12 February 2006

The last race.

I could not dare to leave this beautiful country without one last good mountainbike ride to see me off. We were thinking of just having a good ride in some far out and wild place, somewhere typically NZ in its terrain and trails. Somewhere that I will not find anywhere else on this earth, some wild single-track heading off into the forest, somewhere where there is no chance of it ever getting overrun with tourists or day trippers and a place you can get lost for days and no one would find you. I was planning to have a relatively safe ride, the last thing I needed to do was to turn up to work for the team injured again.

Last year, only one week from flying out, my last race saw me having to take some major moves so I didn’t run over two riders who had crashed on a tight piece of track in front of me. My options were few, ride over them and clip their heads and butts with my chainrings and pedals or head off down a steep bank. I didn’t really have any options at all, so off the bank I go. After stopping eventually, I had managed to smash my hand against a nice strong tree Lucky that we were racing in the middle of winter as it was so cold I couldn’t feel the pain in my hand for the next three hours racing. Later that night my hand was the size of a small melon, fearing the worst, a few x-rays later my mind was at ease, no broken bones, just some pretty severe bruising and a dislocated finger. With one week to go it was not looking good for my entry into the realms of a pro-team mechanic.

I tried everything to get my hand working asap, all I could do was wait it out. A few days later, packing up my bike and bags for the flight over, I was still having trouble lifting anything, let alone being able to turn an Allen key comfortably. The hand gave me plenty of grief over the next few weeks until it settled down, it was kind of a nice reminder of home and the wicked Rotorua single-track that I had left. My little finger still pops occasionally as a nice reminder why it’s a good thing to stay on your bike in a very tight forest.

Righto back to the ride.. The Coromandel’s, a wild and mean set of hills not far from Auckland, featuring some amazing vistas from the top of some very steep and knarly climbs. Some of the best singletrack a race entry can buy, and conditions that test the most experienced riders and the best bikes. As a racer it’s looked upon as the toughest MTB race in the country, beating most of the classic races by having the racecourse change in a matter of hours with the weather. I had been telling my customers leading up to the race, that the conditions were going to be hard, fast and dry. Maybe I should have found out the weather from some of the locals before I started advising on tyre choice. From the shop to the race is a two-hour drive, but only about half an hour as the crow fly’s. Who would have thought there would be much of a change in the weather, for so little distance geographically, how wrong I was…

The nice dry trails.

The day was looking omonous as we headed up the ranges to where the race was starting, low cloud and impending rain was a surprise as Auckland hand been perfect all week. We readied ourselves for some pretty trechourous riding, full of thrills and spills and magnificent views. There were many smiling faces at the start, but they would soon be covered with mud, hiding their frowns and looks of disappointment as their machines gave up underneath them. The two of us decided to not race today (trying to stop the crashing possibilities), but enter the race after all. We had some nice demo bikes that we had to try and what better place to do it.
Off we went, into the mist and rain as we climbed the first 500m climb of the day, this was going to be fun, thank god I decided to take it easy. Well, easy is fine line between busting your ass and giving everything you have for the race, and having a whole lot of fun. The speed is not so much different in the end but there is a different mindset needed as you get caught up in the moment of the race and it’s hard to back off when people are passing you (it’s a racer thing). So off we went, hooting and hollering to ourselves and ‘Tane’, God of the forest. And fun we did have, the climbs seemed fun and the downhills were more than fun. But as you can imagine, with all that fun, something had to give. And unfortunately, it was the ground from beneath me, I somehow managed to loose control on a slippery, rocky, mud filled, descent (for those that know, it’s quite a common occurrence for me).
I hit the dirt with such vigour, right onto my shoulder, which seemed to make a good popping noise as I made contact. Collar bone break, I was thinking as I lay there in the mud, writhing in pain. But no I was lucky, just a really good smack, enough to pop the bone out of its socket for a split second, wrench some essential muscles and bruise my ego. Checking to make sure that nothing was broken, I looked down the rest of the descent thinking that maybe there was a reason there was a four xxxx sign at the top. Oh well, on with the race, and man was it good, mud, mud glorious mud, some wicked native forest and some of the wildest trails I have ridden since last years race.

My nice clean legs.

Later that night the damage looked bad, I was having trouble with my shoulder as the pain was starting to set in. A few pain killers, some anti-inflammatory’s, internal and external Arnica, some massaging and a little vodka, and things were feeling great. A good sleep, and things were felling good, a little bit sore but not as bad as I thought it was. Hey I could almost lift a bike with it, and using the tools was no problems.. Europe here I come, at least I was not sporting a cast or sling, things were looking up.


Anonymous said...

Hmm, i think i've past those quads in the first round of the enduro rotorua 2005 :) 4 mins i think it was.

benny said...

Enjoy that memory, because it's the only time you ever did or ever will pass them in a race. But maybe you are getting stronger now with all your riding now your car is in prison (you bastard). It will never forgive you.