I haven’t looked up the actual distances when writing below, I take no responsibility if my memory is at fault and the distances are wrong 🙂
Before I start I shall introduce you to D grade, we started with 12 and added a couple more on from C and B grade as we went along. There was the “chosen ones”, Jane, Penny and Jo. The Aucklander’s, Matt, Lisa and Jenny. The aucklander’s dominated D, they were out of our league and probably should have been in a different grade. But they were exceptionally nice. Daryl from Wellington, Martyn, Murray and Emily. Then the was Zarnia and Barbara, who were registered in C grade, but started out in D. Later we were joined by Wayne (the worse bunch rider of the lot) ,Mark and James who both came from B because of injuries. I introduce them, because I rode most of the 650 K with them, so the people make the tour as much as the bike and the road. You have personalities clashing and disagreements and make some friends along the way.
I am writing this on Tuesday afternoon, and Thursday Night seems like 3 weeks ago. A lot of experience has passed in that last 6 days. Anyway back to the prologue. Took the entire Thursday of work, to prepare. So spent the morning organising, and was ready by 1. As I didn’t need to leave to about 4.30 I spent the afternoon wandering around the house…
I Arrived at the prologue start and was immediately intimidated. There was some awesome looking cyclists warming up. I had to wonder what the heck I was doing in this sort of company. I Warmed up, stopped to talk to people, and just made my start.
The Time trial was a 3Km climb straight up Evans pass. I have done this climb many times in the past. Its hard, but not a killer. I went out to hard, I told myself to take it easy up until it started to get to steepest part. But that didn’t seem to work, I was already having the sick feeling to your stomach by the time I reached that point. From that point on it was just survival mode. They had the 500m sign at the hair pin, there was heaps of people standing around and I thought, “Oh they must have moved the finish down for some reason”. So I just kept on powering. Till I saw the sign properly, then I was “shit I still got 500m to go”. So just kept going. Had the very sick feeling at the top, I have never pushed myself that hard before.
That was the hardest climb of my life, and it was the first pass of the 5 passes. There was still 4 more to go. Oh dear what had I got into…
Day1 started really early, the alarm woke me at 4.30, I arrived in summer at 5.30, for a 6.00 start, I was slightly anxious, but I think there was so much to do that I didn’t really stop and worry. It was a fine but chilly morning.
The first part of the day was easy stages out to waipara, we took a ticky tour about the out skirts of Christchurch, headed toward Rangiora then Amberly.
Waipara to Culverden was the first open stage of the tour. Had a KOM and a Sprint included. I went to hard to start with up to the KOM. This was also the first sign I had of other people in my grades climbing ability. The “Aucklander’s”, as I dubbed them throughout the tour, were awesome. I couldn’t keep up, and they took out the first KOM points. I completely missed the first sprint sign. The bunch suddenly speed up and took of passed me, and I was looking around going what’s the rush. So no sprint points for me.
At Culverden we had lunch then it was a neutral stage through to the turn off to Hamner. I honestly struggled a bit getting up some of the rolling hills. Once we reached the turn off Hamner, there was a 8K team trial into Hamner. My team was Matt, Murray, and Emily. We thought that Emily was going to be the weakest member of the team. So we let her set the pace. We were wrong, I was the weakest member, I struggled to keep up, and that final little hill into Hamner killed me.
We had arrived in Hamner, and it was only 1pm, so we had the afternoon to rest up, they had a bbq (when you go on this tour, you never get hungry, they are constantly feeding you, not sure how I am going to go back to standard size portions now), but I was tired and went and spent a couple of hours sleeping, before dinner.
Was once again fine day, but chilly to start with, and D grade had the honor of leaving a 7am. I was having really negative thoughts for the first 40k of this day. Almost contemplated pulling out and getting a lift, after struggling through the first day, I didn’t know how I was going to manage this day, its 230K and Lewis pass, and Rahu saddle are in the way.
The first open stage was from the bottom of the first climb (20K from the start) to the Lewis pass. This was the longest open stage (70K) and the bunch split up on the first Climb, The aucklander’s powered away. I set myself into the 2nd group of about 6 of us, who worked together most of the way to Lewis Pass. We struck the wind from hell (NW) in the open stretches but once we hit the major climb we were out of the wind (thank god for that). Give me a hill over wind any day of the week. Think I was about 4th girl over the pass, so no KOM points for me. Then it was a fast down hill into Springs Junction, where we stopped for morning tea (yes it was almost 12 by this time).
Then it was straight on to Reefton, and you immediately hit the climb up Rahu, tired legs that have just cooled down, did not appreciate having to climb again, so just went at a cruisy pace up the hill. But once over the top there is the best ride down into Reefton. Rolling down hills, reaching good speeds. Emily made a break from the bunch. And Jane didn’t like that because we had waited at the top. So suddenly the heat went on in the Peleton about 10K out from Reefton, and we were pushing it catch Emily and beat her over the line. I didn’t really want to get dropped, so just hanged in there and took the sprint for the line. Unfortunately that meant we dropped several off the bunch along the way, and I didn’t think that was terribly nice of the group.
Lunch at Reefton, us D graders only got about 10min to stuff food down before we were off again, the misfortunes of being in D grade, we are slowest so don’t get very long breaks. Anyway there was about 90K left to get to greymouth. We ahad a 50K neutral stage, that was pure torture, everything hurt. When we stopped for a break just before the open stage I stuffed lots of lollies down my face and they did the trick.
We were of again, and there was 7 K to the next sprint. I actually decided to pay attention and go for it if I had the legs. There was a couple of climbs along the way, and I knew I had to keep up with the Aucklander’s if I wanted to take the sprint. I marked the 2 girls the whole way around. I knew if I stayed with them up the hills I was stronger to out sprint them. At the 500m mark I just grabbed Murray’s wheel and powered away from them all. I had shown my hand, I was going for the green.
After that sprint I was perked up and legs were flying, obviously there was a physical barrier that my body had broken and it was now in a whole new realm of endurance strength. It started to rain as we headed into Greymouth. Arriving just before 6, that was one hell of a long day.
The shortest day of the tour, but has a whomping big hill at the end. Even though, by this time the 100K cycle to Otira seemed like nothing, there was still the thought of that hill looming in our minds.
It was still raining when we got up, and as we started out, though it wasn’t cold or windy, so it was actually kind of pleasant. We were all creaking as we headed out on very stiff legs, the first couple of hills (well slight bumps really) were rather tough.
First stage was neutral until Brunner. Then there was a 3K team time trial. Looked flat to start with, then you turned a corner and went straight up a hill. It Decided to rain heavier just as we started of, I ended up not being able to see much through my sungalsses, and just hang on to the wheel in front. I thought we might of taken time out of the team in front of us, but turned out we didn’t. Had a break by the lake, and for the first time D grade arrived first and got to wait around for the rest of the grades to arrive.
Then it was a open stage to Jacksons, there was a sprint at about 20K. The girls in pink, wanted the sprint bad. They started sprinting ages out, and I tried to hang on but it was to much of a effort, and only managed to take a 2nd. Lunch was supposed to be at Jacksons, but because it was raining we just kept on going. The stretch between Jacksons and Otira was hard, my legs were spent. I was seriously considering not giving Otira a go, and just getting a lift, but Jane talked me into giving it ago, after all I had all day to walk up it.
I had already talked myself into that I was going to walk when the going got steep, I mentally was not prepared to tackle this hill on this day. D grade only had about a 10min break in Otira, I guzzled ½ a bottle of coke, in the hopes that some energy would be giving to my legs. I put my sandles down the pockets of my top (I was going to be walking I most as well be comfortable). People were sent of in groups on 8, 30sec apart and I was in the last group.
Started of easy, but it then it got hard then harder still. There was road-works half way up the 1st steepest bit. It was 1 lane, so we couldn’t zig zag our way up. This was the point I gave up. I think, back and say why did I give up then, I could have keep on going… So put the sandals on and kept walking. A couple who were still on there bike over took me at this point and I was then last. It was a bit of a walk to the viaduct and then I could see no one, it was raining, I was walking over the viaduct, looking down at the most spectacular scenery and start to cry, couldn’t stop myself, I was disappointed that I hadn’t given the climb and better attempt, I was upset because I was last and alone, plus it is quite hard pushing your bike up the hill while crying. I had a bit of a mental break down really. Once over the viaduct there was a place to get back on. I was last over the line, I had done it! With tears running down my face!
The ride down to the village was quite scary, the road is steep and twisty, and very wet. When I go to the finish line, Ansley was there to great me with her smiling face, and all I could do was say “I can’t stop crying”. That night at prize giving I got the green jersey. Scotty decided he wanted to put it on, and embrassed me mightily my being in “awe” of the bosom while trying to do it up. Plus I got embrassed again as I was mentioned as the last one over the line (don’t like that kind of lime light).
The final day, and the legs felt great! At breakfast, I was told by other members of D grade that Jane was trying to get their support in shutting me down for the final sprint. That back fired on her and they were all trying to support me getting over the line first. I wasn’t that concerned about getting the green jersey, the sprint were a bit of fun, but after hearing about Jane’s plotting, I thought right I am going to take her down (my competitiveness came to the fore).
It was a chilly 3 degrees at the top of Arthurs. Deciding what to wear was a problem, because I knew once we went down lower it was going to warm up. Anyway we were off, the first stage was open and the sprint 33Km away.
It was a fast decent with some rolling hills in the way. I flew over section from klondyke to White bridge (The 15K stage that I will next be riding in the c2c), me, Matt, Lisa, jenny, Murray and Mark got into a break away early, we just kept going, flying up the hills. The girls, said they would give me the sprint, so all I had to do was stay in the bunch and keep away from the rest (afterward, Zarnia said we were just flying, that the others didn’t have a chance of keeping up). I decided, that I would go hard for the first 33k and the rest of the day would just be about finishing. Just before the flat there was a nasty steep false flat (I hate false flat’s), Matt kindly gave me a push up the hill, once over the top it was a 500m dash to the sprint line, the green jersey was mine.
Then it was about 15K to Craigieburn cutting, just as steep as otira, but shorter. Me and Murray dropped back from the rest and just took it easy to the start of the hill. I told myself no way in hell are you walking today, and so I went up, I followed Murray’s style of zig zagging at times (don’t normally do that). I made it no Probs. I was very disappointed that there was no photographer at the top to mark my achievement. A couple of k’s up the road was stage finish. We stopped for a break, then were off on the next open stage (about 20k), to Porters pass. I hated this stretch, false flats and wind.
We just got to the top as Gurney and his porters plunge mates were going down in there birthday suits. That would have been chilly. It was warm and sunny at the top, by the bottom it had dropped 10 degree’s and a nasty southerly blasted us. The ride to Springfield was freezing. Then on to the long boring stretch along the old west coast road. Interrupted by a 20Km team time trial, which we powered though, the legs were still feeling good. The time trial was the last timed stage, then it was a neutral stage getting through Christchurch to Sumner. I knew the route like the back of my hand, I train along it. I decided I didn’t want to do it, so just took the 20K straight to home.
I got stronger through each day. My endurance base just got better. I mentally overcame some blocks that will just make even more stronger when I come to the same situation in the future. That was the purpose of this event for me. It was about building my endurance and mental capability for what was to come in the Coast to Coast. I will never make the best hill climber in the world, but can do it if I try. But I do need to work on my weight though, and this has made me more determined now to loose as much weight as I can before the c2c so, I can achieve more. I always knew I would be strong on the sprint, and the time trials are where my strengths lie, it may became my knew goal after the c2c.
Will I do it again? at the moment, I am thinking hell yes, though maybe a different one. This tour isn’t just about the riding, it’s about the people you meet along the way and the achievements you can make.