Saturday, January 08, 2005

Nelson, More Climbing and Crap Racing in the Armpit of The World

Long time no talk to party people, it's been a while since I've had any internet, so this is going to be a long, possibly quite boring entry.

I set down in Nelson on New Year's Eve. After the daunting task of unpacking, inspecting and rebuilding the bike (after watching some slacker asshole fling it into the plane from halfway across the tarmac), Scotty, Aaron Tuckerman and I went for a quick ride and settled in for a slow New Year's Eve.
THE PLAN: Although it is New Year's Eve, the number one night for party and celebration, the night when all people my age are supposed to cut loose and freak out, WE are elite bike racers, highly tuned machines who are expected to perform tommorow. SO. We will eat some pasta, watch the TV edit of Coyote Ugly and get some sleep. One bowl of pasta and half a Coyote later Scott's phone goes RING RING. It's Brei and a bunch of other bike racers, they are going out on the town. They apply what your high school counselor reffered to as "peer pressure."
This is where the 19 year-old guys look at each other, the TV, the phone, the lone semi-nice shirt crumpled in the corner, back to the TV, and after several seconds of this everyone simultaneously jumps up and says "I'm in."
Race? What race? It's NEW YEAR'S EVE!
New year's in Nelson is quite the sight. Downtown is shut down to cars so thousands of people can roam freely from bar to bar, all gathering in the street for one massive countdown led my some unseen DJ. Things progress, the night lurches ahead unchecked, in some sweaty overpacked club AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" blares away into everyone's clouded heads until we spill out into the street, shouting it at the top of our lungs. Things end up predictably out of control and by 3am thoughts of racing are very distant on the horizon. Maybe Scotty and I got kicked out of McDonald's for excessive dancing and wicked moves, maybe not. Maybe Logan went running down the street naked as a new born, maybe not. Either way, the first race of the tour was 5 hours away.

The first 20k of the next day's road race blur into breathless vertigo. 14 laps of a 6k circuit complete with corners split by concrete center dividers (which split the field at the last possible moment every single time) and one little digger of a hill. The presence of several NZ Olympians kept the speeds pinned at 60k/hr on the straights and made for a few panicked chases and failed breakaways. When the break finally did stick it was 8 men strong, and neither Scott, Aaron or I was in it.
No worries, says I, still a 9th place field sprint to go and by this point things are looking up. Scott offers up the leadout and gets absolutely STUFFED with 400m to go, trapped on all sides but a tiny gap opens up to my right and before you can say BAM I'm through it and halfway into orbit. As I am in terrible shap and a bit under the weather I start to blow with 10m to go an the only guy that gets up next to me happens to be enormous, dressed in orange, and named Scotty Allen. Not sure who got it in the end because the officials couldn't be bothered with posting the actual order of the finishers, instead listing the field in alphabetical order. So instead of 9th or 10th, I was 60th or so. Awesome.

Stage 2 wasn't epic or great, but there was a 6k climb halfway through the race that I completely detonated on, sentencing me to ride the last 60k with a few other stragglers who didn't feel like working. Meanwhile ahead of me, Scott attacked early and had to ride the whole climb alone with the group breathing down his neck. Afterwards he said "I lost almost all my senses on that climb. I was down to three: sight, swearing and lactating."
Apparently he still had the sense of spewing left at the top of the climb, it took him almost half an hour to clean his bike off back at the room.

The crown jewel of the Tour De Vinyards is a 140k bastard of a stage that includes 2 big climbs mid-course and a 18k mountain-top finish worth $1000. I assumed today would be another hard, lonely day and I was half right. 5k up the first 6k climb I was breathing through my eyeballs, watching the field roll away and thinking "well, shit."
At this point there are over 100k left to go.
I'm scared to be alone.
So over the top I go and run smack into a straight headwind descent. Not good conditions to catch a 70-strong field of impoverished bike racers chasing sweet moolah. At the bottom I'm joined by 5 other goons who don't see the point of working hard enough to catch the field, so it's all me launching the desperate chase. Let me remind you od one important factor: I hate individual time trials. Why? Because I suck at them. The time trials I tend to do well at are around 200m long. I use this rationale to justify going all-out in hopes I can catch the field in 15k or less. If I can, sweet. If I can't, I'll end up completely frying myself and probably abandoning the race when my legs refuse to go any further halfway up the next climb. Long story short, I haul back a minute and a half on the field in 14k and catch them just as my quads are about to fall out of my shorts. Sweet.
I don't remember much about the next climb aside from complete loss of motor functions (aside from turning my feet in labored circles) and the joy of realizing I was descending the other side with the field. The next 50k wasn't too bad with everyone saving up for the mad dash up Takaki.
Remember what I wrote about climbing Ruapehu? This was about the same, but the first 10k wasn't pleasant.
It was the opposite of pleasant.
Which is bad.
I was maxed out with my legs cramping hard for 2 hours, and every 5 feet some asshole was telling me "you're almost there." Every time I heard that I felt like saying "f@!k off, I've got 12k left!" and punching them in the throat, but I was too busy gasping for breath, pedalling and swearing to myself, not near enough energy to swear at someone else, let alone take a swing.
I reached the top 10 minutes behind the field I started the climb with.
Then (here's a great idea) we rode another 60k home. It was a 200k day (that's 120 miles, people) in under 6 hours. I slept for 15 hours. I was too tired to eat, too tired to stand, almost too tired to sleep. All that was left to do was pass out and swear at things in my sleep.

The final day of the tour wasn't destined to go well. In the past I never would have finished a stage like yesterday's let alone reach the last climb with the group then ride another 60k home. I never would because I never have. I've never climbed that well and I can count the number of 200k rides I've done on my left hand. I was completely smashed up after that stage and by day 4 I still hadn't found all the pieces. I probably made half of the hilly-ass Hill Street circui race before I turned off the course and rode (crawled) back to the house. For my efforts in the Sprint competition I was still out of the money and my 50th place on GC wasn't going to net me anything, so it wasn't worth me walking the rest of the course. I damn near had to walk my bike up the driveway. Breezy once again convinced me to get out of the house and attend the post-race "rider debriefing" session at the local pub, which once again ran late into the night, was capped my her sister out-drinking me handily, and early early in the morning I was on a plane to my next destination...

What a hole. This place is what would happen if you took some podunk 40,000 person Texas backwater town and plunk it down 600k north of Antarctica. This is supposed to be a 6-day track carnival but the first day was rained out, and the infield is now a lake. This is gonna be a long week...


Adam Curry said...

Hey Bro, I tell ya, the invercargill nightlife isn't all that bad. I suggest you indulge in some beverages and head out to the "frog in Frerkin"
Keep up the good work.
P.s. make sure if you go out you take Robin King, he is the life of any party!!!

piglet said...

I am choosing to believe that some of the above (i.e. the drunken partying parts) are a case of either poetic license, or hyperbole for the sake of a good story...also, you might be interested to know that a new study has shown that alcohol consumption leads to nasal pimples. And hemorrhoids.