GSB17 - Day 4, Tekapo or Bust!
The Great Southern Brevet 2017 - Day 4
Metres climbed: 3,400
Ride time: 17:33
Skids ripped: The other half packet of wet wipes
The blaring of my alarm was made more acceptable at this ungodly hour, only because I knew I wasn't going to have to do the same tomorrow.
04:00, and Middlemarch is a pretty sleepy little place. I'd wager it's pretty sleepy during rush hour, too, but at 04:00 it was deathly quiet. And cold - the heavy dew from the previous evening had fronzen, leaving the grass surrounding our relatively luxurious campsite white and crunchy underfoot.
Stuffing some food into my gob, and putting on every stitch of clothing I had (which in fairness was more than I've taken on similar jaunts in the years gone by), we packed up, saddled up, and sacked up for the day which lay ahead. We thought maybe, if things went well, we'd be done by midnight.
The rail trail to Ranfurly was cruisy - almost no gradient to speak of, and very little wind at this point. I was happy to let Cliff ride off ahead, as my body took it's sweet time warming up and ridding itself of the rust which had somehow built up in my muscles during my 4 hours of sleep. I set myself a pace of 20kmh - very easily achievable - which meant I had 3 hours before breakfast in Ranfurly. As Cliff cruised off ahead, I played some music for the first time this ride, with my phone sitting in my top tube bag (The Sufferer and The Witness, by Rise Against, for those wondering)
|Sunrise was off the hook, albeit cold|
Some way along the trail, near Ranfurly, the sun came out - for the first time in about 2.5 hours of riding, I was warm! I stopped to peel my jacket off, and felt the warmth on my body straight away, lifting my spirits immediately.
On arriving in Ranfurly, I spotted a bike leaned against a wall, so made my way over. I was surprised to notice it wasn't Cliff's Trek, but Rob's Ventana! He'd stayed on course somewhere, ahead of us by an hour or so, and had stopped for breakfast at another cafe. He was about to leave town, and we'd just arrived, so I made my way to the other cafe in Ranfurly for a refuel.
While I do enjoy the local brews while I'm travelling, embracing the When in Rome attitude, I wasn't able to see a drop of the town's greatest contribution to society anywhere, so made do with a long black. Besides, it was 07:00, perhaps a little early for a beer...
After leaving, and shuffling clothing appropriately, Cliff and I made tracks for Naseby, not too far away. Only twenty minutes after leaving Ranfurly, I was again forced to take a nature break on the roadside. Again, Cliff rode on ahead. I'd see him again in a few hours, when a hot mess came steaming up from behind me just before reaching the Dansey's Pass Hotel.
In the meantime, I managed to navigate my way around the course, as it wound through the Naseby trails, right beside the Naseby Water Race, which provided light entertainment.
|The Coalpit Dam, Naseby|
After popping out of the trail network in Naseby at the Swimming Dam, I cruised through the streets, eventually making the left turn which took me out of town, towards Dansey's Pass. About ten minutes after leaving, I came across a woman on a bike, doing her own brevet - she'd started from Dunedin a few days before, and was almost at her destination of Kyeburn Diggings, going to visit some old family members (I am under them impression they are actually dead people in the ground, and the visit wasn't the tea and scones I'd initially assumed from our brief, but strange conversation)
The road shot down, and spat me out over a river - by this time it was 10:30, with the day starting to heat up quite nicely indeed. The murky brown water flowing down the river was a reminder of the carnage caused by the torrential rain, only a couple of nights earlier.
|Cliffs. No, the other one.|
I was starting to feel pretty decent again, as my body temperature seemed to equalise with the warming ambient temperature for a while, and progress was pretty good. I wasn't riding hard at all, but holding a good, steady pace as I made my way up the valley towards Kyeburn Diggings, and the Danseys Pass Hotel. At some stage, I must've sensed something strange, and turned around - sure enough, I saw said strange thing. It was Cliff! He proceeded to regale me with his tale of woe, as the navigation through the Naseby trail network proved more difficult for him than for me. Still, he did manage to ride a couple of cool trails, all off piste, and shit.
After a short while, we arrived at the Danseys Pass Hotel (Officially the Danseys Pass Coach Inn), where we paused for a few cool refreshments and some sunblock. I steamed through three pint glasses of raspberry and Coke in short order, then filled my camelback with ice and iced water.
We'd heard from the lovely young woman in the Hotel, Danseys Pass (the road) was closed, due to slips. No problem, for a couple of mountain bikers - a bit of dirt wasn't too much of an issue in our minds! A few minutes after leaving the hotel, we ducked under the gate with the unmissable "ROAD CLOSED" sign. With a couple of large graders working on the road, we paused to enquire as to the cause of the closure - a slip, right at the top, was the culprit. We were told we'd probably be OK, but to be careful etc, which of course we were! The slip was a non-event, about 20m wide at most...
|CAUTION, EXTREME CONDITIONS lol|
The descent off the pass was great fun, albeit eventually curtailed by the fresh gravel being laid along this stretch, and the heavy machinery doing so. A short time later, we came across the first of several mainly-ruined fords - easily negotiable by bike, even keeping my feet dry!
Cliff recalled a short, punchy climb, before dropping down towards Duntroon and the Waitaki River. 500m long, he reckoned. Pretty much nothing, he reckoned. It was a couple of hundred metres vertical, at about 12% average grade, for 15 minutes. I lapsed back into the now-common practice of taking a bush-dump once we reached the crest, sorting myself out just as a large truck came past, avoiding embarrassment for all involved (except Cliff, who found it all extremely amusing, renaming that particular hill "Dave's Pass", from memory).
We tore off the hill, making good time towards Duntroon, when I had a strong urge to sleep. I'd put it down to a) having only 4 hours sleep the night before, and b) probably being ill. I drifted off the back of Cliff, and stopped on the long grass beside the road. After removing my helmet, I lay on my back, and set an alarm for 30 minutes - I was sleeping, right here, and right now!
On waking, I text Cliff to let him know - turns out he had done the same, a few kms down the road! I didn't know this, and rode past him as he slept under a tree in Duntroon. After a wrong turn, I made my way onto the Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail, bound for Kurow. This was a short lived excursion, as the recent rain had flooded parts of the trail - we were directed onto the highway to make our way to Kurow, some 20 very straight kilometres away. By this stage, the wind was beginning to pick up again - it was just before 5pm when we rolled into Kurow, hungry, and eager to get stuck into the final push to Tekapo.
We stopped first at the petrol station for fluids, then across the road at the takeaway place - I ordered two cheesburgers, and two scoops of chups. Cliff ordered something similar, and on receiving the parcels of carbohydrate, it became evident we had misunderestimated the serving sizes of chups in Kurow - it's no wonder Richie had so much energy on the rugby pitch, if he was brought up on such gargantuan servings in his home town. Either that, or the ladies at the shop took pity on the two bedraggled, space-out looking cycle tourists!
I gifted a burger to Cliff, and did my best with the mountain of chups, before we headed off. We started out slow, allowing our poor bodies a bit of time to focus on digestion, rather than forward motion.
The riding was good, but the headwind continued to build, with some pretty cool cloud formations.
|Into the wind, heading up the Hakataramea Valley|
|Looking back towards Kurow|
At this speed, we were able to clearly identify the weaving tyre tracks of another mountain bike - almost certainly those of Rob, who we'd bumped into in Ranfurly almost 12 hours earlier. We speculated as to the owner, and the condition of the owner, before the wind took our focus once more.
|Finding the smooth line, Haka Valley|
The higher up the valley we rode, the worse the wind got. I've lived in Wellington all my life, and have dealt with regular gale Nor' Westerlies, and gale Southerlies on commutes, during training, and on race day. Strong winds ain't no thang, for me. I actually find them strangely comforting... this, however, was beginning to take the piss.
As the road veered to the left, to skirt the flanks of Mount Dalgety, the strength continued to increase. I'd stopped for yet another unscheduled pit-stop, and had just caught up to Cliff, as we made our way up the narrow valley, Dalgety to our right, the impressive, rugged slopes of the Kirkliston range to our left. Soon after, we were forced off our bikes - the wind was too strong for us to make any forward progress now, as we were at constant risk of being blown off the gravel road, into the stream below.
The final 6km of the ascent took over an hour, including a bit of riding over the first few kms. We took the obligatory photos and video at the top, to document the ferocity of the breeze.
Once we'd decided to make our way down, things didn't get much easier - sure, we had gravity on our side now, but it was no match for the intensity of the wind. We pushed our bikes down the hill, into the wind for the first while, until we deemed it safe enough to remount. The 13kms to the tarmac - almost 100% down hill, losing 400m in the process - took almost 80 minutes, averaging 11kmh.
Once back on the road, we swung around to the right by 100 degrees, giving us a great cross wind - we were back in business! By now, our goal of completing the course by midnight had long since evaporated - it was 9:30pm when we reached the pass, and almost 11 by the time we got back to Haldon Road. As soon as we'd made our turn to the right, I spotted a blinking red light off in the distance. I'd ridden this stretch on my way to Tekapo, after dropping off Mackenzie Pass, so knew the lay of the land - it was on the same road as us, probably 10 - 12 km away.
All of a sudden, my pace shot up. I urged Cliff to sit off to my right, taking advantage of my draft as we steamed along with urgency. This was my competitive urge surfacing, at the most inappropriate time possible (19 hours into a 22 hour day!)
Eventually, the light disappeared, along with my get up and go. I had plenty of food and fluid, along with any warm and dry clothing I could possibly need - my prep had been great. Problem was, I was just tired, and about ready to call it a day. The issue with that, is we were still 20km or so from where we needed to be!
That final 20km took an age - although the road is only a little uphill, I was off and walking several times, as the head/cross wind made going unbearable. I likened it to a belligerent toddler; in spite of any reasoning or bargaining, it just did not know when enough was enough.
On rolling down the final descent, into Tekapo, the extent of the wild weather became more obvious - the water from the lake was blowing across the main road, there were tree branches everywhere, and overturned recycling bins littered the streets.
We reached the Church of the Good Shepherd at about 01:45am, had a quick congratulations from Rod (who'd finished about an hour before, from memory), before going off in search of somewhere to sleep.
|Leaning into the wind, like a proper Wellingtonian|
As if the long day hadn't been enough of a challenge, the weather kept at it - the wind was way too much for my bivy bag, even in the shelter of a house. At 3, I walked across Tekapo to retrieve Cliff's rental car, to sleep in the boot. Shortly after I arrived back to camp, I was asleep in the boot, with Cliff knocking on the window - it was raining now, too! He origamied himself across the front seats, in a fitting way to round off the event - in relative discomfort, but with massive satisfaction, and heavy eyes.
We'd both had a dandy old time out in the wops of Central Otago - the first time for me, the second for Cliff. We had similar goals - not to ride hard, but to ride some solid days, and see where we got to at the end of each, with no real plans.
After, I had my standard Achilles tendonitis when we finished, mainly in my left leg - aside from that, I held up pretty well for an old dude ;-)
My bike was fantastic, I doubt I'd change much at all - while a lighter rig would have been nice at times, I was able to bomb descents, knowing my rig was up to whatever I was prepared to throw at it, wherever we found ourselves.
Cliff was great company - while we have vastly different backgrounds and lifestyles, we share a level of retardedness which is quite galvanising, and makes conversation effortless. Thanks for the company, Cliff!