Friday, March 05, 2010

Kiwi Brevet Day 1 –Blenheim to Hope, Nelson

Riders ready themselves for the start of the 2010 Kiwi Brevet
Photo Caleb Smith Spoke

The butterflies of anxiety were in full flutter in the days proceeding the 2010 Kiwi Brevet. The event would push the boundaries of riding for all of the 70 participants, and only a handful would know how their bodies how would respond to the strains that 1100km on the bike brings.
When the day of the event dawned, so did a realisation that we were locked in. All we could do was our best. Anxious thoughts eased, and as we lined up at the start in Seymour square, buoyed by the collective energy of a group adventure we had no choice but to be ready.

With the gong of the clock it began, a colourful procession of loaded bikes; a veritable pick’n mix of riders, bikes and gear.  Weaving through midday traffic were crossbikes, 29ers, mountain bikes of the full and hardtail variety and even a solo nutter on a singlespeed.

On the approach to Rarangi several riders made their intentions to smash it clear, pushing ahead through a sapping sandy section then onto the road to Port Underwood.
One rider received early validation of their bike choice, with Jakub’s 4” tired Surly Pugsley floating over the sandy surface leaving skinnier treaded brethren in his wake.
Hitting the first climb, temperatures soared and helmets began to juice. I developed an affinity as I crawled past a sticken Pajero, its radiator succumbing to the deadly mix of heat and exertion, its steam vanishing into the tarsealed haze.
Ollie and Michi sweatily summit a hill into White's Bay
Photo Tama Easton

Seal gave way to silty dust, in places tyre deep and as the grades pinched upwards a conscious effort was made to ease, if by finding the spots of shade lining the road or slipping into an easier gear on the Rohloff. Fortunately the steepish climbs gave way to flowing descents, and as the roads slithered down to bay after bay, the temptation to stop for a swim was strong.
Before long we had ascended the final climb and were shredding the tarmac into Picton. At this stage the group at the front had swelled, with Sifter, Thomas, Simon and Michi forming a jovial group with only the hard charging Andy Reid off the front.

Rolling through Queen Charlotte drive the group thinned before I found myself alone, sneaking past Andy who had stopped at the Linkwater Caltex to drain fluids (as if the sun’s efforts hadn’t done enough). Using the full aero tuck and his awesome roadie powers, Andy bridged back and we rode the scenic swoops to Havelock as if in a two man TT, albeit with less skinsuit and sperm helmet than normal. Stopping to refill bottles from the rust tainted waters of the Havelock Shell, a friend’s assertion that giardia took a week to reach full explosive flight echoed in my mind.

Onwards to Pelorus bridge with the memories of rock jumping into the river below. Hard left and onwards to the Maungatapu, a road I had become accustomed to during my days as a junior racer.  Back in the day a good time for the course to Nelson was 2 hours, but loaded to the gunnels and with 140km already in the legs, this would have been pretty ambitious.

With Andy’s choice to run a cyclocross bike came the arduous demands of supremely tall gearing, and as he stomped his 39-26 up the climb to the saddle I was content to let him go, comfortably within the Rohloff’s easy gear range. As the climb got steeper Andy came into view, resorting to pushing on the loose surface. In keeping with the stubbornness that seems to be a family trait, I chose to keep riding, and crept past him to the saddle, earning the call “You’re mad” as I left Andy to his slower but arguably smarter push.

Straight down the other side with sunlight beginning to wane, the decent was a blast. Stopping once to air up a tire and retie an escaping dry bag to my Freeload, I proceeded to drift my way to the bottom, wary that the off camber and rut infested descent had claimed a friends collarbone in the not to recent past.
Ollie climbs the Maungatapu
Photo Caleb Smith Spoke

Safely down and in one piece it was down the Maitai valley to Nelson. The route here was well designed, with calorie rich options of McD’s, Pizzahut, Dominoes and even a pub lining the route. These would serve as savoury temptations for those behind me to replenish lost energy with food of the most greasy and delicious variety. Onwards to Richmond and Hope for a troubled sleep. All had gone to plan but the 190km today was only a fraction of what was to come.

Food consumed
4 x one square meals
1 x Em’s power cookie bar
6 x drink bottles of water
1 x Dom’s fruitcake
1/4 of a full sized bacon and egg pie (+ sauce)


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