8 November 2007

On The Road Home.

One of the best things about the end of the season, has to be the thought of heading home for the summer. More importantly, the idea of leaving winter always brings a smile, warming me up from inside. I have managed to have an endless summer, for a few years now, and it gets easier every year. With New Zealand winters not really that cold, it’s not so bad enduring them, but it’s the endless rain, and wind, that really drives you crazy. I have to spare a thought though for the team members I leave in Europe, soon, their home towns will be under snow, with freezing temperatures to accompany them on the training rides. It’s the sort of temperatures I can’t really fathom living in, let alone getting on a bike for a few hours, in temperatures reaching a mind numbing -20’c.

Well that’s enough about the cold, northern hemisphere, as I am already on the long journey home. It took a while to find some tickets home though. Seems like there was a few thousand Kiwi’s, all heading home a little bit early from Europe. Something about a rugby game or something we lost, seem to have read something on some NZ websites about it. For those of you that know me personally, you will understand the unbounding delight I had when the All Blacks lost. For those of you that like the game of rugby, and are still morning at your loss, you might want to stop reading now. For those of you, like me, that think our country would be a better place with out the game, continue reading.

Up one of the purpose built mounds.

I don’t know why Kiwi’s are so obsessed with rugby, and from what I can read from afar, it’s not really changing. The funny thing is, they think the rest of the world thinks the same as them, wrong. The media have done a wonderful job, making them into thinking that the world actually cares about the game, how wrong they are. We even have the Minister of Sport, Trevor Mallard, in his delusional state, stating the 2011 World Rugby Cup will be the “best thing to happen to this country, ever, it will finally put NZ on the map”. This is also the same guy that is responsible for the worst line I ever heard from a Rugby heads mouth, let alone a Minister, “half the country wants to be an All Black, the other half wants to marry one”. Well count me out from that wild accusation, and count most of my friends out as well. Maybe he should look at a few statistics before he starts to talk like that, then he will see more and more people walking away from the sport. Turning their kids instead to soccer, and other less damaging sports, like cycling. Hey, I even read about the local council, finally thinking they can sort out Auckland’s traffic problems, yep you guessed it, ready for, and only for the 2011 WC.

We raced in France, we raced in Italy, and we spent time in a few other countries while the RWC (Rugby World Cup) was on, I looked out for any sign of it, to no avail. I searched newspapers and television for any coverage I could (to back up my theory that the rest of the world doesn’t care, not to see what was happening), but there was nothing to write home about. The odd small article in a major paper here, some snippets on the news there, kind of nice to see it getting the sort of coverage, that cycling gets in NZ. So why do the idiots in NZ, mainly the media, think that the world cares of the sport. We see more people on the side of the road, on one single stage of the TDF, than all of the rugby supporters in the country. That’s not taking into account the billions watching the stage live, on TV. Where did we go so wrong?

That’s enough bitching about Rugby, now for something to cleanse my soul a little. I have, in the last few days have discovered why The Netherlands is so good with raising so many good cyclists. We had another Cyclocross race in town a few kilometres away. While working form our base on the odd days, I would see the boys (boss’s son and nephews) leaving en-masse, all with the club kit on. Little did I know, they were heading to cycling heaven, away from the evils of the road, a virtual paradise. It took me a while to suss out the layout of the place, but it seemed strange. There was a cross course, with some sweet singletrack, a 2.5km road circuit, and a small track (velodrome), and not a car in sight. The road course has a few options you can choose, depending on how you feel on the day, with many corners, a long straight, some good racing can be had. The cross course had a few man made structures, some great short climbs, some of the road course, some grass and singletrack, even a sand pit (makes them get off and run). And the velodrome was pretty sweet, a small banked track, not too steep, so you can integrate it into the road or cross races.

A birds eye view of the facility, the green pen is the cross course for today. Check out the road course, and the velodrome in the bottom right corner.

After a quick walk around the course, more for warming up the body, as it was freezing in the wind, I ventured into the club rooms for a look. With showers, and a bar, and warm coffee available, I had a bit more of a look around the place. The club had been around a while, started off by a few avid cyclists, surrounded by other sporting normal sporting codes, it felt right at home. No wonder they are one of the strongest cycling nations in the World, with kids growing up with this type of luxury to train in. Since finding this club, we had another cross race, and you guessed it, another purpose built training, racing course, both for road, and cross. This was even more extensive than the first club that I found, and from what the locals were telling me, there is plenty more of these places scattered throughout the country. Now if we can swap our passion for rugby to cycling, I am sure we could convert most of the rugby clubs throughout the country to the same sort of clubs the dutchies have, we would be feared on two wheels around the world.

The very essential sand trap. First lap of seven.

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