Some of you may have heard of this new event which received some publicity in the Spoke n Word.
I found out from Vaughan Hunt who encouraged a group of us to enter. We duly entered and then Vaughan skived off to South Africa for rest and recreation.
The event starts in Waikanae, travels down SH1 to Paekakariki, up and over the Peakakariki hill, through to Haywards Hill, along Upper Hutt and then over the Akatarawa hill to return to Waikanae. Approximately 95km
Having ridden the course in reverse late last year in preparation for K2 Graeme Davies, Greg Chubb and I sort of knew what we were letting ourselves in for. We decided that it would be a good idea to ride the course the right way around to familiarise ourselves with the course. For a number of reasons this never eventuated.
Anyway come the morning of 22 March the three of us were on our way to Waikanae. We were originally going to be taking Andy Ward but he called in sick or something – he is still paying for this in coffee but that is a different story. Ride/race tactics were discussed on the way down – it was informally agreed that we would stick together and see what eventuated.
It was still dark when we arrived in Waikanae, but by the time we found the registration area, picked up our ride packs containing the usual not very much and got outside it was light – a reasonable day with the threat of rain – great. After attaching our numbers to helmets and jerseys and we started to warm up. We started seeing more and more Palmy riders – Colin, John B, Malcolm, Neville, Stuart, Blair, Pat, Murray, Mike, Marcus, Geoff, Kerry, Steve, John A – probably some more – you will know if you were there – it was almost a Masters Sunday ride.
Immediately prior to the start I pointed out to Pat that there was a large cut in his rear tyre from which the tube was protruding off he goes to try to find and change a tyre and off we go on the ride. Usual story for the first few kilometres the ride is all about trying to stay out of trouble. Idiots making sudden direction changes, trying to go through half gaps etc. This carry on continues until the Paekakariki hill where the hill starts to spread things out.
Paekakariki hill is listed as 243m of vertical climbing – it wasn’t so bad as you are moving in a large bunch of riders. Graeme made a move here and claims he got KOM points here. This wasn’t verified by Greg or me – I have an official race photo showing Graeme suffering behind us. The weather started to deteriorate near the top of Paekakariki and it was wet for a fair while from there.
On the way down the other side the three of us rebunch and combine with a small number of others. Usual story of trying to share the workload equally. We had a head wind at this time and our attempts at rotating were pathetic and we riding in single file with the rear rider coming forward to the front to take over – how dumb is that!! – no wonder no one wanted to come forward.
Eventually we got onto the Haywards hill which is only 169m of vertical climbing. Greame claimed he got more KOM points here, but Greg and I have lodged an enquiry and are still waiting for official footage to come through. I was a bit concerned about descending this hill in the wet conditions but it wasn’t as bad as I had feared.
Travelling along SH2 we caught up to Stuart Doidge and Murray Boase. Stuart did some excellent work for Greg and I getting us onto the bunch Graeme was in. We rode together until the start of the Akatarawa climb. This climb is about 21.6km long and rises to 443m above sea level. Somewhere along here Stuart did a disappearing act into distance ahead of us never to be seen again.
The bunch got smaller as riders dropped off the pace, and it got quite peaceful on that ride once Murray succumbed to the pace we were setting, just the sound of wheels, heavy breathing and the
bird life. No cars – the road was closed. Geoff Russell came up from behind, said hello and rode off into the distance, next minute we round a corner and there is the summit. Graeme was allowed to cross it first so those points didn’t count.
On the descent Greg and I decided that discretion was the sensible option. The road was wet and a number of the corners were off camber. It was great for climbing last year but not my type of descent. To coin a phrase used by Stuart Doidge who took the same option we acted as a mobile chicane. Graeme saw this as his opportunity to drop us – so much more the team pact.
Greg and I meanwhile watch as one rider hits the deck in front of us on a corner and see others extracting themselves from the bush having gone over the bank. Did I mention there was some new seal on the road?
Half way down the road dries and the sun is out and our speed increases. We get to the bottom and the speed increases again. Around a corner and bugger another hill – short sharp and in the wrong gear – oh well power over it and keep going. At this point we come across the road we warmed up on so we knew it wasn’t far now. Greg and I put the power on dragging in riders ahead of us blowing by them like they were standing still. I got to the front and thought there was no way that I was going to let Greg past again. Into town we go – 45km per hour and we can see the end. Up another gear and Greg does the decent thing and doesn’t go past.
If you don’t count seconds (and Greg and I don’t) the three of us had the same finishing time.
After the ride it was the usual catch up with others, a quick coffee in the café across from the finish line. Not bad coffee and the food looked alright as well – could be a good reason to go back again.
Prize-giving was the usual lengthy affair with heaps of small spot prizes which should have been pre drawn. Into the car, another coffee in Otaki and then we were home listening to Graeme claim he had the KOM and GC honours.
By my reckoning there were 1055m of vertical climb in the course which equates to 11.1 metres of climb per kilometre travelled. This compares with Taupo (10.7m), the Ruapehu Cycle Classic (10.3m) and K2 (13.0m).
The event was well organised and it was great to ride the Paekakariki and Akatarawa hill without traffic. With it being so close to Palmerston North I would expect more of our members to make the trip south next year.