Thursday, November 18, 2010

Le Petit Brevet 2010 – what lies in store?

Ollie in the big Brevet. Photo Caleb Smith.
The wildly successful Kiwi Brevet had its inaugural running at Waitangi weekend this year. In running this mammoth 1100km self-sufficient bike-a-thon, MTB legend Simon Kennett unwittingly started a wave of popularity for the randonneuring genre. Participants must combine riding fitness (durability rather than speed) with mental fortitude and a gigantic quantity of food. Success is not achieved by reaching the finish line first, but by completing the epic undertaking, and while saddle sores fade, the memories of long days in exciting and beautiful places live on.

With pleasant memories still strong, it was with no hesitation that I jumped at the opportunity to partake in Tim Mulliner’s take on the theme; Le Petit Brevet. Famous for his bestselling touring book ‘Long ride for a Pie’, Tim had dreamed up a thrillingly difficult course on Canterbury’s Banks Peninsular. In squeezing 5,800m of climbing into only 320km, he’d set a route that would challenge the most die-hard pedal freaks, while still proving achievable for the less obsessed looking to dabble in an epic weekend-long adventure.

And now with preparations for the very long ride almost complete, I can only speculate what will lie ahead on the mixture of singletrack, gravel and sealed roads of this beautiful part of the world.

In the interests of keeping weight down (especially important given the sheer climbing involved), I’ve decided not to take any bedding, and am resigned to ride through the darkness and into the morning’s small hours, hopefully arriving back at Hansen Park at 4AM on Sunday morning.

Proven in the Kiwi Brevet and a recent high altitude touring circuit around Nepal’s Annapurna circuit, I’ll be riding my grinch green Ventana El Padrino, complete with Rohloff hub, carbon rigid fork and Stans Raven semi-slicks. Setup wise I’m passing on the Freeload rack and dry bag, instead paring gear back to a minimum and carrying it in a Cactus pack. All going to plan I’ll be able to get away with the 15L Zero, but if sanity prevails it’ll likely be the 29L Henry. Illumination will be from a borrowed set of Ay-Ups, their 12 hr runtime surpassing any other light setups in my box of tricks.

Ollie's Padrino gets some lovin' before its big outing
The relatively short distance has left me a lot less conservative than for the Brevet, with only essential tools, spares and duct tape, not to mention cash and cellphone finding a place in the pack. I’ll also be rocking a hydration bladder instead of the bottles I used in the Brevet. A Steri-pen will mean I can top up from rivers and dodgy taps without fear of gut rot.

Assorted gear.
Food wise I’ll be munching on One Square Meals (cranberry as I have yet to overcome my psychological allergy to apricot after the Brevet), stopping for a sit down meal at Hilltop and Akaroa if they are open and willing to accommodate a sweaty cyclist.

Perhaps what I’m looking forward to most, is the camaraderie that grows between randonneurs. With almost 40 souls lining up, the mixture of anticipation, excitement and anxiety on the start line will be electric. As these feelings fade with the growing miles, the simple task of covering a great distance in the company of like-minded individuals will forge a sense of community that beats any extrinsic reward.

While the forecast is for light rain and light winds, I’ve convinced myself that it’ll be no more than a cooling mist, which would be innumerably better than the midday roastings we’ve been experiencing recently in Canterbury.

MetVUW's predictions for the first five hours.
Check-in again for a full report of my Petit Brevet experience, assuming I make it through Tim’s pick of the peninsula’s unrelenting climbs!

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