Saturday, May 22, 2010

Day Two

After a fitful nights sleep I got up at 5.30 AM realising I wasnt going to be able to sleep any more. It seemed to take me forever to get ready though. My legs were stiff and sore and my brain was only working at half speed. Our very generous hosts offered breakfast which I gratefully accepted. I said goodbye to Trevor, Barryn, the three Aussies and Jan not realising this would be the last time I would see them. Finally rolling out onto the deserted early morning roads at around 7am (the latest start of my whole Brevet) with Darren, Laurence and Guy not far behind I was feeling good. About 5 minutes later a car slowly rolled up next to me and wound down its window. I looked at it – a police car! Quick check – yes I had my helmet on – had I done something else wrong - was I speeding? No, this guy was a fan! He seemed to know all about the Brevet and wanted to take my photo. Zipping up the road he parked and I posed as best as I could. He wanted to get it onto the Brevet website. I began to realise that maybe this thing was bigger than we all thought.

GPS Tracking

One of the great innovations of the Brevet for a NZ event was that we had been issued with GPS trackers. They continually updated our locations on the website allowing friends and family to closely follow progress. This caused a real buzz that we didnt fully appreciate until the end. The policeman – Rob Hambrook – was one of the many followers. It made what seemed like a very solitary pursuit (especially for us solo riders) into something far larger. It was strange to feel we were being continually watched by many from afar.

After the photoshoot Guy, Laurence and Darren disappeared into the distance. It didnt seem to take long before they were out of sight. I didnt expect to see them again. I turned off the main road for a pleasant gravel road detour Simon had arranged for us. Coming round a corner there was Darren fixing a puncture and further up I saw and passed Guy and Laurence. A bit surprised that I was unexpectedly in front of them I pulled into the Wakefield store to stock up. Looking back I saw Simon Kennett and John Randal ride up – what were they doing behind me? Before long six of us were there – Simon, John, Darren, Guy, Laurence and me. I was keen to get moving and I left them eating and chatting and headed towards St Arnaud. It was the last I would see of Guy and Laurence. The next section saw a number of us swap places. John was first to catch and pass me. Further up I repassed him as he was applying butt creame to his nether regions on the side of the road.

Butt Maintenance

Butt maintenance was an essential task on the Brevet. Saddle sores were to be avoided at all costs. I later found out that one of our number had had to pull out due to severe saddle sores – ouch! One of the unique things about the Brevet is that you can ride up to someone you hardly know and start a conversation by asking them about their butt. I cannot think of any other polite social situations where this would be considered normal. However condition of ones butt was a preoccupation of us all. Mine certainly ended up very sore and I was continually changing position to try to get comfortable. I looked forward to climbs where I could stand and relieve pressure. I never developed a proper saddle sore though for which I was immensely grateful to my appropriately named Assos chamois creame.

I watched John catch another cyclist further up the road. I wondered who it was and later found out it was Tim Mulliner – the Maungatapu camper. He must have had a very early start. Darren caught me then Simon. I wondered why these strong geared riders werent leaving me for dead on these tarseal roads. The reason was simple though. The road up to St Arnaud is mostly a false flat and there was a bit of a head wind effectively nullifying the advantages of gears. In fact on one climb I left Darren behind however just before the turn to St Arnaud he caught me back up again, this time in the company of Andrew McLellan who I had not seen till then. We powered into St Arnaud with me doing my best hampster on speed imitation again in an effort to keep up.

A pleasant cafe break ensued with Simon, John, Tim, Darren, Andrew and me. Being in such illustrious company I started wondering how many were actually ahead of us. Simon thought it was only about 5 or 6. I started to feel my up till now dormant competitive juices start to stir. I was doing alright, riding with some legends and feeling OK. With this in mind I gulped down my food and drink and was the first to leave the cafe and head towards the Porika track that I had recoinnoitred a month earlier. It was a gentle downhill tarseal before the track though, not good single speed country. First John and Tim went past, then Darren and finally Simon and Andrew. The Porika track couldnt come fast enough. A highly enjoyable but rough climb the Porika winds its way through native bush gradually steepening as it gets to the top. I loved it. I had caught Darren and we both crested the top together. I knew I would leave him on the very steep rough descent to Lake Rotoroa as my MTB was far better suited to it than his skinny tyred tourer. So it was and I sped through the DOC camp by the lake and headed up the next climb on my own. At the top was the single best downhill of the whole Brevet. The Braeburn track is a perfect downhill gradiant, beautiful sweeping corners through pristine mature native bush with refreshing easily ridable crystal clear stream crossings punctuating the dry slightly dusty gravel track. It was effortless mountain biking paradise. It ended too soon and a series of winding undulating tarseal roads led to Murchison.

I joined Simon, John and Tim at a cafe and watched Darren and Andrew turn up not long after. Service was slow though and the others headed off before my burger had arrived. My competitive juices were really flowing now though so I asked for my burger as a takeaway, put it in my back pack and headed off. Passing another cafe around the corner I saw the others had stopped there and Chris and Brenda had just turned up. I headed up the Matakitaki alone.

Before long a peloton came roaring past consisting of Simon, John and Tim. They were hauling ass and before long they were out of sight. This was becoming a common theme – the others were riding faster but the only resaon I was keeping up was although I was generally the last to turn up at a cafe I was often the first to leave. I knew this was not sustainable in the long term – you need to regularly rest and carboload. There was one notable rider missing from the peloton. I kept looking behind me for Darren expecting him to catch up any minute. Matakitaki and Mariua saddle was beautiful riding through native West coast bush. Pleasant hours ticked away. Life was good. Eventually I rolled back out onto the main road. It was starting to get dark so I turned on my two Fenix lights only to find one of them was not going. I remember reading that running them for too long on turbo mode risks blowing the bulb. Maungatapu downhill must have been too much. Worried that running my last remaining light on turbo would similarly blow it I set it on low and rode into the night. I was getting very tired. Around the corner a sign – Mariua Motels in 3.5km – that will do me. Rolling in I saw Phil and Ann happily settled into one of the rooms. Unfortunately the owner had no rooms or more correctly he had one but a cyclist had booked it and not yet turned up. He tried to phone him to no avail. Then being very helpful he tried to phone the Springs Junction motels for me but also no reply. It didnt surprise me, it was late and most sensible people would be getting ready for bed. Thanking him for his help I decided to press on to Springs Junction and rode back out onto the main road. Up ahead was a red tail light dot. I was sure it must be Darren having passed me while I was in the Motel.

We turned of the main road for another Simon Kennett gravel road detour. The red tail light ahead was going too fast for me and it slowly eased off into the darkness. Once again I was totally alone, riding along an empty indulating gravel road in amongst pitch black mature beech forest in the middle of nowhere with my very meagre light barely illuminating a small patch of gravel just in front of me. Time went very slowly and I felt adrift in the dark immensity all around.

Eventually, well after 11pm I pulled into Springs Junction exhausted. Luckily it was a nice night and I rolled out my sleeping bag on the lawn outside the Motels and settled down under a vast dome of stars. The now cold burger I had carried from Murchison tasted great and I got ready for a well earned sleep. Next minute there was a rustling in the bushes behind my head. A cyclist was rumaging about in the dark – who the hell was it? He came round the corner – it was Darren! as surprised to see me as I was to see him. He had been behind me – who was the owner of the red tail light then? We both tried to sleep on the lawn but were continually awoken by the trucks that seemed to be manouvreing only metres from our heads.

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