The image at the top of this newsletter is one of our favourites by Graeme Murray. There are several things we like about this photo from the summer of 2006. The first is that G organised the entire episode on his own, we had absconded to Great Barrier Island and left him with a box of that year’s samples to fill with people and get on film. We like the way the image captures a slice of time: the little puffs of dust a few metres behind the rider is a Wile E. Coyote trademark.
And then there is the rider, all concentration, looking tidy, fingers extended but brakes wide open. The rider is Jono, and you would have to hunt around to find a more excitable boy.
Jono lives in Australia these days, and only makes it over here once in a while. The last time he was in Rotorua was well over a year ago. He could tell us exactly how long, down to hours and minutes, and arrived vibrating with excitement about riding all the new lines that have been created since his last visit.
We met up on his first day and did a lap of some low trails, an hors d’ouvre for the Sunday Jono was already visualising. Yes, the weather was perfect. Hot by our standards, but like AirCon compared to the mind melting swelterfest of Melbourne when it's not freezing or raining. The dirt was sublime, dry as a wooden god but still sporting velcro-like traction that can peel a tyre off a rim.
Jono rides better than I do, so at my full speed he was able to hover inches behind me, and I was privy to his cackling and snorts of satisfaction as we railed berms and generally laid waste to a crisp 25 kilometres of trail.
We retired to the bbq. Jono was like a 15 year old on speed, and the plan for the next day was rolled out several times. Up early for a climb to the top of the forest, mad adventures in the jungle up there, ride until the locals are spent, eat some lunch, jump on the shuttles for an afternoon’s gravity bashing while the rest of us recuperate. Then on Monday, hit 440 Park and pack up for the flight home.
Everything went exactly according to plan, until 200 metres into the day’s first trail. On Paddy’s first fast bit, a pedal clipped a root, Jono went base over apex into the deadfall and landed, hard, on something solid. Alex is a physio, so he gave a stunned Jono a once over while the rest of us offered helpful advice, most of which made everybody except Jono laugh. Diagnosis: probably nothing broken, but chest needs an x ray. Jono decided to gamely press on, but only until he tried to put any weight on his arms. His riding was over, for a few weeks minimum.
We offered to escort him out, honest. But he didn't have to go far, and, you know, it was mint in there. So we felt a pang of guilt as Jono headed back up the trail, on foot. Each time we paused for the rest of the ride we all said how sad we were for poor old Jono. And wasn't that bit off the hook? And how is the state of this dirt?
Of course, Jono’s enthusiasm is not even dented. He has his ticket booked for Crankworx, and knows what he needs to do to get himself into shape for the trails he is already riding in his mind.