Nikolai - Raider Supreme

Men's Health - Nikolai and The Tan
One of the key factors that contributes to the excitement, apprehension and, dare I say it, fear in the build up to the Raid of the Dolomites, is the man pictured above. Mr Nicholas Stephenson once told me "For me it's not really about the journey, it's more about the destination". This sentence should tell you plenty about the man. About his desire to push the limits and lead from the front and never give up. He is a bit like cycling in that there is a bit of romanticism (not much) around a rough, blue-collar, hard-working, tough-nut-to-crack centre. And yet this is just a hint of what lies beneath his skin.

One of the other Raiders asked me if he could ride with us on the last 140k leave-it-all-out-there day. I told him sure. And I thought of Nick when I said this "Keep your mouth shut because otherwise they go faster".

I told Nick recently that I didn't have the time or vocab to describe him. And I still don't. He was a sport though, and offered to respond to any 10 questions I put to him. Here they are. And in case I haven't said it before, Nick is a bit like House MD. And Super Mario.

Hugh Laurie aka House MD (he is also a musician)

1. Which person was your favourite when you think of the Raid of the Dolomites and why?

My favourite person was Pete Flynn. Wish I could be like him. Very funny guy with an excellent way with words and had the bad guys dialled in.

2. What is the minimum hours of riding a week one needs to train to be a deadly age grouper?

Cycling, 600-800km's a week. That's what the guys (def not me!)are putting in. Also find a decent chemist.

Super Mario Cipollini
3. Aside from Mario Cipollini, which big tour rider best suits your personality and why?

Not sure of personalities in pro peloton, but find someone that likes to boss it around a bit and likes things done right. If I were to be a pro rider I doubt I could be anything other than be a domestique doing long turns at the front. Love it.

4. You are in a break away with Lance, Floyd and Tyler, who would you elbow in the head first and why?

Today that would be Lance. He was my/our hero, but has really let me/us down. Floyd was never going to be a hero and admittedly Tyler had hero potential but got caught in time.

5. Tell us about your relationship with El Bollito and how long it lasted?

El Bollito was a very unwelcome friend and we first become acquainted on the flight out to Europe. He got progressively angrier as I taunted him more on the bike. Admittedly he nearly had the beating of me on day 2 of the raid and climbing Saint Bernadino Passo. That goes down as second hardest (just from sheer pain) day on bike. I was in tears/blubbering at the hotel and certainly checked airline policy for changing flights that evening. The problem was that sitting on a saddle was marginally more comfortable than sitting on a chair. (Btw, nothing will beat stage 1 of Epic 2006 for toughest day on bike. Rained whole day, no brakes and forgot nutrition!) Fortunately that night, at 2am when I was going for a wee, the boil burst. What a mess! Stage 3 to St Moritz wasn't much fun, but the corner had been turned and the battle won.

6. If you could, which song would you play on your iPod before going into the red mist?

No real anger songs, more like getting into groove songs. Like Eminem, "...this is your moment..." (Admittedly I ride/race best on anger.)

7. What’s your next adventure?

Otter trail run. Going to die.

8. Barbara from Cortina or Jess & Glenda from Melbourne?

Barbara, mountain girl. No contest

9. Who is the greatest cyclist of all time?

Records will reflect Eddy Merckx, but I don't believe in any of them right now. Its the guy that raced clean and finished mid pack and we'll never know who that was. (For the record Jens Voight fans it isn't him. You don't ride off the front of a drug fuelled peloton clean.)

10. What would you expect from a rider in preparing and attempting their first Raid of the Dolomites?

It's a manageable trip but you need to train. I'd say the SA squad of 5 was the least prepared, which makes sense as winter and our off season. We all suffered on the first day, but things improved as time went on and we settled down. This was because we were used to riding at altitude, and for triathletes used to back to back days. I don't think I would've done much different for training, other than the holy grail of losing some cheese.

Slave to the rhythm,