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Grape Ride *Ultimate* 505km

Just another Step in my Specialized Endurance Adult Apprenticeship

by Colin (Wal) Anderson

This event was originally set down for 10 laps, a great sigh of relief from me when the organizer pulled the plug on that version and settled for the 5 lapper.

An unfortunate death on his earlier Moa Hunt mountain bike ride had prompted this change, I think also fuelled by the knowledge that his title of *longest endurance* single stage NZ ride was going to be soon upstaged by Taupo’s proposed 2010, eight lap 1280km event. Whatever, I had already committed myself to the 10 lapper so at least starting the 5 lapper was no surprise.

I arrived on the Wednesday, prior to the Friday start, thinking I had heaps of spare time so did a talk to the Picton Lions Club for HeartChilden NZ coffers, and a talk at Grovetown and Tuamarina Schools. Soon my spare time seemed to have flown and it was a mad panic on the Thursday evening to mix my fuels, watch Coro St. and sort through my gear for storing in what was promoted as a road side tent/lap registration area. It was actually a non-sided gazebo affair where my gear got rather damp and with the cool night air, it was also not a great place for clothing changes. Thankfully there was not much of an audience during the early AM hours!

The start was a fairly ho-hum affair. I spotted Greg, Bryce and Mark from the club and ducked over to say gidday. Nikki, said I was looking pretty relaxed, luckily she couldn’t see behind my eyes. I’d read the evening before that ex-Olympian road racer Robin Reid was lining up for this *Ultimate* along with quite a few younger riders who I had never heard of before. Its always good to get a feel for riders you may be settling in with for a few hundred km’s and one group of 3 from Auckland I thought were a bit high spirited. This was their undoing when all 3 finished up in a screaming heap on the road at Renwick on their 3rd lap, when one of the trio was busy texting and riding—mental note—after meeting them on the ferry on my return-one in wheelchair, others with various portions of bark missing- Stay away from them at the next Taupo Enduro/Maxi enduro.

Our start was on a coolish yet sunny afternoon, with a head breeze out to Picton. The pace was slow , and I got up near the front and took a few light turns, as we passed the Grovetown school side road, the school pupils were out in force (enjoying an hour off school) waving placards and yelling out enthusiastic chants, very encouraging.

By Tuamarina, after coasting through the pack a couple of times I thought it was time to get the ride cranked up a bit, so by Picton we were 8 of 13 starters, including the hovering Robin Reid, as we entered the descents off the Queen Charlotte Sounds

Reid mentioned to me that this would be about his 200th cycle through the area. No more prompting, I was on his wheel like a limpet, how great it was to just hang there, and almost come undone trying to stay with his very knowledgeable rear wheel. On the flatter sections across to Havelock we had a great roll going, it sure was an education sitting in a group with such an experienced rider as Reid among us, the tempo was high and the pace extremely quick considering we still had 4 more laps to go.

By Havelock our group of 8 was down to four, and at the check-in at Renwick (after a 3hr1min 1st lap) some hasty gear changes were made so we could stick together. The others all had support crews, I hadn’t bothered with that luxury and soon found on the night laps that finding black gear in a black bag (in a hurry) is far from relaxing!

The four of us stayed together until almost Picton when I felt a case of Delhi-belly taking over, so settled back at my own pace-alone. The remainder of lap two and up to the first lookout at Picton on the Sounds was just a matter of plodding away, by good fortune a roadside portaloo at Keneperu popped up and was useful.

The third lap was greeted with a stronger wind and I found the air very cold, up the hills from Picton I stopped to relieve myself and glanced back up the road and spotted another cyclist moving forward, we joined forces for the remainder of that lap.

This young Bavarian cyclist was quite strong on the flats but disappeared a bit on the climbs, so I was making quiet notes on where I’d try and drop him on lap 4. However that plan soon erupted when his crew gave him a flyer at the registration stop and I was left to chase him down. Robin Reid had pulled the plug after lap three so I was now 3rd on the road.

What a chase this Bavarian chap was giving me, I gave up at Koromiko after getting oh so close. I’m not sure what was going on at Picton in the very early AM, but a fleet of Police Cars screamed past me after Koromiko. One car was so fast and close that his air effect was similar to a large truck, which almost had me off the road, I hope they weren’t all just rushing across to Picton for fresh Bluff oysters!

By the time I entered the Queen Charlotte track for my 4th time it was now around 2am,and I stopped at the lookout again for another pee, with extremely cold knees and wondering to myself IF this was going to be a DNF. Fortunately out of the darkness I was greeted by a massive *shooting-star* that scared the beejeepers out of me and sent me off out of there with renewed motivation.

By the start of lap 5 I was planning where the 2 lapper guys/gals would catch me, and right on cue they got me on the hill just before Picton. Damn. Unbeknown to me there were a handful of 2 lap riders still behind me who’d managed to get lost coming out of Renwick. There were 6 of them and they were pretty eager to keep the pace up which suited me. But the pace was a bit hot and we dropped four off before Havelock. Thankfully riders 2344, and 87 hung in there for some solid laps to get the three of us into Renwick (after 19hrs 27mins) in time for me to have 3 minutes grace before heading out with a short Cancer Fundraising support group ride, it was good to cruise along and hear tales of other survivors.

Once again I used Pro-Race 2 tyres with absolutely no problems, despite some fairly rough road patches to cover. The Specialized Roubaix S works that Garry lent me to trial almost 12 months prior had just ticked over 13000km, and was a delight still to compete on, this little beast certainly seems to enjoy being stoked-up when the body is in sync.

This was only my second trip to the Grape ride, having done a double a couple of years ago Again the prize-giving was a long drawn out affair, I left as the majors were (finally after about 2 hours) being drawn, to catch my ferry sailing back to Wellington. I enjoyed a couple of very strong truckie type coffees on the ferry, then another at Otaki, to ensure my clear arrival home, in time for a few hours kip before getting out for the Sunday morning 80km Masters ride. Thanks to Mr.M Boase for keeping me honest on the uphills that Sunday!

I guess I can give this years Ultimate a small tick, and think seriously about heading back again next year, probably require a few more hard/tough sessions around those dreaded twin peaks with the semi regular tuesday-thursday group of John Burmeister/Steve Laurence! I missed the cafe stops at Picton though!