More News From Nowhere

Spoken: A retrospective

Posted in General by brettok on April 23, 2010

SPOKE magazine was already on my radar from a couple of trips to NZ prior to my settling here in 2007.  I loved the feel of the mag, at the time it was in a small format, on rough, thick paper, but with a layout and attitude that, well, spoke to my mountain biking sensibilities.

By chance, I met up with the right people and a chain of events led me to meet Caleb Smith, publisher and photographer extraordinaire.  Soon I was contributing a story or two, before I was offered a more regular gig, the Spoken column in every issue. It’s been a couple of years writing Spoken now, and pretty much I’m left to bang on about whatever I please.

As I admire and respect Caleb, his work and his opinions, when he suggested I use this blog to post some of my old Spoken stories, I knew he was onto something.  After all, it saves me coming up with something new every week!  I’ll be trying to showcase Caleb’s awesome photos too.

The first story I’ve picked I titled “I Love Racing”, which appeared in ‘The Competition Issue’, and was renamed by our esteemed editor Eleanor, another person whose talents are well respected around here.  Without her suggestions and touches, my work wouldn’t be as easy to keep, I hope, entertaining for our readers.




I love racing. I love watching world-class athletes push themselves to the limit, suffering in the pursuit of glory. I hate racing. I hate pushing myself to my limit, suffering in the vain pursuit of supposed glory. Way back in 1999 I experienced the double-edged sword of this love/hate relationship at the Canmore World Cup in Canada. With a three-week off-road tour under my belt, I decided to utilise my rare fitness and show those Canucks how it’s done Down Under style.

My race was to start at 8 am, Sunday, an ungodly hour in my book. A pre-race schedule was needed: beers on Saturday afternoon, obligatory pasta for dinner, a few more beers to ensure proper hydration and a late night munch-out on muesli bars and bagels. Morning brought a dry mouth, a headache and rain. Maybe I should have stayed in bed, but the logical smidgeon of my brain reminded me that I’d already paid over $100 for a hire bike and entry fees. By the time I reached the course I was saturated and freezing, and I wasn’t feeling as fit as I’d thought. But the race was only two laps long. How hard could it be?

I was hungover and hungry, wearing baggy shorts and a t-shirt. By comparison, my competition looked a little serious in their full team kit. It was time to employ the start line psych-out. “Is that a broken spoke?” I asked one guy, pointing to his wheel. “And shouldn’t you be wearing something warmer than Lycra?”

You know what?” I said to another rider. “My mate’s Litespeed once snapped at the head tube, just like THAT!” (I snapped my fingers for added effect). He looked me up and down and told me I was stupid for wearing baggy shorts in a race. I sneered.
Then we were off. After 10 minutes I was hurting like hell but I told my negative brain to shut it. This was my chance for World Cup glory! I passed five or six racers who were walking the climb, and arrived at the top to see mass carnage on the other side. To the cheers of the crowd – who had gathered to bay for blood – I passed some guys who were picking themselves up off the deck and saw I was nearing the front of the field.

Arriving for the bell lap I heard the P.A. announce that some Aussie guy was in fourth place. I panicked. Could I hold on for another lap? Would I die from hypothermia at the side of the track? Would I get paid if I made the podium? The three competitors ahead were riding the climb this time round. I’d have to put in some effort to catch up. My leg muscles felt like they were about to explode and a lung was hanging out, but the gap was closing. As I joined the leaders, tactics started to cloud my mind. Should I try to out-sprint them at the end or go for the solo breakaway now?

We were still locked together as we approached the grassy finish. The pace quickened and I went wheel to wheel with the guy on the Litespeed whose frame, unfortunately, was still intact. My wet shorts flapped, I flailed on the pedals, and then it was time to raise my arms in victory as the vanquished bowed their heads in defeat. Somehow, I’d pulled off the biggest racing fraud since Ben Johnson at the ’88 Olympics.
Sodden to the bone, with a cold Kokanee in my hand, I stood atop the podium and saluted the rowdy, semi-drunken chant of my comrades: “Brett, Brett, Brett…”

Gradually the chanting became fainter, until all I could hear was a solitary voice.

Brett, BRETT! Hey wake up man, you’re gonna miss your race!”


One Response

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  1. Frank said, on May 1, 2010 at 9:12 AM

    Great read, mate! Totally had a laugh.

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