Round and Round

26 08 2010

The ultimate riding surface?

My first memory of elite level bike racing was watching the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. For some reason or another (teacher with priorities?) we had a Television in the classroom and were allowed to watch the live broadcast of the Mens Team Pursuit. It was a 4000m match race on an outdoor oval track with these crazy steep banked corners. I remember being riveted to the screen wondering how on earth the bike riders could defy gravity as they carved their way around the track with in inches of each other and rounding the bends horizontal to the ground. It didn’t make any sense, but it did look cool.

I swear I didn't exegerate the anlge too much...


Skip ahead, a few years, quite a few years… and I’ve found myself inside the ILT Velodrome down in Invercargill coaching a team of bikers to ride one of these very velodrome’s. Only this one is more modern than the L.A version and is undercover, made of wood and the corners are steeper! At first glance it quite frankly is so intimidating that you assume it to be impossible. Then our student racers came out and started warming up by doing some easy laps. That’s when jealousy overcame anxiety. These guys and girls of all shapes and sizes, abilities and fitness levels were cruising around like it was a Sunday ride (actually come to think of it…) and man not only did it look easy but god damn it looked fun. Sure they were just going around in circles, but I’ve been escaping the winter sitting on an indoor trainer going nowhere at all for the past month; this was the answer! Just think twice every 250 meters you get to angle over on this sculptured Newton prover, all on perfectly smooth wooden floor boards, you with me?

The guy up top is about 10ft off the ground

OK here’s the catch, there’s only one like it in New Zealand and it’s right at the bottom. Luckily for me that’s only 3 hours away, not exactly a drive I’ll do regularly but better than flying to Auckland and worth a one-off trip with some mates. Stay tuned I promise to make such a journey and if no-one gets an eye poked out I’ll post the victory salutes and podium shots!


Rouleur (magazine)

22 08 2010

A magazine worth preserving

SO you’re on the world wide web (don’t ask me how I know), but if you are anything like me you might have a penchant for old school printed magazines as well. It’s where I learned all about the bike and where my gear addiction was first seeded. Only these days most publications that I would have spent my precious bickies on a few years ago are filled with news already detailed on my now favourite web pages. There is no point covering the latest SRAM group set because Anthony Haung showed us months before the archaic paper was ready for printing. All that throw away but fascinating news is now daily and free. Other magazines sell on size and pad out their “quality” with glossy advertisements that are as satisfying as a Big Mac (i.e. not). Is anyone the real deal anymore? Or are our attention spans and concentration levels set to dissolve with the tabloid?

You don't need captions when you can dream your own

This is about the search of new school integrity. About a search for a magazine well written and artfully photographed. It should contain a respect for life and have a soul within. I want an insight; a taste beyond the obvious. A ticket to competitive cycling’s 4th dimension and something worth collecting while looking forward the next chapter. Sporadic one column articles amongst cliché racing photographs and surplus of brainwashing is not the art that I subscribe to. As for the lucky writers (and readers) who must form the picture in 300 words, best of luck; please be as general as possible there’s not a lot of room left for you.

Mr. Gios - a golden life time of stories

OK enough drivel, let’s take a look at a title on an entirely different plain to the rest of the magazine peleton. Rouleur out of the UK have just sent me their 18th edition (I now have 4 plus a photo annual). The first thing you’ll notice is its weight for size. It’s built to last. The matt finish paper frames compositions in truthful light. The contents page is brief. Only multi-page articles need apply; save for Johnny Green, but the ex-Clash band manager doesn’t mince his words anyway. There is no ‘regulars’ column, every issue is original. Often they take the term ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ head on and provide your insight via often atypical photo journals that force a pause and provoke thought. Each shot individually stunning on its own; ranging from a barren road landscape to a portrait of the fans taken in the aftermath. In keeping the theme the athlete profiles customarily focus on the forgotten or the obscure up and coming. Chosen because their story is an interesting one; not because of public demand and often written by credible contemporaries. Example in case; a Jeremy Hunt piece written by fellow current uber-domestic Michael Barry is pure poetry. It describes the lives of two professional racers that even in the twilight of their careers still appreciate their trade and have a refreshing love for the craft. Inside the latest issue is a feature on climbing. Again, they haven’t found any old grimpeur to wax the tale, but appropriately recruited famous recluse Robert Millar; Briton’s one and only TdF K.O.M.

Mountains can be cruel

It is commercial. There are advertisements, but not as you know it. Ralpha clothing have a 2 page(r) featuring a race rhythm profile of the Col du Tourmalet displayed as printed sheet music. How about a photo of a pair of Paul Smith leather Brogues with a pedal cleat screwed into the soul. You see where this is going? Does it sound pretentious? It shouldn’t because this is put together by true lovers of cycle sports; they also just happen to oooze style and put it together with the highest degree of detail. Rouleur magazine powers up and over the highest cols and through the deepest mud with a poise that is unrivalled in this fiercely competitive industry. Setting itself apart with passion before commerce, and that to me is a long term way to keep my subscription running.

Yozo Shimano; own's a company that makes fishing gear etc.

Jack Bauer is not a TV star – yet

13 08 2010

Rumours abound that what you are about to read will be snapped up by a national magazine and printed for purchase. The good news for all here is that in reality if that happens it wont look anything like the following. Too many words for a start, but mostly because this page doesn’t deal will a middle man. In the present (what your reading now) information is often raw unmanipulated, gramatically squewed (including new words), and probably straight up wrong. But the beauty is the conviction behind it – and no-one has sued me yet.

A couple of fateful years ago I had the perverse pleasure of riding a team time trial around Queens Park in Invercargill. The roads were closed, we had police escort in front and camera behind. It was the first stage of the Tour of Southland and the only preparation my team and I had made was to organise the formation en route the starting gate; I think we might have even lapped out once on the ride from the hotel… With the wisdom of hindsight a little more practice could have been handy. Amongst the five of us Jack Bauer was our strongest rider. None of us had realistic overall placing aspirations but still we were there to make a race of it and take advantage of any opportunities we could create.

Bluff Hill - even when you wining it hurts

Possessing a big engine able to wind up to great speed we voted Jack into first position. He was to accelerate solidly up to the first corner and peel off before my turn down the main straight followed by Josh Barley, Tim Hargreaves and Al Dempsey. All was going sweet. I pulled off my 100m in the wind and while I was imediately on the rivet  from the effort I had enough time at the back of 5 to recover before it started again. Flying past the screaming schools at the back of the course and I pulled off the front again to look and discover that Tim and Al had been dislodged! The rules stated that we had to finish with 3 and looking ahead the dread inside was that  Jack and Josh were stronger. The pressure was now on to be that last guy. Problem was Jack loves being in the wind and was driving so hard that even in the shadow I couldn’t recover. After only 3 kilometers I was staring down the barrel of 5 more kilometres of stress. Jack pulled off and Josh kept the unrelenting horror. When the wind finally (too soon) hit me uninterrupted I was shattered and imediately pulled off without contribution. Jack didn’t flinch and took up pace again only I now couldn’t hold the back wheel! This was not going according to our hasty plan. I yelled “WAIT” and then finally “OK” as soon as I could but my legs were filled acid and fused like concrete; I was falling apart. For the next lap this happened a few more times. We managed to some what stay together and while we were not exactly close to the top of the leader board we certainly were no where near the bottom. I was left humbled by two of my week long brothers, but it was Jack’s performance especially that had me wondering if he could acheive greater things.

Kingsnorth liked him and he liked Belgium

That Tour finished early for me (another story all together) but for Jack it was confirmation that maybe he should try his luck beyond NZ. Without much of a plan he packed his bags and with little savings started a make of break exploration of his ablities in hard man cycling heartland; Belgium. The next 12 months were fairytale. Riding for Kingsnorth Wheelers CC he picked up 8 wins as an amateur and was the most succesful foreign rider. He came back to NZ with a tougher body and wiser street smarts. His silver at the Club National road race was confirmation to those who’d been following yet he was still flying under the radar. At the Tour of Southland his improvement would truly come out from under the covers. Victory over Heath Blackgrove on the notorious Bluff Hill was an eye opener. His attack on a very blustery run into Winton on Day 3 to steal the yellow jersey confirmed his rivals fears. On Day 5 still in yellow he missed an important break that would ultimately cost him the overall race, but for me and many others the physical performance he put in to limit his loses that day showed just how strong he had become.

Yellow Oakely's - nice

No-one though figured the next chapter in an incredible summer. After a dozen laps of Christchurch’s National Elite championship course Jack was dropped on the final acent of Dyers Pass road. Not one to give in he battled back up to absolute favorites and Tour de France stars; Julian Dean and Hayden Roulston. With only 1 km left (of a race total 165) it came down the three of them. Undeterred, Jack launched his Belgium formed sprint and held off the big names to win the coveted NZ champions jersey. To cap it off just a week earlier he’d signed a contract with UK pro team Endura racing for the upcoming European season.

With the prospect of seeing Jack race Southland again; this time as a favourite; I caught up with him to get his take on how things have been in the UK and what he’s got going on in the build up to coming home. This is the full unedited transcript below – slang et al…

1st Bauer, 2nd Roultson, 3rd Dean - that's going straight to the pool room

This year;
So Jack after an extraordinary first year racing in Belgium (off your own bat), how has your follow up year been, now that you’ve made the pro ranks and have had (presumably) more taken care of?
It’s been different. Way more so than I would have thought. And difficult! Adapting to a different country and sussing out training and a new way of life, culture etc. It all takes it’s effect on you as an individual and therefore your performance on the bike. It’s been a year of learning really, with a lot more people influencing me on the ins and outs of how to train/go about things etc.

You knocked up a few wins this year already, are you satisfied with the way things have gone?
Not really, I had planned to go better than I have done this year. I’ve had to cope with some setbacks that really impacted my year. But at the same time I’ve had to make sure I don’t get ahead of myself and expect this rollercoaster ride to just keep on getting better and better. I’ve gotta just calm down and learn to approach competition in a professional sense – realizing that I may not be able to perform to 100% and win every time! When you ride as part of a team you need to operate in that team environment as you are there to perform a job. So that’s what I’ve been getting used to doing.

Not doing as well as he'd hoped - ah ha...

How is living and racing in England and Britain compared to the Belgium and the Continent? Preferences?

I’m not a fan of the UK! I don’t plan on coming back here (England) to race. Apart from the Tour of Britain maybe. It’s not an environment that motivates me to race and train unfortunately. Over here I actually feel more like hanging out at the local with my neighbours, pint in hand. Oh yeah, and kicking a football around! A lot of what motivates me to ride is my surroundings – the training and scenery. As well as being in a place where cycling is part of the culture. The UK doesn’t have that setup for good riding which certain parts of Europe boast. It’s just not the same.
The physical boost you gained from your first season in Europe caught a lot of people off guard, especially back in NZ, are you still making big gains in your ability?
I don’t think that can be the case so much. Last year I had a lot to prove and I also learned a lot about my own abilities and the psychology of racing in general. That is why I made such a step up in such a short time. Things just seemed to click. Physically it was huge – and I really wanted it. I was driven to succeed and improve. This year I’ve more stepped up in a mental sense – I needed to change a lot with regard to my tactics and my style on the bike.

Highlights of this season…
Seeing the Time Trial results page in the Tour of Murcia, you weren’t that far off names like Lance Armstrong, Kloden, Menchov, Wiggins… how did it feel to look down that list?

yeah it was cool. I had hoped to go well on that stage, and I put it on myself to do well because I know I‘m strong out on my own in the wind. I’ve got a big engine. But that well? It was awesome! I’m hoping that’s just the start for my time trialling abilities

Bike handling 1-O-1, Jack knows a thing or two

Has the NZ jersey brought you much attention?
For one thing, in France it’s made it way easier to know when I’m getting called up to the start grid
Your Team Endura Racing is reported often as a feeder squad for ProTour Team Sky. What ties do you share with those guys and is there a possibly of riding for them in the future? Any interest from else were?
That isn’t the case. Endura is completely removed – and is in face a Scottish cycle clothing company. However, there are guys in Endura who have mates riding in Sky, so those sort of ties are there. Also the management of Sky is obviously the same management who run the British Cycling federation. Many of my team mates have been involved in the BC programme in the past so they have the contacts inside the management as well. Getting a ride in a pro outfit like the Sky team is another story though. For someone like myself, I am a newcomer to the sport, and as such I need results and consistent performances to my name before I can move on to a pro team.

Your coming back to race the Tour of Southland, this time with very strong backing. What’s the plan? Are you captain? Who do you see as the main rivals (I just read on cyclingnews that Roulston will be giving it another nudge with Calder Stewart)?
yeah Share the Road has a strong lineup alright. Brendon McDermott and Karl Murray have been putting in a lot of hours early in the year to ensure we got the goods…to come away with the goods! I owe my success last year to those two amongst a few other people. This year I would obviously love to do the team justice and come away with the win, and that is what we are building towards. However with the team as it is on paper, it’s clear to see that we have options to run with. Rivals? The guys who can climb well up Bluff. Hayden and Heath. I think it’s great that Roulston will be back, pity he wasn’t there last year to add more competition. The more riders of his calibre there the better the racing!
This year everyone will know you better, how does it feel to enter an race that you looked up to with desire when you were younger and now with genuine chance of doing well/victory?
real cool feeling bro, real cool. It’s like when you realize a big goal in your life coming true you know? It’s unreal

Smack down - Southland en route Tuatapere, where are the Aussies?

What’s makes Southland special to you?
It was the only big NZ road race that I really knew about when I was a youngster. I remember Dad calling me over to watch the news one night and seeing Yates win that days stage in the Tour. It seemed like the real deal to me as a kid, because it was on the news you know! I was into mountain biking then because we lived in the country, had lots of land to build tracks on, and a mountain bike was the only bike I had. I was always excited when cycling (be it road or whatever) made it onto the news though. I never really thought I’d be at the same level of competition one day! I wanted to make it on the mountain bike back then so all my thoughts were on that.
What does it take to win (Southland)?
More than I had last year! I’m the wrong person to be asking really, because I’ve only been close the one time. You have to ask someone who’s actually won the thing! I’ll tell you what I learned though.
First of all you need to be a good all rounder, as any tour winner is. But in Southland I think it really shows up who can climb. Not to the extent of the featherweights you see in the Tdf, but you have to be someone with the power to do well up Bluff Hill. Having a good stage result there set me up for my stab at the yellow jersey last year. Everything else just happened by itself really. The Crown Range stage requires that ability as well. If you lose time on either of those 2 decisive stages, well where are you gonna take it back?
Bike handling is pretty key with the wind and weather as it is down south, you gotta be able to hold the front wheel down and stay upright!
Just last month the UCI decided to drop the Tour of Southland from its ranking, leaving organisers free to manage the race as they see fit – ie invite who ever they like including ProTour riders to NZ amateurs. Do you have any feelings on that?
That’s fine by me. Getting the big boys in the mix just makes it that much harder and more competitive. More like the real thing!

It came and it went

1 08 2010

Yes I did once report on a test ride (check it out in the Testing menu up top) that if you wanted to see the one and only brand new Specialized mountain bike model the “Camber” in New Zealand you had to come and see me. Well a few of you did, only it sadly and excitedly it has gone from my possesion and I think to a better more deserving home.

The good news is that it is still in Wanaka, so for the next 4 weeks the only place in Aotearoa to see one is still here, keep a keen eye out for the rider with a grin from ear to ear.

It's the Camber Elite and it's the last time I saw it, one sweet bike

On a funny side note, as I was building it up 5 days before this photograph was taken I noticed the date of manufacturer sticker on the underside of the top tube. It was stamped 18/6/10, this photo was taken only 30 days later, now that’s a coup for it’s new home!