Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Grammar Hammer - Second Hit!

The next day dawned a bit early for this slightly blurry around the edges wrench, but a healthy breakfast was eaten outside on this balmy morn and I was soon refreshed and ready for the day.

We droved up to Fielding for day two's road races, parked up at a school and I set up my workshop outside to deal with the inevitable niggles. Most of the jobs were more about putting the boys' minds at ease than any real necessity, although just as the U20s were warming up I had a mystery gear issue on one of their bikes that I had some difficulty working out, but ended up sorting (I thought) by replacing the rear derailleur housing. I then took the opportunity to go to the neutralised area to watch them roll out, take the opportunity to say gidday to Tom David, Myron Simpson, Andy McNab, Alex McGregor and Alex Cull, who I worked with at Canberra and Mooball earlier in the year, and then cheer on the Grammar Hammer as they set off...

Back to my tools and stand to be ready for other age groups warming up, where I was able to give a few of the younger boys advice on their set-ups. Bizarrely, the only work I had to do now was to check over a few of bikes after some unfortunate and painful looking roller mishaps - no real harm done luckily!

Some time later the U20s finished - no win, but a fine 3rd place for Alex Ray, 5th and 6th were great results behind Junior Worlds reps Myron Simpson and Alex Cull. Team Captain and 5th place finisher Aaron Gate told me though that his gears that I had such trouble with before the race had been pricking him in the finger! It turned out that his gear cable was a fraction away from snapping, and it was one of the strands painfully spearing his finger, though luckily for me the gears still worked well enough to race...

After a working on a few more bits and pieces, and chaffing a nice saussie and onions on bread, I wandered down to the finish straight to join some of the parents cheering on some of the junior groups as they finished. I then meandered back to the "workshop" to tidy up. Once everyone had finished safely and I had established that there were no mechanicals again (apart from Aaron's gear cable breakage), I packed my stuff into Hunno's wagon and we were off.

We drove to Ashurst now, where the Junior Tour of the Manawatu was being held. Hunno put on his selectors hat and a motorbike helmet and jumped on the back of Mike McRedmond's moto to follow around the race, while I blagged a ride with my good friend Ken Bewley, his wife Sue and son Zac to spectate. Ken is a master tactician, coach and UCI commissaire who I first met at the MTB Worlds in Rotorua, where we had a lot of laughs on top of Ngongotaha at Tech 2. Ken and I then worked together on the Oceania/Mooball trip, where he was assistant team manager and expert pool tutor - although I maintain it was actually a very close game.

We drove up to the top of Waterfall Road, the major climb of the stage, so Ken could check the progress of the three athletes he was coaching. Great fun spectating without having to worry if I'd done a good job on the bikes, although a few of the Grammar boys were backing up from the TTT and riding the Tour instead of doing the Fielding event. It was lovely to be in the countryside surrounded by enthusiastic parents, coaches and non-competing riders, and we had a great time cheering on the efforts of the young competitors as they rode the hill at warp speed.

After a quick wrestle to get spectator and cyclo-cross novice Alex Culls' massively twisted chain back on his Tarmac properly, we then jumped in the Bewleymobile for a quick fang to the final climb then, after grimacing at the attrition, we drove back to Ashurst to watch the finishes and grab a quick coffee. There was some great sprinting to be seen, but I don't have any results to share sorry, as we were off again back to Palmy!

Once at the motel, I replaced Aaron's gear cable and made sure his bike was ready for the Manfield Points Races the following day, then packed my tools back into the Holden and had a final beer with Hunno and Ken. Dale Johnson gave me a lovely thank you, then I shook hands with as many of the boys and parents I could find and I was off back to Wellington and my family...

This weekend was a fantastic experience for me. I was blown away by the fantastic cycling culture that Auckland Grammar School has created through the great work of the teachers and parents, as well as helpers like Graham Hunn and, of course, the boys themselves. Without fail, the boys were polite and pleasant, and showed so much passion and commitment for the sport it humbled me at times. They are a truly special bunch of kids, that are a great credit to their school, and they gave me hope for the future - both in terms of bike racing and in the wider sense! Quite apart from the two wins and two records we set, the racing was quality throughout and I felt truly proud and privileged to be a part of this team; in fact I have already asked if they'll have me back next year.

The boys competed the following day in points races at the Manfield motoracing track where apparently yet again the Grammar Hammer was dropped bigtime. Hunno tells me he has rarely seen such awesome team racing in his life. It doesn't surprise me a bit. This dominant team effort resulted in an Under 20 win for my man Aaron Gate, which pleases me no end...

Once again, thanks for your time. CU, Oli