Gutsy Queenstowner Tony ‘T-Man’ Moore will tackle professional riders at the wacky Singlespeed World Championships in Rotorua on Saturday.
In just his second singlespeed race, he’ll ride against contenders from more than 30 countries in a quirky mountain bike event where “lycra is discouraged and fancy dress is strongly encouraged”.
Afterwards, winners also get a permanent reminder of their success – a tattoo.
A self-confessed “singlespeed virgin”, Moore first dabbled in the sport in April.
He decked out a borrowed bike with learner plates before winning the Old Bugger category at the New Zealand nationals in Queenstown.
Since then Moore, 42, has been through a winter of “celibacy” waiting for his own bike to arrive – a Yeti prototype shipped from the United States for him to test out, effectively making him a sponsored rider.
Despite his high- tech equipment, Moore doesn’t have high hopes for his chances.
“I have to assume there’re people there who have owned their singlespeeds for more than two weeks and have been riding them for the past six months. They’d better beat me or I’d be weirdly disappointed,” he explains.
Moore says those involved are “a bunch of eccentric weirdos doing everything about holding a world champs that defies the [International Cyclist Union]”.
“They’re trying to encourage fancy dress and drinking of beer and you can just ask your country if you can represent it rather than having to qualify.”
In keeping with race traditions, winners must agree to getting a specially-designed tattoo – or forego their glory if they aren’t willing to go under the needle.
There’ll be some “really genuine” international racers among the 900 championship competitors, according to Moore. Julian Dean – NZ’s best rider and a Tour de France veteran – plus other ex-champs are in the starting line-up.
But Moore, who represented NZ in downhill at the 1998 Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships in Quebec, says there’s never been a more laid-back way to get bragging rights.
“You’ll never find an easier way to say you’ve been at a world champs – without having to sell your soul for it,” he says.
Everything about the off-beat event is odd. NZ won the hosting rights due to the karaoke and basketball skills of Queenstowner John McCartney at last year’s worlds in Colorado.
McCartney has VIP status at this year’s event. What that means, no-one’s quite sure.
Moore and McCartney aren’t the only locals competing – about a dozen others are taking part, including Henry van Asch, Scott Kennedy, Mary Jowett and Carey Vivian.