New Zealand’s Le Petite Brevet: A Multidimensional Adventure

As The Founder & The Leader of Back of the Pack Racing it IS my responsibility to schedule and complete site visits to all the BPR chapters around the globe. And the New Zealand Chapter of BPR is always on the top of the list. Not because I’m concerned about the NZ Chapter’s performance and ability to follow the BPR Operating Instructions, but because of my desire to learn the tricks of the trade from the masters of Ludacracy. Yes, my 1st trip to NZ for the 2010 Singlespeed World Championships, SSWC10, was all about Ludacracy with the Kiwi crew. Check out The Ultimate Adventure from 2010.
So what better way to entrench myself in the NZ Chapter’s Modus Operandi (not Ska’s Modus Hoperandi – BPR’s favorite brew) then to subject myself to a weekend of pain & suffering in the Le Petite Brevet. And a side note: ‘Le Petite’ Brevet is not an appropriate descriptor – I think ‘Mucho Grande Dos Dias’ Brevet is a bit more accurate, for some of us. And I would know. I have a history of modifying rides and using bi-national lingo… like the Coco Macho 200.

looking out over Le Bons Bay

The Race Summary:

This posting is a bit long – but the race was long. Maybe you’ll find the time to take it all in, maybe you’ll become distracted with ESPN, HBO and the Home Cooking Network. Either way, the history is written. The stories must be told AND will be told for a long time to come. And as usual – don’t bag on me for grammar mistakes and sentence structure – recreating history is not easy, even for me.

So, let’s jump right into the action…

The Crew Chief and I arrived at the start 35 minutes prior… and it started to rain. Great. But just like bungy jumping – I couldn’t back out. I was a bit nervous, to say the least – as I had 1 month off the bike due to my Antarctica experience.  So I just put on my happy face and figured it was time to dig deep and enjoy the pain. 

The climbing started 1/4 mile from the start. The climbing continued for almost 10 miles. Not a big deal. It was only a 144 mile race. And 2600 feet of vertical in the 1st 10 miles was not a big deal either. Yeah, I’m never serious. Am I?

After the 1st long descent I had a mechanical issue at mile 16. Race over for me. Details? Not important. 
The funny thing about the breakdown… I was feeling pretty good, the legs were strong – strong enough. And this was after all the climbing in the first 10 miles. I was feeling so good that I was confident that I could ‘delete’ all my pre-arranged excuses. Yes there was a set of good excuses that my alter ego prepared just in case failure became the only option. 

After a quick trip to Christchurch for some repair parts, courtesy of BPRs crew chief for the race, I was reinserted into the course – 30 miles down track and up the hill from Little River. 

The Le Petite Brevet became a multidimensional adventure versus a straight forward race for glory – I was mentally squashed and fighting the demons while Jasper was digging deep and adjusting his pain threshold. Then there was Dan, the Magic Man, the BPR Crew Chief. Dan poured his heart and soul into the Crew Chief duties; he ensured that I didn’t succumb to the demons of pain, made a few business calls, setup the BPR cabin, rode a few hills and still found adequate time to monkey around with his new pride and joy – a 97′ Specialized Stumpjumper. Talk about multitasking.

After the next 25 miles and 3800 feet of vertical, Day 1 ended at a wicked bar in Akaroa. Why wicked? I’m not saying. There are certain things that us dudes at the Back of the Pack don’t talk about. Especially when it could lead to Trouble in River CityLet’s just say that the beer was extra cold and tasted extra special that night. 

Day 2 started of with the usual – biking and hike-a-biking. I’m pretty good at the hike-a-biking. But the biking was a bit tough for this dude on Day 2. And I hit some very dark times between hour 2 and hour 3, basically around Okains Bay. This pain and suffering could not be called ‘vacation’. Why was I riding? I was tired. I wanted to curl up in a ditch and cry. I wanted to sit on the beach with a 6 pack and a foxy mama. BUT Jasper stopped just before THE meltdown took me down. Jasper needed a bit of food. So I devoured an OSM bar – not a Clif BarThen Dan The Magic Man showed up with some lukewarm coffee. Perfect! 

The food and caffeine saved the day, saved the ride for this dude. The whole world changed once I fueled up. I was back in the groove and I was confident that I could finish out the day, especially after Jasper and I synced up on the hike-a-bike speed. 

as I stopped for a pic, Jasper sprinted away – Back of the Pack style
(a classic trick that I employ back home)

So after a few more climbs – like 5 – we were back in Christchurch. The two day multidimensional adventure was one that will go down in Back of the Pack history. And because I write the history – as I’m the B.P.R. Hustorian (not Historian) along with The Leader & The Founder – the history will get better as time goes on. 

Want more details? Read below or just ask me. I’ll tell you all the stories and then you can decide if a) the Ludacracy is real or b) my definition of reality is a twisted, a bit.

The Awards:
  • Jasper, the SS Super Freak… NZ style. 142 miles and over 25,000 ft of vertical:
    • Jasper is a full member of Back of the Pack Racing – based on strict interpretation of the BPR OIs. But because of Jasper’s methodical pace and unwavering commitment to finishing the Brevet, Jasper has been vaulted to the supreme position, rarely obtained, of Super Freak. And let it be known, only a select few of totally cool bikers WITH freakish ability have been elevated to the status of Super Freak. 
  • Judd, the pace setter. 112 miles and about 17,500 feet of vertical:
    • After the mechanical breakdown and after ALL HOPE for Fame and Glory was lost at the back of the Back of the Pack, Judd was reassigned the role of Pace Setter. But there was one minor problem, Jasper paced the pace setter. But that’s cool.
  • Dan the Magic Man, the BPR Crew Chief. Mucho Mega miles in the Land Rover and the BlackBuck, with a few miles on the 97′ stumpy.
    • Dan redefined the crew chief position, which included the role of tour guide for the South Island and race support for a worn out and tired yankee. The Crew Chief’s desire to excel at the position allowed The Judd to experience the multidimensional adventure and see so much more of the South Island. For this, The Crew Chief… The Magic Man, will go down in history as the one that redefined the highly desired position at the back of the pack.

the Crew Chief chillin’, reading the paper and working on a tan

The Race Data:

visualize the route with Google Earth, as usual

judd’s data – a partial Le Petite Brevet
17,887 ft and 112 miles out of the 142
The Lessons Learned:

  1. A good crew chief controls the weather – BPR style. 
  2. In New Zealand 2600 ft of vertical in the 1st 10 miles is what you call a warm-up ride. 
  3. In the single speed world the transition zone, the zone where one must decide to stop riding and walk, is the most painful. The suffering is extreme.
    • but once two riders agree on the same transition zone, the suffering becomes manageable. 
  4. Brakes get real hot during a 1000 ft descent in < 1 mile
    • that’s like a 20% grade for 1 mile. Wicked!
  5. 70 miles & 11,400 ft of vertical creates a serious chaffage situation. 
    • chaffage in the Southern Hemisphere is as bad as chaffage in the Northern Hemisphere, just saying
  6. In the Kiwi world there is distinct difference between tools and bottle openers. AND bottle openers never ‘clutter up’ a good set of tools.
    • an American Leatherman could have 9 devices – 8 tools & a bottle opener
    • the Kiwi Leatherman will only have 8 tools, no bottle opener
    • it’s a Kiwi beer drinker’s pride thing
      • and now I have the skills to pop the cap without a ‘tool’. It’s my new party trick – thanks to Dan for showing me the secret.
  7. In NZ, a rider must shower at night if:
    • shower facilities are available
    • the hooligans are staying in cramped quarters
    • Note: this rule should be carried up to the Northern Hemisphere, but I doubt that The Lt Col and The Morale Chairman will buy into such civilized behavior, or is it behaviour. 
  8. It’s not about how fast you go – its about ensuring that no one sees you cry… while in a ditch… in the fetal position.

  9. Water, water, every where, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink

The Quote of the Race:

You Bastard!

Dan and I met Jasper on the climb out of Little River. Jasper was at the 45 mile mark and already bagged over 6500 vertical feet. We asked Jasper if he wanted an beer and food…. an IPA & pizza. And his response was?

The Quote of Day 2:

A wee bit way yet

Jasper and I were climbing out of Pigeon Bay. It was hot and we were tired. A couple was driving down the hill. The dude behind the wheel stopped just to tell us… Yeah. Thanks for the update, dude. 

The Ultimate Dream is Reality:

You’ve got it made when….  the ‘sheep has a reserved spot the dining room. Jasper knows what I’m talking about. Yep, Back of the Pack style – in New Zealand.

The Pics:

The tunes are not the usual, not the standard KoRn. But the tunes are pretty good. Back in Wanaka Dan’s kids were jamming out to this song and I became quite fond of the beat, the rhythm, the lyrics. And I was thinking ‘this New Zealand music is pretty good’. Then I made it back to the great USA and quickly found out that this tune was basically global. Yep, I’m always on top of the music scene.

just some pics of the Le Petite Brevet – outside of Christchurch New Zealand. Nov 2011
fueling up the night before
Back of the Pack style
the Black Sheep at the start
somewhere up past Little River
the dudes conversing on the trail, Dan & Jasper
the sunset at Akaroa
the All Blacks are everywhere
even above Pigeon Bay
waiting at the ferry
the dudes conversing, again
near the finish line in Christchurch
nice to know the Kiwis named a town after the BPRs Morale Chairman
when you hurt and times are tough
don’t go crying to Dan, The Crew Chief
not much sympathy in this dude
The Crew Chief & The Five Step Process:

The Ludicrous story of the Le Petite Brevet at the Back of the Pack cannot be discussed without addressing the Crew Chief. In the past the much honored position was filled by some of the best – The Professor Emeritus and Ricky Bobby. AND being the Crew Chief in the Southern Hemisphere comes with much more responsibility: tour guide, jet boat operator, social coordinator and chef.

And not only did Dan accept the role, take on all these duties and push the job description to the next level, Dan also demonstrated mastery of the BPR Operating Instructions.  Within two minutes of my arrival in Queenstown Dan was at baggage claim ready and willing to a) help me with my bags and b) serve as my personal driver. That’s right, just like in ‘the States’ where the Morale Chairman and The Lt Col are always eager to do the dirty work for the good of the team.

BUT a Word of Caution before we anoint The Magic Man to an level that could never be achieved by another: The NZ Crew Chief, without proper oversight, could drift into the world of The HipsterSeriously, a slight slip up by the Crew Chief revealed to me that he would rather wear alligator ankle boots then plaid sneakers. This is a serious issue. But we’ll hold out hope that reality will set in, like soon.

Anyway, back to my reality. The Crew Chief is not only a race organizer and a tour guide, The Crew Chief is also an Educator. And I know this because of my two lengthy vacations in New Zealand. I’ve been educated, a number of times. And I’ve been both a student and practitioner of the Five Step Process, i.e., the ‘Five Rs‘.

The Five Step Process:

  1. Re-evaluate the situation – and respond
    • it didn’t take us long to re-evaluate and discuss our options
  2. Repair – if you know the right people, anything is possible
  3. Replace – the part or the bike
    • the 87′ Specialized Stumpjumper was crying for action
    • but other options were available AND gears can be a liability when hammering up the hills at the back of  the pack
  4. Retire – it’s always an option if Steps 1 – 3 do not provide a solution\
    • the beer was chilled, the pizza was cold, I was still on vacation and everyday is a good day to ‘get the party started’
    • but retire is not an acceptable option, as a solution always falls out from working through the 1st three ‘Rs‘ and the Crew Chief picked up his cell phone, worked the contacts and generated a solution.
  5. Reward with beer
    • as always

The Basics…
  • The process always starts at Step 1 and ends at Step 5. The transition to Step 5 occurs from any of the preview steps in the process – assuming a solution was theorized and employed. 
The Five Step Process is a New Zealand thing…

  • The dudes in the NZ Chapter have super human (alien?) intellect and adapt to all situations. Probably because the dudes sit around and reflect… daily… for hours
    • to put it another way, the NZ dudes have arrows in their quiver that us American dudes can’t even begin to comprehend.
  • The northern man is usually tempted to jump directly from Step 1 to 5, whereas the southern man is committed to the process
    • when the BPR Founding Fathers are holed up in a BPR Supreme Council meeting – the transition from Step 1 to 5 is nearly instantaneous

A Final Thought before the End of it all:

I was on the road for so long I didn’t know that a song / video was made in my honor. Or is it ‘honour’?

LMFAO – Sexy and I Know It

And, the End of it All… the reason that I found myself in New Zealand:

As you can imagine, I’ve had a few life altering moments in the past 5 weeks.

McMurdo Station – Antarctica
as the sign says

The South Pole
Back of the Pack Style

3 thoughts on “New Zealand’s Le Petite Brevet: A Multidimensional Adventure

  1. Hey Matt. It definitely was an awesome experience. These 'brevet' races are very similar to the endurance races in NM & Co. But the brevets are usually two or more days – up to a week long. Jasper completed & finished the Kiwi Brevet a few (or more) years ago – 1100km. Now that would be an awesome way to see the South Island. There is also a Southern Brevet that a few are organizing for 2012.


  2. Nice! I've done a few road brevets – and thought about using the term for the NMES when I started it, but there is a distinct niche cycling culture in the US and people identify more as roadie, mtber, moreso than just cyclist.

    Whew…1100km…that is one hell of an adventure.


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