Friday, December 18, 2009

Ross's Rouleurs Roll Round Taupo

Back in early September, I posted my training plan through to the Kiwi Brevet (Feb 5+, 2010). This had been devised mainly by my training partner, mentor, coach and friend, Simon Kennett, with various goals in mind. Fitness and all the associated goodies should be well looked after, but the list also accommodated a whole bunch of exciting rides and races which would promise to keep us well entertained.

My last update on vorb took us through to the end of October, culminating in me knocking off a long-term goal - circumnavigating the Tararua Ranges in 1 day.

12/9 MTBO (check, disastrous!))
19/9 120km (check)
26/9 150km (check)
3/10 (WVCC Featherston ride, riding over on Friday evening, riding somewhere nice on Saturday, 80km funride on Sunday, then back over the hill and train from Upper Hutt - check).
10/10 (B grade race Eastbourne - Wainui? - hailed out)
17/10 80km (midnight century earlier in the week, probably Tuesday night after work, 160km finishing around 12) (replaced by Mt Climie ride, no midnight century)
24/10 350km ('s International Day of Action - check!!!!)

Since then, here's what's happened:

31/10 0km (still sleeping - not even ow! Cruisy ride in the Hutt Valley)
7/11 rest
14/11 200km+ (New Plymouth to Ohakune via the Forgotten Highway. Friday evening to Stratford, Saturday as far as we can cope with before calling the Waaambulance... Check!)
21/11 Speedwork? (not quite - 8 ascents of Mt Vic...)
28/11 200km (Taupo with the family. 40km from house at Motuoapa to Taupo, first leg at race pace, 120km with Dad, Sis and Bro back to Taupo). check!
5/12 Makara Peak Rally - check!
12/12 MTBO - check!

Which brings us to the future:

19/12 Mangaone Walkway?
26/12 ?
2/1 ?
9/1 ?
16/1 WVCC 2 Day Tour?
23/1 ?
30/1 Akatarawa Attack (8 hour MTBO)
6/2 Kiwi Brevet

Incredibly, things have gone very much to plan, despite both Simon and I having reasonably hectic and unpredictable lives. We've supplemented the weekend activities with a hill-climb session, and the odd ride around the bays, as well as some secret training, possibly speed burger and ice-cream consumption...

Taupo was an interesting one, which came at me out of the blue this time last year. I'd recently participated for the first time and had had a real blast. I was chilling at my folks' place when Dad said "I think we should do that as a team next year". It wasn't absolutely clear to me what he meant - although I own enough bikes to bring the family's average to more than one per person, my brother Dave is the only one who I could confidently say had ridden a bike this decade. We'd done a fantastic cycle tour early in 2008 but apart from that, I was the only one who'd touched a bike since. It soon became clear that Dad had in mind a team consisting him, my (non-cycling) sister Millie, Dave, and myself. Months later, it was still on the cards, despite no one (except me) touching a bike, so I let my fingers do the walking, and pretty soon Ross's Rouleurs were entered in the relay. Kaitlyn would be there for support in the last 5km as a Heart Rider.

As the big date dawned nearer, Dad got stuck into indoor training - on his exercycle in front of the TV. He'd been building up to an hour's pedalling, at which point I asked him how far he was "travelling". My jaw dropped when he said only 10km, and I made it a priority to get over there to observe. Needless to say, it was lucky he didn't fire his kneecaps across the room. I wound the resistance back to 2 (from about 7 or 8 out of 10) and told him to leave it there!

Various bike-related dramas were overcome in November, and I even got out for a ride or two with Millie. Dave was mostly too busy, but borrowed my bike the week before, and did some sprint training on top of his January 2008 volume base. I failed miserably on the costume front - originally Dad had suggested the team be riding in Roadworks colours, but creative differences put it all in the too hard basket (sitting inside the very expensive basket) and I procrastinated until a solution was no longer possible. Nonetheless, two of us waved the flag...

We made our way up to Taupo in two cars. Mum, Dad, Kaitlyn and I were accompanied by Simon, who'd be captaining the Kennett Brothers' triple tandem. With 5 bikes on the back, and 5 bods in the car, a rather long shuttle trip for a bike ride was at least enjoyed by many! We drove through to Taupo, registered, said goodbye to Simon, and bought provisions for dinner and the morning's breakfast, then headed back South to our accommodation in Motuoapa - at the leg 4 relay transition.

The logistics had been a bit of a challenge - with so many bikes, riders, and hangers-on, I'd almost boiled dry trying to work it all out. In the end it looked something like this:

  • John: ride to Taupo, do first leg for Ross's Rouleurs, continue around back to Taupo in support of others
  • Ross: drive (early) to Taupo, catch bus to leg 2 transition, ride leg 2, catch bus back to Taupo
  • Dave: drive (early) to Taupo, catch bus to leg 3 transition, ride leg 3, and either bus back to Taupo, or ride
  • Millie: sleep in, wake up, cross road, ride leg 4 to Taupo
  • Kaitlyn: drive (later) to Taupo, ride 5km
  • Carly: (as per Millie)
  • Suze: driver (later)
  • Brigette: soigneur (later)
Dad and Dave's bikes had been left at Taupo the night before. Carly had entered for the Solo, so as to legitimately take part, but was keen just to do the last leg. Unfortunately, this landed Dad and Dave with a bit of waiting around, but apart from that it didn't rely too heavily on event transport or Mum hurtling around ferrying people.

I woke sometime before 6, ate, kitted up, and headed off towards Taupo. I hadn't had a long sleep, but did sleep well, after spending much of the evening prepping various bikes, helmets and jerseys for the event, and making sure people would have clothes waiting for them when they finished, and that my food would be replenished with each new rider. I cruised along enjoying the early morning fresh air. Around Hatepe Hill I caught up with a few Enduro riders. But for Dad's suggestion, there was no doubt in my mind I would have been competing with them, against the lake and the clock. I took advantage of the portaloos at the top of the hill, confusing Dad and Dave who'd passed me in the car, and doubled back to see if I wanted a ride. Far from vanishing into thin air, when I emerged from the loo, they looked fairly relieved (to go with my literal relief).

When I arrived in Taupo, the Solo riders were setting off. I bumped into at least one vorber (shmoodiver), and Richard Arnold, a colleague from work. I decided to dump my knee warmers, and popped these into my drop bag before getting into the fastest relay start group, and getting ready to race.

I made sure I wasn't too far back in the start wave, and within 100m or so, was chasing the leaders pretty hard. I spent the next while hammering along in the middle of the road, passing an incredible number of solo riders with my dozen or so "mates". I'd told a few confidants that I wanted to send Dad off at the front of the field, and was keen to work hard to see that happen. Consequently, I worked hard with the small bunch, and pushed the pace on the hills. Eventually, we came to the end of leg one, and I positioned myself to turn off into the paddock to meet Dad. All the others were doing 80km, and I saw one in Taupo, who seemed a little annoyed at me for working them so hard! He got no apology...

I was incredibly proud of Dad. We started too fast, and had to slow down a bit so he could catch his breath. The hills came time and time and time again, and he kept his short little legs ticking over. When his seat clamp loosened, I cursed my lack of preparedness, but managed to borrow an allen key to sort it out, while he kept his short little legs ticking over until I was ready. I'd been taking off my jacket on a climb (was it raining, or not, or was it?) when I spotted an official photographer up the road. I had to sprint after Dad, but it was worth it!

After a couple of hours grovelling, during which we spotted Oli blasting past on the outside, we made it to the transition. Dave was there to meet us, and after a bit of faffing around, we had Dad wrapped up, eating, and safe and sound, and we were set to get out there. After pulling out the great Stickmen quote - "we're not here to fuck spiders", I did Dave's bidding, put my head down, and rode, like the good domestique that I am.

We passed this hot chick on a hot Eddy Merckx on Kuratau Hill, and after asking after her health, we continued our work. Sporadically, I'd look back to see how Dave was getting on. Invariably, he'd be red in the face, hunched over the handlebars with sweat dripping off his chin, and invariably he'd motion me to get back to what I was doing.

I estimate we passed over 500 riders as we blasted along, and it was a pleasure to be out there! I inadvertently dropped him a couple of times on the flat around Turangi, but most of my time he was stuck to my rear wheel like the proverbial to fur (and a couple of others to his rear wheel)!

When we arrived at Motuoapa, it crossed my mind that Millie and Carly were still in bed. They weren't but nor had they received the heads-up phone call from Dad that had been pre-arranged. No matter... Dave and I rode through the transition, and met them on the highway across from the house. They set off towards Taupo, while I scooted back around the block to leave their drop-bag which had been left out of the second car, but would get to Taupo via the organisers.

This leg was a long one - about an hour longer than when I'd done it alone in the morning, but it was great to see Millie out on a bike, pushing herself in a way which she'd probably never imagined! Carly was ticking along nicely, and benefitting from a much more structured build up, and a bit of cycling in her past. By the time we got to the top of Hatepe, my legs were starting to feel pretty shot, particularly as I'd tried to ride alongside Millie up the hill, and give her a helping nudge, To do so had required incredibly low cadence, and after 180km, my knees weren't so keen.

I raced Dave down the hill, and sadly missed the sights and sounds of Millie and Carly hooning and hooting! Near the airport rise, I was over it, and when Dave challenged me to another race, I decided I'd show him who's boss! After cresting the hill, I realised I was moving about as fast as the line of cars, and rode the next few kilometres to where Kaitlyn was waiting in their draft.

Dave, Millie and Carly arrived eventually, and no sooner had we thought departure was imminent then Millie jabbed on the front brake, and was down on the ground. First aid was administered, and Kaitlyn finally got the ride that she'd been waiting for. I was incredibly proud of her, and it was lovely to see her all red in the cheeks after a hard effort. Millie was overcome with energy and soloed away to the finish...

... while the rest of us stayed in a bunch and all recorded the same time!

We'd done it, and everyone had every right to be proud of their achievement. Kaitlyn ended up 6th fastest girl out of about 76 starters, and the rest of us had had a good honest ride. Dave's got an incredible amount of raw power, and as I think I said back in January 08, I'd hate to think what he'd be capable of trained. Carly had an awesome ride, and absolutely nailed the Hatepe climb and descent, despite being very anxious about them. Millie did too, and probably challenged her limits more than any of us. And as for Dad, he was a machine on the hardest leg of all! I had every confidence in him, and he came up trumps. I don't know what on earth put the idea in his mind, but it was inspired.

And, if he ever comes up with such a crazy idea again, he'll be in bloody trouble...


  1. What an epic tale - well done to all of Ross's Rouleurs!

  2. Heh heh. Someone's been googling Taupo!