With the week long onslaught of Crankworx assaulting your normal daily routine, I thought it was only fair to add to the constant barrage of bikes and pro riders taking over your social media feed with my own experiences of Rotorua in a frenzy. And like feeding time at the trout farm I throw myself into the water of the first round of the EWS tacked on to the front of the Crankworx schedule. What? Sorry, the Enduro World Series, the fist bumping centre of the universe where punters (like you) get to hang out with the worlds best riders and media gurus (like me). So sit back and be convinced that life probably was better before facebook and Instagram, to times when ignorance was bliss and you and your little group of friends was the centre of the universe, life was simple and all you had to worry about was having a branded pair of sneakers and war was something that happened in 1939.
It's not easy being a top enduro racer and a media mogul at the same time, so after two failed enduro races , the first where I wrecked my tyre and the second where it rained and I got scared and even the race doctor overtook me on the toughest race stage, I realised it was time to take a break and put pen to paper and head to Rotorua for nine days of mixing it up with the elite of my chosen sport and trying not to upset too many bicycle product dealers by trying to score as much free shit (swag) as possible.
I hit the road at 4:30am to beat the traffic and catch the early morning light on Mt Ruapehu for the five hour drive to Rotorua.
I head straight for the Whakarewarewa Forest to get a ride in before the forecast rain and have a look at some of the race stages. I hook up with my long time riding buddy Rosara Joseph who used to ride pro for the Yeti team, but now has a real job in Canada and moonlights as a Sram/Transition model/rider/writer something...I'm not sure even she knows what her role is but whatever she does, she does it well and still kicks my butt on a bike which confirms for me that it was a wise move to hang up the race plate for the forseeable future.
Things aren't looking great when I bump into my old mates ratboy and CG who are covered in slop and are trying to clean their bikes in a puddle...that's not very pro is it? (note: Are you impressed that after 3 minutes I have managed to hang out with three famous people already? This is what Crankworx is for...showing the plebs who stayed at home how cool your life is right now).
In a rare moment of honesty, I must confess that I don't really know........ oh never mind.
So anyway I ride a few races stages and #smacktalkwiththepros and have a blast as the rain holds off and the sieve-like soil drains the moisture away for a thoroughly pleasant day out. Lemonade anyone? 15 years ago and I would have a few more paragraphs about a rowdy night in town with skids through the mall and a few tussles with the Lava Bar bouncer but I'm pretty knackered from fist bumping my way around the trails and head on to my digs at Southstar Shuttles CEO Jeff Carters house.
SATURDAY: Practice day two.
OMG...everyone is in such a good mood. There was a little rain overnight but things are looking good with dry skies predicted all day and possibly no real rainfall until raceday afternoon. I head into the trails once again to catch up with the potty mouthed Dirty Nomad and his sidekick The Swiss Missile. Like myself, the foul mouthed one is a hater of the wet so he is in his happy place and once again my knuckles take a beating from fist bump armageddon. Things are looky quite rosy and I feel the usual pang of regret that I'm sidelined from chasing the podium and briefly entertain the notion of trying for a late race entry.
A full day on the trails and a quiet dinner in town with a few mates and then everyone heads home early to check their bikes and pack their kit and get some sleep while replaying every stage corner, root and drop over and over in their minds until they finally manage to sleep with dreams/nightmares of winning/getting smashed before their 5am alarm screams SUFFERFEST and they crawl out of bed and ride into 7-9 hours of HELL no matter how fine the day or how fresh the mind and body (so pleased I'm not racing hahahaha). OH, but I nearly forgot....A last minute dash to pro rider Eddy Masters luxury penthouse to swap out his Eagle groupset for my trusty 11 speed ensemble. I work late into the night to ensure Eddys' bike is race fit (ok it was about 40 minutes and I left at dusk) and I leave with severe paranoia that Eddy will mash his gears and it will be all my fault. I toss and turn all night and wake late in a nervous sweat....
SUNDAY : (funday) Race Day.
I woke late to what I thought was rain so I stayed in bed giggling quietly to myself at my wise decision to shun a race plate. Turns out it was just the wind so I jumped up quick smart and headed into the forest. The other lazy mainstream media are only interested in the pros and wouldn't get on the media gravy train until 9:30 or so, but your faithful average Joe journalist therodfather drove into the race area early and started to ride up to meet the racers for stage 1. Lucky for me my old buddy Graeme Murray was driving in with his #proasf*** vehicle media permit so I thumbed a lift to meet the Masters mid pack at the start of the race stage.
After I got my broken arse out of bed and dragged myself to the hill, good luck let me bump into pro photographer Graeme Murray, ex NZ DH legend . He's another racing buddy who I let beat me on many occasions in the '90s. He gave me a much needed lift to the top of stage 1 which got me back on track (I still don't know where my VIP shuttle got to?)
Once again there had been little rain overnight and the trails were running pretty mint. I flip flopped again and wished I wasn't so soft as my race head reared up and I started to fancy myself as a podium contender. That wasn't to last as drizzle hit the zimmer frame crowd on the liasion to stage 3 and chaos ensued along with my maniac giggling once more as I witnessed flailing feet and bikes covered in slop. I actually felt sorry for these guys... this race was going to be hard enough without wrestling the bike over every obstacle and lugging around an extra 8 kgs of mud jammed in every crevice and orifice.
Heavy rain meant I had to put the camera away for most of the time, so I got to pedal around and take in the crazed banter of people dicing with death. A few grumpy people with bikes that weren't working at all but most were in a state of delirium that could pass for happiness and the spectators got to see some impressively fast riding in unrideable conditions from some of the best trail riders on earth.
I watched Ritchie Rude, the final rider, ranked #1 hit the river gap and wow the crowd with an unseen triple jump into the distance and then headed home for a shower and back into town for the prize giving which I missed as an early dinner took too long so I slinked off to prepare for the next days mission and to catch up on some much needed sleep.
Result... Eddy Masters comes home third with pro mechanicing from yours truly (I must add guru mechanic to my CV)
Best result... me not racing. Note to self: only race if you can enter last minute with the promise of dry trails.
TOMORROW: I head out with Specialized NZ to shred some trails and then after lunch a date with my old mate (just met him yesterday) 90's FRO RIDER legend Brett Tippie to star in his next video edit #rideblindwithtippie or #blindridingwithtippie or something. (note: are hash tags ruling your life? I'm ready to punch one in the nose).