09 February 2010

Mtn Bike History

There's a touch of irony out on the Kiwi Brevet. The event itself is creating history as the first of it's kind in NZ, but take a look through the entry list and it's a who's-who of NZ mtn bike history.

Start with Simon Kennett, who decided NZ should have a mtb suffer-fest after doing the Great Divide race from Canada to Mexico last year - two weeks unsupported... think about it ! Anyway, Simon and his brothers Paul and Jonathan have been around mtn biking since Adam rode a bike. They created the Karapoti Classic, produced NZ's first mtn bike guide book, organised NZ's first world cup event, and still drive alot of Wellington's trail building. Not sure what Simon was riding - but it'll be similar to his Trans Divide rig, which was hardtail mtb frame frame with carbon road forks & a 700c front wheel. He's notorious for slow starts & fast finishes, and after a cruisie opening day he appears to be galloping through the field, reaching Arthuir's Pass at around 11pm Monday. Simon reckoned he'd cut it out in about 4.5 days, so will be interesting. Will also be interesting to see if his tactics of an easy start & more sleep in the first two days will work compared to Andy Reid and Oliver Whalley, who have been cranking since the first climb and sleeping to the 4hr minimum. Simon is about 6hrs behind them now.

Trevor Woodward, who as of 10:40pm Monday appears to have kipped down for the night somewhere near Lake Brunner maybe, is a bit of a legend in Wgtn circles. He was a contender nationally in the mid-90s and placed 2nd & 3rd at Karapoti, where he still returns every year & has racked up 16 sub-3hr races in a row. He was last seen in J'Ville Cycles a week before the start telling everyone he was just gonna have fun & wasn't interested in the sleep-monsters, while at the same time spending a disgusting amount of time deciding on tyre choice. But maybe he is just playing it casual - did you notice the pic of his wheels, with his jandals wrapped in the spokes because he couldn't fit anything more in his kit-bag. Notice also his bike - a Cannondale Lefty, which he's he's riding he said "because it's the only bike I have right now".

Jeff Lyall, Jonty Ritchie & John Randal are others from the Wgtn mtb mafia, guys who have been around longer than even they can remember.

Jeff's a keen cross-over guy who meddles both on and off road. More known for more standard distances, especially time trialing on the road, this is his first ultra race. He mentioned prior to leaving that he wasn't into sleep deprivation, but at the same time was quizzing anyone who had experience in long adventure races and bike races. But Jeff is a rabid techno-phobe... He's riding a Santa Cruz ultralight fully with aerobars & listed his entire riding kit at 41 pounds... who weighs that sort of thing ?

Jonty & John are well known for being the most talented recreational riders in NZ. Jonty once scored a top 10 at the world junior mtb champs. John is just a machine who smiles as hard as he rides, usually as he's passing you. A couple of years ago in a road race where John was smacking it out a couple of hard core roadies sitting in the bunch remarked that the big guys will disappear on the climb - he did, he disappeared up ahead. Jonty appears to be enjoying the Brevet experience, rather than racing, and is no doubt riding something wonderfully retro. Apparently John is riding a carbon Giant XTC with a carbon road fork and was last heard of at Arthur's Pass with Simon Kennett, so he's pretty serious, although no doubt grinning from ear-to-ear.

The Ground Effect guys, Guy & Laurence, have been around as long as most. Guy was a founding partner in the well-known Ground Effect online cycle apparel empire. Laurence rode as a pro for most of the 1990's before nabbing a sweet job there. As befitting of Guy, he didn't reveal much about his rig on this ride - but you can bet it'll be something very retro-chick. Laurence finished 2nd at Karapoti once & represented NZ, but he seems to be socialising on the Brevet. But like a true ex-pro he's riding a titanium rig with aerobars, although it is 11 years old. Like several Brevet riders he didn't take any cooking gear, so his credit card must be taking a beating. Was a pity to see Laurence's dad, John, withdraw through illness on the first day. John's a legend in his own right in Christchurch circles.

Looks like Chris Burr and Bob (Brenda Clapp) are riding together. The Nelson couple have also raced at the top level and represented NZ in past lives. Brenda still dusts off the racing kit every now and then, so she'll be keeping Chris honest. They've been around the traps since the mid-90s. Brenda won Karapoti in 1999 & Chris was 3rd in 2004. Interesting to note several smiling Brevet riders bending the rules to grab a feed at their house as the race passed through Nelson.

We could go on all night... Lisa Savage (Nelson) and Jo Holden (Wgtn) are former national class riders who got even better with age. Jo is on the experienced side of 50, but still bloody fast. She's head of Police Search & Rescue in Wgtn, so I guess she's doing the Brevet to find herself ! Lisa's doing it probably because she couldn't think of anything better to do. She was a top rider in the 1990s, has also been a top adventure racer and avid cycle tourer... So no surprise she's leaving plenty of guys behind her.

And a final word to the Wgtn good keen men, Gordon MacDonald, Bill Brierly & Dave Rudge, who like Lisa have been around multisport & mountain biking forever. Looks like they've been keeping each other company for most of the way thus far, which is probably tactical on the part of Dave and Gordon... Bill is the only rider in NZ with a moustache wider than his handlebars... Gordon and Dave probably figure it'll be a handy tow line up the Otira Viaduct to Arthur's Pass.

Michael D. Jacques