Saturday, February 18, 2012

Kiwi Brevet Day 6

Day 6 - St Arnaud to Blenheim - 260km approx

We got out of bed about 6.30am, anticipating a big day. We were too close to Blenhiem not to finish today - I was feeling some nervous anticipation as it was going to be a big day. I managed to eat leftover 2 minute noodles for breakfast and about 7.10am, after taping my shoes to my feet, we were on our way.

For some reason I remembered the road to Nelson to be hilly, I was pleasantly surprised when the incline was very much down and we made good time. The weather was again, bright and sunny and before long we were at the Reay Saddle, and stripping arm warmers and vests off.

One of the elements that makes a brevet interesting is that when there is a seemingly direct route somewhere you are sent on the scenic one. Of course when you are tired this becomes frustrating and is how we felt about Eighty Eight Valley Road. Thankfully it wasn't too long and was quite a nice road and so by mid morning we were in Wakefield. We were slightly short of food as our last purchases had been in Murchison so we took the time to stock up with donuts (food of champions) and Powerade. I noticed the Wakefield Four Square had a post shop and at this point we decided to post anything we wouldn't need in the next 24 hours home, now we were committed to finishing that day.  I was left with shorts and a t-shirt to wear home after we finished, and a rainjacket and tools.

The route towards Nelson took us through endless cycle paths. We got lost in a suburban street, and found it generally dreary.  It seemed to drag and take ages to get to Nelson proper. Once we reached the CBD we headed to the first place we saw, McDonalds, for coffee, chips and milkshakes, then we headed to the Shell for more cookies and by 1pm we were heading up the Matai Valley.

It was another hot day and we were pleased to take the deviation into the Dun Mountain Trail. Hopefully one day soon we can return as the trail really was enjoyable. The Mangatapu track was next and it was longer than I remembered. We rode what we could but were conscious that we still had a lot of kilometres ahead, so conserved our energy. The descent towards Pelorus Bridge passed by quickly and we soon heading towards the main road. Within one kilometre I got my only puncture of the trip, front tyre too. We never found the cause, this always worries me. Mangatapu Road has several farms on it and we happened to pass by just on milking time. The local farmer had all his gates open and electric fences across the road, we were not sure if they were live and Tim wouldn't test them for me.

Eventually we reached Pelorus Bridge, and came across our first bad driver of the trip. The driver chose to ignore that I was already on the one lane bridge and that he had the give way sign. I can't believe he didn't see me as I right in the middle of the lane and man was I angry! I had to take evasive action to avoid a collision. Apart from this incident we found most drivers to be courteous and far more patient than anyone you find in Wellington.

We kept riding until we reached Canvas Town (me fuelled on adrenalin) where we stopped at the Trout Hotel for beer, coke and chips. We also thought we had better organise some accommodation in Blenheim. After a couple of calls we found out it was Marlborough Wine and Food festival 2010 I had this problem too. After a couple texts and half an hour Auntie Wendy had this under control for us & we knew a motel room would be waiting.

We look ok after here 1000km in - Havelock - Photo Helen Brumby
Just as we reached Havelock we ran into Dean and Helen on their way south. It was weird, they were so out of place that I didn't recognise them! Running into them lifted our spirits, it was great to see some familiar, happy faces.

Waiving to Dean and Helen - thanks for the photo Helen
We filled our water bottles at the church at Linkwater and prepared for the hilly section of Queen Charlotte Drive. It really is a nice part of the country with great views in the fading light. I was impressed by the waterfront campsites at Momorangi and the white sands. As we reached the lookout over Piction it was time to turn our lights on. We blasted through Picton and headed along Waikawa Road.  We knew Auntie Wendy was waiting outside her house to great us. Again, it was nice to see a friendly face and be refuelled with still warm bacon and egg pie. After a 20 minute break and a couple of pieces of pie we ended towards Port Underwood or "Port Underpants" as it was soon christened by Tim. We left Waikawa about 9.20pm.

When we hit the first hill we already had 200km in our legs, not to mention the other 800 or so from the days prior. The first hill felt long but we were positive, then a guy in a ute came past and and exclaimed that were out late, and that the good news was we were halfway up the hill! My heart sank, I was convinced we were near the top. Then my GPS batteries died and so we had no idea where we were.

The next section was a blur. At the top of the climb before heading into Robin Hood Bay Tim stopped at the top to wait for me. I sat down beside him in newly mown, soft, warm grass. All I wanted to do was lie down and go to sleep it was so inviting.....but before long we were off again. Once we had climbed out of Robin Hood Bay we could see some lights in the distance - Blenheim but still a way away. As we passed Whites Bay I knew didn't have far to go but it seemed to drag on and on and when we reached the tarseal I assumed it would all be downhill.....

Finally we reached Rarangi and had 14km left. I just sat on Tim's wheel and put my head down. Again there was no wind and so the conditions were pleasant. It didn't seem to take us long to get to Blenheim and to be weaving in and out of the streets. When we reach Seymour Square we sat on a park bench for a few minutes and enjoyed the "finishing feeling" - the time was 2.48am and we had been on the move for 19.5 hours.

Clockwise or Anti Clockwise?

In total the brevet took us 5 days 17 hours and 50 minutes. Two years ago I took 5 days and 10 hours. So, which way was harder? In 2010 the event went in an anticlockwise direction, this year in a clockwise one. In 2012 I certainly rode for less hours and had more sleep (no early starts this year), my butt was fine, my back good, hands good, I only noticed slightly numb feet and sore knees on the last day. Two years ago I had bad chafing, sore knees from standing as my butt was sore, really numb feet, a hand that took 6 weeks to use properly again, and I really felt smashed.
We had great weather and what felt like a tail wind most of the way and this made the clockwise direction seem easy. However, there are roads that I think are certainly best ridden in an anticlockwise direction.  These are, Mangatapu Road, Porika Track, Big River, and Molesworth/ Awatere Valley. I enjoyed crossing the Southern Alps East to West and the descent out of St Arnaud. Roads like Port Underwood are always going to hurt, however I think this road is best ridden early in the event and so......I am undecided which is easier, but what I do know, whatever the direction the brevet format is the winner.

1 comment:

  1. "Port Underpants" - fantastic!

    A great read, thanks for sharing that Charlotte.