Before I begin regaling you with rambling Tales from the Tour, I have to get some important business out of the way.
Firstly, as I was unable to do so at the time, I wish to mark the 10th anniversary of the tragic death of my good friend Sam Raphael. He was killed on February the 20th 1999 and we are the poorer for his passing. Hardly a day goes by I don't think about him...Arohanui, Sammy.
Secondly, I'd like to congratulate my mate Dave Livesey for his sterling efforts in completing the two day Coast to Coast. Apparently the bike legs were his strongest ones, and he sent me some great photos - cheers Dave, awesome stuff!
The man himself with legendary creator of C2C, Robin Judkins.
I'd also like to congratulate my competitors in the brand new 4 day Alpine Epic MTB Tour - great stuff Richard, Mark and Pete! I'm still waiting for the photos, you guys...Unfortunately poor Pete's freshly serviced RM Blizzard cracked at the chainstay so he was unable to complete the race, but he was going great until misfortune befell him - that's the cruelty of bike racing, I guess.
Okay, so late one evening a couple of weeks ago I boarded a big old jet plane and headed north past the Mumbai Hills to Big Smoke City to rendezvous with the Jazz Apples Women's Pro Cycling Team. I was met at Auckland airport by Team Manager Chris Drake, who ferried me to his and Susy Pryde's home in Herne Bay in a large van supplied by some kind benefactors, of which we shall hear more anon.
It was great to catch up with them both and, as usual, our reunion was full of laughter and the telling of tall tales as we caught up with the best part of a year of gossip. Before long it was time for bed, as the work would begin first thing in the morning. I fell asleep watching recorded coverage of the Tour of California, inspired for the weeks ahead...
In the morning, Chris and I did the first of what would be several dashes to and from the airport - this one to pick up our American rider, Dotsie Bausch. Dotsie is a seasoned pro who has US and Pan Am Championship titles to her name, and had ridden for such storied Teams as T-Mobile and Colvita-Sutter Homes, but is looking for a new challenge as Team Captain and mentor alongside Susy. She was easy to spot as we pulled up, and not just because of her bike bag. The Auckland traffic had conspired to make Chris and I very late and poor Dotsie was the only person left waiting for a pick-up...
USA Pursuit National Champion 2007
After a stop for coffee and a cake (and a real Kiwi pie!) we drove back to Herne Bay to give Dotsie somewhere to unpack her bike...
Dotsie's Fuji SL1 before being sponsored up
...as well as all the Smith Optics swag she'd kindly brought us all. As she pulled out piles of sunglasses, t-shirts and caps and handed them out I learned that her partner is the Los Angeles based South-Western Area Manager for Smith back in the US. Thanks to both him and Dotsie for their generosity!
As well as this booty I was given my Jazz Apples kit, updated for the coming season's sponsors in a wicked Jetsons design by Susy herself.
Lastly, our handlebar/stem/seatpost sponsor ControlTech had supplied us all with caps and t-shirts, although I dipped out on getting a shirt by not being quite the size of a woman bike racer...
Very cool to be handed free stuff - not something I'm used to, but I could easily grow to like it!
After stuffing all this treasure quickly into my bag, Chris and I set sail for the airport once more - yet another interminable drive through redeculous traffic was well worth it to see returning JA athlete and double Junior World Championship medalist Lauren Ellis again. Once we'd loaded her up we headed out to Clevedon to pick up our new Canadian rider, Steph Roorda, from Malindi's home where she'd been staying since arriving from Canada a week prior. Ex-DH skier and Canadian National Champion in the scratch race, Steph is making a meteoric rise through women's cycling after a great season with Giant Canada, and she adds awesome firepower to the Team. The weekend before Steph and Susy had raced in the infamous Wild West hill epic in a deluge of summer rain, with their team work going well in tough conditions.
Putting Steph in the van too meant I was stuck in the back with the bike bags and luggage, as Chris maniacally weaved his erratic and unsteady way back to the airport to pick up a shipment of Champion Systems clothing for the Tour of New Zealand. We returned to base unharmed, if somewhat discombuberated. More catching up and unpacking then the girls wanted to go for a roll, so they donned their kit and headed out.
Chris accompanied them in the manner of all retired rider Directeur Sportifs - here he viciously attacks the Koppenberg.
Upon their return we quickly packed the van and Susy and Chris's car up with bodies, bikes and bags and after a massive supermarket trip we set off for the Team Training Camp at Matakana, about 60km north of Auckland. Susy stayed in town to work, and Chris was to head back in time to pick up Ruth Corset at the airport - his fifth trip there in two days! In the meantime, we arrived around 8.30pm to a beautiful property surrounded by verdant rolling hills, on the banks of an estuary. We were greeted by our hosts and Team sponsors, Malcolm and Heather, and before settling down to a delicious BBQ meal Chris and I were handed cold beers and shown briefly around the under construction main house, while the women settled in with a glass of wine.
After dinner Chris headed back to to the airport while the rest of us settled into our temporary home. Our accommodation was in the plushly converted stables of the original (and now gone) homestead. The stables opened out onto the courtyard and surrounding countryside and the balmy night air cooled me down as I began to do what I was really here for.
The Team this year are no longer aboard the Genius bikes we used to such success last year, although suppliers Ric and Tim from PRV are still generously supporting the Team with Grammo wheels and Lake shoes. This year the girls are riding superb Fuji Supreme RC framesets with Sram Red and ControlTech components. The Grammo wheels had been delayed in transit so the girls were using their own wheels for now. I was expecting to be gluing tubulars all week but the tyre sponsorship was still being negotiated anyway.
My first task was to swap out all the various bars, stems, seatposts and seatclamps for the new ControlTech ones. I started out with Steph's rig, giving it a bit of a clean as I went after it's week of training in Auckland.
I finished up the night with Dotsie's SL1 - she is too tall for the women's specific Supreme RC so ended up with the ProTour Fuji-Servetto team rig. Among other equipment which the vagaries of freighting and customs had denied us was her Red SRM cranks, so she was still aboard her old Dura-Ace ones...
By about 2am I had the bulk of my work done - just a matter of the inevitable tweaking over the next few days to get the bikes exactly right. Despite being fanatically careful about measuring every possible dimension of each bike, the different shape of the bars alone would make for interesting comparisons. Dotsie was worried I would muck up her seat angle when swapping posts, but seemed relieved when I let her know I understood why some women raise the nose of their saddles (to cant their pelvis back and reduce pressure on the soft tissue) so she let me go ahead. Luckily for me I got it right first time!
The Fleet Complete
I staggered off to bed where, despite being utterly fragged, I struggled to get to sleep in the sweltering 96% humidity - it's not something Wellingtonians deal with often! Morning dawned in time for me to discover I had been assaulted by swarms of tsetse flies, and was covered in incredibly itchy violent red lumps. When Chris saw me he immediately dubbed me Woogie - the first of several unfortunate and slightly slanderous nicknames I would be cursed with over the next couple of weeks...
After a slow start to the day, I decided to make myself useful by giving Malcolm and Heather's Cannondale tandem a service. They had done a trip around France on it 18 months prior and had never got around to having it serviced on their return, so it was in desperate need of some love. A quick bit of thinking by Heather saw Malcolm throw in a couple of bike hooks and I had a custom makeshift tandem workstand.
After this the girls decided to go for a ride guided by Heather. As I had brought my riding gear I asked Chris if I could borrow his Sintesi to head out with them. As he was heading back to Auckland to pick up Susy he said I could, but pointed out the gears slipped "a bit". I quickly tuned them on the stand before we rolled out. Or so I thought.
I had to whack the seat up a tad, despite Chris being taller than me!
It wasn't long before I was forced to fully think things through - the gears not only wouldn't shift between cogs (Shimano cassette with Campag shifters), but would also slip under any sort of pressure (worn chain on new cassette) so I was forced to climb the rolling hills of Matakana seated. This wouldn't have been an issue, as strong as I am, except for the hideous screeching and groaning emanating from the front end of Chris's bike! This unsettled me greatly, as well as frightening old ladies and native fauna, and made it very hard to focus on my pedalling. Luckily, 15 minutes into the ride I developed a slow leak. I waved the girls ahead and told them I'd catch up. 250 pumps of Chris's mini-pump later (I counted) I was till only up to 60psi so I decided discretion was the better part of valour and headed home, pumping furiously every 500 meters or so and feeling the Brooke-White Curse in full effect.
At least the bucolic nature of the Matakana countryside was a nice distraction from my pain...
I finally made it home to be enthusiastically greeted by my mate Jack.
While the women enjoyed the delights of the road, and no doubt a coffee or two at one of the many cafes dotted around the locale, I did my best to rid Chris's bike of the worst of its foibles, so I dropped the AlphaQ forks out, serviced the headset, did my best (again!) to get the gears close to working, and replaced the dud tube which was spontaneously splitting as I watched.
As I finished up Malindi Maclean pulled up in her car, sadly suffering from a broken arm sustained at the Australian Track Nationals a couple of weeks prior. It was very cool to catch up with her, and we were just about to bail the stables for a coffee somewhere when the peloton returned to Base, wearing the cheery smiles of the well exercised, and slightly patronising looks of sorrow at my tale of woe - I'm pretty sure they thought they had just dropped me...
As we caught up, Chris, Susy and Ruth cruised up. Lovely to see Ruth again! She unpacked her bike and I began to swap out the parts.
Once I'd done her bike and Malindi's one also, it was out with Malcolm's bike next. Malcolm owns this lovely late 90s Fondriest, which was a bike I aspired to own once upon a time, so I greatly enjoyed giving it a bit of a tickle-up.
Susy's bike was my last job of the day
While I worked, the by now nearly complete Team had a War Meeting, then it was time to drive into Auckland to do the Thursday evening crit on the waterfront.
This mission was ultimately futile, as some rain was coming in and the girls were reluctant to endanger themselves on slippery roads or get ill in advance of the year's first real target - the Tour of New Zealand - so Chris pulled the pin and sent them back to Matakana, while he and I did a few missions in town before heading up to join them in time for a few wines. It was great to bump into my friends Gordy MacCauley (NZ National Road Champion) and Marina Duvnjak at the crit.
Friday in Matakana dawned wet. Wet as a wet thing that's very wet. So wet the rain was drowning. Did I mention it was raining?
The girls wanted to ride but the conditions were dangerous, quite apart from being extremely unpleasant. No one wants to get sick, let alone at this early point of the season, so out came the indoor trainers.
Left to right: Ruth, Lauren and Dotsie
Dotsie was struggling (as many of us do!) for motivation on the wind-trainer, so at the first sign of the rain lifting she decided to hit the road - oddly, no one else was keen!
Hard (wo)mans conditions - not a patch on the Belgian racing she has done though...
While she was out it was Steph and Malindi's turn for the wind-trainer as Ruth finished up after some hard work. The effort seems to be too much for poor Malindi!
Dotsie had clear conditions for the bulk of her ride, but the last 15-20 minutes the heavens opened. She returned quite happy to have got out, despite the drenching she had gotten.
She had a good stretch afterwards as she warmed down (up?) on the trainer for a few minutes...I wonder if I was ever this flexible?
I put on my coat and gave her bike a wash, then had a beer and watched the rain fall some more.
Meanwhile Chris and Susy had headed back to town to meet the final member of our Team at the airport, MTB Olympian Rosara Joseph, and bring her up to camp. She had just flown in from the UK (hi Selby!) and was with us only until the following afternoon (her birthday!) as she headed home to Christchurch for a quick catch up with her family, before racing the NZ MTB Nationals in Nelson the following Saturday, then joining us again to race the UCI 1.1 International Women's Cup in Masterton the next day! Phew, just writing that tired me out - how does she do it?!
Off-road, Rosara is sponsored by Ghost Bikes and Shimano, so is contracted to ride her Dura-Ace parts, but I still had to measure her bike and swap in the ControlTech bits and pieces after I built it up for her out of her bike bag.
In time for her and Susy to hit the trainers for a bit of a natter...
A final Team Meeting with all present and correct, and a chance to run over the next day and the week ahead.
That evening we packed up and crammed into the vehicles and headed back into town to the official Jazz Apples Cycling Team Launch at a bar at The Viaduct.
Loading up the van
I know what you're thinking, that I'm stalking Dotsie. It's actually the other way around...
We were really looking forward to the Launch, although I'm sure the girls were nervous. Great to catch up with friends and some of our many kind sponsors, including Alister Worrall from the eponymously named Worralls (Giro Helmets) and Ric Reid from PRV (Grammo wheels and Lake shoes), along with Campbell and the guys from ENZA (our main sponsors) and some of NZs greatest cycling luminaries. I was also glad to meet Mark Forder, who was to be our soigneur in the upcoming Tour of NZ.
Please ignore the slightly disturbing effect my poor attempts to reduce the red-eye has on the girls. L to R: Rosara, Lauren and Steph.
The MC for the night was the hilarious John Harris, who was a legendary rider and is a now a Team Director of some note himself. Harry did a fantastic job of entertaining us all, and put each of the girls on the spot with the tough questions.
Lauren faces the inquisition
Ruth brings down the house with the story of the poo radio
The panel - it's all a bit Beauty and the Beast, isn't it?
Here's the official press release on the night:
JAZZ Apple Cycle Team Chomps Into Tour of NZ - 25 Feb, 2009
New Zealand's first and only international pro cycling team, Jazz Apple Cycling, launched its 2009 season at The Viaduct in Auckland on Friday night (20 FEBRUARY, 2009).
The team led and managed by former Olympian Susy Pryde, is represented by riders from New Zealand, USA, Canada and Australia who have been in camp in Matakana prior to racing in the NZ Womens Tour of New Zealand and the World Cup Road Race around Masterton 25-28 February.
Pryde expected a strong showing in the Tour. Dotsie Bausch is a double national champion in the US, Steph Roorda is a Canadian national champion, Rosara Joseph and Pryde are both Olympians and Lauren Ellis won her first world cup race this year. Ruth Corset dominated the North American scene in 2008 and with Malindi Maclean who recently won the New Zealand Criterium champs the team this year is even stronger on paper than the team that ran a very successful North American campaign in 2008.
JAZZ Apple Cycling took the opportunity on Friday to present the new riders and a new look uniform on its home turf. Pryde said it was the first time that the team had been able to gather its riders from around the world in New Zealand prior to the season and was a fantastic way to kick off the 2009 programme.
ENZA Internationals Jazz Apple brand manager Campbell Naish told those attending that all the Jazz Apple Cycle team riders and Susy Pryde who has pioneered this team from its inception are fantastic ambassadors for ENZA’s flagship apple JAZZ.
“Each rider is a world class athlete able to challenge the best riders in the world. They are multidimensional individuals who reflect the values represented by JAZZ apples. ENZA is thrilled to have been with the team since its inception.”
Now in its fourth year the JAZZ Apple cycling team has risen from a development team to a globally recognised force in pro cycling and has done it primarily with support from its New Zealand sponsors.
This year the team will ride in New Zealand, Australia, and Asia. The focus of the campaign will be North America where the team will take on the best professional riders over a four month season from April to August.
The team launch was attended by luminaries of the sport such as Gavin Stevens and Ian Richards, both Commonwealth Games gold medallists on the bike. The MC for the evening was John Harris, another Kiwi who like Pryde built up a professional road cycling team from scratch in North America.
JAZZ Apple Cycle Team Roster
Susy Pryde – Founder, Manager, Rider
Dotsie Bausch – Team Captain
Ruth Corset – Townsville, Australia
Rosara Joseph – Cambridge, UK (Kiwi)
Lauren Ellis – Ashburton, NZ
Malindi Maclean – Clevedon, Auckland
Steph Roorda – Vancover, Canada
Wait!? What's the Emperor from Star Wars doing at the Launch? Or is it some hideous troll that snuck in for a drink and a perv?
After this cool event we dispersed all over Auckland to sleep before an early start on Saturday - the girls were going to race in two teams of three in the regular Waterfront time trial as a hit out. After a night spent watching Poo-man and Wees on Chris's orders, I was somewhat the worse for wear (looking more like the Emperor than ever!) as I was dragged out of bed at an un-Godly hour. Not even time for a poor, sleep-deprived mechanic to grab a coffee as we raced to get the Team there in time to enter! Chris rode with the girls as I chased them through the unfamiliar mean streets of the 09.
We made it okay, and before we knew it the girls were blasting along in the cool morning air. At this point I should tell you how they did, but I don't think we even bothered to get the results - it was just a great way for the riders to feel their way into Team riding. I suspect they did okay.
Susy leads Rosara and Ruth through Mission Bay
Dodgy batteries in my camera meant I missed getting a pic of Steph, Lauren and Dotsie, but both sets of riders seemed to work superbly together, which wasn't too much of a surprise considering how well they were getting along off the bike.
After the finish, the Team along with Chris and Heather went for a group ride with one of the many bunches that frequent the Waterfront on any given morning. I took the opportunity to park the van and relax with a paper, some French toast, bacon and bananas, and several strong espressos.
The BioVapor van
BioVapor is one of Malcolm's businesses - a chemical free border control spray that he is marketing world-wide out of NZ. His generous use of it was a life saver, quite apart from his and Heather's kind use of their home for a bunch of intinerant bike racers! BioVapor is one of Jazz Apples vital sponsors also.
Once they had done a bit of a ride they came back past me, so I jumped in the van and chased them around the bays and back through town to the essential coffee stop. Chris didn't once hang onto my window going up the hills...
At this point my camera finally died for good, so I'm unable to document the Team's epic and at times hilarious ride through the Waitakeres, or Heather and Chris's valiant attempts to match the pace the Team were setting before cramming into the cab with me, or even my fortuitous random meeting with the good Doctor David Benson (MD.Camp.Ritch) and Kate Mullarkey. I can't show you me almost getting hopelessly lost before DB showed me the way home. There are no pictures of us rushing Rosara to the airport, or driving back up to Matakana for my final night there (the rest of the Team were there another couple of nights) for a meal of a huge and tender Scotch filet cooked to perfection on Malcolm's BBQ, garnished with salad and fruit straight out of the cornucopia that is Malcolm and Heather's garden.
The next morning I was able to sleep in until almost 10am, before performing a couple of last minute tiny adjustments to a bike or two then packing up my tools. I said goodbye and Chris drove me into town, where we went to Herne Bay to rendezvous with Susy, who had stayed overnight. We headed out to the supermarket, then to a lovely cafe for a last coffee, before Chris dropped me at the airport for my evening flight home to the family. A day off then it would be straight back into it for the Tour of New Zealand, but that's a Tale for another day.
If you read this far you're well hard, so well done! Cheers, Alternative Olster... :D