La Dolce Vita and the Passion for Life
The 315 km road trip from Sydney to Taree passed in a blink of the eye as James Lamb 'Chops' and I swapped stories with a sprinkling of wisdom and a generous dollop of humour. On arriving at the race venue, the extended mountain bike family, who gather five times annually for a Chocolate Foot biking extravaganza, were quick to greet us and to welcome Chops back to the racing fold, from which he has been absent for far too long. Aware of last year's nocturnal sojourn among drop bears and vampire bats the previous time I was in these wild parts, I pulled myself away from the throngs of biking friends and onto the track for a rapid practice lap. Chops carved perfect lines through Kiwarrak State Forest and I clung to the hole in the air he left behind. The lap over, we met Mike Israel at the Crescent Motel, before driving all over town in search of decent food, finally settling on a eating establishment, approximately 50 metres from our starting point! A few competitive games of pool, with race partner Mike and I pairing up to obliterate the impressive Chops and Timmy 'Trick-shot' Stubenrauch, were followed by a quality Taree 'chicken parmigiana' straight from a 'Big W' microwave. The local rock band was about to stir up the natives and so we made a hasty retreat past the drunken female forms, who were starting to sniff out fresh, foreign blood, the facial hair beginning to sprout across their cold, rabid, staring eyes.
Arsenal were striving to end nine years of suffering without a trophy by taking on Hull City in the FA Cup Final, the world's oldest Football Cup Competition. Having watched Arsenal for nearly 45 years, I knew that being massive favourites made absolutely no difference. After eight minutes, it was 2-0 to Hull and it could have been worse if Gibbs hadn't headed off the line after twelve minutes. Arsenal hadn't really touched the ball. However, Arsenal eventually stirred into action and nine minutes later Santi Cazorla scored a fantastic free-kick to make it 2-1 With just 19 minutes left, Koscielny swivelled in the box to equalise for Arsenal. In the second period of extra time, our talisman, Aaron Ramsey slotted home a wonderful goal from a Giroud backflick and Arsenal were FA Cup Champions. A magic moment that will live long in the memory.
I stood at the top of the first fireroad climb, and was amazed at the sheer number of riders who were competing. The pace at the front was frenetic, but both Mike and Chops had positioned themselves among the leading riders, vindicating the decision to let Mike start first for our newly formed 'Turner and Hooch' team.
'Turner and Hooch' finished the race second in category and 11th overall, with Ben and Mark rounding out the podium. Jason English, Ed McDonald and Andrew Lloyd made up the solo elite podium, with Chops a creditable 5th (and 25th overall) in his comeback race.
It was, without doubt, a remarkable weekend combining great racing on sensational trails, wonderful times with brilliant mountain bike friends and an Arsenal win that will live long in the memory. Mogo, and the infamous 'Snake Track' awaits on the 15th June, in what is sure to be another breath-taking race, in all categories.