The closed checkouts have denim dust covers. They look like recycled prison garb.

We drive home, and trickle off to bed, one by one.

Part 2

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Roadworks in tha house!

Checking in for the whaka 100 at Bike Vegas and what's on the wall, just down the way from a slipstream jersey with Julz's race number on the back?!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wellington Peaks Points Race

It was with some delight that I first saw Asher's post on vorb announcing the inaugural "Wellington Peaks Points Race", an event with the simple aim of bagging nine of Wellington City's most prominent high-points:  Mt Kau Kau overlooking Johnsonville, Karori's trio of Johnston's Hill in the north, Makara Peak in the west and Wright's Hill in the south, Tinakori Hill and Mount Victoria overlooking the city centre, Hawkins Hill and Mount Albert overlooking the south coast, and little old Mount Crawford at the north end of the Miramar Peninsula.  At first glance, the six hour time limit seemed like plenty of time to summit them all, eliminating the challenge of working out how to optimally collect the points Asher had allocated to each: 10 points for Kau Kau down to 5 for Tinakori, and "the Royals" as Dean would describe them as I briefly rode alongside him on Hawkins Hill.  In a unique twist, the rules stated "A digital camera or cell phone with a camera will be needed to take a picture at the top of each peak at a designated spot."   A mere five minutes after his post, Asher had his first nibble...

Over the next couple of months, various aspects of the "rules" were discussed, and suggestions for extra hills (?!?!) were thrown in the mix.  Hints were made about likely route choice, bike choice, race distance, and how much climbing would be involved.  Even Ranger Steve, one of WCC's finest, popped in at the last minute reminding us to behave ourselves, to take care, and to "enjoy your pain..."  Classic!

I managed to keep from poring over maps and thinking of nothing else but the optimal route.  Simon and I had done a smaller version as a pre-Akatarawa Attack hit out (minus Johnstons, Albert and Crawford), so I had some sense of what would suit me.  Also, my days at Wellington Harriers (almost 20 years ago!), a few City Safaris, and as part of Wellington's many active trail builders gave me some confidence that I knew some decent shortcuts.  By race morning, I had everything sorted but for my assault on Kau Kau and linking up Hawkins and Mt Albert.

Long gone are the days where I was too scared to warm up on the bike before an event on account of worrying that I'd expend energy I'd need to get home.  So, what better way to get to the start line at Revolution Cycles in Northland than to ride.  Steed for the day was my Giant XTC 69er.  Carbon frame and fork, this bike is quite a climber, and minimally knobbed Stan's Raven tyres would be sweet on the extensive road sections.  I never look forward to the rough stuff on this puppy, but strengths and weaknesses can all form part of the route planning for an event like this. 

I arrived about an hour early, suited up in my tried and true Roadworks kit, with a couple of bottles of replace on the bike, a couple of bananas and a single one square meal bar (identical to the one I found in my bag in Taihape the morning after blowing a gasket on the Gentle Annie...).  I had another banana and bottle to tide me over until the start, and donated a kilo of salted cashew nuts in lieu of a race entry fee.

The atmosphere in Jonty's shop, as always, was top notch.  The usual suspects were there, and as time rolled on, the shop filled up with a bunch more.  Nick was barista for the morning, and I gladly accepted an espresso shot.  Shit talking and posturing were kept to an absolute minimum, and everyone seemed in a great mood.  Just before 9am, Asher gave a brief briefing, and Simon reminded us all of the scrutiny we were under, and to be particularly mindful of other track users. 

A quick pit stop later, it was time to get outside and mount up. 

Event briefing...

Without any apparent fuss, we were off!  It seemed the majority of the 35 riders were heading for Tinakori, and by virtue of lining up down that end of the "start line", I led the way for the first 100m or so.  Sometimes I wonder why MTB events are long, when within 500m of the start, the finishing order is already pretty much locked in.  Roadwork's Karapoti-winning star Tim "T-Rex" Wilding soon came by, along with Ed Crossling, Brendan Sharratt, Alex Revell, Dave Sharpe, Simon Kennett, Jonty Ritchie, and a couple of others.  The collective palmarès of that lot would be something to behold!

The relaxed vibe of the event to this point was soon disrupted.  The legs started to ask questions as Orangi Kaupapa Rd started to kick up, and by the time the turnoff into the driveway up to the Tinakori Hill summit came, an illusion that this was going to be a cruisy day out were shattered.  All around came the sound of granny gears being grabbed, as the insanely steep driveway started to take its toll.

Eventually the climb mellowed and the summit was within coo-ee.  The fastest guys were leaving as I approached.  The first of nine photo-ops was quite the comedy.  Seeing as there were so many people there, it seemed that swapping cameras might be the way to go, but, possibly influenced by the "race" situation, it was self-shots all the way. 

#1: Tinakori Hill, Asher in the background

Photo taken, it was back to business!

Last time I rode along Tinakori Hill's ridge, I almost came a cropper in a drainage channel running across the road.  This time, same thing.  The ridge is a lovely fast descent towards Wadestown, though at the low point of one of the many rollers is the sort of thing that if you drive your front wheel straight into it, it ain't gonna to come out.  I managed to diagnose the issue just before it was upon me, and pulled a less-than-stylish bunny hop over it.  It all happened so fast I remember hearing one of my tyres skid a bit as I hadn't quite let go of the brakes...

As the 4WD became road, and the road dived down into Wadestown, it was time to make for Kau Kau.  A right into Wade followed by a quick left into Weld and then onto Cecil into Wadestown centre.  Left, and down to the low point at the north end of Otari before the climb into Crofton Downs.   I had good company:  Damian Steel-Baker was on his Giant Anthem fully, and Simon on his Cannondale 29er.  We had a bit of a paceline going through to the Simla Crescent train station, where Damian and I turned left, and Simon continued on.

Unbeknownst to Simon, my patch of walking last weekend wasn't the bonk at all, but training for this ascent of Kau Kau.  The shortest route to the summit from the south is the track from Simla Cres.  This track is off limits to MTB riders, but it seemed perfectly reasonable to me to push and carry my bike up it.  The track design was certainly consistent with cyclists being unwelcome, with flight after flight of steps.  I was rueing the Hope freehub, clicking noisily as I pushed the bike.  There was a steady stream of walkers coming down, and I pitied them having to listen to the hub.  They all seemed friendly enough in response to my greetings.  In a couple of sections near the top, I took the opportunity to quieten things down a little, and pedalled gingerly upwards.

Soon enough the bush opened up, and it was over the bizarrely named "Hillary Step" - a stile over the boundary fence.  As I reached the summit platform, Dave, Ed and a fellow I didn't know but guessed (correctly) were heading off.  I warned them of the large numbers of walkers I'd just passed, and the steps.  Turned out they'd come up that way too...!  It seems my walking had payed off and I'd made good time up the hill.  I gladly accepted a woman's offer to record the moment for posterity.

#2: Kau Kau
At this point I had three sensible options:  back the way I'd come seemed like a dumb one - way too many steps and a high chance I'd piss someone off; the Skyline Track towards Johnston's Hill was tempting, but I was on the wrong bike for that to be a good option in the long term; so down to Sirsi Crescent in Broadmeadows it was.

Just as I was leaving Dave Rowlands rocked up, and started having a conniption about me coming up from Simla.  "I walked" I told him, and left him to it.  I saw Simon on the way down, and Asher not far behind him.  There were another couple of riders just before the roadend, and a woman a few hundred metres below it.  Smiles and waves all around, and onwards...

I tried not to overdo it on the undulating road back to Crofton Downs.  Plenty of time for that sort of carry on on the climbs, whereas I treated these sections as opportunities to eat, and make sure I was heading the right way!  Rather than burn off a lot of height between Crofton Downs and Karori Cemetary, I decided to head up Chartwell Drive and onto the Skyline Track.  I was a little shocked at the amount of descending down to the "horse paddock" but no point crying over spilt milk.

I quite enjoyed making my way uphill.  Simon had warned us about a small slip on this track, but it turned out to be a simple matter of skipping over a couple of gorse bushes.  I was soon on the ridge, and riding the bone-shaking section consisting of superhard dirt sprinkled with cow hoof-prints.  There didn't seem to be any smooth line, so I simply tried to keep my speed up without plowing through any recently laid cowpats.

I had a couple of tentative moments negotiating my way past half a dozen cows, and was soon looking for my turnoff.  I knew the intersection I was looking for, where the Karori Cemetary trail meets Skyline, but I'd never actually taken the track from there to Johnston's summit.  Soon I saw the track, and lo and behold, the Kau Kau threesome, Dave, Ed and Brendan on it!  What a hoot this event was shaping up to be...  They'd ridden via the roads past Otari and the cemetary trail.

I had to push a couple of sections on this walking track, and there was a stile to negotiate too.  I said gidday to the guys as they passed me, and then it was up the steep chute to the top for another camera stop.

#3:  Johnston's Hill
By the look of those bottles and the look on my face, I probably should have stopped for a drink too!

I peeled left just after the fence crossing and was soon back on the Skyline Track.  Asher passed me going in the opposite direction - he made great time from Kau Kau and must have been coming up the Parkvale Ave track.  I jumped off the Skyline for 100m of Montgomery Ave - a little too late I think, subjecting myself to what may have been an unnecessary dismount, and then tentatively rejoined Skyline by a water reservoir.  Again, I knew of this link, but wasn't exactly sure where I was going.  Nonetheless, I'd saved myself a minute or so, and a bit of wear and tear. 

I timed things well and didn't have any DHers to contend with on the way to their race start above Karori Park.  I grabbed a quick drink up the driveway to Varley's Track, then made my way through a bit of traffic onto the 4Wd track up the spur to the summit.

Surprise surprise, as I pushed my bike up the steep section to the signpost, there were Dave, Ed and Brendan again, just setting off.  They'd come up Snakecharmer, probably moving a bit quicker than me, so I shot myself, once again, feeling pretty chipper about my route.

#4:  Makara Peak
Third hill in a row, I saw Asher again on the way down, this time he was coming up Snakecharmer.  Classic!

Next up was Wright's Hill, and a bit of local knowledge sent me up Woodhouse Ave and onto Landsdowne Terrace.  At the end of it was the track which was the pre-Salvation route up to the top of Deliverance.  The track was in pretty good nick, and I felt good.  I leapt onto Salvation at the first opportunity which was probably a small mistake and cost me 30 seconds or so.  I think if I'd kept left, I'd have been on the more direct route.

As I rode out onto the seal again, I decided to make a quick call to Oli back at the shop with time-keeping duties.  My watch was reading 11:00 (or so), and it felt like it was going to be roughly half-time.  I figured sitting alone in the shop he'd be wondering what the hell we were all up to.  The next 400m or so were pretty cruisy, and the road was quiet, so a great opportunity for a quick call-in.

No sooner had I let him know about my encounters with Ed et al, and Asher, than I felt my legs spinning out.  A gear change was in order, and with my phone in my right hand at my ear, I reached across my bike with my left to click the shifter down one.  The slightest touch of my right control with my left hand put my front wheel into a tizz, and all crossed up, I probably moved in precisely the wrong direction.  Before I knew it, I was down, hard, on the road.  My bike was lying off the verge, phone up the road a bit, and GPS unit just beneath the bike.  I picked myself up, winded, and grabbed the phone.  The screen was un-smashed, and it indicated Oli was still there.  "Did you hear that?!"  I screeched, "I just crashed!!!"  Oli wisely told me to get my head back in the game, surely rolling his eyes vigorously as he said so!

I popped my Garmin back onto its clip on the stem, and gave the bike a quick once over.  Everything seemed present and accounted for, and luckily, everything was pointing in the right direction.  I rode the short distance to the carpark, carried the bike up the stepped short-cuts of the zig zag track, and was soon posing for the next shot, this time with a bit of claret welling up on my knee, and a growing feeling of stupidity.  What a dickhead!

#5:  Wright's Hill

I ran a quick check on my body, and it seemed damage was restricted to my knee (the intense rib pain I'm still experiencing today wouldn't surface until later), right hand knuckles and elbow, and my phone.  Despite being quite garked up on one corner, it seemed a miracle that the phone, screen and camera were all intact.

As I peeled off, Ed arrived on the scene.  Oh yes, Woodhouse was a great move!

I continued to be plagued by similar brain contortions that compelled me to make a phone call in the middle of a race (WTF?!).  For most of the climb up Hawkins I was in turmoil about the thought of making an insurance claim for my phone.  While I'm often quite logical, this period was anything but.  My internal dialogue included entertaining lying about what I was doing when the phone was damaged, being sprung, having a claim declined, having to answer in the affirmative to having a claim declined when purchasing future insurance.  All the while, my phone was perfectly fine, yet here I was adding further lawlessness to my earlier misdemeanour...

It took a bloody long time to catch Dean on his cyclocross bike on the way up the ridge.  He'd passed in front of me where the Long Gully road pops out at the Ostrich farm, and while his granny was midrange for me, I wasn't quite able to push any sort of gear which would result in a faster catch.  I asked after his fortunes on the way past.  He'd skipped Kau Kau, but apart from that had similar plans to me.  While we were swapping notes, Alex Revell came down the hill towards us.  It seemed we were all on the same wavelength, and like something biblical, Dean and I parted and Alex crossed between us, waving and smiling (no doubt with a sense of relief that this encounter worked out with us all upright!)

I pulled away from him just before the descent past the castle, and saw a flurry of riders in the short section between the top of the Tip Track and the summit.  Ed had snuck past me somewhere - probably the singletrack off Wright's Hill where I'd taken the 4WD road past the Parade Ground.  Jonty flew past as well.  Finally my brain had something interesting to work on - where had they come from?!  I was glad my phone was working still, when I managed to get the strange growth on my shoulder at the second attempt...

#6:  Hawkins Hill
The best way between Hawkins and Mt Albert seemed to be the Tip Track.  I steeled myself for it as I rolled off the summit.  Dean was there already, and Dave Sharpe had overcome his long-cut up Salvation and was now hot on my heels.  Soon I was bouncing my way down the rock-strewn Tip Track, when I was moving that is.  A rigid bike is not the tool for this job, and I made hard work of it, completely screwing up a couple of corners and virtually coming to a complete halt before resetting and getting underway again.

It was nice to see Clive Bennett, resplendent in his Bushlove racing kit.  I stopped briefly on the flat section for a mouthful of drink and a bite to eat.  I could see Dave on his way down and set off again lest he fly past while I was munching.  We got to the bottom gate (or the site of the old gate?!) together, and he hit the bottom Murchison Ave in front of me.  The dependence of my good fortunes on route choice were hammered home on this short climb as Dave took about 150m out of me.  He was so far ahead, I'd given up watching him and didn't see him turn left at the top.

I hung a right, and rolled down Frobisher to Severn, and zig-zagged my way across Island Bay before picking up my next climb at "Vulgar" Volga St.  I'd sacrificed a bit of extra climbing, but felt I was on a reasonably direct route to the next summit.  About 30 seconds out, who did I see but Ed and Dave!  Back to the pre-Wright's order of things.  A short walk to the summit and my next photo was taken...  2 to go!

#7:  Mt Albert
Just as I was about to leave, a fellow rider arrived and asked me to grab a shot of him on his iPhone.  Duty done, I was underway again.  Right, right and right put me onto a short but steep flight of steps onto Hornsey Road, and from there a short climb, hit at warp speed, had me onto Sutherland Road and a little connecting path linking the two sections of Rodrigo.  I was now in the haunt of my youth - I grew up in the Eastern Suburbs.

Crossing Kilbirnie seemed to take an age, and a noticable wind had picked up.  As I turned left from Miramar Cutting onto Maupuia Rd, there was Ed on his way down.  Surely he couldn't have taken 10 minutes out of me after Mt Albert?!  That had my mind whirring, and I barely had enough resources left to direct a wave towards Alex Revell coming towards me.  Going down looked like much more fun than going up!

Rather than lose height along Akaroa Drive, I took the gravel path overlooking Evans Bay.  It was busy with walkers but I made good enough time.  I have a vague memory of seeing Jonty coming down, followed soon after by Dave.  Something must have gone wrong for Ed.  He'd obviously not made it up the hill...

The next photo was to be in front of the prison gate.  I'd composed this in my mind - a shot through the bike titled "Behind Bars".  It wasn't until I was 20 seconds down the hill that I realised "Behind Top Tube" was nearly as cool as "Behind [Handle]bars"...  Another day maybe...

#8:  Mt Crawford

I descended the way I'd come, and enjoyed swinging up and over the inside corners to avoid dog-walkers.  Cheerio to Dean on his way up!

Cobham Drive was windy, and my legs were starting to complain.  Thoughts of "1 to go" were updated with the realisation that Jonty's shop was actually half way up Tinakori.  Oh well, grizzling about that ain't gonna make the riding any easier...

30 or so ascents up Mt Vic in my recent past didn't help make this one seem any easier.  The climb up the ridge seemed to take an eternity.  My bottles were empty by this stage, but I was preoccupied with having a drink.  I resisted stopping at the public loos just below the summit, figuring that the shop actually wasn't all that far away.  

A time of 4 hours had looked a remote possibility from Mt Albert, but by now it was obviously out of the question.  No matter...  A quick scramble later, I was taking my last shot of the event.

#9:  Mt Victoria

I was really lucky to be accosted by a couple of American women who asked "what are you guys doing?!"  I stopped to explain, and had the remarkable realisation that from our vantage point, every single peak was visible.  This was very cool from a geographical point - often Tinakori obscures Johnston's from view.  It also made me realise how incredibly lucky we'd been with the weather.  There'd been a bit of cloud in the south, and some sea-breeze later on, but by in large, we'd been treated to one of the once-or-twice a month Wellington stunners!  Risking disappearing into a mire of sentimentality, I bid the tourists farewell, and swooped down Palliser Road to town.

I'd paid no mind to the assault on Jonty's until I was actually climbing Mt Vic, and by now I'd decided to go direct - Courtenay Place onto Dixon and through Kelburn.  I was treated to 6 red lights on this short stretch, but far from being frustrating, I was quite pleased for the rest!  The steep section of Dixon St was tough, especially with my body starting to complain.  Crash aside, this was starting to get old!

I never quite got on top of my chosen gear through Kelburn, despite trying a variety.  Over the viaduct, I was finally in the home stretch.  Thoughts of powering my way up Northland Road, were just that, thoughts.  In actuality, I spun away, making progress but barely so.  Man, the last hour really stretched out, and I made hard work of what was very familar commuter riding.  

As I swung through the intersection by the tunnel, I could make out Jonty arriving back at his own shop - he must have come up Garden Rd.  So many choices!  

When I arrived 30 seconds or so later, the shop was full of familar faces.  Tim Wilding had arrived first in a staggering 3 hours 39, with Dave Rowlands a few minutes behind.  Alex Revell and been the last of the three riders who'd dipped under 4 hours.  Dave Sharpe had powered home from Mt Albert for 4th, with Simon hot on his heels.  Damian Steel-Baker had ridden Skyline from Kau Kau through to Johnston's and had stayed a few minutes ahead of me the whole way - I'd not seen him since the bottom of the Simla track!  Jonty followed Damian, and I was just behind Jonty.  David Drake arrived before long, and Asher himself rounded out the top 10.  

What ensued was a glorious debrief session. People sat eating and drinking, and unlike a standard XC event, we all had route choices to explain, and chance encounters to decipher.  At one point Dave, Damian and I realised we'd all taken different routes from Mt Vic back to the shop.  Dave had climbed Bowen and Garden, while Damian had used Aro Valley.  

The sun stayed out, and the group baking on the footpath grew larger, occasionally reshuffling to accommodate another body, or to adjust for a moving sun.  Jitesh in the 4-Square did a roaring trade in chocolate milk in particular, but all sorts of calorie-laden goodies in general.  The next 90 minutes or so were broken up with the homecoming of another rider, at which point stories could begin anew.

For the record, my Garmin gadget reported about 2400m climbing (Damian had notched up 150m less, largely due to his Skyline effort I suspect) over about 78km.  I was pretty pleased with both my plan and its execution.  Another banana probably wouldn't have gone amiss, and one less phone call of course...