Part two of Jimmy Carling’s midweek diaries from a dry and dusty New Zealand.
Now the South Island of New Zealand has a reputation for being a cold part of the country. You’ll often hear shivering complaints from many a North Islander, or Australian in fact… But lately this reputation has been thoroughly crapped on by NZ’s surrounding weather systems.
This last week alone has seen trails go from dry and dusty to loose and blown out as rain continues to be occasionally forecast yet it never arrives. I would say the early arrival such conditions has caught many people by surprise, including me.
On Friday evening I joined in some uplift fun at the Wynyard Express DH. First run and I couldn’t believe how little grip there was, washing out in a few fast turns and occasionally scuffing trees with my arms. If I’m honest I had a feeling something was gonna go wrong for me and on my third run I went down hard in a berm, taking the whole blow to my right shoulder and mildly spraining my AC joint. Then, on that same run, I dropped into the bigger hip line on mini dream. I felt a little fast going into it, but as it was the first time hitting it this year decided not to brake and favour the speed.
The next thing I see the landing disappear behind me as I come down heavy on the front wheel in a shit scary huck to flat effort! Not the best riding session I’ve ever had, I must admit. After some mighty fine physio work by Lynne Weir (cheers!) we meandered over to Dirt Park on Sunday to check out the downhill race taking place.
You’ll all be familiar with Dirt Park if you’ve watched the Queenstown section of Follow Me. Those drifty/dry/sunny/windy shots were all filmed at Dirt Park. It’s an amazing track to ride, but very difficult to race. After the Wynyard conditions on Friday I knew that Dirt Park would be just as loose, if not worse. As we drove up the access road it soon became apparent that hydration was going to play a huge part to anyone racing. Neighbouring Wanaka was registering a whopping 31 degrees celsius as the crowds and riders baked on the exposed hillside.
I had been looking forward to the race and was somewhat gutted to have to sit it out with a taped up shoulder, but as I walked up to the finish arena I became glad that I was sitting it out. The first person I saw was Fraser Gordon, sat in the front seat of his Ute, nursing a broken finger after going down hard, taking a rock to the chest in the meantime, winding himself so badly that he passed out.
A frequent scene at Dirt Park. Gaz Dommett is stopped as a rider goes down hard up ahead.
As the race runs commenced it seemed like almost no-one had a clean run. The flat out straights were met with extremely loose turns, as rider after rider was caught out. I think I saw more crashes in this event than I did throughout the whole of last year. The race was halted numerous times as the occasional rider struggled to get up. My pick of the bunch was young ripper Jed Rooney, who ploughed his body into the lip of the stepdown into the finish arena, then in an explosive cartwheel smashed into top of the downslope before sliding down and coming to rest in the middle of the track (It was just like Brendan Fairclough’s huge stack in Schladming a few years ago as he exited the woods, when he was on a winning run back in the Iron Horse days). If you blinked then you missed it.
Eventually it was to be a day of breaks and bruises from the Queenstown crew. Tom Hey snapping the chainstay on his Trek, Andrew “No-wood” Norwood taco-ing his wheel, Fraser breaking his finger and Graeme Cooper getting heat stroke. King of the Hill eventually went to Tim Mackersy. Good work Tim, you deserve a cold one. More results as they come in.
This week sees the first League of Gentlemen kick off with the Uber D up skyline. Graeme Cooper is the man with the plan, so after he stopped stroking some heat, I went and caught up with him to find out a little bit more about Queenstown’s most celebrated courier driver. Drum roll please…
Graeme Murray Cooper
33…. maybe 34 by the time you read this.
Bikes,women,good food,fun times with mates,digging new trails,riding new trails,hitting stuff for the first time,PROGRESSION,a sleep in on my day off, sheep and velcro gloves.
Negative people out riding,peer pressure,early mornings.
Past bikes, GT Ruckus HT,GT DHI,Transition Bottle Rocket,Giant STP DJ. Current bikes, Specialized Demo 8 1,DiamondBack Mission 1,Avanti road bike.
Earns a crust how:
Courier Driver. This gig of organising mates races dosen’t make you money but it does make life long friends who many of whom I will be sleeping on their floors and couches in years to come!!
How did you get into riding?
Got into riding when I moved to QT 6 years ago from Auckland. A two week holiday and six years later I’m still here. Started work as a chef up at Skyline and many of the staff at the time were riders. One of the great privileges of working there was to be able to take a bike up on the gondola at the start of your working day and then enjoy the ride home.
Bought the Ruckus initially which was a great baptisim of fire coming down the hill on a hardtail the first time. Pretty freaked out at the time and remember walking a couple of sections. Wouldn’t think twice now about jumping those sections now. PROGRESSION is awesome.
Favourite aspect of riding?
Meeting and making new friends. Many of whom will be life long friendships.
Excited about the Gondola opening?
Yes and no. Yes because it has been along time coming. No because it now opens QT up more to the mountain biking world more than what we think it will. However would be awesome to see some more pro’s here during their off season and maybe doing some coaching clinics like CoC in Whistler. Possibilities are endless. How is that for sitting on the fence!!!
How do you see the local scene in a few years time?
Man that is a hard one. If Skyline progress’s in the next 5 years like I have heard that it could be done then you could easily see the scene change from what is a very freeride/dj scene to a race orientated one. I mean who wouldn’t want to have the opportunity to walk out their door, ride into town and watch the likes of Blinky, Brook and J-Lo battle it out with Minnaar and Gee on a hill that we get to ride every day in a World Cup or Champs.
As has been said before by a Ginger Gandalf “the new look in town will be a DH bike and a full face helmet”!!
Have you arranged some warm weather to be present at each of the LoG’s unlike last year?
No. We plan to follow the World Cup season. 2 fine events followed by 4 rainy ones and 2 fine. I have talked to the weather gods and they have assured me this.
What can virgin LoGgers expect from the series?
You mean apart from having their cherry popped by me? Oh not that sort of virgin. Right. I think seeing every aspect of mountain biking and what it has to offer,from making friends to trying something new,riding tracks that you have never ridden before. LoG offers so much. I on the other hand expect blood!! Did I forget to mention that this a bloodsport series!! And a visit from the boys if you don’t bring your $2!!!
Any ambitions for the next year? (cough cough, MEGA)
Yes Jimmy,getting to and qualifying for the MEGA is a big goal and ambition. Finishing work as Courier Driver is another. Making sure I am back in town to supervise another summer of LoG and finding another job when I get back from being an international flop on the mountain bike scene!!
Tell us a bit about your twin who keeps riding up and down the Frankton Road on a road bike. Do you know him?
Yeah that guy…. well umm. He appears to have an affinity with lycra. Not sure if we are related. More like distant cousins. You know the twice removed kind. Muttered something about trying something different and doing the cycle leg of a half Ironman and getting fit for MEGA as well. Looks like there will be 2 Cooper’s in France!! Danger danger,high voltage!!
Other interests. Is it all bikes or does one amuse oneself in any other way?
I do and have been known to snowboard on occasions. Photography is another,mainly biking of course. Getting better although my main teacher moved to Australia. Any other pros out there like to offer up insights for baked goods? Yes I like to bake as well. Former Pastry Chef. It soothes the soul. And handy in keeping customers happy especially around Xmas time.
Apart from the fact it’s home, what makes NZ so special to you?
I think the fact no matter where you go there is always a view to take your breath away,someone will always help if your stuck or lost.
Favourite places to ride in NZ?
Queenstown…. duh!! Skyline will always hold a place in my heart as it was my first DH track,just like red heads in another way. Naseby is awesome for a weekend away, Nicholls Creek in Dunners for up and down action. Christchurch is awesome if you can shuttle it. Port Hills are worse than Skyline for walking up.
Sweet as bro, Is it warm enough for Jandals yet? And yes they are called Jandals…. not flip flops or thongs. Flip flop is what you do when you cant make up your mind and a thong is something a stripper wears!!
Any people you wish to thank or shout out?
So many people to thank this list is long and distinguished or not so depending on if you know them or not. This is in no particular order and I apologise if your name isn’t mentioned. Martin Anelzark-first bike mechanic who took sympathy on me,Ben Rafferty-inspiration for photography,Nathan Greenwood-for building and coaching, Seb Kemp-a true inspiration to be around and to continue to inspire me to think bigger, Vertigo-for letting me eat lunch and make signs,Element-for sorting out bikes on the spot and letting me in the workshop to learn a thing or 2, Tony Moore-that man makes you want to ride bikes all the time, Si Smith, Paul Angus, Tom Hey, Matty Smith, Andrew Norwood, Mat Weir- all for getting involved in LOG as without their support this would have never carried on,everyone who I have ever had the pleasure of having a ride with, shared digging time with,taken care of me when injured,taken photo’s of and anyone who I have met through this amazing sport of ours with 2 wheels. And of course you Jimmy. When are you telling Vicky the real reason for heading to the Northern Hemisphere is to have our secret wedding? Oh yeah QMTBC for making it happen yo!! I think that’s it. If you have ever shown up at a LOG as a supporter/marshal/rider/journo/photographer/videographer/track marker a whatever… thankyou for making it all worth it.
The dry weather continues. I’m off to buy a roost guard. See ya next week huckers.