Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Labour Weekend Labours

Over the last 5 years, I've clocked up a very large number of hours riding alongside my best mate Simon.  The last few of these years, we've allocated a few of them towards a spring cycle tour:  NP2NP (New Plymouth to National Park) in 2009 and the Triangle Trip of 2010.  Not only have they been a great way to kickstart a bit of fitness, but they're also a very good way of recharging the mind in advance of the silly season.

This year, Simon took charge of the route planning, and providence took charge of the timing.  Early last week, I borrowed Simon's marked-up 1:250000 Napier map, and started transposing the route into mapmyride, before eventually loading it onto my Garmin Edge 705.  The basics:  head north of Napier on Friday evening, and overnight somewhere on SH2.  Ride into Tuai on SH38 on Saturday via some back-roads.  Head to Minginui (south of SH38, about 30km short of Murupara) on Sunday via the Moerangi Track in Whirinaki Forest (czech out the latest 8th edition of Classic New Zealand Mountain Bike Rides), then return to the car via a southern route.  Cool! 

I found the last week or so prior to the trip stressful, largely due to bike anxiety.  In the end, I threw a worn Stan's Raven on the rear of Flux Turner (replacing the humungous Nevegal), mounted a freeload rack on the rear triangle (all of about a 5 minute job), had a quick squizz at my Kiwi Brevet gear list and before I knew it, I was good to go!

Light is right:  in a dry bag on the freeload rack I had a woolen singlet, long sleeved woolen top, shorts and undies, a Ground Effect Baked Alaska, plus jandals and my GPS charger.  Also in the bag were toothbrush and toothpaste, some bog roll, and a few bike tools. I was testing out my new flash-as Octane 18X Camelbak (thanks to Extreme Gear for the support) - it was loaded with one square meals, rain gear, suncream and lip balm, chain lube and pump.  Not a lot of stuff, but the essentials were present and accounted for!

I picked Simon up from work mid-afternoon on Friday, and soon we were unpacking the car into the Waikare Hotel, at Putorino, about 50km north of Napier.

We ordered a meal - I had a steak, which was accompanied by one of the biggest steak-knives I've ever seen!  Simon's quote of the weekend came early:  "good to have cutlery you can kill a man with"!


We watched some of the World Cup consolation final, before eventually turning in.

Saturday

The next morning dawned with the sound of light rain on the roof.  We consequently made a leisurely start, enjoying the buffet continental breakfast on offer, and the Saturday edition of the Dom.  We did the 5-minute quiz, managing only 6 correct. 

Finally, it was clear the weather was not going to change, and we figured we might as well make a start.  A quick photo outside the pub, and it was time to roll out.



We had 15km or so on SH2 to start, during which we shepherded a large flock of goats for a short while, before crossing the railway line onto Mohaka Coach Road.  In the dry it would have been fantastic, but the gloop we were riding in resembled cold porridge, and we weren't having a lot of fun in it. 


The road was quiet though, and apart from a single motorcyclist, we didn't see any other traffic before the crossing of the Mohaka River almost 20km later. 

Crossing the Mohaka River

We stopped under a large tree before we passed the small settlement near the river-mouth.  We had some food, and I took the opportunity to put my 3/4-length overtrou on - something I immediately regretted as for the first few minutes it felt like they were lined with sandpaper.  Fortunately that horrid sensation ended, and I was soon back to gladness.

We were both wet and cold by the time we rolled into Wairoa - site of one of the ugliest churches I've seen in a while.


We hadn't intended on coming this way - we'd planned to backtrack on SH2 to Raupunga before hitting up a back road into SH38.  But, the conditions had us seeking an easier route.  The trip through Wairoa also gave us the opportunity to grab a bit of lunch at a cafe, some extra food from the supermarket, and Simon had a crack at buying some polypropylene to supplement his minimal gear.  Despite cruising the entire town, the only option seemed to be a $2-store, and while Simon emerged with a new pair of "woolly" gloves, there was only cotton to be had and so it was a big fail on the warm clothes front.

Just out of town, we passed a funky teapot tree, which was worth doubling back for.


SH38 was very quiet, and apart from some very dodgy directions from the GPS,

ORLY?!

...we'd soon hit the gravel, and some quality scenery.



Before too long, we were standing in front of Piripaua Power Station (a bit of a tongue twister), the lowest of the three hydro-stations below Lake Waikaremoana.

Piripaua Power Station

After checking out the info panel, we were getting stuck into the final climb of the day up to Lake Whakamarino and the settlement of Tuai.  We chose the "back road", which was hugely ironic, given the fact that the parallel stretch of SH38 was gravel as well, and not much wider.

Piripaua Road afforded us a lovely approach into Tuai though, and was well worth the slightly steeper ascent.  

Tuai, on Lake Whakamarino
We were soon unpacking our bags into a nice twin room at the Whakamarino Lodge, and not long after that tucking into a delicious Kennett special:  1 tin baked beans, 1 tin spaghetti, 1 tin salmon, mix and apply heat.  I wolfed mine down, and tried not to stare too intently at Simon's meal as it slowly disappeared.


Among our various forms of entertainment for the evening was trying to remember the 5-minute quiz questions (and answers) from the morning's paper.  We only managed 8 out of 10.

The views out to the lake were stunning, and our host was a source of good conversation.  We chatted for a bit, went for a short walk, and then hit the sack.  Simon had a magazine which included info about the hydro scheme and the area more generally, and he occasionally reported bits of interest while I rested my eyes.

Sunday

When we woke the next morning, we were in the mist, but it was obvious the sun was doing its darnedest to cut through.  We were treated to a cooked breakfast:  deep-fried sausages and hash browns, an egg each, and toast, but our chef decided not to offer us any porridge - she didn't look that impressed with it.  After posing out front, it was time to ride out.


We didn't get far before stopping to admire a bit of hardware from the power plant.  Imagine the size of the socket-wrench for turning those puppies!


We took the main road out of town, SH38, gravelled, and before long were up above the mist.  We were set for a stunner by the looks of it!

Lakes Kaitawa (L), Wherowhero (R) and Whakamarino under the mist

We faffed around a bit, stopping to take photos, apply sunscreen, shed coats etc etc, but were soon alongside Lake Waikaremoana.  The lake itself was choppy with quite a wind blowing, but still spectacular. 


For the next couple of hours we were riding alongside Lake Waikaremoana, and the scenery was off the hook.


We stopped briefly at the DOC HQ, and assessed our progress against the plan for the day.  The upshot of that wee team-meating was to quickly pack up and to get riding again!

About 250m down the road, my rear tyre started quickly losing air.  Stan's jizz had been struggling to seal a hole just by the rim, and while I'd been able to top up the pressure every so often, this time, it was going down fast.  I stopped and pulled the wheel out, before realising the hole had plugged itself again.  I put some air in, and Simon recommended I let it settle a bit before riding off.  I was riding a bit quicker than him, so he took the opportunity to get a head start. 

I could have done with his moral support and experience in the minutes that followed.  No sooner had he disappeared around the corner when I realised my rear brake was in a bad way.  Not only were the pads touching, but the brake blocks were pretty much non-existant.  One looked to have completely sheared off the metal backing plate, and the other was very thin indeed.  In the end I managed to get my car-key in between them, and open them enough to get the wheel in.  Then it was time to chase Simon...

The chase didn't go so well.  As I set off my mind was whirring as to how the hell I'd manage to ride the next 200km with no rear brake.  I must have knocked my GPS unit when I had the bike upside down cos when a strange noise prompted me to check my handlebar stem it wasn't there.  I reeled the bike in (front brake only) and then turned around.  About 150m back I saw the GPS sitting in the road.  I guess somewhere in the data will be a rather sudden halt!

I had to reinflate my tyre a couple of times before I caught Simon.  I quickly brought him up to speed on my shenanigans, and we were soon discussing cutting out the Moerangi Track.  I felt pretty stink, but didn't see how I'd manage a day MTB ride nursing a compromised bike.  Soon after, Simon reported rear brake problems of his own, and while I was calling time on my tubeless troubles, he diagnosed his rim was about to shit itself.

When we set off, both of us were on a strict diet of front-brake only.

The cruise along SH38 was fantastic.  We very rarely saw any traffic, and if anything, had more altercations with wildlife.  At one point we came across a herd of about 6 horses.  They started hooning down the road in front of us, and I delighted in putting a massive attack in to pass them on their outside.  Whoop whoop!  It felt great to fire the legs in anger, albeit temporarily.

Soon we'd climbed away from the lake, and after a long descent we arrived at Ruatahuna - a pamphlet at the Whakamarino Lodge had assured us we'd be able to get pies and icecream here.  Sadly, neither were available, but I did buy a tin of tuna which I ate with some grainwaves, a tin of creamed rice each (in the old colours, and $3.80!) which we ate with ice-cream sticks, and a big bottle of L&P.  I couldn't be bothered grabbing a bottle outside, so used my creamed rice tin as a vessel... Yummo!


There was a greasies menu above the counter.  Fish were first on the list at $3.70, followed by "Blood and guts" at $4.30.  I could only surmise that was a hot-dog, since that wasn't on the list.  I wish I'd asked the woman behind the counter...

There were a few tiny settlements beyond Ruatahuna, and these were always fascinating to see.  Often a building or two, surrounded by fairly modern vehicles, and then junk strewn around the place.

The scenery continued to be stunning - often we were alongside a stream, and there was one super impressive cutting which I couldn't ride past without reaching for the camera.


We stopped for a spell at the top of a hill before beginning the descent.  It was sealed - a rarity - and as we came onto a long straight we saw something in the road at the far end.  We stopped, grabbed our cameras out, and rolled off down the road a bit more, both realising too late that we had cameras in the front-brake hand!  We managed to stop though, before carefully considering how to safely negotiate the next 20m of state highway!


The huge cattle-beast in our rear-view mirrors, we were soon passing the turn-off to the Moerangi Track.  Even if our bikes had been top notch, we were now well out of time, and wouldn't have made it through in daylight.  The road section to the Minginui turn off was surprisingly hilly, but maybe we were both suffering a bit from a slightly stressful day, and about 200km in the legs so far.

It took us a bit of time to sort out where our accommodation was, but we got there in the end.  We were sharing a farm-stay with Simon's bro Jonathan, Richie and Hannah from the Tāwhio and their friends, Mark and Sylvia. It was a while before Simon and I had access to the food Jonathan had driven in for us, but once we had it, it didn't take long for us to smash it down.  The others made curry, and then we watched the ABs win the Rugby World Cup final against France.  Our TV was small, and the reception was poor, so we didn't really get nervous until the commentator said it was "seven minutes to go".  It still looked to be somewhere in the 50s on our screen!

Sunday

The next morning, Simon and I had creamed rice and bananas for breakfast, with a bit of fruit bread and a one square meal bar for good measure.  We were travelling ever so slightly lighter today.  We both had clean clothes back in my car, so we ditched a few non-essential garments.  Consequently Simon was riding only with a small back-pack, and I wasn't hauling my jandals any more!

We rode the few kilometres into Minginui on the seal, before turning right towards a forest.  We passed the turn to the Whirinaki MTB tracks and took the next left, onto a nice wide gravel road.  The next 60km or so were off the hook, and are among the most amazing riding I've done.

The first task of the day was to gain some elevation, some 500 vertical metres.  A lot of this was laid out in front of us, and after a while, we stopped to rearrange attire and lather up with suncream again.

Simon sets off, onwards and upwards...
...and the view back north towards Minginui
Often we were riding through or beside pine trees, but we also had stretches alongside stunning native forest.  We saw an SUV in a skidder site, and they tooted and waved at us.  It would be another 3 hours or so before we'd see the next vehicle!

Every now and then there would be signs of civilisation, but for the most part it was just us, the gravel road, and trees. 


I was quite enjoying using my GPS unit as a copilot.  I had the map screen zoomed in so I had only about 500m of track on the screen.  When I saw a corner coming up, I'd check its radius on the screen before deciding whether or not to brake!  Simon had no such need - he'd claimed his Cannondale back from Jonathan!

We were soon back in Hawke's Bay - we were about 50m up the road from where my GPS thought the boundary was, but the spot Simon was in looked like the watershed!

Bay of Plenty/Hawke's Bay boundary?

For the most part the navigation was very intuitive.  We'd started on Main Road, turned onto South Road, then Boundary Road.  My GPS unit was proving very helpful though, and we made a hard left turn onto Main Road (again?).   A few kilometres along, it suddenly started bleating.  I called to Simon "it wanted us to turn right back there".  Neither of us had noticed a track, so we turned back with trepidation.

A track was there, though it was very minor compared to the massive gravel roads we'd been riding.  It looked like a forgotten 4WD road, reminiscent of parts of the Karapoti loop.  We got Simon's 1:50000 map copies out, and confirmed the route.  Then, we proceeded!!!!  FUN!!!!!


For the next few kilometres, we trusted my GPS unit completely.  We'd pop out into a clearing, and I'd look down to see which direction we'd exit in.  It seemed to work well, though sometimes I felt like I had a bit too much going on.  We'd probably have managed with just the paper maps, but it would have been very slow, and a lot more nervewracking!

Before too long we were dropping into a valley which would take us out to SH5.  I almost came a cropper in a rut, but managed to keep my bike upright! Luckily it was dry, and I wasn't being hampered too much by the missing brake.  There were times where I'd find myself enjoying letting the bike go a little too much though, resulting in a bit of a pucker while I reeled it in!

The stunning scenery continued, and we now had some mountains on the horizon ahead of us.  It was amazing to feel the scale of the place, and to realise how much country we were traversing.


The complete absence of vehicles was soon explained by a massive fissure in the road, which took some negotiating, even with our light bicycles.


A while longer, and we were soon only a few hundred metres from SH5, probably about mid-way between Taupo and Napier.  We had an opportunity to avoid half an hour on it though, and took what my map described as Pohokura Road, but which looked to be an overgrown 4WD track...

... which ended all of a sudden in a bunch of native bush.  We made our way through, walking our bikes, and were soon staring into an open car grave.

We back-tracked a little, before picking up a small track on the left, and were soon smiling on the far side of the latest mid-road-chasm!

Minutes earlier we'd been staring into this from the other side!
Shortly after the pit, we passed a clearing with a couple of concrete chimneys the only remnants of old buildings.  Then, Pohokura itself, which looks to be only a couple of houses these days.


We had some stunning views over SH5 before a descent ending in the first gate of the day (about 70km into our journey).  

Oops!
500m riding later, we had a sobering reminder we were back in "civilisation".  We'd contemplated stopping here for a break, but just as we were about to collapse under a tree, I'd noticed Tarawera was only a couple of clicks up the road.


The only hill before Tarawera had been used in the second (?) MTB nationals back in the day.  Simon regaled me with a description of his older brother Paul puking after drinking a bidon filled with juice concentrate mixed with coke!  The hill didn't seem so bad with a decent story being told in the background!

The prices at the cafe at Tarawera were daylight robbery, but we didn't care.  Sandwiches and scones with jam and cream times two thanks, and I added a pie and coffee for good measure.  We had our first real cellphone reception for a couple of days here too, and it was nice to touch base with a few folk at home.


When we set off, we had a couple of "monster" hills to contend with.   Neither actually as big as they felt.  The second one is up to the lowest saddle on the skyline, in the photo taken from the first!

Looking East
I don't care for my GPS unit that much, and while I sometimes use it to keep track of a ride's distance, total climbing, or duration, it earns its keep through its mapping functions.  The new version of mapmyride doesn't spit out Garmin "course" files, but the classic interface does.  It can also plot routes on the fly, and will give directions to the nearest cities - in our case, Tutira on SH5, 15km short of the car.

It seemed to be doing a shocking job, and was recommending U-turns, and all sorts of crazy distances, but we knew better.  By this stage we'd pulled the pin on the route it seemed to want us to take, and had scoped out another.  We eventually discovered why it wouldn't allow us through, when we were confronted with a bunch of private road signs.  Unfortunately, we were about 20km past the point of no return, so had no choice but to run the gauntlet.  We passed near a house with a very vocal dog in the yard, but kept pedalling, our heads down, reciting "LALALALALALALALA" just so we wouldn't hear anyone hollering at us.  It was stressful, and not at all pleasant.

After a short descent, we were again at a large mound of earth blocking the road.  We'd seen this a couple of times before, and new instinctively that the bridge we were looking to cross was goneburger.

Without too much fuss we managed to get our bikes down into the riverbed - so many advantages to travelling light, and hike-a-bike sections being one of them.  Simon called to me that there were people on the other side.  Gulp.  We didn't see anyone, though we did see a dog and a parked car.  We walked briskly away from the car and were soon riding up a fairly steep 4WD road, chasing some billy goats.

Soon, we heard the sound of a vehicle, and Simon asked if I'd like to hide in the bushes.  I replied "I'd rather be caught riding on this road than cowering in those bushes" - they didn't look like they'd offer much shelter.  It was all academic, as the noise we heard was from a plane overhead.  This prompted more great stories of Kennett Bros' missions from back in the day!

We had a nice surprise a few minutes later when a pink line appeared on my Garmin screen - signalling we were close to a route to Tutira!  It was about 15 minutes away, and I was soon tucking into a massive icecream and a bit of jaffa slice!  Simon arrived a few minutes later, and we got down to arm-wrestling to see who would blast the 15km back to Putorino.

I got my arse kicked...

It was nice to have an almost bare bike, and no bag on.  It was good that I'd loaded my pockets with pump and tube though, because at "7 down, 8 to go" I felt my arse-end squirming around strangely, and had to stop to put extra air in the tube. I was keen to the the hell out of dodge on account of the magpie which was coming pretty close to my helmet. I cussed that bitch out though, and was soon full steam ahead to Putorino.

I figured if I made it as far as "11 down, 4 to go" before needing more air, I'd get away with just one extra pump.  Luckily that was all it took, and I was soon retrieving the car, and then Simon, before starting the drive back to Wellington.

We managed to hold off our desire for dinner until Dannevirke, where we had a bit of Chinese smorgasbord followed by one hell of a lollie selection.   

Dessert!
As we drove south through the  Wairarapa, our legs reminded us we had notched up about 350km over the three days.  Some of them tough, but very many of them glorious in one way or another.  There were many pretty unique experiences to reflect on too.

Men at Work's Business As Usual on the car stereo was a pretty fitting way to bring the trip to a close.  The next day, Sarah asked Simon what on earth we talk about with so many hours together on these trips.  The answer is all sorts of random shit, and sometimes nothing at all.   It's one hell of a treat to have such a great mate to do these things with.  The trip served us a few curve balls, and Simon was short a few training miles before it, but by god, that'll be one mission that's hard to top.  I'm sure we'll try though...

Postscript

In no particular order:  Somewhere over the rainbow (multichoice, a top movie song); 3 (sequels to Alien); Swallows and Amazons (an Arthur Ransome book set in the Lake District); Wales (multichoice about who'd beaten the ABs - I think Ireland and Scotland hadn't); Milkshake Maker (some appliance manufacturer in the 20s); the Dalai Lama (didn't get a visa to attend a party in South Africa - Desmond Tutu's 80th?), Poverty Bay (Cook's first landing in NZ).  We remembered 9 of them on the ride, but only 8 at a time.  I'm short 3 now!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

2011 Welly Peaks Points Race

It was with some excitement that I spotted Asher's announcement of the second "Wellington Peaks Points Challenge" on vorb.  I'd really enjoyed the previous year's inaugural event, despite not having a fantastic ride.  The thrill of the chase was cool, and I'd enjoyed plotting and scheming before-hand, and even during the event - trying to reverse-engineer where my fellow competitors had been and were going, and why we were so often crossing in opposite directions.

The event's concept is pretty simple:  Asher nominated nine of Wellington's prominent peaks, and a six hour time limit.  Riders had to connect the dots, recording their feats with photos taken at each of the summits.  How you get between the peaks is entirely up to you.

I learned a few lessons from the year before:  I hadn't chosen a good route between Kau Kau and Johnstons Hill, and my get up and go and got up and left before I was back at base.  A couple of things to remedy this time around.

Asher had posted a teaser about a possible tenth peak.  The most obvious choice seemed to be a high point on the ridge between Happy Valley and Island Bay, particularly as WCC had opened a new track up there in the last year.  I hadn't been up the Wharangi track before, so organised to check it out with Simon and last year's winner, Tim "T-Rex" Wilding.

Touching base about Wharangi had prompted Tim to suggest a Thursday evening ride, which, at the last minute I was able to join him on.  We met at the cenotaph, then blasted up Ngaio Gorge, and up through Broadmeadows to the top of Kau Kau.  I was pretty tentative once we had gravity on our sides, and Tim was smoking me.  This was the "gnarliest" riding I'd tackled since my shoulder dislocation, and I was keen not to fuck up!  The evening was still and warm though, so despite feeling well out-ridden, I was enjoying the ride nonetheless.  We had a couple of short stops, but still made Johnstons Hill within 40 minutes.  When I got home, I fired up my cell phone photos, and noted with interest it had taken me 42 minutes on my route through Ngaio and up behind Crofton Downs.  Unless the weather was foul, it would have to be Skyline!

Tim was swamped at work the next day, so Simon and I checked out Wharangi alone.  It wasn't clear from our recce whether Tip Track and Wharangi would be quicker than the much longer road loop past the windmill and Brooklyn shops, but at least we knew not to take on the massive flights of stairs on the off-road route down into Island Bay.

Often on race morning I'll wake a few minutes before my alarm goes off, and spring out of bed.  Sunday morning was different, and I woke feeling pretty down.  While my brain was urging me to turn the alarm off, roll over, and go back to sleep, I knew I'd regret that!  So, after one "snooze", I dragged my sorry arse out of bed, and started fixing some kai.

I'd laid out my clothes on the floor of the lounge the night before, and had already mixed up a single drink bottle of replace.  I faffed around, but eventually had some toast and coffee in me, and was ready to roll. Katy was due back from an overnight birthday party in Levin at 3pm, so I travelled light, and rode the short distance to Jonty's shop in Northland.

The ride added to the mood-booster I've relied on so much over the years.  I've pulled my Roadworks jersey on many times now, but it always gives me a little charge.  I guess it symbolises so many positive things:  riding endeavours, friendship, and mutual respect, and it comes without any pressure or expectation. 

The shop was busting at the seams when I arrived at around 8:30am.  There were the usual suspects, and a rather illustrious surprise visitor, none other than Rosara Joseph, one of New Zealand's most successful mountain bikers.  Jonty was working the coffee machine out back, and I was soon slamming down an espresso.  "This will help" said Jonty as he passed it to me, "or make you feel sick!".  Classic stuff.

When I'd downed that, I noticed Rosara was scoping out one of Greater Wellington's city maps.  I slid up to her and asked if she'd like a bit of route advice.  She looked relieved, and said "yes please!", so I grabbed us a couple of chairs, and gave her a suggested sequence.

Photo: Andy King

Well before I'd finished, I realised how difficult it would be for Rosara to retain even a fraction of my advice. It was cool to see her at the end, whereupon she thanked me for the sharp route between Makara Peak and Wrights Hill.  With a DPhil from Oxford, I guess I shouldn't have been that surprised that someone with such awesome academic credentials would have a good memory!

Eventually, 9am was drawing near, and everyone began piling out of the shop.  I had time to check the map on the wall, and to confirm that indeed the monument Simon and I had visited two days earlier was on the course, and was soon astride my sparkling Yeti ASR5C outside the shop.  T-Rex arrived with a minute or two to spare, Asher gave a short briefing, warning us not to be back at the shop until after midday (like that was gonna happen!) and then we were off.

Compared to last year, the initial pace was very civilised.  Once the gradient eased off just across from Northland School, Dave Sharpe, riding a fixed gear, dropped-bar bike completely unsuitable for this event (!!!!) rolled off the front.  I swung out after him, and as we hit Orangi-Kaupapa was starting to feel the blood flowing.

As we rode 4 or 5 abreast, Dave was still 15m ahead, and we all watched with curiosity to see how he'd fare on the driveway up to the summit of Te Ahu Mairangi (Tinakori Hill in last year's money).  Though I'd half expected to see Dave muscle his way up, he dismounted and started his march up the steepest pitch.  I wished him well as I passed him, and I was soon side-by-side with Jonty, chasing Alex, Tim, Ed Crossling, and Andy King.

The driveway eased off as we made our way up it, and finally we were all standing atop Te Ahu Mairangi.  I made a bit of a meal of getting my phone out and into photo mode, but was in soon in hot pursuit of Ed and Andy north along the ridge.

#1:  Te Ahu Mairangi

We had a little trouble with dogs, and Andy and I lost Ed. I turned into Weld Street, and unlike last year, stayed on it before bombing down a series of steps, and safely maneuvering around an awkwardly positioned gate, calling back to Andy in case I was obscuring it from his view.  Ed must have taken a long-cut, so we were back together as we hooked into Churchill Drive down at the Otari Stream crossing.

Alex, Tim and Jonty were about 100m ahead, riding into the northerly wind.  It took Ed and I until just after the Crofton Downs roundabout to get up to them, swapping turns a couple of times to ensure our collective progress.

We all made the turn into Simla Crescent, but Jonty and Alex went straight past the turnoff Ed, Tim and I took into the bush reserve.  We all stopped, dismounted, and began our march up the hill.  This track was walking only, and we observed that to the letter of the law, noisily clicking Hope hubs be damned.

When we'd finally crossed over the style onto the open pasture 150m from the summit, we got back on the bikes, and back to what we did best!

Alex was first to the summit, and was off along the Skyline ahead of Ed and Tim.  I was still having camera trouble, and clearly didn't take the requisite time to check my shot before departing.

#2:  Kau Kau
I could see Jonty heading up from the Broadmeadows direction, and so had about a minute or so gap on him.  It had taken me 33 minutes from Te Ahu Mairangi, a minute slower than last year, but not bad given my fully, the northerly, and more particular observation of the track status.

I definitely reaped the benefits of Thursday's ride with Tim, and was a lot more confident along the Skyline.  I was perplexed to see Tom Lynskey, Ian Paintin, Miles Davies and poor Rosara climbing Kau Kau on the Skyline into the wind.  It's a bit of a grovel at the best of times, and surely not a great route choice!

I saw a couple of other guys on the blast south - perhaps they'd skipped Te Ahu Mairangi?  I was pleased to see Tim crossing the fence just below the final section to the Johnstons Hill summit - a good sign I'd ridden well.  I was soon at the summit myself, and slowly getting my photography sorted.  I popped a bit of brownie out of my pocket, and slugged some drink before heading off in the direction Tim had gone.

#3: Johnstons Hill
I'd had a good ride on Skyline - 30 minutes between photos, and a whopping 12 minutes quicker than the year before down through the 'burbs.  Jonty offered me a high five as he passed on my right.  I ducked, figuring that was probably the single worst thing I could have subjected my right shoulder to.  I apologised at the end, and he'd said he'd realised the jeopardy he'd put me in too!

I saw some more riders as I popped out of the Skyline at Makara Road, maybe they'd missed Kau Kau?!  FUN!

Marjolein and Maya were out for a run as I passed them up the access road to Varley's Track.  I suffered quite a bit up Varley's, and had to walk a couple of short sections.  The 4WD track felt better, though I pushed the steep pitch up to the summit.  

Makara Peak's first chairman, Malcolm Gunn, was at the summit with a couple of buddies, and offered to record my presence.  Asher's notes had said "On the bench seat at summit" so I literally climbed aboard.  I could see Malcolm's finger partially covering the lens, but was too rooted to say anything!

#4:  Makara Peak
That last segment had taken me 22 minutes, and despite feeling like shit, I'd been only 1 minute slower the year before.  I was soon blasting down the Snakecharmer, enjoying being on my lovely plush fully!

Just after passing the end of Ridgeline Extension, I had company, in the form of a smoking Jonty!  We had a good natter down St Albans and Allington, before making the turn up into Woodhouse Avenue, bound for Landsdowne Terrace.  As it kicked up, I felt I needed to press on, and told Jonty I'd better enjoy the smooth stuff while I could, and perhaps I'd see him again soon.

Nearing the end of Landsdowne, I kept my eyes peeled for a friendly tap, and before long had a full bottle of water on board.   I was nearly at the top of Wrights, and it seemed sensible to fill the bottle as high on the course as possible.  I stayed left on the connector track (I'd erroneously jumped onto Salvation the year before), laughed at myself at the spot I'd crashed on the phone to Oli in 2010, then ran up the steps before setting up for the next photo.  Jonty had been about 50m behind when I disappeared into the single track off Landsdowne, and wasn't in sight when I left the Wrights Hill trig.

#5:  Wrights Hill
This leg had taken me 20 minutes, 4 minutes quicker than last year.  The crash would have accounted for some of that, Salvation another 30 seconds or so, and nursing the rigid bike down Snakecharmer to offset whatever I didn't lose climbing on the fully.

I made a small route adjustment to get onto the Fenceline Track, saving probably another minute, and was soon grovelling out of the Glade on the Long Gully access road.  

As I made the first right-hander on the road up the ridge, I spied Simon and Sarah ahead on their tandem.  A few minutes later, I was alongside.  Simon told me he thought I was in third - they'd seen Alex and Tim, but no Ed.   I offered them some of my brownie.  Sarah said she was sweet, but Simon gasped "yes please!" - it sounded like Captain was doing some hard yards up front!  It took me a while to get the baggie out of my pocket, and I slowed to pass it to Sarah, and asked them to leave it at the top of the Tip Track.  "If we get there before you" replied Simon.  "Pah, no worries" I said, before accelerating away from them.

I saw Tim diving down into the Tip Track, and gave him a shout of encouragement.  A minute or so later, I was posing up large in front of the radome.  Last year I'd gone up to the trig point, but Asher's instructions had said "next to the radome", and I wasn't about to disobey an opportunity to avoid some climbing, no matter how trivial.

#6:  Hawkins Hill
21 minutes from Wrights to Hawkins, 4 minutes faster than last year.  It helped not to be freaking out about my phone and bleeding knee, I'm sure!

I saw Jonty, then Simon and Sarah, before collecting my leftover brownie, and shooting after Tim down the Tip Track.  It was rough as guts, and one of my brakes was pretty spongy by the bottom.  I'd screwed a few corners, and slid sideways at one point, but had always made it out the other side of the impressive drainage channels along the length of the track. 

The ride up Happy Valley Road to the bottom of Wharangi was hard work, and seemed ridiculously long!  Wharangi itself also felt like hard work, and I was looking forward to stopping at the Kingston shops for some drink.  I spied someone up at the monument, taking a photo of themselves, but I was too far away to see whether it was Tim or Ed.

I was soon there myself, and took a couple of photos.  The second was a better shot of the impressive monument, but I look more broken in the first, so here it is!

#7:  Tawa Tawa Ridge
A minute or so later I was on tarmac, and then a couple of minutes after that, I was skulling coke out of a 1.5L bottle.  I filled my bottle with coke too, and when I put the bottle in its cage, my handlebar clanked on the window - just as I noticed the "please do not lean bicycles on the window" sign.  Sorry...  I took another swig of coke before realising that any more would be silly.  I screwed the lid on, and left the remnants by the shopfront, wondering if maybe one of my fellow competitors would help themselves to it!  Probably not!

The run into Berhampore was quick, and after a 20 second wait at the lights, I was soon riding up the pedestrian connector between the two sections of Herald Street.  I made the first right, then left along the park to avoid a bit of undulation.  Then, onto Mount Albert Road.  

I was feeling a tad shattered, so stayed on the road instead of taking the shorter but steeper path adjacent to the Chinese centre.  Soon, I was back off-road, and within a couple of minutes was at yet another summit.  The coke was beginning to have an effect, and I was feeling good about the next leg.

#8:  Mt Albert
Hawkins to the top of Wharangi had taken 21 minutes, with another 15 to the top of Mt Albert.  36 minutes in total, compared to the 35 it took me to get to Albert from Hawkins the year before.  The upshot of that:  my 2010 route sucked!

I was soon in Kilbirnie, using the same route as I had last year: the steep steps onto Hornsey, and then Rodrigo.  I popped onto the footpath at the lights, then across the road into the Mobil, before once again resuming the responsibilities of a vehicle on my ride along Rongotai Road.
I almost screwed up at the fire station roundabout, not quite reading the lane markings correctly.  I had the rear wheel skidding, briefly, followed by a track-stand, and acceleration into the traffic.  Soon, I was through Miramar cutting, then turning up Maupuia.

Hurtling towards me was my Team Yeti mate Alex, obviously having a very good day out on his Big Top.  We waved at each other, and got back to our work.  There was quite a bit of foot-traffic along the reserve which steadily climbs towards the prison, rather than ducking and diving like the road does.  I'd pretty much concluded Tim and Ed must've taken the road down, when, just adjacent to the access to the top of Jail Brake, they flew past.  I had still a minute or more to climb, and a very pre-meditated photo to take.

#9:  Behind bars, Mt Crawford
Mt Albert to Mt Crawford had been another good leg:  21 minutes - the same time as last year, though this time on a fully and against a northerly wind.  

I crossed Cobham Drive soon after the fire station roundabout, and couldn't get off the grass median soon enough, such was its horrible effect on my momentum, and temporarily, my will to live.  I hit a green light at Kilbirnie Park, but made a left to avoid the next red.  It took quite a while before I could pull a u-turn, and when I finally got back onto course, the other me that had waited patiently for the light to turn green was about 20m up the road.

I totally fluffed the turn up onto Alexandra Road.  I went off-road just before the roundabout, then indecisively ducked and weaved my way around, before finally going straight up the guts and onto the road.  The coke I'd had since Kingston was almost gone, but I'd been chugging it down to good effect.  Unlike the year before when this stretch had seemed to take an eternity, progress was good this day.  

I decided against "blasting" up the grass slope to the Byrd Memorial, taking the longer route up the road instead.  As I prepared to make the right turn down to the lookout carpark, I saw Ed coming out, and he had a faraway look in his eye. We had a race on our hands!

I carried my bike up the steps to the lookout, scoping out my descent on the way up.  From the top, it looked like I was going to get wet - showers were starting up over the city.

#10:  Mt Victoria
22 minutes from Mt Crawford to Mt Vic, 4 minutes quicker than last year, on a slower bike on the same route.  Fuel FTW.

Last year, I'd been pretty fucked at this stage, but my route across town (Courtenay Place, Dixon St, Kelburn) had also left a lot to be desired.  Steep pitches, and constant changes in gradient had really had me struggling.  So this year, I changed it up.

I blasted the steps from the lookout, before hurtling down the grass I'd only a few minutes before declined to ascend.  Down the road for a couple of hundred metres, before making a hard right turn into the Wild Wellington descent.  A quick left soon put me on the Dovetail, and before long I was at the Pirie St playground.  

At the bottom of Pirie, I swung left onto Kent Terrace, before crossing over to the Karo Drive cycle path.  As the Basin Reserve traffic hit Buckle, I saw a red light ahead, and figuring it would soon become green, made my way onto the road, hitting the green at Tory, then Taranaki, then Cuba, and finally Victoria Street, pretty much in the flow of traffic.  I had a short stretch up Willis on the footpath, before crossing over onto Aro.  

When Aro kicked up, my legs started to complain.  Both quads were feeling very crampy, and I was not at all keen to experience full-on spasm in those big slabs of meat. Luckily I had a couple of gears left, and as I lightened the load and upped my cadence, the cramps eased.  Sweet - homeward bound.

The steady climb up Raroa Road suited it me, and it was one I'd done rooted a number of times this winter - usually following Ash's spin class in Newtown.  So, this was nothing new.  Before too long, I was at the top, and managed to get the bike moving nicely along the flat.  Traffic at the right turn to Northland Tunnel was non-existent, so I hit Northland Tunnel Road at speed.  As I passed the Northland Road intersection at the far end of the tunnel, I nervously looked right to see if I could see Ed.  No sign of him, and 20 seconds later I was at the shop.  13 minutes for that leg, down from 22 the year before.

Only Alex and Tim were in the shop, with Asher who'd opened up after a short ride with his young son Abe.  Ed arrived a couple of minutes later, and as I popped into the superette next door, I was congratulated by Jitesh, the proprietor.  "You're third" he said with a great big smile!  First Alex, then Tim had gone in with a glazed-over look, and bought chocolate milk, and other assorted goodies.  I was the next shopper that fit that bill, so, he correctly deduced, I must have been third! 

I immediately texted Oli, and, as over the next hour or so, some pretty sharp riders arrived back at the shop, an overwhelming sense of satisfaction started to come over me.  "Skinny Sifter was flying, beat me up the first steep climb to Tinakori summit" was what one of them shared with a buddy the next morning.  Currently at 89kg, I'm not that skinny, and I certainly don't look like the kind of guy to ride well in a hill-climb event.

I'm going to go so far as to say that I think this will go down as one of my most satisfying races.  I was 29 minutes quicker than a year before, and to be only 4 minutes down on Tim, and 12 to Alex, and to beat home a rider of the class of Ed Crossling, among others, is still amazing to me.  It is yet another hint to me of what I might just be capable of given the right "environmental conditions".   I've had an awesome winter, and despite dislocating my shoulder only a month ago, I'm feeling in great shape physically - perhaps better than I've ever been.  

Four and a half years ago I smashed 40 minutes off my Karapoti PB to finish in 2:47 and change.  For most of the intervening time I've believed I would never see that sort of time again.  Today, I'm very much looking forward to proving myself wrong.  I believe in myself more than ever, and I'm very excited about what might be around the corner. 

The Revolve Spring Fling cycle tour, sort of

Wellington is an awesome place to live and ride, and a major part of that for me is the extent to which the mountain bike community is advancing the "sport" through community initiatives.  The range and scale of trail-building projects around the city is one part of this - and I'm proud to be involved.  Another, more recent phenomenon, is Revolve - a "down to earth cycling club for women".

One of the two leaders of this project is my dear friend Ash, and over the last few years, with her buddy Marjolein, she's built up what, from the outside, seems to be a community of women riders who are positively fizzing about the range of bicycle-related opportunities.

While there are few Revolve events I can participate in (I've swung a couple of rides chaperoning Kaitlyn), being excluded is a great excuse to help out as a volunteer.  So, when I was asked to join Ranger Steve in a support-wagon for Revolve's "Spring Fling Cycle Tour", I agreed (with pleasure) and started plotting a bit of riding for myself.

The Spring Fling's format would see the women overnighting in Martinborough and then Lake Ferry in the southern Wairarapa.  There would be MTB and road options, and most of the group would head over on the Friday morning train, returning to Wellington on Sunday.

Friday

I had a shoulder appointment on Friday morning, which gave me an excellent excuse to ride out to Martinborough.  After a couple of tedious hours in a queue (luckily with a brand new Spoke magazine to read cover-to-cover), I'd finally been seen ("oh, you're riding already?" asked the registrar upon seeing me in full roadie kit - I didn't tell him about Day Night Thriller two weeks prior), and left with a physio referral for my troubles.  

I stopped at iRide for a quick bit of lunch, before mounting up.  My sexy Colnago was raring to go, and I was keen to open it up.  Steve had most of my gear with him, but I still had a back-pack with bits and pieces I'd forgotten to give him, some tools, rain-gear, and of course my Spoke magazine.

There was a southerly wind blowing, and I was both pleased to be underway finally, and looking forward to seeing my friends.  The Colnago's 53-tooth front chain-ring was glistening, and I was running my "race wheels".  The upshot of all that was I hauled out to Petone, and then up the Hutt Valley.  My legs started to object as I neared Totara Park, and I finally watched my average speed drop below 40km/h after the 30-odd km up-valley from Wellington.  Great progress!

I stopped briefly at the Caltex for a bit of fuel before getting underway again.  My legs, feeling a little smashed from the drag-race from town, grizzled vigorously at the foothills at Te Marua.  One lake was completely empty, and I was tempted to stop for some photos.  I didn't, for fear of never getting going again.  

The Rimutakas themselves weren't as bad as I was expecting.  Not as steep as the Te Marua climb, the considerably longer hill ticked along nicely, and a good rhythm was only broken by a puncture in a gravel section just below the summit.  

I had a fantastic ride down the Wairarapa side, with clear road the whole way down.  My legs came back to life too, and I knocked out the final 18km to Martinborough in just under 30 minutes.  I'd managed the 75km ride from Ngauranga (where I'd finally remembered to click my rarely-used GPS unit on) in under 2.5 hours riding-time!  Not bad with a 600-odd-metre climb in it!

When I turned into the Martinborough camp-ground, where I'd stayed on a similar trip a couple of years earlier, then were a bunch of familiar faces to greet me.   It was cool to hear about the various rides of the day (MTBers had ridden from Upper Hutt via the Rimutaka Incline...


...and roadies from Masterton via a few hills!) and have a very satisfying shower.  Ash and Steve had set up a tent for me, and all was good in the world!

Soon enough, there began the mumbles about pre-dinner drinks.  Steve and I had been expecting to fend for ourselves, but accepted the invitation to join the women without hesitation.  We all enjoyed a decent feed at a Thai restaurant, and slept well after exertions of the day.

Saturday

The next morning began with a shared breakfast, and before long, the intrepid MTBers were ready to set off on their crossing of the Aorangi Range.


Steve and I had a couple of functions to fulfill during the day - the most important would be relocating the women's overnight gear to Lake Ferry.  While the revolvers got organised to ride, we packed Steve's wagon.  Some women had been staying at another rider's home a kilometre or so away, and once we'd collected gear from there, we found a decent-looking cafe, and enjoyed a second breakfast, the newspaper, and the opportunity to catch up!  

I grabbed some lunch for us from the local supermarket while Steve retrieved some beers from the camp-ground communal fridge, and then we headed south.  We were soon unloading a not insubstantial pile of suitcases and back-packs into room #3 at the Lake Ferry Hotel.  None of the bags were large, but the weight of some had us scratching our heads as to their contents.  Sewing machine?  Bag of cement?!    

Once that job was done and the key returned to the main desk, we jumped back in the vehicle and drove onto the beach, heading East.  Our map showed a route along the beach towards Cape Palliser, but after a kilometre or so, the track petered out, and we turned around.  We soon got to the end of the Aorangi Crossing - where we were expecting 12 intrepid MTBers to appear sometime before dark.  They'd left Martinborough at 9am, and we figured they'd be a while, so decided we'd sneak in a bit of sight-seeing.  

It was about 30km to the Cape Palliser lighthouse - our destination - but on the outskirts of Ngawihi, 5km short of the lighthouse, Steve's phone started hollering.  We stopped, and soon learned that one of the roadies had been caught in a wind gust on the western side of Lake Wairarapa, and needed our assistance.  We duly cancelled our sight-seeing mission, warned the poor woman we'd be a wee while, and turned around!  

At least the drive in itself had been cool.   The coast line is remarkably rugged, and at one point the road traverses what's obviously a very unstable cliff.  Despite feeling very remote, we were only an hour or so from Martinborough, maybe two from Wellington.  I enjoyed the sense of remoteness, which felt at odds with the regularity with which we passed people: fishing, walking, or like one couple I glimpsed among a stand of native bush, sitting on deck chairs in the sun.

We had a couple of stops before we reached the wounded roadie, mostly to try to respond to the urgent calls for help.  By the time we reached her, we thought we had another [wo]man down, and so once we had her on board, we set off to find her compatriot.  We'd just passed through Kahutara when the penny dropped - we already had rescued the "second" wounded rider! No harm, no foul, and we were soon heading south again.

We passed the roadie bunch just before Pirinoa, and when we stopped to fuel up (on diesel and ice creams), the bunch grew by one.  It was good to see the wounded rider climbing back on the proverbial horse.  It was still blustery out, but the final kilometres were uneventful, and no doubt confidence restoring.

The women took full advantage of the "van of awesomeness" and Steve and I set off from Pirinoa with bottles of wine, and chips and dip which had been liberated from the store.  We dropped these off with the advance party - a few had ridden a shorter road route to Lake Ferry - grabbed the bike trailer and my Colnago, and made our way back to the end of the Aorangi Crossing.

We got there just after three, nattered for a bit, and then decided it was time for a nap - thinking about all the riding being done around us had clearly taken its toll on us both.  Around 4pm, we both jolted awake at the sound of voices.  We were both disappointed to see unfamiliar faces.

It was obvious we weren't going to get back to sleep, and some chocolate brownie sealed that deal.  In dire need of something to wash it down with, Steve disappeared out of the truck, and came back a few moments later with a couple of coronas and a lemon.  He grabbed a knife out of the glove-box, and we were soon sporting ear-to-ear grins as we touched bottles and enjoyed the first slug of beer! 

Those downed, we decided we'd go for a walk up the track a bit.  As we made our way up a steep and rocky 4WD road, I fired up the photos I'd taken on my Aorangi Crossing trip all the way back in December 2008. The time stamps on my photos gave Steve and I a baseline for an ETA for the group, but how much slower than "hauling" they were going, we weren't sure.  We walked as far as the paddock where I nearly got trampled, and then turned back. 

Back at the vehicle, we had a nosey around the wood-shed we'd parked next to.  I found an axe, and a chopping block, so started to split wood to while away the time.  We were starting to get nervous about the women, and the impending loss of daylight.  No sooner had I jammed the axe against a nasty knot, than we heard a cheery greeting from the gate yonder, and there was the first of our revolvers.  Whoop whoop!

Nearly nine hours had passed since they set off from Martinborough, but you wouldn't have known it from the demeanour of the women.  They were all smiles, and Steve and I were filled in on the day's events.  We started loading bikes onto the trailer, and as soon as it was full, Steve took off with his truck filled to the gunnels with happy women!

I didn't have to wait long for the next arrivals, and I told them Steve would be back soon!  Ash was the last to arrive, having suffered a pair of punctures (to add insult to the injury of an earlier pair).  I for one was relieved to have everyone in, especially after I'd helpfully (?!) suggested the Aorangi Crossing would be a potential route!

Yo!  Welcome back!

Beefcake, dude, what's with the punctures?!
True to form though, she was just as exuberant as the others had been.  I fetched a corona from its hiding place in the woodshed, and handed it to her, and before long it was doing the rounds!

We headed down to the road, and before too long, Steve was back.  We loaded up, and were soon back in Lake Ferry.

The All Blacks were playing the French in the room next door while the last of us finished off our meals.  Eventually, it was time to hit the sack - I had a tent to myself, and had a better sleep - not only did my borrowed mattress hold air, but I didn't have to worry about kicking Leigh in the face!



Sunday

The following morning was tough, mostly on account of daylight savings kicking in.  What looked like 7 on my watch felt like 6.  But, I was keen to get back to Wellington to see Kaitlyn.  It was wet out, so I left Lake Ferry after a quick breakfast wearing a coat and overtrou. 

The ride up to Featherston was into a bit of a head-wind, and the rain never really made up its mind.  I took my coat-sleeves off for a bit, then back on again, then off again.

Just before Kahutara, I saw a familiar face going the other way - another Alpine May GPS route in production, it turned out.  Just around the corner, I found myself stopping at the start line of a race.  From the funny-looking helmets, I deduced it was a time trial event, and a 2-up time trial to boot.  I was a little bummed to be on my lonesome, so after giving the next pair a 100m head start, I headed off after them.  

I hadn't been feeling particularly flash, so this was a nice incentive to make some progress.  Bike Hutt's Mike Anderson shot past in the opposite direction, and pretty soon Dave Rowlands and Dan Waluszewski came by me, I sped up a little, but didn't want to piss them off so made no attempt to jump on.  My efforts started to take their toll, and the rain had eased, so I made a brief stop to shed my jacket.  I'd just got going again when Steve Chapman and Mike Sim rolled past, and I tailed them at a polite and slowly increasing distance.  

Pretty soon, the turnaround came, at which point I was back on my own.  But, great progress had been made!  I stopped at Featherston for a coffee, and just as I had ruled out any of the counter-food, the woman at the counter suggested some scrambled eggs.  Bingo.  

Before too long, I had a hot meal in my belly, and was saddling up again.  The climb over the Rimutakas was pretty benign, and much better than I'd been expecting - the steep pitch at Te Marua had been the worst after-all, and all in all, my "granny gear" of 39x25 hadn't been too bad.  The descent was fine, though I took the unsealed section near the top pretty slowly, a couple of times pulling over to let cars through.

I had a bit of a fright at Te Marua when hitting a bridge with a nasty seam across the road.  After slamming through the top side, I managed a wee bunny-hop on the down-hill seam saving myself another mildly disturbing millisecond.  

Soon after leaving the Caltex with a full bottle of water, and some food in my pocket, I started staring anxiously at the very large black clouds to the south.  By Silverstream bridge it was starting to spit, and as the rain began in earnest I started to think about catching a train home.  I was just adjacent to the Manor Park station when I realised a train was just pulling in.  I screeched to a halt, jumped over the armco barrier, then tip-toed across the north-bound rails, jumped clumsily onto my bike and hollered at the guard leaning out of the rear carriage.  "Go to the front" he shouted back, and gesticulated ahead "er, don't leave yet".  A minute later, I was handing over some cash - a bloody good trade I thought.  As I sat watching the rain pelt against the windows, I thought about the women who'd be heading around the south coast from the Wairarapa to Eastbourne.  After the experience of the day before, I knew they'd be sweet, despite being a bit wet and cold. 

The roadies ready to bust a move from Lake Ferry

Leigh leads the way through the mess spewed out of the Mukamuka Stream
Progress was fantastic, and less than 30 minutes later, I was rolling out onto Lambton Quay.  I didn't feel bad about taking this easy option - the hill had been good quality riding, and I'd been on the bike for a little over 3 hours and 85km.  I'd only have grovelled home into the wet head-wind - there was no fun to be had in that, and plenty of opportunity for injury.   20 minutes after jumping off the train, I was jumping into a shower, and another 10 minutes had me collecting Kaitlyn, only half an hour or so behind schedule!    

=/=/=/=/=/=

All in all, it was a cool weekend, with some decent riding quality in it, some great company, and a small sense of adventure.  I was super impressed with the MTBers - that Aorangi Crossing was getting tougher and tougher in my mind as the day wore on, and I was fully expecting some very broken and pissed off women.  But, not at all!  Despite at least one having apparently more gear than I took on the entire Kiwi Brevet, they'd made great progress over some at times demanding terrain, AND, had finished with great big smiles on their faces.  Stellar!  It was cool to hang with Steve, as always, and I think we both enjoyed doing our bit towards making the weekend a success.  

If you're a woman, live in Wellington. and have even an inkling to ride a bike, you should at the very least be on the Revolve email list.  Contact info@revolvecycling.co.nz to sign up to a weekly newsletter, or check them out on Facebook.  There are women just like you itching to go riding with you, they are super friendly, and very cool.  And, we're all lucky they're out there.

Thanks to Revolve and Ranger Steve for an awesome weekend!