The Slayer

13 12 2010

Barista with tweed attitude and a lesson in pre-infusing the fusion

A draft about the time I spent with a Slayer. Espresso with citrus notes. Which required another. The follow-up was raspberries. If this sounds like hogs wash to you as all you have ever tasted in your coffee is… coffee, then I’m sorry for you. Find a Slayer. Get it made properly.

Wow these are bad photos to publish, should go back to Melbourne to drink, I mean shoot some more...

There can’t be that many Slayer’s around. They will cost the cafe $40,000. The barista running the thing probably therefore knows a thing or two as well. I watched the second pour. I took him two goes, I like to think he would have thrown the first pour if even I wasn’t watching, it took too long, either way he didn’t bluff and threw it in front of me, a little embarrassed that he didn’t get it right first time. I was just happy that he wasn’t complacent and looked even more forward to my second cup. I didn’t waste their or the machine’s time with milk. Espresso with a little hot water. The initial step of  the espresso dripped like thick caramel over the back of a spoon before flowing onto the water.

The choice is yours

Now there is a reason to like Melbourne. The Sensory Lab, Little Bourke Street. I know there are more out there, next visit will be wondering the alleys and hunting them down.

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Championship Mondial pt. 1

27 09 2010

It hasn’t exactly been a day like any other. For starters there was a 4am alarm so that I could get to the airport in time for the red-eye to Melbourne… From there it was hotel check in, followed by (take a guess) Black Coffee and straight to the train station; destination Geelong. No I haven’t become some bizarre over night AFL freak, it’s the location for the World Road Cycling Championship; and they’re on this week.

We're not in Kansas anymore Toto - Melbourne looked good for race weekend

 

Off the train at the other end I bee-lined it towards the (still under construction) finish. Rumours have been starting to circulate that the pure sprinters might not have it their way as originally expected. Well, you should see the finale! If Cavendish wins here I’ll have permanent respect for him beating the odds. The final 800 or so are seriously on the rise all the way. For me this was an exciting moment. This is going to be a genuine smash festival and I think I’ve already had confirmation by the look in David Boily’s eye’s. More on that later…

That's gonna be 50 meters of ouch!

 

From the finish line I wondered downhill to Geelong’s great seaside Pier to look for Media HQ. At the base of the finishing straight is a 90 degree right hander coming off a downhill; last lap the boys will be hitting some staggering speeds through here, though I think first out of this corner will be way too early. Breaking my day-dream about the race were some riders out on the course; one in an HTC Columbia kit, and one in Cervelo, but I didn’t recognise them, and they didn’t seem to pedal like genuine proffi’s. Then I saw some boys in Australian Kit’s and Jayco shorts, ah here we go some U23’s out for a spin. Coming down the hill soon after in NZ kit with a familiar bull like posture was Gordon McCauley on his TT bike, I gave him a shout and he was his usual jovial mouthy self. Now I was beginning to get it. Spotting the wanna be’s from the Pro’s was going to be easy. The pro’s will be wearing National colours… suddenly the meaning of this one day bared it’s full weight for me to absorb, and it was heavily intoxicating. OK where is this media center? Hey there’s a couple in Great Britain, shortish kinda girl and a big fella. Hey he’s got a sweet custom Pinarrelo to match, must be Geraint Thomas from Team Sky – “Yo Geraint, good luck!” – that got a wave and a smile. Shit why haven’t I got my camera out…

No joke - but it is funny!

OK I’ll skip the formalities, but once in HQ I had my photo taken, received ‘Journo’ accreditation, joked around with the volunteers who were not yet jaded by the enormity, checked my email using the supplied UCI password and went to go find me some more random pro’s. Once outside it started raining; now that would be something, oh that’s an evil thought…

I went back up to the start finish straight, mostly because I wanted to pace it out from the bottom up, I was really quite surprised just how much it rises. Coming down in the opposite direction (on the footpath) were four Canadians lead by Dominique Rollin, they were happy enough to have their photo taken and seemed to be destined a little cafe further down. The Journo juices seemed to be leaching out of the pass in my pocket so I had to follow them and try to get a back page scoop.

Canada eh? Dominique gave the U23 boys a tour of Geelongs sidewalks.

Rollin confirmed my thoughts “Cav likes it (makes flat sweep with his hand), I think it’ll suit a rider more like ah, Gilbert”. Not exactly a revelation, the Belgium native must be odds on favorite, but cool to hear it from someone who has raced them both this year. The other three I didn’t recognise but their Argon 18 bikes outside gave me the clue that they were the Frenchy’s (Québécois) that make up the U23 squad. David Boily (I said I get back to him) had a worried look in his eye’s an also confirmed growing opinion – “It’s really hard, much harder than we thought it was going to be” – spoken almost with a tone that suggested they would have to go back and re-think their tactics; interesting. Well that was cool boys “Bonne chance!”.

Future World Champ?

Right, it was time to get back on the train to Melbourne, fizzing but tired and hungry! Camera now was always at hand. Slovenia pulled up at the lights – “Peter!” Peter Sagan turns around and waves for the camera, now there is someone who could be World Champion one day, outside hope for this Sunday even? Giddy from luck I went to cross the street to the train station and nearly got run over by a flash of Orange/Yellow – two of Spanish armada had run a red light in front of me, both on Orbea. Illegal but cool.

At first I wasn’t sure how I’d react to seeing these guys in National colours. I wondered if it’d be an anti-climax of sorts as all the famed photo’s you see them in through the year they are in trade ‘uniform’. But I have to say it is quite startling and all the more impressive to see the elite of the elite practicing for an extremely select prize, the one jersey to rule them all. The Rainbow with the unbroken bands; stay tuned for more…





A (Tarmac S-Works SL3) gets diverted

20 09 2010

Andy Schleck hurries toward Avoriaz - Specialized v Specialized

The massive ballroom was relatively empty as the conference centre staff reset for the lunch buffet. On large movie screens is stage 8 of le Tour de France streaming live and Lyno and I have snuck in during our demo of Specialized 2011 road range. As he said, “what would a road ride be without a coffee stop?”. Low and behold we had company, very exclusive company. Mike Sinyard and his team are glued to their seats. We’re talking the guys who designed the very bikes that current star’s Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador are racing on and the characters that get their autographs. As the decimated peloton headed under the red kite Schleck fired an acceleration that only Sammy Sanchez could follow and the atmosphere in the ballroom turns electric. On the finish Schleck’s Specialized Tarmac has a last final surge to take victory and the noise in the ballroom almost lifts the ceiling. “Hey Lyno how about we go ride one of them, they look alright eh?”…

Tarmac S-Works SL3 now in Outside Sports Team colours...

To help set the scene here, we had already spent an hour that morning rolling on the new SL3 Roubaix, and I’d already declared that I needed a new bike (see testing above); to replace another bike I also love. So our ride was to be an easy cruise. We heard that a few ‘miles’ down the highway out of the Keystone village was a scenic, gentle rolling road that sided a beautiful Colorado Rockies lake. Sounded like the perfect destination, so once sized up and bike underneath a-rolling we went. Meter’s later I was on a racing bike. I mean earlier I was on a racing bike – the same as the one that in the previous three April’s have one the Queen of the Classics. But now I was on a racing bike, like one that just won a mountain stage of the Tour! Across the gravel car park, everything was felt – as one. This machine moves together like nothing else I’d ever thrown a leg over; back wheel rolls over a rock you feel it at the handlebars, front wheel rolls over a crack it gets translated through the pedals; you know what this bike is doing underneath you, at all times – and I was still only doing 10k/hr…

"Looks great, you go first"

OK lets hit the road, oh yeah that’s better. Americans do build a good road. Damn this bike is stiff. Hey look a pedestrian crossing. Man this is lightning fast. I’m not a big boy so my sprint is never going to rip a bottom bracket free, but then neither could Cancellara when he twisted the throttle up the Muur or when Vinokourov flattened Roche aux Faucons. This bike has ridiculous credentials and it’s easy to see why. Accelerating on it gives you the same ‘oh my god’ reactions of joy you get when your right foot hits the floor in a Porsche 911. I swear my arms were sore from holding on as the g-forces wanted to pitch me off the back. Then after (momentarily) satisfying my new addiction we wandered the streets searching for the lakeside trail, but alas we found better, and none of you will be able to guess what happened next…

Ever heard the term “Cycling is the new Golf”. I have, it’s funny, really. But the fact is Golf is the new Cycling, you with me? Lyno was…

OK, so here’s where I add the disclaimer that we were lost. We had come to a dead-end. You know, the kind where you turn around and re-set your Garmin. However this colder-sac had a secret door to an escape route, and I suggested that we do the back 9. Don’t worry if you don’t get it; neither did Lyno. You see, (good) Golf Courses in the U.S of A have smooth bitumen cart paths that link up the entire course. Seemed like the perfect opportunity to fulfil a recent dream. So off to the 10th!

Anyone seen the highway?

Like a scene of manufactured splendor, this elevated Par 3 was our starting point. immediately into a twisty technical single track for roadies, joining onto the 11th tee and on and on. Flowing corners, sharp power climbs, open chicanes brushing close with flowering gardens, winding through manicured forest, this yellow brick road had it all. I swear probably the most entertaining ‘road’ I’ve ever, well, ever. Of course there was the bike still beneath me; oh yeah, that light weight human-powered rocket. While it’s only fault was that smashing the big dog full gas was such thrill I was getting smashed in the process, don’t apply if you like your easy spin – this bike will trick you into just one more sprint. Cornering (trust me we tested the cornering on the Keystone GC) was as solid and sure planted as they come; point and shoot.

Who wouda thunk it?

Suddenly we were coming up on the 17th green, one final climb up to the 18th and we were outta there. Talk about saving the best for last. Getting to the final hole was a 15%(+), 8 switchback climb, Lyno was loving it. One last hole. I teed off first and the shot landed right on a yard marker painted onto the path. 150 – that means sprint right? So off I go, head down flat-out for the line (where ever that was). A quick glance up and I see an electric Golf Cart coming straight for me – ah crap… I lock up the Dura-Ace stoppers, bike sliding side ways and just before impact I let go of the brakes, regain traction and steer around the mammoth in my way (they were in the wrong), arm glancing the windscreen… Oooh that got heart beating. Lyno caught up (still laughing) imagining the story I’d have to come up with if I took this S-Works back to the Demo tent in 2…

I can't show you his face, and his name has been changed to protect his family

On return it was hard to hide our giddy good times. While some had stories of climbing the epic highway pass up to 12,000″ in the other direction, we had just done our test in a mini Ardennes, landscaped to the max. I’ve still got a Roubaix on order, but that’s because I’m now mostly winning vet’s trophies (that’s right 35 baby!). If I still had the absolute desire to be on the fastest road bike in the world, it’d be pretty hard to argue against this golf cart beating weapon of the star’s.

Putting the Tarmc through it's paces - at least the bike coped fine...





One Track Mind

8 09 2010

There’s no wind. Rain is on the forecast but that’s not a problem either. The road ahead is polished, and if you continue riding in a straight line for 20 seconds or so you’ll end up back in the same place. Que? Ahhh Le Velodrome! An ovalised tracked with two banked corners that send you into a 180 degree about-face with gravity defying magic. Indeed riding it is so surreal and exciting it could easily be described as magical. Of the dozen intrepid Wanaka journeymen and women to venture onto Invercargill’s community asset only one had previous experience. None other than ex-National Sprint Champion John Andrews, our leading light and the man to follow, that was until he slipped off on his first turn on the ‘boards’; damn there goes my confidence, thanks John…

Jamie riding 6 ft off the ground

I cruise a lap around the infield getting used to the direct non-stop fixed gear. Stop adjust seat, try again. Repeat. Finally comfortable I slowly build my speed. Time to try riding the gently slopping blue boards; ah that’s not so bad. Next corner I’m going to go on the 30 degree banking… whoa that was weird… OK next corner let’s go a little faster and another line higher… yeah this is fun… what if I go full gas around here? Yeeaaahhh! G-Forces push you to the wall, there is even a strain on your neck as you seemingly look up-hill/around the corner. Damn, this is a blast! Next corner faster again, nothing but smooth wood and the faint rumble of the eiry hollow underneath, ecstasy. Down the back straight keep going, keep pushing. Ooooh hang on this is starting hurt, how fast am I going? How many laps have I done? Maybe I’ll just back off a fraction before that foyer coffee has had enough of my stomach.

Bruce Ross - he's seen a Dernie or two in his day

Kilometers of Latvian Hardwood handlaid by zee German's

For us track virgin’s we had the previledge of being hosted and coached by none other than Mr. Bruce Ross. Infamous in Southland and nation wide in cycling circles. Bruce has for the past 25 years been the driving force behind the Tour of Southland and the Cycling center. Without him most of our great junior and developing athletes would have had nowhere to stay when visiting and it seems unlikely that the very track we enjoyed on our excursion would have come to fruition. Bruce took us from nervous roadies to ‘Flying’ 250 meter TT riders and Team Sprinters; well beyond the progression I believed our motley crew would make. His encouragement and instruction had us all lapping around without drama and with lasting grins. Before too long our 2 hour booking had come to an end. It had been a great taste and tease, yet Bruce wanted us to have a more lasting impression. With typical Southland hospitably he took us behind the scenes into the belly below. Showing and describing the expertise, craftsmanship and expense went into this extraordinary structure. 

The very one and only - Zoopkeepers

OK what next? Lunch time, and when in Rome… Zookeepers, another for those in the know. Zookeepers Cafe has long been an advocate for cycling and through its long running sponsorship of racing teams it has helped many Kiwi riders step up to greatness, including Hayden Roulston, Jeremy Yates, Heath Blackgrove and Gordon McCauley to name a few. Winning countless Tours of Southland AND Wellington the memorabilia and photo gallery is entertainment in itself, let alone other art and sculpture that turns this local coffee haunt into an almost cartoon like must visit for anyone looking for a reason to escape a wintry day.

It had been an early start and a bit of a drive but that was quickly forgotten. This trip will certainly be a regular pilgrimage in the colder months for us up in Wanaka, next thing we’ll be transforming ourselves into sprinters instead of climbers…





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.





why do they insist on Baseball?

1 07 2010

I’m not from around these parts. By normal comparison right now I’d be standing on my head fighting a losing battle to keep warm blood in my fingers. My home is surrounded by rough chip seal, open windswept farmland and some of the finest Lakes and Alpine horizons you’ll find anywhere. It’s July which should mean winter and only the keenest and most disturbed would want to take up the sport of Road Cycling in my neck of the used-to-be woods. Yet Wanaka’s population in the lower south of New Zealand is an exception to so many rules. Making a mockery of physical adversity comes naturally to most.

Downtown "Historic" Boone - as in Daniel

Which brings me to my fantasy yet very real present. I’m on a six week ‘summer vacation’ in Boone up in the Appalachians of North Carolina in the good ol’ USofA. Here the roads restlessly twist and turn through thick humid forest. Tarmac consistently smooth enough you check to see if your tires are going flat; and enough climbs and descents to fool any overly enthusiastic goat into thinking he’d died and gone to heaven. Only here after church they pray to Baseball, Football (the one where you pick it up and play throw and catch – with your hands) and NASCAR. Now there’s an even stranger anomaly. If you grew up around here and you were not quick enough to realise that riding a bike in these hills would be the bomb; then surely you’d be tempted to be swinging your old man’s Pontiac around 35 ml/hr perfectly cambered left after rights, no? Well no, because this is the birth place of where they turn left – only… These are THE roads for a 4X4, I’m talking EVO’s and REX’s but instead their still talking Pick-ups.

OK there’s a lot to figure, and that my friends is travel for you. A culture shock of sorts. I’m not here to be a snob (all the time). Rednecks aside, Boone, NC certainly does have some very switched on individuals and in terms of population size I’d go so far as to call it a hot bed of cycling talent; including the current State Criterium, National Collegiate Road and Cyclo-cross  Champions. The local mid-week bunch ride (i.e. Worlds) lights up a long climb to the highest point above with cold hearted, high spirited commitment. Anyone sitting on doing it easy here better have booked their ticket to Europe. Just like anywhere else in the world when there isn’t an entry fee you put a group of hardcore racers together and there will be pride on the line; and in Amateur cycling terms, pride pays very well.

If your needing a base for your next training camp consider Boone hard to beat and don’t just take my word for it even Lance A. and Mr. Bob Roll spent some time here leading up to Armstrong’s first Tour win and declared it to be the “best road riding in the world”; and I take Bobke’s often colourful sentiments very seriously – thanks for the tip, Mr. Roll.

Leading local fast boy Noah Niwinski on the Viaduct high above Watauga County