The day has finally arrived when the bulldust stops and the green flag drops; the Great Cycle Challenge will take place this afternoon. The Herald reports:
In a year of mismatched and painful political races, tomorrow's is likely to be the silliest.
The blogger known as Whaleoil will face off against the "bovver boy" of the Labour Party in a 60-kilometre bicycle race in Auckland's eastern suburbs.
In a sport often called "chess on wheels", the bike race between Cameron 'Whaleoil' Slater and Trevor 'Duck' Mallard will hear little mention of the word "mate'".
There is mutual loathing.
The contest came after Slater goaded Mallard by calling him "cripple" over his badly broken leg.
The elder statesman of the Labour Party lashed back, calling the comfortably-padded Slater "blubber boy'".
"I bet he is too chicken," Mallard said.
Well, he did accept.
And Slater - known for obsessively hounding issues - has turned his compulsive nature to the race and cycled about 15kg off his frame.
We reckon that Trevor Mallard might have underestimated the zeal with which Cameron Slater has attacked this challenge. Not only has Slater done the training; he chose the course, in his own backyard.
The race will start and finish at Musick Point, a small peninsula between Bucklands Beach and Eastern Beach. The Howick Golf Club occupies much of Musick Point, and golfers enjoy magnificent sea views from their elevated position.
Yes; elevated. To get from Bucklands Beach to Musick point, the racers will have to climb a rather steep hill; not once, but three times. And there are no prizes for guessing where Slater has done a large part of his training.
And the other end of the course has been well chosen; it's an out-and-back course, and it just so happens that the turning point is right by Pakuranga MP Maurice Williamson's home. We're sure that Mallard will get an interesting reception on each lap!
Trevor Mallard had a nasty accident earlier this year, which curtailed his cycle racing. When he was ejected from the House on Tuesday, the legacy of that accident was plain to see; he limped dejected;y from the chamber. He also had a small fall from his bike a week or so ago, and hasn't ridden since. He may be an accomplished cyclist, but he is far from full fitness.
Full marks to both compeitorts for going through with the race, which arose from bravado talk. We've noticed that WhaleOil's blogging has been prolific in the last few weeks, and we're sure that the improved fitness has sharpened his mind and his already-acid tongue!
Whoever wins today though, there is only one winner; Cameron Slater. He's got inside Trevor Mallard's head, and lured him into a contest which Mallard probably expected would never take place. And in doing so, he's taken Mallard's focus off his #1 job for 2011; managing Labour's election campaign. This afternoon cannot come fast enough for Trevor Mallard, and for the Labour Party. Unfortunately, after this afternoon however comes the 6pm news, and Labour's problems may just be beginning!
All hail the Whale; and the defeated Duck!