Sunday, September 20, 2015

A rainy Sunday outing with Kaitlyn

The highlight of just about every Sunday morning is picking Kaitlyn up from her mum's, and being reunited is usually celebrated by doing something as a family of four.  We've been on some cracker rides together, most recently on the Timber Trail, and I've also had some wonderful rides this year with just Khulan or Sarah's company.

Today offered a rare opportunity for Kaitlyn and I to do something together.  Khulan was signed up for the second race at PNP's Spring Series at Wainuiomata Trail Park, and Sarah was keen to get out on her road bike for a bit. 

Inspired by Roadworks team-mate Kerrin's recent ride out to the Wainui Coast and around to Eastbourne, I hatched a plan for Kaitlyn and I to emulate his ride (sans the nasty climb into Wainui!).  We'd deliver Khulan to her race, and do our ride from there.  Sarah could collect Khulie and the car at the tail-end of her road ride, and then meet us in Eastbourne.  Not at all complicated...!

The fly in the ointment was the weather.  Kaitlyn and I had a brief txt exchange this morning:  "How inclined are you to go for a ride in unlovely conditions?!" elicited the delightful response:  "I think I would still be keen to ride. Unless it's super duper unlovely".  And then it was off to pack the storm gear!

Not long after, the plan had mostly been enacted, though Sarah had sensibly pulled the pin on her ride and so we had a tweaked collection plan. 

We arrived at Wainui about 35 minutes before Khulie's race was due to start.  She got herself organised, while Kaitlyn and I cowered in the car for a bit longer.  We waited with her until she was set to go, and wished her a good race.

We were on our own bikes a few minutes later.  I had a few snacks in my backpack, but thought we should probably pick something up at the supermarket.  At the last minute, I changed my mind and we headed for the BP instead.  We ordered two hot chocolates (one with a double-shot of coffee), and I grabbed a couple of cookies and a small bag of chocolate-covered raisins.

When we'd pulled in, I thought there was a slim chance we'd go no further than the BP, but once our bellies were full of hot drink, the weather seemed slightly less bad.  A sign on our left suggested it was 20km to the coast, and our turn-off was a few kilometres short of that.  Not so bad...?

I had three layers on - a merino shirt with a fleece front, a short-sleeved Gabba, arm-warmers and my parka.  I was also wearing my Ground Effect overtrou, and my roadie booties.  I had my buff around my neck, a beanie under my helmet, and some neoprene gloves on.  The car thought it was 8-degrees when we left it, but the windchill was worth most of those.  It was bloody cold, though I was cosy. 

Kaitlyn less so, and at the Moore's Valley shops, she inherited my buff, and soon after that, she got my sunnies too - her wee face was looking pretty pink on account of the wind and drizzle, and I suspected she was also getting a bit of spray in her face off my rear wheel.

For the next hour or so we rode down-valley, enjoying the offsetting effect of gravity over the nasty headwind.  It was still hard work, but a damn sight better than it would have been on the flat, or heaven forbid, a climb. 

Despite racing along these roads quite a few times, and the occasional training ride, I didn't recall ever taking in the surroundings to the same extent.  From time to time I'd drift into the centre of the lane and ride alongside Kaitlyn for a bit, chatting briefly before the next car would force me back in front.  I told her how horrible it was to race here in a northerly wind.  "You get to the coast feeling like superman, and then turn back uphill and into the wind.  Bam, it's like you've hit a wall..."

At one point someone's driveway had belched a lot of gravel onto the road.  I held my line and shouted back "we're about to do some mountain biking!"  Sometimes it's bloody nice to ride on the road and actually enjoy the blemishes!

We passed horses and sheep, and the odd cattle.  They were clearly not enjoying the wind-chill either, and some had the common sense to hide behind something.  I found this increasingly endearing each time I saw it, and finally decided I'd better stop and grab the camera out.

Kaitlyn wrapped up warm, and a couple of sheep hiding behind a wall...
A sudden downpour made me regret the stop, but three or four minutes later we were sheltering at the Rimutaka Forest Park's information centre.  It was not only nice to have a roof over our head temporarily, but it was also a nice milestone on our slog to the southern-most point of our ride.  We celebrated by sharing a chocolate and apricot cookie, and continued to watch the rain fall!

We watched and watched, and though the rain didn't ease much, I decided getting wet was a lesser evil than cooling down too much more.  Both sets of legs were noticably sluggish after our break, and it seemed like the wind was picking up too.  I struggled to get my pacing right, often looking back to see Kaitlyn 50 metres behind, and was relieved when the bridge over the Wainuiomata River finally came into sight. 

I was still warm, with the exception of my right hand.  I couldn't operate my phone with the glove on, and every time I took a photo, the glove had to come off.  With the exception of my face and neck, and a couple of inches above my socks, this was the only skin exposed to the elements.  

I'd made the mistake of leaving the glove off for the duration of our rest at the visitor's centre.  The problem wasn't so much that my hand had cooled down, but that all the water saturating the glove had become cold, and the effect on my hand was not great.  The gloves insulate well when warm inside, but when a hand goes in cold, they basically function like a tinnie-cooler does.  Go figure... 

In any case, photos were more important than my comfort, so off and on it repeatedly went! 

The end of the road!
Immediately after the bridge it was a little unclear which way to go.  There was a sign pointing to the left that said "Main track", with arrows to various other things, including a trig and bunkers, but no lighthouse.  The gravel road went right, and we took this option over the indistinct, and decidedly less "main"-looking track.

With the exception of the very inside of the first and only switchback corner, which Kaitlyn inadvertantly chose to ride, the gradient was pretty mellow, and for the meantime, we seemed to be a wee bit sheltered from the wind.  Before long, we got our first glimpse of the ocean, and I think we were both glad that we hadn't stuck to the road below us.

We got a nice surprise as we rounded the corner soon after - we were at the top!!  We crossed the narrow ridge, and the road almost immediately tipped down.  And, it was nice to be riding our mountain bikes in terrain they were designed for!

We were soon at an intersection, and I gave Kaitlyn a choice:  grovel into the headwind for a visit to the Baring Head lighthouse, or save it for a warmer day.  She bravely chose the longer option, and so we started to grovel, as promised.

The climb onto the headland was mellow, but the wind was strong and cold, and we'd been out in it for over two hours by this stage.  It was taking its toll on Kaitlyn's energy levels and consequently her speed.  We decided to get off and walk for a bit, and when I stopped to take my damn glove off again, I suggested she keep going. 

Baring Head ahoy!

Rainstorms in the harbour entrance, and on the South Coast
The wet glove was getting harder to put on each time, and I fumbled around with it for quite a while.  I figured I'd be chasing Kaitlyn for a bit, but when I turned to go after her, I was surprised to see she'd stopped only a few metres beyond where she'd been when I turned away from her a minute earlier. 

When I reached her, I saw why she'd stopped.  There was a gate across the road, indicating private property, and the track to the lighthouse was indicated off to the left.  She'd sensibly waited for me at the intersection.

Despite now being on a barely-worn track on the grass, the going wasn't noticably harder than on the gravel road.  As a consequence, we soon reached the top of the cliff above the Cook Strait, and though the view east was spectacular, the wind was trying to tear my helmet off and I decided to keep my camera in my pocket. 

We made our way through a gate into what was presumably the lighthouse keeper's garden, and found a perfectly located picnic table.  It had a great view, but more importantly, it was sheltered from the biting southerly. 

Snack stop number two!
It really was cold, and the riding from here was all going to be not only wind assisted but we had elevation to peel off too.  I figured we were only going to get colder from here on in, and recommended Kaitlyn put her down jacket on under her raincoat.  My lightweight synthetic-insulation jacket went on too, and we enjoyed a One Square Meal bar each.  They weren't as soft and gooey as I was hoping, despite having been in my pocket for the duration.  They really are better in warm conditions!

I'd been surprised to hear my cell phone notify incoming communications just above the switchback on the climb out of the valley, and was surprised yet again when it rang now.  It was Sarah - she told me my parents had arrived to see Khulan finish her race, and as a result she now had a means of getting my manual car out of Wainui.  I imagined Khulie was in desperate need of a shower, so wasn't surprised that she said they'd head home.  I thought we'd be about an hour, and promised to let Sarah know when we got to the roadend, at which point she'd come to get us.

On a fine summer's day, it would have been great to wander around the grounds, and check out the lighthouse for longer, but we made do with a quick photo, and then it was back onto the bikes. 
"Strike a pose!!"
Having battled into the wind for so long, having it at our backs and a bit of gravity-assist was quite a treat.  We were soon on flat ground, but the wind alone was still excellent.

We passed a small quarry, a steep 4WD road to our right (which we both agreed we were glad not to be taking), and were ourselves passed by a couple of SUVs which had appeared out of nowhere. 

I'd expected it to take a lot longer, so was pleasantly surprised when the hulk of the S.S. Paiaka came into view (wrecked in 1906, and alongside the road since 1987, according to the memorial stone, which I read just now on the internet - it's a lot warmer there, and more suited to lingering).  We'd been here on a family ride with Brendan and Simon a couple of months ago, and I'm sure any nervousness Kaitlyn might have had about the remaining distance eased a little.  I was regularly checking in with her, but she was reporting being warm, and feeling OK, if not a little tired.

S.S. Paiaka
The scenery continued to be frustratingly good, and I'd long ago committed to putting some words to the images I was collecting, and so the glove kept coming off!
Pencarrow Light(s)
I was surprised to see Kau Kau sitting above Seatoun as we rode around Pencarrow Head - a fascinating reminder of how far south we were.   

Just north of Inconstant Point, we spotted half a dozen surfers, and we stopped to admire their fortitude.  No doubt the guy that waved to us as he made his way back along the beach to put in again was thinking the same about us! 

Surf's up!
We saw the surfers' bikes stashed in the bushes, and I wondered how on earth they'd managed to transport their boards into the wind.  Maybe there was some sort of a trailer apparatus that I hadn't noticed in amongst the bikes?

The road-end soon came into view, and I kicked myself for not telling Sarah I had a spare car key with me, and to ask that they leave the Corolla in Seaview.  Despite promising to ring at the road-end, I figured another 10 minutes waiting in the cafe at Days Bay was no bad thing, and opted to keep my hand out of the elements until we got there.

We rode the Esplanade path, and enjoyed some of the unique architecture we passed, including a house that was shaped like a boat.  I realised how much of my riding is done with my head down these days, and really appreciated how I'd been able to look around a bit more on this ride. 

Kaitlyn was enjoying doing the same, I think, and while she wasn't quite as perky as she'd been early on, she was still ticking along at a good pace, thanks to the wind, and her not inconsiderable fitness and tenacity! 

As we arrived into Days Bay, I got a lovely surprise, seeing a wee yellow car which I instinctively knew was my parents'.  A couple of parking bays down was our Suzuki, and just beyond that, the Corolla!  Awesome!

We headed straight for the cafe, and bumped into not only Mum, Dad, Sarah and Khulan, but my bro Ed, his lady Jean, and his mum, Linda.  What a small world!  After a whirlwind of hi's and bye's, we found a table close to a heater, and went in to order a late lunch!

The insulating layer we'd both put on under our coats, and the relative lack of rain since, meant we weren't actually too cold, and the hot food and heater meant we didn't become the shivering wrecks I'd imagined Sarah would arrive to.

It was lovely to hear about Khulan's race, and what Sarah and my folks had been doing, but eventually the draw of a hot shower became too great, and it was time to break into three lots of two, and drive back into town.

Despite the ridiculous conditions, Kaitlyn and I were both so glad we'd stuck to our guns and headed out, as we'd predicted not 15 minutes into the ride.  Despite barely touching her bike since the Timber Trail ride, being too busy with school, or football, or other weekend activities, or from aversion to riding wet singletrack close to home, Kaitlyn had once again risen to the challenge. 

Two Yetis, after jobs well done!
We covered almost 43km, spending about three hours on our bikes and close to four hours out in the elements.  We'd managed not to get too wet, nor too cold, and as a result were able to regard the ride as a roaring success.  

God-damn it was good to get out, and thanks so much to Kaitlyn for making it so (not to mention Sarah and Khulan for also facilitating it).  I'm sure we'd have found something nice to do while Khulie was racing, but cheating the elements in the way we did was something special. And, the foulness definitely added to the sense of adventure we both felt! 

I truly have a remarkable family, each and every one of them, and our time together, in twos, threes or four is often worth celebrating.  What a lucky and proud man I am.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A weekend in Nelson

If the little arrival card in Nelson had asked the purpose of my visit, I would have ticked both Business and Pleasure...  This was a weekend of two halves.


The trip came somewhat out of left-field.  My new team-mate and friend, Brendan McGrath, had been invited to ride for Placemakers in the 5th round of the Calder Stewart Cycling Series (previously the Benchmark series), but as race day neared, the team was looking short a rider or two, and he asked if I was interested.  It would be a new experience, so after running the idea past my family, agreed.

Sarah initially decided she'd hang at home with Khulie, but once plans for a couple of sleep-overs were disclosed, I was back onto the internet to organise more transport!

The schedules were a bit awkward - I had a busy day at work on Friday, and didn't much like the look of the premium fares on the Friday evening.  Instead, I booked the first flight down on Saturday morning, due to arrive at about 8:30.

Brendan had taken advantage of Bluebridge's sponsorship of the WORD programme, and fewer work commitments, and had booked himself on the Friday morning ferry.  As race day drew nearer, his car filled up:  first with my race bike and kit, then with Sarah, and finally with Brendan's wife and son!  Space was soon at a premium!

I dropped Sarah off at sparrow's fart on Friday morning, a little bit worried that she might be in for a rough crossing - her ship's departure was delayed due to heavy seas meaning it had arrived late!  EEK! Khulie and I took advantage of the early hour, and grabbed breakfast at Fidel's before school.  There, we bumped into WORD founder, Ashley Burgess, who was very pleased to hear that the discount was being put to good use.

At work, I tried not to think too much about Sarah - trying to avoid both envy and concern.  She'd taken her own bike and had decided to ride from Picton to Nelson.  Shortly after 6pm, she arrived in Nelson, having had no problems knocking out the 110km from the ferry terminal to the accommodation we'd booked near the centre of town.   The weather had got a little inclement towards the end, but she'd taken it all in her stride, such is her way.

I had a bit of an early start on Saturday, but made time for my stock start to the day:  a big bowl of porridge and a coffee.  I said goodbye to Khulie, and had a quick drive across town to the airport.  My parents arrived soon after, and I handed over my spare car key, and let them know where I'd left the car.  Bless them, it was going to be waiting for us in town on Sunday night, saving Brendan dropping us home.

The flight was running to schedule, which meant there should be little stress associated with getting to the race on time.  After coffee number two with my parents, I boarded, and soon after was disembarking in sunny Nelson.  The strong southerly winds I'd been buffeted by on the way to the car were non-existent here, which was a lovely surprise.

Brendan's wife, Jenny, flagged me down in the terminal, and I was soon in the back seat of the car.  We didn't have a huge amount of time, so one of my tasks was to get into my riding shorts.  "Now would be a very bad time to look in the rear-view mirror, Brendan..."

They'd kindly organised coffee number three for me, and once I was suitably clothed again, that was the focus of my attention.

The drive to Upper Moutere took 20 minutes or so, and we arrived at about 9am.  The race was due to start at 10.  We quickly found our team-mates, and I was handed a Placemakers skinsuit by Peter Murphy, the third north-islander on the team.  Getting changed a second time was somewhat easier with everyone else out of the car!

We lined up for a team photo (minus one team-mate, and plus one photo-bomber), and then I was off for a warm-up.  I'd been shelled in a local handicap race two weeks earlier, having started with no warm up to speak of, and I was determined for that not to happen again.

L-R:  Brendan, myself, Peter, Justin and another Brendan
It was good to spend close to 30 minutes spinning the legs.  Just before heading to the start-line, I gave Sarah a quick kiss, and smashed back a tin of creamed rice.  Then it was time to line up.

Fortunately, one of my team-mates asked if I'd signed in.  I hadn't, and so the few minutes remaining before the start were slightly less relaxed than they might have been.  But, I was able to quickly find the table I needed, sign in, and then rejoin the bunch at the start line.

We were warned of a dodgy bridge we'd be crossing around the 30km mark, and then we were sent on our way.

I really enjoyed the first 30 minutes or so, riding near the front of the bunch for the most part.  My task was a relatively simple one:  help Justin, sitting in second place in the series, to finish ahead of Brent Allnut, the masters' (35-44 years old) series leader, riding for the Thule team.

Allnut was wearing the leader's jersey, so was easy to spot.  Between my height, and my somewhat upright position on the bike, I was able to keep track of who was up the road, and in particular the locations of Allnut and Justin.  We'd been encouraged to roll off the front in these first kilometres, to see who was up for what.

About 20 minutes in, there was a decent sized bunch up ahead.  Brendan and Justin were up there, but Allnut wasn't.  Nor was Dave Rowlands, who'd not started the first round, but had won the next three.  He started working his way up to the front of the bunch, and I gave him a good shout as I accelerated past. He jumped on my wheel, and we flogged ourselves for the next minute or two.  We managed to ride across the gap, but Dave's exit had sparked some life into the peloton, and they too had closed the gap.

We managed to find each other a few minutes later, and agreed that we'd wasted a hell of a lot of energy for no gain!

There were no real hostilities for the next half an hour or so, and eventually we came to the bridge we'd been warned about.  I was at the very front, and was slightly bemused to see the decking was actually in really good shape.  The organisers neutralised the race, and we slowed to a crawl.  It wasn't clear why, but they kept the speed low for almost 5 minutes, causing a bit of chaos at the front.  Sarah and Jenny, driving in the race convoy in support of our team, explained later that someone had crashed on the bridge, and the low speed was to enable them to get back on (to their bike, and then to the peloton).

Once the lead vehicle cleared out, the pace ramped up, and I found myself at the front.  I had team-mates immediately behind, and they urged me on.  We negotiated a tricky wee bridge, and I ramped up the pace again, "KEEP GOING, KEEP GOING..." ringing in my ears.  It was exhilarating drilling it into a light headwind at almost 50km/h, though after a few minutes (which felt like an eternity), I started to fade, and swung off.  1, 2 Placemakers came by, and then Allnut, and then another Placemaker.  He shouted "yep", and at that point I realised we'd gapped the peloton.  I swung onto the wheel, sucking in air, and was soon lapping through again.

We were in a great position, 4-on-1, and it was time to ensure that it stayed that way.  Everyone was working, though I was really struggling to roll through, still reeling from my big effort on the front.  I was very glad to have Brendan's company, and the presence of team leaders and series contenders Justin, and Brendan Akeroyd.  They were vocal, and it was good to know I wasn't going to have to think too much for myself.  Just the way I like it.

After 10 minutes or so, none other than Dave Rowlands arrived.  He later described the difficulty he'd had breaking clear of the bunch behind, only to then face the equally difficult task of riding across to us.

L-R:  Justin, Brent, moi, Brendan, Dave, Brendan A
No sooner were we six, than all of a sudden we were down to five again - Brent Allnut had vanished!!!!  Still not fully recovered, I momentarily let myself off the hook.  I eased off, subconsciously feeling like my work was done, and was instantly gapped by the others.  They had a quick meeting, and decided they wanted to keep me around.  I was told to hurry my arse up, and was soon taking turns again.

Things never really let up.  We rotated generally pretty well, but every now and then someone would skip a turn, and we'd reorder.  Sometimes I had trouble rolling through, sometimes not, but the scenario was a great one, and so it was just a matter of enduring, and working as hard as I was able.

And then there were five...
The race was 122km long, and we'd broken clear at about 40km, and as the kilometres ticked on, my legs started to feel more and more stuffed.  We'd had a few time checks, and our gap was well over a couple of minutes by the time we hit the two-hour mark.

Sarah, Jenny and Fletcher's view from Convoy #1
There were no real hills in the first 100km, and the few short climbs we had faced had been done in a somewhat gentlemanly fashion.  By the time we reached Neudorf Hill with a few kilometres to go, my legs were absolutely shot.  Looking down, I could see my feet going round, but I couldn't feel my legs at all.  Our gap was 3 minutes, and while I probably could have stayed clear of the peloton if the others had ditched me on that hill, I was glad they didn't.  As soon as gravity was on my side again, my strength came back and I again felt like I was actually controlling my pedalling!  It was good to have company, and even better knowing we were almost done.  I was REALLY looking forward to stopping.

With an eye on the series, Brendan and I were told we'd be finishing 4th and 5th, which suited us down to the ground, and we cruised the last 500m home, watching the other three duke it out for stage honours about 30 seconds ahead of us.  Dave took the win, with Justin 2nd, and Brendan Akeroyd 3rd.  Brent Allnut lead the bunch home, two minutes behind Brendan and I.

For the Placemakers team, the race had been a roaring success.  While we didn't get the stage win, Justin taking the lead in the series had been the primary goal, and by virtue of the three riders between him and Brent Allnut, he was now the series leader by 6 points, with one race to go.  Placemakers also strengthened their hold on the Team prize.

Unfortunately, the after match was a bit of a fizzer.   The local dairy/cafe seemed to be indulging in daylight robbery, so turned us off grabbing a coffee in there.  Also, the Elite race was longer than ours, and had started later, so there was quite a wait for prizegiving.  Half our team, Justin included, had imminent flights back to Christchurch.  So, our prizegiving consisted of a team photo, with Justin proudly sporting the leader's jersey!

In many ways, it was nice to be off the hook.  Sarah, Jenny and Fletcher had been very patient with us, and not having to endure a lengthy prizegiving was a sure bonus.

The McGraths dropped Sarah and I back at our accommodation, and after a shower, we went for a stroll around down-town Nelson.  It was surprisingly deserted, but we found things to do, including beer and fries at a pub (!!!), a trip to the supermarket - much more up my alley - and then an early dinner.
Not too smashed to smile for the camera!
After we'd had our dinner, Brendan picked us up, and we hung out with them for a couple of hours, reliving the race-glory, and enjoying apple pie, custard and ice-cream!  Then, back to town for a solid sleep.


Sarah and I were almost ready to leave when my 8:30 alarm went off.  I insisted it was to wake us up, not to send us on our way.

We'd already scrambled some eggs - not the same without a bit of salt - and knocked back a packet of English muffins with nutella.  Before dropping our bags off with Brendan, we found a cafe in town, and enjoyed a quick coffee to supplement the nasty instant we'd had in our room.

It was a little tricky deciding what to wear - we again staring down the barrel of a glorious day.

We didn't take a particularly efficient route out of town, and were lucky to see the McGrath family making their way into town for brunch.  They'd booked-a-bach opposite the end of a cycle path that took them straight into the city centre, and were making the most of the opportunity for a family ride.

We ditched our bags on the deck of their place, admiring the stunning views left and right, and then it was time to hit the road.

Looking west...
... and north

We stuck to the cycle-path for quite a while, but all the time coveting the relatively uncomplicated riding the shoulder of SH6 would offer.  Mercifully, the path came to an end after a few kilometres, and there was no further need to duck and dive, and cross roads, and brake, and accelerate, etc, etc.

A sign reading 141km to the "Wellington Ferry" gave me a bit of a laugh.  Being a Wellingtonian, I've only ever thought of it as the "Picton Ferry", and it was also amusing to think that cars were being encouraged to take a route 40km longer than ours.

My legs were feeling surprisingly good, miraculously good even, which was both a pleasant surprise, and a relief.  I really wanted to ride with Sarah, and would have done so come hell or high water, and it was nice to discover I wasn't going to have to suffer through it.

She's slowly but surely got the hang of drafting, and sat close behind me through to the bottom of the Whangamoa climb.  There, I let her take point, and enjoyed the solid pace she set.  Towards the top she faded a wee bit, but it was nonetheless impressive, and the thought of her collecting additional Strava trophies made me laugh a little to myself.

The descent was a rip-snorter, and before long we were into the second of two major climbs of the day.  Half way up the Rai Saddle climb I passed Sarah, and made the most of my climber's rig.  Despite buying this new race bike over four months ago, I've still only ridden it a handful of times, and it was nice to be clocking up a few k's on it!

Sarah atop Rai Saddle
The summit came quickly, and on account of Sarah passing this way a couple of days earlier, we negotiated the 100m unsealed section halfway down the descent without fright nor problem.

We had plenty of time up our sleeves, but apparently no inclination to stop at Rai Valley.  Instead, we pressed on to Pelorus Bridge, enjoying the stunning scenery both upstream and downstream of the bridge, before popping in to the cafe on the far side.

If only I'd packed my togs!!!
I really wanted a pie, but wasn't actually feeling particularly hungry or low on energy, so made do with a cheese scone and a coffee.  A big fat kereru put on a nice show for us while we ate, and we made use of the handy toilet before mounting up again.

My favourite NZ bird

And now a word from our sponsors...  Or a hat-tip to one, at least!
Havelock was the next stop, and en route I admired the new bridge near Canvastown, and remembered fondly the various times I'd passed through here:  on the Kiwi Brevet, a dirt cycle-tour with Simon, and another with Marjolein.  Simon and I would certainly have made good use of that bridge at the end of the Nydia day!  We made use of the first decent cell-phone coverage since Nelson, and I smashed back another cheese scone!

The short climb out of Havelock afforded us great views of Havelock itself, and up into the mountains south of the Wairau Valley.

Looking south
The views north were the best though, and posing several objects of my affection made the sights even better!

Once we'd descended towards Linkwater, we hit one of the worst bits of road I've ever ridden, and it brought back horrible memories from the Graperide.  Then, I wrote:

Life got temporarily quite horrible when we hit one of NZ's stretches of cheap seal.  I suppose Simon was able to observe the hit our speed took, while the only feedback I got was nasty vibration through my hands, feet and arse.  It lasted a couple of kilometres, and when we finally got to the end of it, I did divert enough energy to mutter "thank god".

Yep, the road is still bad, and apparently I said "thank god" at the end this time too!

Queen Charlotte Drive, though beautiful, and virtually devoid of cars, wasn't great riding.  There must have been frosts recently, because the road was covered in grit, and often the corners were chewed up and a bit rough on our skinny tyres and stiff frames.

I pointed out Peter and Erris's place, where Dave and I stopped for lunch on our cycle tour together way back in 2008.  It's funny how good memories last for years, and the brain promptly forgets the less fun stuff.

Unlike that day, I wasn't towing a load of gear, and we'd made short work of the ride.   We were just in time to see the ferry before ours depart, and it was nice to think that we hadn't had to rush for that earlier one.

Picton!  Just before our bikes fell over in the wind!

We spent the next couple of hours mooching around.  It was warm, and there was food to eat.  I tried to find someone to wax my legs, but being a Sunday afternoon (and in between ferries), just about everything was closed.  It wasn't as disappointing as finding the Dutch bakery closed, of course.

A well deserved salad.  Not that Sarah seemed to have exerted herself at all!

We retired to the Bluebridge terminal - the sun and wind combination became a bit much - to be warm we really had to be out in the sun, but I was starting to worry about sun burn.  We'd only been there a few minutes when Brendan, Jenny and Fletcher arrived, and we were then able to get changed.  We rode back into town, and after investigating a couple of over-priced offerings settled on a pub on the main drag.

Three Roast Lambs, a Steak Sandwich, and some Nuggets and Chips later, it was time to go check in, and before too long we were heading onto the boat!

We'd booked cabins, and I'd been looking forward to closing out the weekend in style.

The cabin costs a mere $40, but let me tell you a secret, the shower alone is worth that.   I took my time, during which I was able to reflect on an awesome weekend.  Good company, one of the best races I think I've ever ridden, stunning weather, and a lovely ride with Sarah to top it all off...

It's funny how things pop up when you least expect them!