From the Issue: DME Race Briefing - Part Four

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I’ve always thought the key to a good briefing is to keep everyone engaged, that way they’re more likely to listen to the stuff they need to. We have to have a briefing so why not make it something people look forward to? The Dodzy Memorial Enduro briefings have somehow evolved from that idea. This year I really wanted to chat about Dodzy, how I knew him, and how the event came to be. Turns out after a few big days of admin, the content was a bit hard to bite into. I’m still keen to share the yarn, so imagine a xylophone introduction [Editor: you had to be there] and here goes: Part four, the yarn.

We were living in a lodge in the Patagonian region of Aysen in Chile, a 30-minute boat ride from nowhere. There were about ten of us Kiwi boys, though none of us really knew each other, along with a few locals, maids, and farmhands. We were there to build trails. We’d begin each day riding a climbing trail up onto a terrace halfway up a 2000m peak, and working away with hand tools, we’d knock out about 200m a day. It was a good life. Hard work, but real simple, and a lot of laughs.

A few days in, we got an email saying Dodzy—one of the directors of NZ Trail Solutions—was flying in and would be around for a few days to check up on us and mark some new trail. I was a bit intimidated; I’d heard he was a legendary trail builder, an unreal rider, and he was creating a trail building empire at the time. I felt I was a bit of a stowaway on this trip—I could barely ride my hardtail XC rig, knew bugger all about trail building, and had zero bike chat. I figured he’d show up and roll his eyes, then hang with the boys who actually knew about riding and trail building.

When he showed up on site, he made time to chat to everyone. He already knew everyone’s names and a little bit about us, and in no time we were on a mission to find markings for our next trail, roll boulders off bluffs into a huge canyon, ride trails, and follow him to a wee bar in the nearest town for a piscola-fuelled 11, complete with Dodzy on the D-floor throwing a glass bottle around, Cocktail-style. Dodzy was now everyone’s best mate.

A year later and the Wairoa Gorge in Nelson was all go in construction mode. I showed up for a stint working on the trails and—presumably because I still showed no real trail building talent—got the opportunity to help manage the site. It was awesome working directly with Dodzy and Jeff (Carter). I’d have Skype chats with them each week. Dodzy would often be all over the world, or in his shed in Rotorua with Gabs and Solo (partner and dog respectively) having just returned from some work trip or massive adventure—always with an excited story to share. They’d be on site every now and then, and the crew particularly looked forward to chatting to Dodzy; he’d remember names, spin yarns, and would just be grinning the whole time. Even when dealing with serious things, he’d show a knack for putting you at ease; I’ve never come across anyone who could let you know you’d fucked up but make you stoked at the same time. He did. Not that I ever fucked up.

When Dodzy passed away in 2012, it hit the crew at Wairoa and all the other sites around the world particularly hard. Jeff was the behind-the-scenes planner and logistics genius; Dodzy was the motivator and visionary. He was probably one of the strongest role models many of us had, with his non-stop drive and motivation, his ability to never lose his cool, and to make everyone around him feel good and excited about whatever it was he was doing or talking about. He was a natural achiever and a natural leader. It took some time for it to sink in that he wouldn’t be coming back to ride the trails and hang out. The Gorge was never quite the same.

Before Dodzy passed, he’d been given permission from the property owner to host an enduro race at Wairoa. Enduro was relatively new then, and we were stoked; The Gorge had never been open to anyone outside of staff and owners before (unless you were friends with Ricky Pincott) so showing off our work was a massive deal. After Dodzy’s funeral, I remember talking to Jeff about the event, and Jeff straight away mentioned the memorial concept. So I guess the DME was born there.

Jeff and Gabby sorted the sponsors and entries that first year, and the trail crew and I got some logistics sorted. Scottish (Gorge veteran Dave Scotland) was disgusted at my idea of a sausage sizzle, and took to creating a catering plan no other event has ever come close to, while so many other guys put their hands up and just owned aspects of the event. We couldn’t sell it out; about 180 people showed up. Our trail crew drove, guided, and marshalled around the hill all weekend, and everything went relatively smoothly.

The buzz at work on Monday after the event was unreal. We knew we’d done good, and a bit of that motivation Dodzy gave us all was back, knowing we’d done it for him and knowing people now had some idea of what was ‘going on up the valley’. Dodzy’s and our hard work was on its way to being recognised.

Day-to-day operations have changed at The Gorge. NZ Trail Solutions wound down, sending all the trail builders back to the real world. That was a tough time. Nelson Mountain Bike Club now runs a shuttle service at The Gorge, and slowly, the remaining NZ Trail Solutions trail crew have all left. Amazingly, the property owners have made the land available in perpetuity via an ownership transfer to the Department of Conservation. People are riding the trails almost daily now.

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We’ve had six editions of the DME since then; it just seems to roll around each year. The old trail crew members all roll in—it’s an annual reunion for us. There are a few that have stuck to riding, a few trail builders, a beekeeper, journalists, IT gurus, call centre technicians, and builders. We reminisce on those times in Chile, at the Wairoa, in Jamaica, and Canada. Dodzy’s mates come too and we love the opportunity to host them, to let them get pumped riding the trails we built with him, and to remember him in the best way. We have a huge crew that turn out every year and give 100% to make the event run. They didn’t know Dodzy (maybe a few did) but they love the event and what it’s about. Then there are a few riders that come who would never have known Dodzy, but just know him through the event. That’s awesome too; his legend grows.

Personally I’m stoked and proud of the crew and what we’ve managed to achieve over the years. Tasked with creating a memorial for a mate and someone you respect so much is quite a daunting thing, but year after year the feeling and energy that comes from the event is mind-blowing and I can’t picture it any other way.

The DME is about celebrating Dodzy and The Gorge. It’s just the vibe of the thing