Chapter 3: Legs of Iron
There has been a change in the Air. Not just the weather either. We have been lucky enough to be joined in Kutztown by two of our Big Rig Track Specialists Eddie Dawkins and Adam Stewart who are focused on medalling at the upcoming Commonwealth Games. We also have had the Pleasure of being joined by Aaron Gate fresh off tours in Ireland and Germany with the BikeNZ programme. It has been two months since I have seen Gatey or "l'assassino silenzioso" (the silence assassin) as he is known over here and he is in a rich vein of form. Gatey is a bit quieter than your average bike rider but beneath the cool relaxed exterior lies an ice cold race winner. We have some great races lined up for him so it will be good adding some firepower to our road squad.
Above: The Team NZ Pro Cycling Road Squad out knocking Kms up in the Rain L-R Aaron Gate, Sam Steele, James Canny, Hamish Presbury, Andrew Hughson and our good mate Shem “tractor” Rodger.
To be completely honest every one of the boys has been flat out over the last week or so with heavy training schedules in preparation for upcoming races. We had Pro Track racing in conjunction with the USA Junior Nationals on Friday the 10th. It was hard and fast racing but mainly suited to the shorter distance sprinters, we still managed to walk away with a couple of placings amongst us though which was nice.
On Saturday the 11th we loaded the Chevy (Big Black) up and drove down to West Chester PA for the famously brutal Iron Hill Classic. This is part of the USA Crit Series and is a race attended by some of the top domestic squads including, Jamis, Livestrong, Bahati, Garmin, Kelly Benefit, Mountain Khakis and Axa. So it was a bloody strong field. The Pro Men’s event kicks off at 7.45pm at night and the 1km circuit is really quick and absolutely packed with spectators. There are literally thousands of cycling fans that turn out to watch this race and boy they weren’t disappointed. Racing in front of this kind of crowd is pretty surreal, it gives you a shot of adrenaline and really makes you push yourself to new levels.
The race got off to an extremely quick start with a number of strong pros trying to get off the front. Sam Steele our resident sprinter was very well placed sitting 2nd wheel for a number of the first laps. Andy, Hamish and I were comfortably placed in the top 20. That was when the crashes started. In a bunch of 100 riders travelling around a tight course at speeds in excess of 70km an hour the black board screeching sounds of metal on asphalt is not something you want to hear. There is also a distinct burning rubber smell, a mixture of brake pads and skidding tires. I managed to avoid the first major crash, Andy wasn’t as lucky but using some of his vast Mountain Biking experience he bunny hopped one Rider and rode over another hapless crash victims wheels managing to stay up right in the process.
Above: Andy Hughson sitting pretty whilst visiting a place we like to call the “Pain Cave” during the Iron Hill Classic, Justin Williams of Livestrong is the rider behind Andy.
The very next lap I was steaming in towards the bottom (and fastest) turn when a rider lost control in front of me. When these crashes happen time slows down, everything goes quiet, I reacted just in time squeezing the brakes tightly to avoid the rider as I did this I clipped my feet out of the pedals; the result left a bit to be desired. Momentum launched me forward off my saddle and into my stem, if would be fair to say my family jewels lost a bit of value. I managed to recover and fight back into the race, by now things were starting to split up and there were a number of different bunches fighting it out. I worked my butt off with a few other crash victims trying to get back in the mix but I just didn’t have the top end power to stay up there. The other boys mean while were fairing quite well until another crash took Hamish and Sam down, they took a lap out but by this time the winning break was up the road.
Above: The lads after Iron Hill Classic.
No placings for the boys on this occasion but a great insight for a couple of boys in the insanely quick Criterium racing USA is famous for. A local photographer interviewed us afterwards and took the above photo. We loaded the bikes back on big black and headed back to little Bosnia arriving at about 1am.
Speaking of Little Bosnia we have “pimped” her this week with the arrival of our new air conditioning unit, this may not sound much to you guys back home but in this weather it is a large white unit of breezy goodness, sleeping below 30 degrees has been pure bliss.
Last update I spoke about Andy’s obsession with the wild deer that roam free around these parts, well he took this another step further this week by actually chasing and attempting to jump from his speeding bike onto the back of a small stag that was trying to find a way to get off the road (which was fenced on both sides) the 7 of us who were training with him had to stop we were laughing so much. You can take the boy out of Southland but you can’t take Southland out of the boy.
This week we also went training with some Puerto Rican riders from the Champion Systems Racing Team, they are a great bunch of guys. Rodney Santiago one of their stronger riders regularly races us on the track. He is incredibly entertaining to train with as he has endless hilarious stories from his home country, a place I would love to visit after chatting with him. They come from a very different background to us and it does make you appreciate the opportunities available to us in New Zealand as they do things the hard way. For example Rodney was racing at a Pro-Am level, studying occupational safety and health fulltime and working as a car mechanic to supplement his income. These guys are resilient and gutsy and it shows when the race their bikes.
Above: Sam and James trying their hand at Baseball, indoors, in a department store – not ideal.
On the completely random front Kutztown had a minor severe weather event with a small Tornado touching down just outside of town. We didn’t see it but I saw the small path of destruction it did to some trees.
On the racing front we have the famous pro track event The Golden Wheel Race coming as well at the Ronde Van Mullica Road Race in the Blueberry Plains of New Jersey.
That is all for now but I will have another update out in a couple of days to bring us back up to date! Hope the NZ winter isn’t being too bad to you.