Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Great Divide!

Last night I had the privilege of attending Simon Kennett's Great Divide Race fundraising evening at Rongotai College. John Randal had organised it to help Simon get a leg up on his quest to raise money for his epic attempt on this astounding event. See the sidebar for more info on how you can help if you are able. It was a fascinating evening, where Simon did a slideshow of GDRs of the past, talked about his equipment, hope and fears, and answered many questions. He had his bike there for people to examine, and we also watched an amazing dvd called 24 Solo that both inspired and terrified us all as to the limits of human suffering in the name of sport...

It was a great night with a great turnout of supporters, who mingled and ate from a table groaning with delicious snacks. Sadly, I couldn't partake of any of the delicious fare having just been to the dentist, dammit. John's dad ran an auction of a Giro helmet provided by Active Kiwi and two NZ Team jackets from BikeNZ, and a draw of 5 Karapoti entries courtesy of Michael Jacques was held. Ground Effect also provided vouchers.

Simon shows us the route



A large crowd hangs off every word



Simon and his carefully plotted machine



Simon departs next Tuesday for a few weeks in the US acclimatising and doing some altitude work, so I'd like to take this opportunity to wish him all the very best on this extraordinary undertaking. Pedal on, Simon!

Alison Shanks (Jazz Apples) on the podium at Mt Hood



Just after my last post was published I got a great email from Susy Pryde, who is in the midst of the Jazz Apples Cycling Team three month road racing odyssey through the United States and Canada, and she had much better news regarding their racing results...

The Jazz Apples concerned are Susy Pryde, Ali Shanks, Lauren Ellis and Emma Petersen of New Zealand, together with Ruth Corset and Belinda Goss of Australia.

A quick update from the weekend's action: Ruth won the prestigious and very challenging Mt Hamilton road race on Sunday. The course always calls for the best climbing legs you can muster, and nothing short of a nifty pair will suffice with the 35km hill. It's enough to cause leg cramps thinking about it! Ruth shot early from the group, which had suffered damage over the preceding 9km hill, and took the QOM by a minute and a half. Ruth was caught by a group of eight after the 20 minute descent, which included Ali Shanks. Left shortly behind was myself and Lauren, and unfortunately we couldn't regain contact. However Ali executed a polished lead-out for Ruth on the uphill sprint and Ruth won by over two bike lengths!

Today (Memorial Day) in San Jose, we dodged the smoke screen from the San Jose fires and delivered another win, this time from Belinda. Susy lead out Belinda for two primes, which she secured, and Emma for one, which she also secured. Ruth had a couple of good nudges off the front but was chased down. The course was difficult to be alone due to the wind and the fact that the corners were very wide and very gentle (almost non-existent) making for fast cornering in a big pack. Emma and I lead out Belinda for the finish, which she also won in an exciting finish.

Everyone but Ruth leaves Thursday for the 'Tulsa Tough'. Ruth leaves for Montreal tomorrow for the World Cup next weekend, where she is riding for Australia.


A few pics from Mt Hood:

Susy and Ruth in the bunch



Time Trialing



Susy helps push the pace



Susy and Ruth in the thick of it



Susy warms down (or up?)



I am looking forward to hearing how the Tulsa Tough goes for the JA, as well as hearing how Ruth goes at the Montreal World Cup race, held on the famous Mont Royal course where Eddy Merckx won his final World Championship in 1974. Ruth will be racing alongside what is effectively Australia's Olympic team, so that bodes very well for her future career.

Due to the rather aggressive onset of winter the shop has gone dead at the moment (hence blogging during the day rather than the middle of the night!), but I've had a couple of interesting jobs to get on with. Retro bike enthusiast Dan has moved to Wellington with his cool collection of aged beauties, including a Hetchins, Raleigh, Mercian and a Roberts TT bike. He has just got Bob Jackson to repaint this lovely A.S. Gillott frame and fork, but unfortunately the airline didn't take the care of it they should have, so it arrived in NZ with a badly bent drop-out. Dan heard that I have some experience with this type of work so came to see me. It was a bit of a job to get it straight, but turned out sweet in the end.

A.S. Gillott





I also had time to chuck my track bike back together in the vain thought that one warm summers day I might feel like hurtling around the velodrome once more...It's an old Chas King Prendero with a mish-mash of bits on it. I keep thinking I'll get it repainted, but I'm of the Beausage school of thought - Beauty Through Usage - so I quite dig the battered but loved look of it. It rides like it was built for me too...

Chas King



Lastly, I got out for a great ride last weekend. Despite some foul weather my two elder sons and I rendezvoused with my friend Alex up at Makara Peak for a skid in the mud...

It's actually been a few months since I was able to persuade the boys to come for a blat, but as soon as I suggested it this time they were buzzing. In deference to their lack of recent riding, we didn't ride far - just up Koru, around the Lack of Skills Area and back down Lazy Fern - but the grins were wide and lasted all evening afterwards.

I guess it's only natural that as my boys become absorbed in the wide world of being teens that we'll spend less and less time together, but I really hope we can keep connecting in this way. They have suggested it go back to being a regular weekly outing, so we'll try and make that work. We've just got to get my wife and 5 year old Bodhi up to speed, but I'm working on that...

Sorry for the appalling quality of these photos - I didn't want to take the good camera out in the vile conditions so they are taken with my $100 phone!

Alex and the boys



The Brooke-White Boys



Cheers, Oli

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Post-Tour blues

It seems to often happen after a trip away - I come back to the shop utterly underwhelmed with the prospect of being stuck on my own in the workshop doing the same things as usual, especially when the Jazz Apple girls are having what looks like a bit of a torrid time at the Mt Hood Classic, after a great start when Ali Shanks got second in the prologue behind Jo Kiesanowski (Tibco). I am wishing like anything I was there to help, or at least share the experience with them - I find it really hard to drift in and out of such a tight unit.

I haven't heard from Team Manager Chris Drake yet how the race unfolded for them, but the results certainly don't reflect what this impressive Team is capable of. Great to see my friend Jo Kiesanowski doing so well there though - this stands her in good stead for her tilt at the Olympic Road Race title. I'll let you know the inside goss on this race and the upcoming events when I hear it...

Jazz Apples Ruth Corset, Susy Pryde, Ali Shanks and Lauren Ellis prior to racing at Mt Hood



To compound my slightly glum outlook, I came down with a heinous cold/flu thing this week, which kept me out of the shop for three days - of course the weather was perfect the whole time I couldn't ride then crapped out the minute I could! This was put in perspective though by nasty injuries to a couple of good friends - poor John Randal had a crash on the road coming down from Hawkins Hill, which hurt his ribs and gave him a concussion. And my erstwhile associate Paul Larkin has injured his thumb so can't ride. Hopefully they'll bounce back real fast...

Anyway! Enough moping - let's look at bikes!

I built up this lovely Santa Cruz Superlight for a mate of my man Tim Wilding. While Tim was travelling back from XTerra Worlds in Hawaii last year, some careless baggage handling left Tim's original polished aluminium Superlight badly damaged. Insurance eventually paid for this new frame in blue, which I finished off using the wheels, XTR and Rebas off the munted frame, with a couple of new bits to round it all off...


Butch should get a big kick out of shralving this bad boy!




I had to do some old school cold-setting on the forks of this cool Bianchi Volpe cyclo-cross bike too - Nick had been riding some of the loonier trails on Mt Victoria when things got a bit out of hand and he had to bail, which sent his bike tumbling end over end down the hill and ended up badly bending the forks. I removed the forks (sorry, I forgot to take a pic of them bent...) and straightened them with the help of my old VAR fork alignment tool and some brute strength. They straightened up perfectly, but only time will tell if the damage was too severe for them to hold up to Nick's treatment. I think they will.

Post repair - Nick's very cool Bianchi Volpe



Last week I finally managed to get onto this old-fashioned Atlas. I couldn't do anything about the rust unfortunately, but regreased the hubs, headset and bottom bracket, trued the wheels and got the dynamo going, as well as undoing and regreasing every nut and bolt I could find to make sure it will run well for another 10 or 20 years...

Atlas



The last job this week was rebuilding this custom-painted Lynskey back up for a client of Dave at Bike Fixation. I originally built it up for Dave with Shimano Ultegra as a demo bike to show how incredible the custom paint options can be, but it's new owner specced a Campagnolo Chorus gruppo, to which Dave added Ritchey WCS stem and carbon seatpost, and Sampson Stratics carbon ergo-bars and an SLR saddle. The client provided the Fulcrum wheels.









I am off to this worthy event next Tuesday - Simon is nearly off on his adventure, so it would be cool to see as many of you there as possible showing him support in his fundraising efforts.

Hi folks,

As you might have read in the latest Spoke Magazine, Simon Kennett is about to head off to North America to compete in the Great Divide Race. Check out his blog:

greatdividekiwi

or a thread on Vorb:


Prior to his departure, I'm hosting a little shindig to send him off. It will be at Rongotai College's Library, on Tuesday 27 May from 7pm.

Simon will have his Great Divide Race rig on display, fully loaded up with the gear he'll be taking. He'll give us a little talk about the what, the how, and most importantly the why, and will tell us a little about the charity which he's supporting Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières

There will be non-alcoholic drinks, and nibbles provided, and if we get bored of listening to Simon, there might be a chance to watch a bit of endurance racing on "the telly" ;)

There's no entry fee, but if you do come, I encourage you to drop a bill or two in Simon's hat. He's hoping to raise US$5,500 which is enough to stock a 10,000 person refugee camp with medical supplies for three months.

I hope to see you there, John Randal.


Lastly, it looks possible that I will be heading off to Canberra again in early July as mechanic for a vast NZ Team of thirty-four U15, 17 and 19 riders at the famous Kowalski Tour, which has set many of Australia and New Zealand's young aspiring roadies off to a great career start. If I am confirmed I will of course post further details as they come to hand...

Thanks for your time, Oli

Monday, May 12, 2008

Randomage

I've been a busy boy since returning from China, and I don't just mean the hours I spent writing the blogs!

I chucked some bling Hope Pro3/DT wheels (pre-built) and new XT shifters, derailleur and brakes on this lovely Cotic Soul belonging to hardy mountainbike epic rider Colin.



I also built two of these interesting PedalForce frames up - Leonard's one using new Ultegra SL and Mavic Ksyrium wheels, and the other using Dura-Ace and Mavic Cosmic wheels. Both lovely bikes in the end, with Ian's Dura-Ace one being set up more in a triathlon style. I was impressed with the ride of them both, especially since I am really the wrong build for testing 900gram frames!

Leonard's Ultegra SL PedalForce



Ian's Dura-Ace weapon



Not actually work I've done, but a friend of mine from my early PNP days who now resides in Perth, Western Australia sent me some pics of his old Saronni he is about to restore (or he'll have me to answer to!). This classic Columbus steel machine will be a beautiful ride once he cleans it up...

Tidy lug work



Classic Campagnolo



Classic Dura-Ace! Old AX cranks in the house



Eoin's Saronni



Lastly, and on a slightly more modern bent, here are some very cool spy shots I just received from my ProTour contact at the Giro d'Italia, being held at the moment. These shots are of the much talked about 2009 Dura-Ace kit.

Carbon levers



Concealed cables



Close up of cable routing



Stiffer chainrings (seen here on SRM cranks)



Drilled and slotted chain



Rear derailleur



Front derailleur



Short but sweet - that's all I got for now. Will hopefully have some news from the Jazz Apples at Mt Hood, Oregon very soon...Cheers, Oli

Saturday, May 10, 2008

China! Finale...

The final day of the Jazz Apples Cycling Team's stay in China dawned clear and warm with just a hint of smog *cough*. After breakfast, briefing and all the usual pre-stage brouhaha, we rolled up to the start/finish to find a somewhat festive atmosphere - the crowds were bigger, the riders were pumped and the race crew all carried that last day of school feeling.

As everyone would be busy packing and rushing off at various times to many different races in all parts of the world after the race finish, people were busily swapping emails and phone/skype numbers and saying their fond farewells beforehand. As I've been lucky to find over the last few years, being a part of these events is often a bonding experience where good and lasting friendships can be forged, and I did my best to make it around as many of these friends as I could.

I especially noticed how keen the Chinese Race officials and UCI Commissaires made a special effort to move around the Teams to say goodbye - very much appreciated, especially when one of them presented me with his Chongming Tour cap! I'd been eyeing these extra-long-billed beauties up all race and was stoked to be given one...

Modelling my new cap




Below is the Team doing last minute prep for the stage

Note Susy redressing her mangled hip, Ruth marking the sprints onto med tape for her 'bars, and Malindi gurning just for a change...



A chance too to say so long to the Kraft-Genie-Champion Systems Team, as they...

...rolled to the start



Susy and Malindi plot and scheme prior to the start



Then it was time once more to jump into the cars. Chris was again driving, and I again jammed myself, my tools and a pair of wheels into the passenger seat, while Warmy and Mr Ding sat in the back.

Come in please Car 14, your time is up!



Today's stage was basically an extended rectangle of 73km on mainly narrow roads. Again, long straights dominated as we paralleled the motorway from stage 3 on the way out.

The crowds were as large and enthusiastic as ever along the parcours.




Then, just as we turned onto the long, straight and narrow Gaogang Road, a bridge caused a crash. Again, a laconic "Crash." came over Race Radio, so we knew it would be a foreign rider - from a long way away we could see it was a Jazz Apple, and as we drew nearer it became apparent that it was poor Susy who had gone down again.

It seemed like ten minutes passed as Chris tried to force our way through the taxi driver driven convoy to her, but by the time we got there she was up and riding. Chris pulled up alongside her and with a grimace she told us that she had gone down on her right hip again and yelled that our good luck bracelets weren't doing their job! I offered her water out of my window and tried to ascertain if her bike was okay as she picked up speed - it seemed to be fine, thank goodness.

She quickly tucked in behind the car so a concerned Chris could pace her back up to the peloton, but as soon as she did a motorbike cop/commissaire pulled up alongside her and getured for her to pull off and for us to speed away. At 50kph, Susy effortlessly (it seemed to me) pulled out of our slipstream, and rode up alongside this guy to remonstrate with him. He was left in absolutely no doubt that Susy wasn't keen on the different standards applied to the foreign riders from the Chinese. I was scared enough in the car, but this guy was terrified! He decided discretion was the better part of valour and sped off back up to the safety of the bunch, as a furious Susy tucked in behind us again - a resolute Chris wasn't about to abandon her anyway...

The tension was palpable...



It seemed like no time before we were back at the tail of the convoy again, so Susy jumped away and worked her way through the cars back up the tail of the field. Lauren and Malindi later related that they were waiting at the rear of the field to help her out (initially they hadn't realised she'd stacked), but Susy steamed past without a word, rode straight through the entire field and attacked the the front of the race! Chris and I heard over the radio that a Jazz Apple was attacking, but could only guess that it was Susy. We took fierce delight whoever it was...

Believe it or not, this is supposed to be a shot of Susy convoy-hopping...



It had turned out that it was one of the Vietnamese girls who had just chopped Susy's wheel out from under her in a poor attempt to avoid crashing herself into the bridge parapet. Susy told us later she could see it coming but had nowhere to go to avoid it. Dammit!

Meanwhile the race continued alongside canals and past hamlets, as many attacks were launched against the Tour leader, though none succeeded.

It was amazing for me to see that women were washing clothes in this brown water, and it seemed that fishing was common too. I guess clean water is a relative thing...



Families turned out to watch the race pass



The scenery was quite lovely at times, although I longed for a hill to look at! Vast wheat fields dominated, but in June these would be harvested to make way for rice. We also saw several sugar cane fields.

Wheat fields




It was also fascinating to see that they seemed to be slowly culling all the old buildings to erect new faux-mansions everywhere. We saw disused schools and military bases, alongside hovels and vast new housing tracts, all jumbled up together in a random manner...

What the? What's going on?



A beautiful canal



At one stage of the stage, we were startled by a huge roar as we were buzzed by a military jet - another one passed over us, and then a third, before we realised we were driving alongside an extremely well camouflaged air force base and the jets were landing there.

The best shot I could get of one of these fast moving jets



Our motorbike friend takes a hike, stage left



The race continued with much furious activity - Chris and I could hear that the Jazz Apples were instigating or involved in almost every break - Ruth's number was called several times, and the other girls were mixing it as well by the sounds of it. As the race turned towards home our tension increased. We desperately wanted a break to stick, and we desperately wanted for there to be no more crashes - at least not involving us!

Up ahead, the peloton en masse



Suddenly, there it was - the finish line. The end of the stage and the 2008 Chongming Tour. It almost came off for Ruth again, only for the sprint to go to South Africa's Cherise Taylor as we were left rueing being chased down by an unnamed team that shouldn't really have been chasing...oh well, that's bike racing.

We gave the girls their post-stage water and rapidly the tension lifted to be replaced by relief and even some satisfaction. It was at this point that Susy discovered that her crash had jammed her brake against her wheel, so she'd raced 60km with her brakes rubbing! Still she was in the mix until the very last metres of this fiercely fought race. As I said before, she's damned tough!

Once our fleeting disappointment at not getting a result had passed, it was good to see how the South African's attacking attitude throughout the Tour had finally paid off with a stage win - a win that consolidated Cherise's Points Jersey. If we couldn't pull off a win ourselves, at least the stage went to a winner we could respect and admire. The Tour overall was won by China's Li Meifang of the GiantLenovo PRO Cycling Team.

A tired but delighted South African Team reflect



Warmy and I



We said many more farewells and adieus, before scooting back to the hotel for a final meal in the dining room. I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but 6 days of this food was quite enough! Then it was up to our rooms to pack. The girls packed their bikes then we all had showers and were bundled down to the bus at our allotted time, only to find that we had missed our ferry and had to wait for another due to the unsafe winds! For people accustomed to Cook Strait ferry crossings and Wellington winds, we were somewhat bemused as a geltle breeze barely ruffled the surface of the Yangtse River...

We took the opportunity for a quick beer (no such thing as white wine for poor Susy!) in the hotel lobby, and we took the chance to say thank you and good bye to Ruth, who was flying out to Australia later on. She is a pleasure to work with, and it's fantastic to see how quickly she's picking up the nuances of international road racing.

Before long it was time to jump aboard the ferry for the hour long crossing to Shanghai, then it was an hour and a half drive through crazy evening traffic to the newly opened Terminal 2 at Pudong Airport.

Our last view of Nanmen - our hotel the tallest building on Chongming



After the usual diabolically long wait to check in, we found ourselves sitting at a table in a cafe in the departure lounge, where we were finally able to chat and reflect on this extraordinary venture we'd been on.

Despite the racing not going our way, and despite the crashes and the pain the girls had endured, I think we all felt we had got something out of the trip.

Adversity can make or break bonds between teammates, and for us it had definitely shown that this group can and will work superbly together, and will also get along famously - a critical factor in creating a strong unit.



Despite Susy and Ruth having never raced together, they were already forming an understanding - one that will only get stronger as they shared experiences. Lauren showed that she can translate her World Championship medalist track abilities to be a fine roadie - her teamwork was exemplary. Despite not being at the top of her game through illness, Malindi showed her NZ Criterium Champion's class every day - making sure she was of great use to the Team until she could work no longer. And of course Susy showed all of her legendary skills and vast well of experience as NZ's most winning rider ever to guide and encourage the girls to perform to the best of their abilities. With more time together, and a full complement of riders, the US fields better watch out!

The general consensus was that we would definitely go back to the Tour of Chongming Island if invited. Louis from Champion Systems has already told us we'll have to fly out early to spend some time with him training in Hong Kong beforehand - I'm there! Our overriding feelings were that the race was a positive experience, and that we were looked after very well indeed. The hospitality and race organisation was first class, and our only real gripe could be that at times there were some parochial actions occurring from time to time that seemed a bit unnecessary.

I won't bore you with tales of the flight home, or the delight and pleasure I took in seeing my beautiful family again - suffice it to say that I loved this job, as I've loved every job I've done for Susy and Chris. I'm proud to be a Jazz Apple Cycling Team member...

Due to not wanting to spend three months away from my beloved family, and though I was proud and honoured to have been offered the chance, I recently declined to join the rest of the Team as they undertake their main focus of the year - the USA season.

Ruth, Lauren, Malindi, Susy and Chris will be joined at various times by Junior World Championships Team member, Emma Peterson, and Olympians Alison Shanks and Rosara Joseph will also be with them for some of the trip, as will the latest Jazz Apple signing, Australia's recent Track World's Scatch Race bronze medalist, Belinda Goss. Belinda won 2 stages of last year's Chongming Tour, so the team will have lots in common to talk about!

Ruth will be ducking out of the Team to ride for Australia in the tough Montreal round of the UCI Women's World Cup - a big coup for her, and great to see the Australian Federation recognising her vast talent and potential.

The Team will be doing many of the US and Canada's most prestigious tours and road races. Among others, they'll be doing the Mt Hood Classic, Philly, Manhattan Beach GP, Nature Valley and BC Superweek, among many others.

I wish the Jazz Apples Cycling Team all the very best on this Great Adventure, and will try to relay some of their feats as best I can.

Thanks for bearing with me on this long and protracted saga. I've enjoyed reliving it. Cheers, Oli

Susy's Genius Squadra...