Keystone; a welcome.

18 07 2010

Friday…

“Is anybody sitting here?”

I look up from my scrambled eggs to discover that Sam Hill wants to join me for breakfast. “Ah, umm, no Sam go for it it’s all yours”. It’s my first morning in Keystone, Colorado; the Tour de France is playing live on movie screens and I’m chatting freely with one of the World’s fastest downhill mountain bikers – it’s a good start.

Sam Hill with his all new Demo 8

I’ve got a morning full of product launch presentations showcasing the Specialized bicycle range for the upcoming 2011 season, including one that Sam will feature as he shows off his new racing bike. Of course he has been using it the entire World Cup campaign so far, but soon it’ll be available to the public as well.

Breakfast leaves my belly full and head a little giddy, but I’ll soon grow used to both sensations as the weekend gets longer and my experiences sweeter. Walking down the hall past never seen before helmets, shoes and saddles I spot my first mountain bike hero and the World’s first Champion; Ned Overend. I introduced myself and as a fan paid my respects but had to keep moving to be on time for the latest in Street bikes. Ned assured me that he’d catch up with me later. And on it went. After a Body Geometry presentation showcasing the latest design, development and philosophy in Gloves, Saddles and Shoes; I sacrificed my morning coffee break for 20 minutes one-on-one with Andy Pruit (arguably the number one guru when it comes to scientific and holistic bike fitting, with the numbers and names to back it up). For kicks our first of many conversations including finding out where he has positioned cleats for current road racing stars Cancellara, Contador and the Schleck brothers. To him the Schleck boys are like sons and even though we’d never met he didn’t want me to miss a beat when it came to insuring I have the right tools for my own customers.

A Professor, a fellow Central Otagoian, a dude that pens deals with Bjarne Riis and a well photographed Stunt man

Lunch came around in a flash and that full belly from breakfast was generously topped up with some sweet cakes and anticipation of an afternoon test riding some of the most technically advanced mountain bikes still unavailable to the rest of the world. A chance meeting with Matt Hunter would shape the afternoon further. I showed him the latest ‘Bike’ magazine Photo Annual of which he is on the cover and still yet to have seen. His excitement was genuine and a buzz for me to share. After a few signatures he asked if he could join me for some riding at the demo area, and I said as long as we didn’t have to jump off any cliffs I’d be keen.

A Gondola carried us up to 12,000 ft and with the seat (unusually for me) lowered on a brand new Carbon fibre S-Works Stumpjumper FSR, I was itching for a blast down some of the sweetest single track totalling over 30 minutes and a vertical kilometre. Matt insisted I go first, which was at once a thrill and yet nerve racking to make sure I went fast yet smooth enough to not to put to put him to sleep. Red-Pointing a new trail full gas on a foreign bike is a buzz in itself. Yet on a $12K machine and the world’s best behind it’s a new level again – I can barely remember the run, but I can thankfully remember the thrill. Halfway down I insisted he take the lead and for a brief few moments I witnessed a rider appear in slow motion in front of me yet pulling away as I tried to keep my own comfort zone intact. Wall rides taken beyond horizontal, a small rock turned in a 4 ft high pancake flat “bunny hop”, thanks for the lessons Matt, humbling indeed.

Mr. Overend and a whole lot of Carbon Fibre love

Naturally it didn’t take very long before it was time to race of for dinner. After a frenetic day of action and knowledge Lyno and I were a little late for the restaurant booking, however I’d been saved a seat opposite Mr. Ned Overend and off-road triathlon world’s #1; Conrad Stoltz. Just to listen to their conversation would have been enough, but to be included with sincere interest was something else.

It seemed it didn’t matter where I looked, what I did; it was a day of pure Alchemy. I walked back to the hotel by myself to reflect on it all. Breakfast with Sam seemed like a week earlier, and for all I know it could have been hailing golf balls on the walk back but I wouldn’t have noticed. On the bike I chase that one sweet ‘in the zone’ experience. Yet here was an entire day spent hitting the ball in the middle shot after shot – extraordinarily grateful to all.

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2 responses

18 07 2010
Ben Bagley

Sounds like a sik day! How cool is it to meet these legends of a sport you love and they are genuine top people. Makes you feel good to read.

18 07 2010
Kim

Yet again, a very well written piece and a very adventurous journey. Bravo brother, bravo.

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