Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Taupo (pronounced /ˈtoʊpɔː/, TOE-paw) Rotorua Single-speeding weekend

I am not sure whose idea the trip was? Sepps or mine, but before long we had a full van and a professional driver (Peter Reynolds) and youngster (Ed Banks) for company. The BS flowed freely, Ed said nothing the whole trip, but took it all in, to be used against us all down the track at some later date I am sure.

Despite having lived in Taupo for a few years, I had forgotten just how bloody cold it is up there. At least this time I was sleeping in a modern house in the burbs, and not a forestry hut built after the war. Sepp is a master organiser and a very forceful person, and wasted no time in convincing us all that carbs were evil and that every morning we should have 3 eggs and lashings of bacon for brekky. We were powerless to refuse. The plan was to base ourselves in Taupo and hit the local trails there, and race in Rotorua the next day.

 The last race I did in Rotorua was the national series finals in 2002. I suffered from my usual lack of riding skills, and time on the trails that even the good Wellington riders suffer on. The flowy BMX styled courses favour riders who can pump out smooth power without the inefficient grunt and brake style of riding I had learnt.

I dont know how relevant the style of track there is to racing on the world cup circuit, but it sure as hell is fun to ride on, and the MTBing public vote on it with their wheels. There are heaps more trails there now than there were back in 02, and some of them you could just play on all day long.

On day 1 we checked out Taupo's Craters of the Moon course on our single-speeds. This whole trip was about trying out our single-speeds and dicking about with gearing and such. Sepp had his dedicated SS Cannodale 29er and Ed and I had our old crapper bikes that had been converted. We did a bit of bike swapping and sledging and we were very impressed with Sepp's. It seemed to roll beautifully over all the terrain we encountered.

The night before, Ed and I recounted the last road-trip we did together. The Ohau and Naseby rounds of the nationals in 1996. Ed was a junior DHer with the Specialised team. I was finally a new vet (35 years old in those days). The day before the Naseby race we watched as a promising junior lake-jumped his BMXer all day. Kashi Leuchs was his name. That night in the camp ground we met up with another rising talent. John Kirkcaldie. He had this completely horn Cannondale with upside down forks. There was nothing else like it in the country at the time. The writing was on the wall for the many times National DH champ, Darren Henderson. JK eventually went on to win the American NORBA DH series twice.

After a couple of hours wrecking our single-speed legs in the Craters of the Moon Park we took off to the Cafe for a coffee. None us was that hungry as there were still partly digested eggs and bacon in our gut. Imagine our surprise when we realised that the guy we had just sat down next to at the cafe was John Kirkcaldie, out for his first ride in 4 months. What a coincidence.

That night Ed was in charge of nutrition and he built the largest lasagne in the world known to be consumed by four people. We dropped Sepp and Pete off at a bar in town to watch the Rugby while Ed-san and I went to at least 5 liqour stores looking for the peculiar brand of Japanese beer Ed always uses for Carbo loading.

The next morning, for some reason, my ribs were really bad. I had had a prang the week before at the Wainuiomata trail park, but thought nothing of it. On the sunday when I did the Cyclo cross at Upper Hutt they were sweet. A week later I was struggling to put my socks on. Sepp came to the rescue with 150mgs of diclofenac.

We got to Rotorua in plenty of time. It was bloody cold but the trails were frosty and firm as. I positioned myself for a good start in my first ever real single-speed race. The trails were awesome. We were all running standard gearing but had to wonder how much easier it would have been to be one tooth lower given the lack of flat or downhill riding. Everyone got a sore back but I noticed myself electing to jump off and run a bit rather than blow my legs completely in the first hour.

When Ed is invloved there is always a wager for a can of coke for the first rider home. He collected big-time again. I can see why so many people from Wellington go up to Rotorua to ride now, and when people talk about Pondys and Split Enz and the A-trail, I now know what they mean. The only problem was, I needed a good bike to make the most of these trails... the Litespeed just didnt cut it.... what to do. Maybe some experimentation with a single-speed fully.....