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Oceania Volcanic Epic

18 April 2023

Words & Photos: Sam Shaw

15/03/2023 Wednesday: On the move

Up at five and into the usual mix of Supreme coffee and Harraways oats, mmm. Bounced into an hour of yoga and some last minute packing. Said bye to the shiny new Wanaka flatmates and squeezed into the Hilux with Polly bound for Queenstown Airport. Said goodbye to the cutest girl and jetted to Auckland for a walk around the motorways and to re-board a plane to Brisbane.

Cuzzy Rachel picked me up after a breezy trip through customs and headed to her and partner Pete's fancy Brisbane apartment (new home for the next five days) and the burger joint down the road. Tuckered and asleep on the couch (bed for the next five nights).


16/03/2023 Thursday: Sweaty boi international

Up at seven for a bout of stretching and movement stuff, then off in search of coffee... easily found as Brisbane’s coffee culture is lit. Drip Café even gave me a free coffee for sitting around too long, haha - this became my local for the trip.

Home to get on the bike and out to say kia ora to every bike shop in the city, trying to find a person to car pool with out to the Oceania Cycling Champs venue. Found Aussie Cam Wright (ex Junior World Champ) at the sixth bike shop. He could take me out on Saturday, holla! Then went on a ride out to the coast, with a few tiny sprints in 40 degrees x 700% humidity (one of those stats is real). Sweated out of every part of my body. Home for a cold shower and waterrrr.

17/03/2023 Friday: Sweaty boi international vol. 2

Similar routine to the previous day except leaving bed point was at nine thirty. Mmm, always feel lucky when this happens. Found two new coffee shops then on the bike for some ‘training’, sweat sweat, gas gas, then back home to rest rest, recover and hydrate. Out to dinner that evening with cuzzies - Rach and Ben and their partners Pete and Jenny - for a kid's burger at a fancy restaurant.

18/03/2023 Saturday: Wholesome sweaty boi international

Off to the morning markets on foot with Pete and Rach and about a thousand runners (not exaggerating) to meet Ben, Jenny and pup Tui for a wholesome morning of fresh produce and coffee (duh). Home and on the bike to meet Cam for a lift out to the Oceania track for an eyeball, finally. Four laps and a few litres of sweat later I was satisfied with training for the day. Back home with Cam and on the bike through the hustling city to get back to the apartment. Afternoon of Diablo IV with Pete (PlayStation 5 stuff). The usual bike prep and an early night. 

19/03/2023 Sunday: Oceania lite race day

Up around seven, into the oats, off to the coffee shop with Rach and Pete and home for a big session of Diablo IV. Collected all the importants and bike commute to my pickup. In the car with Cam and off to the race course. Yarns and banter and into the warm-up for a two fifteen start.

Race start felt good and strong from the get go (not usual). Sat in for two laps then suffered (maybe from the heat, maybe just choking) and dropped off the pace significantly. But happy enough to salvage a sixth place (enough UCI points for me) and know I have the speed currently for half a race, haha.

Ben Wilson in the mix there doing a stella job of giving me water. Post race banter and in the car back home for a huge Diablo session on the PlayStation with Pete (surely Rach getting annoyed with us by this point heh). Zonked out and first into bed (still on the couch).


20/03/2023 Monday: On le move

Up at seven and off to Drip for doppio + cream and into another skyscraper with Rach for a warm, not hot, yoga session (heaters were buggered) for an hour... luckily it was warm because sweaty boi international vol. 3 came out - not slipping off the mat was the biggest challenge.

Back home and packed up, had some breakfast and taped everything onto the bike and rode to the airport. Made it with plenty of time and repacked everything into its box (including my flight essentials). Got chatting to people during check in (including Jim Murray - back in the day a Sheppard's/Avanti guy) and forgot I'd chucked all my essentials in the bike box (including my jocks - was still wearing bibs). Immediately after the bag drop I realised what I'd done, so free balled it from this point. Caught up with Ben and Anton in Koru. Fed, and showered myself and jumped on the plane back to Auckland.


21/03/2023 Tuesday: Never again, probably

Still awake on the plane watching Frozen Planet Two, so beautiful haha. Landed at two in the morning in Auckland. Collected everything, built the bike and was back in my bibs by three in the morning. Biked outta the airport and pointed for  Rotorua.

McDonald's wouldn’t let me bike through the drive thru (stupid me) so stopped at Z for a morning mocha (kiwi gas station specialty), then trucked over the Bombay Hills via back roads towards Tahuna. Stopped on the side of the road at seven thirty for an unplanned twenty minute nap. Then just past Tahuna I hitched a ride with a furniture mover to Matamata.

Two times pies, one times espresso and I caught a ride with a Christian player who told stories of his four ex partners and twelve children. He dropped me off at the Tauranga turnoff just out of Matamata and said a prayer for me to catch another lift, amen.

I biked through to the Mamaku's and was then picked up by another guy with a trailer. Chucked the bike on and he gave me a lift about two km down the road to where he lived, hahaha.

Next up was a Ford Fiesta. I walked up to the window, bike at my hip.
"So ride for you, and the bike?" (the guy was stoned to give context).
"Ahh, ok maybe we could fit you all in".
"Thanks but I don't think I'll fit. I'll wait for another".
"Ok, ciao".

Then to the rescue was Madonna Harris and her dog who drove me all the way back into Rotorua and dropped me at Sala Street even. Some great yarns about her professional bike career in eighties' racing in USA.

Biked through the rain to Wildlands to see Mum and Dad, bailed on the planned hunting trip and headed home for a bath and sleep. Couldn't stay awake at this point (I had been on the go for forty hours - travelling, hitching and had biked 150 km).


22/03/2023 Wednesday: hangover never came

Up at eight, feeling great. Coffee, oats, into Bike Culture to see Rob and Mike and grab coffee. Then to Matt's for yarns and more coffee, on to Wildlands for a mountain bike in Whakarewarewa with Mumsie, then registered Jonny (Aussie guy) and I for the Volcanic Epic. Back home. Bath, eat, sleep.

23/03/2023 Thursday: Volcanic epic stage one

Up at five to watch some road/Cape Epic racing then into a Flow State mushies x Harraways oats combo - the dog's favourite. Longmile Road to meet up with Jonny Odams (teammate), get the numbers on the bikes and cycle to race at Te Puia thermal wonderland.

A cold brisk start with a pōwhiri and we were off for 50 odd km. A couple of the teams in contention crashed in the early stages of the race keeping things a little more relaxing for team Shimano. We rode to Pondy Elevator (a daunting climb) with Aussies Brent and Reece leading out. At the top Jonny and I managed to get a gap that we kept extending (thanks to tractor pull 420, blaze it).

Finished day one with the lead, hype! First yellow jersey I have squeezed into. Coffee with the Aussies and home to put the feet up - spoilt to have Ma and Pa looking after me between races.

24/03/2023 Friday: Volcanic epic stage two

Up at five, water, mushies, coffee, oats, water - in that order. Into the car with Mumsie and off to Kinloch for another beaut day.

Race start was hot paced but quickly chilled with the endless corners as we bunched for the 2 x K2K loops. Jonny and I bounced off the pace on the only major climb and from that point just tried to minimalise time loss in the overall. We came in 2.5 minutes down on the two front teams moving into second on general classification.

Hitched a ride home with Ed and Miles (Mumsie went off to be a botanist) and biked home via a few mates houses/shops for yarns. Had a bath, chilled and caught up with my OG friend Keegan Brell and my godson Eliase (now 5... I think I've spelt his name wrong, whoops). Tuckered and all set up for an early night. 

25/03/2023 Saturday: Volcanic epic stage three

Same routine again and off to Tokoroa this time. Stoked to see a lot of familiar faces and have a good amount of time to catch up before the racing. Pace was hot from the go (more so than yesterday). We dropped off instantly and rode at our own pace. I would lead on the roads and climbs, and Jonny would attack the single track (what felt like perfect team work). We caught the Aussies in the later part of the stage and managed to get in front on the final single trail to set up for a win in the sprint finish. We finished second on the day behind team Talleys and had now moved into third on GC (two minutes behind both first and second).

Warm down with Kyle then off to the bakery with team Talleys, prize giving and home via the flower shop. Spent the afternoon same as the others - chillin' as much possible and grazing, like a cow. 

26/03/2023 Sunday: Volcanic epic stage four

Up at six wahoo. Same routine and off to the start at the Māori Village, then into 42 km of Whakarewarewa trails mmmm. Stayed in touch until around halfway through the stage and dropped off from team Aussies and team Talleys. Back on damage control we kept the pace constant to come home in third and settle for third in the GC, not bad pig.

Coffee, champagne and all that, then another tipsy ride back home (30 km outta town), jumped onto the bed and closed my eyes. Ninety minutes later they opened - it was dark. Whoops, must be Sunday and Dad's birthday. We all got up for cake leftovers for dinner (Dad was asleep too, after biking around with Mumsie and watching us pigs race). Tuckered, we reverted to our beds to continue the long sleep.

Cuzzie Olly who won the individual GC.

27/03/2026 Monday

Up at seven, water, mushies, coffee, oats, yoga, small bike. Then squeezed everything into a box and into the car and off to the airport. Mumsie dropped me off. We had a coffee and said adios, love yah (I won't be home again for half a year), jumped on the metal bird and jetted back to Queenstown. Polly hot stuff picked me up and we went for a lap on Rude Rock. Then Slow Cuts for date night and back over the hill to Wānaka. Snoozeland.


With thanks to:
  • Polly - airport dropoff/pickup.
  • Rach/Pete - airport pickup, Brizzie accom & pizzas.
  • Cam Wright - Brizzie car rides.
  • Bubbles - Koru luxury.
  • Mum and Dad - Roto's accom/everything :)
  • Jonny Odams - Volcanic Epic teammate and sensei.