Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Kiwi Brevet Day 4 - Springfield to Hanmer

Ollie secures a dry bag to his Freeload somewhere on the Wharfedale
Photo: Graham Allen

Rising groggily from our bunks Andy and I proceeded to destroy excessive helpings of continental breakfast. Pushing the boundaries of value to well beyond the $10 asking price, we surmised that Smiley’s would be less generous with such an open offer to hungry bikers in future.

This morning Andy seemed to be plagued by old man-itis, losing his glasses then drink bottle before misplacing the lockup keys. A bit behind schedule, we backtracked to the turnoff and headed for Sheffield, the morning mist shrouding the firm gravel road.

By the time we’d turned off to the Wharfedale the mist had lifted and we were treated to a clear late summer’s day. Approaching the beech clad hills that play home to the Wharfedale, Andy commented that we we’re pretty fortunate to be riding our bikes in favour of the usual drudgery of work. I concurred and had to admit it was the first time I’d thought about it, so immersed in the Brevet experience as I was.

The previous day an issue had arisen with the hitherto perfectly performing Rohloff drivetrain. I’d chosen to run it with a magic ratio rather than a tensioner, meaning that as the chain wore, the tension would drop to the point where the chain would visibly slacken. Starting with a new chain, the 750km we’d done had started to take its toll, and the chain would jump off if the right configuration of bump prevailed.
Having been victim to this phenomenon in my early ghetto singlespeed days, I quickly adopted a familiar technique. By applying brakes and pedalling constantly downhill I could keep tension in the chain and prevent it from jumping off the sprockets. Effectively riding a fixie made the usually effortless flow of the Wharfedale a good deal more challenging. Fortunately Andy had his death-machine to handle so there was no pressure to pin. The issue caused usual instinctual riding responses to be replaced with logical assessments of root dimensions, off-camberness and risk of derailment. With a careful line choice I made it to the hut without dropping the chain more than half a dozen times.
The Ventana in full saggy chained glory
Photo: Graham Allen

We stopped for a snack and Andy took the opportunity to reshoe the cantilever ‘brakes’ of his steed. We also met Graham who had sneaked away from work to take some action shots  to feed back to interweb, whetting their ravenous information appetite. I proceeded to have a rambling conversation about chamois cream, old man-itis and bird calls before it was off down the river to Lees Valley.

Andy reshoes his shake-machine
Photo: Graham Allen

This section of 4wd track appeared to bring Andy’s body a new world of hurt. Where the Stan’s tires on my 29er absorbed the bumpy surface, his skinny crossers transmitted every jolt to his arms, rendering progress at anything faster than a crawl a painful experience. A forced break for Andy to recombobulate as we joined Lee’s valley gave me a good chance to consider tactics. As cruel as it was I began to entertain the thought of leaving the visibly suffering Andy to go it alone. Thankfully he recovered quickly and would prove to be a useful companion through the McDonald Downs section that he’d raced on previously.

Passing through an endless, barren backdrop of rivers, farm roads and gradual climbs, we hooked a left at the Brothers, past a giant cow and onto a gigantic descent to the gravel road out. Fueled by a growing hunger and the knowledge that some pub meal goodness lay in store at Hurunui we rolled out to the highway, stopping only to refill dwindling water supplies at a farmer’s residence.

The meal at Hurunui didn’t disappoint, and with a feeling of bloat that we were quickly becoming familiar with we rode on to Hanmer, daring not to stop in Culverden after bad experiences there previously. I tried in vain to replicate yesterday’s caffeinated euphoria with a Red Bull, but the absent buzz left me wondering if I’d stuck a bung batch, or perhaps it was the lack of tailwind.

Cresting one of the last pinches into Hanmer, Andy cried out in pain, mumbling some obscenities and pointing to his ankle. He’d twisted it at Big River and had been nursing it thus far in silent agony. The pace dropped markedly as we cruised the final kilometres in pained silence.

Stocking up at the local market (which offered extortionary prices); we gathered provisions for the final day. Andy took on some neurofen and made some pleading calls to the physiotherapists in his phone’s memory. I ferreted out a chain to replace my sagging one from the friendly folks at Krank and we rolled out the Forest Camp to get an early nights sleep. Any anxieties over the penultimate day were smothered by the pillow of fatigue. We would have to wait till then to see how the final blast to Blenheim would pan out.

Food consumed
2 x Bowls of museli
4 x slices of toast with peanut butter
2 x bananas
1 x apple
1 x chicken bacon burger
1 x Rabbit pie
1 x bowl of chips
1 x Ginger beer
1 x Red Bull
4 x One Square Meals
1 x Can Watties Chunky Pasta and Salami soup
1 x Can creamed rice
1 x 1L Orange juice

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