Friday, March 05, 2010

Kiwi Brevet Day 2 - Hope to Reefton

The day dawned somewhat hazily, with legs numb and brain dull, a strong urge to eat seeing me consume a large portion of bacon and egg pie slathered in beans with a side of orange juice. Stomach rumbling I saddled up, and joined by Michi who also reported a troubled sleep.
Through the morning dew we set off, several km down the road my fuzzy brain clicked and the realisation dawned that I had left my drink bottles at our accommodation. Stubbornness again reigned and it took till Wakefield before I stopped to refill the spares from my dry bag and remove arm and legwarmers at the settlement’s world famous automated toilet.
Ollie and Mark ignired numerous police requests to slow down
Photo Rob Hambrook

This left me off the back of a bunch and it wasn’t till the end of the smooth gravel roads of 88 valley that I rejoined a group consisting of early rising adventure racers Tony, Lisa and Mark. Hooking left an up the valley to the Reay Saddle, we set a great pace cresting the pinch then powering the descent. Pace gradually slowed as we pedalled the false flat leading to the fearsome Kerr’s hill, Mark and I drifting off the front and reaching the top and slicing down the curvy descent. The turn off to St Arnaud was a welcome break from the climbing, and the 5km descent to the St Arnaud Mobil left us buzzing leading into our mid morning lunch break. 
The long slog to St Arnaud was rewarded with pastry goodness
Photo Rob Hambrook

Mark and Lisa rip into a hearty mid morning lunch
Photo Rob Hambrook
Ollie's Ventana rests while the pilot refuels at St Arnaud
Photo Rob Hambrook

Indulging in a feast of pastry and cake as well as a new set of lithium batteries for my spot tracker. Lisa and Tony rejoined us and we coasted down to the Gowan Valley turnoff. After fighting gravity all morning it was nice to have it on our side. To our left we passed a gathering of glider enthusiasts who were using wind and winch to battle this most elemental of attractions in a different way.

Next in store was the Porika track to Lake Rotorua. Pre race banter was the extent of my knowledge of this track, and all reports were that it was nuggety and steep, a true test of loaded riding skill. Beginning with a wide 4wd track it climbed, undertyre surface morphing from rocks to beech as the canopy closed in. Towards the top with a final effort we crested, passing some gold workings and beginning the rapidly deteriorating descent to the Lake. Mark and I had again pulled clear at this point, and rounding one corner the most amazing of watery views came to pass in full high definition (real life) colour. The beech clad banks of the lake lapped into the deep blue water far below us. Breathtaking as it was it served as an unwelcome distraction given the sketchy rock slabs that I was wrestling to keep my bike in control on. Rounding a few corner I narrowly missing becoming a hood ornament of a keen 4wder who appeared to have overestimated his skill (or underestimated the roughness of the trail). We dropped into the lake where I finally had the chance to indulge in a dip. Limbs refreshed and snacks polished off, it was back in the saddle before the ferocious sandflys had a chance to extract their lactic acid laced pay-dirt.

Dispatching the gradual gravel climb of the Braeburn track, we were treated to the most amazing flowing descent to the highway below. In terms of the riding in the Brevet, fantastic stretches of gravel road like this one were a highlight. Punctuated smooth fords and beautifully cambered corners, the weight of our bikes, bodies and gear propelled us at a thrilling speed onto the highway to Murchison.

More pastry consumption ensued, before we were off for Maruia saddle, determined to make our target for the day of Reefton.
Going into the Brevet a big concern of mine was my ability to maintain motivation for the big days of riding. Being part of this solid quartet made the miles melt away and even though conversation was limited (tapering off to muttered phrases by the end of the day), the presence of fellow riders was deeply motivating, meeting the instinctual need that social animals such as humans require. This need is especially true when fatigued after a hard day of riding.

An added bonus of group riding was the shared resources, with chain lube, toilet paper, pumps and jelly snakes freely exchanged. One item less shared was Antichafe, where adherence to the ‘no double dipping rule’ was strict, except where you were particularly well acquainted with your companion, as in Tony and Lisa’s case.

A flowing climb to Maruia saddle ensued, with no less than seven fords before the conveniently signposted summit, and another golden gravel descent back to the highway.
Back on the road we made for Springs, grovelling into a block headwind and working well to share the load. A brief stop at the Mariua Store revealed some useful snippets on the hitherto unseen Andy Reid. The store’s proprietor spilt the beans that a similarly filthy cyclist had stopped for a sit down meal only an hour earlier. Filling bottles with sugary drinks we were off in hot pursit.

Several kilometres on we spied Thomas, sitting on a grassy verge and looking worse for wear. Prior to the race he had told us of his emergency peanut butter taped to his top tube, which would only be consumed if his race as ‘over’. Beside him the tub lay empty, with only a crust of nuts around his lips belying its fate. Despite our offer of a tow to Reefton he remained, and we left him to refuel from a combination of snacks that he’d pulled from his dry bag in ravenous hunger. Later conversations would reveal he’d attempted to ride this first portion of the course non-stop but the exertion had clearly got the better of him and he’d switched to cruise mode after this epic bonk.

Through Springs and we ignored the greasy treats on offer, the reputation of the local tearooms more than enough to urge us onwards to Reefton. Still light at this point, we relished the smooth asphalt climb, before cursing at the numerous false tops. When the summit finally came, it was a good’un, and for the next twenty kilometers we wouldn’t drop below 40 km and hour. In one section while I was leading we hit a swarm of the gigantic bugs that seem to chase townies away from the coast. Diminishing light meant glasses were not an option so with the spluttering of swallowed bug and blinking that can only come from high velocity insect impact, we finally rolled into the town named for its Reefs.

Darkness had settled and with very little convincing Lisa secured us a hearty feast, a room at a backpackers and even a hot shower. This was the best example of hospitality I’d experienced and would love to visit the couple who opened their doors to our quartet of smelly bikers and thank them for their kindness.
290km done, stomach full and tucked into a queen-size bed for a deep sleep. Fatigue was starting to win the battle over anxiety, or perhaps I was just having too good a time to worry.

Food consumed
1/4 of a full sized bacon and egg pie (+ sauce)
1 can of beans
2 x cups of orange juice
4 x one square meals
2 x St Arnaud steak and cheese pies (yum)
1 x Slab of carrot cake (yum)
1 x Irvines mince and cheese pie (nasty)
6 x drink bottles of water
1 x Coke (600ml bottle)
1 x Fish and chip feast

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