Tag Archive: road cycling

Le (windy, hilly, exhausting, rewarding) Race

Hello! So sore, so tired. Don't go doing a half marathon just a week after giving it your all doing a 100km cycling race! But I'm getting ahead of myself (this is what happens when you get behind in posting!)...

Since moving to Christchurch (nearly 4 years ago now - time flies!) I had always wanted to do Le Race, the 100km road cycling race from Christchurch to Akaroa. 2015 was my chance, with M keen to tackle it on the tandem with me.

We've been putting in plenty of "training" (i.e. going for the usual fun rides round the Port Hills and the odd adventure further out on the Banks Peninsula). You don't get photos because I'm too busy riding :-P

Then on Tuesday nights during daylight savings we can usually be found at the CTTA time trials, a 16km there and back time trial along Old Tai Tapu Road. It's tough, especially for those of us who'd rather be riding up a hill than riding on the flat, but fun (well, once you've finished)!

Giving it all we have at the CTTA time trials. Photo credit: Christopher Innes Photography.

Once a year there is also the 16km hillclimb time trial from the Blue Duck cafe up to Gebbies Pass then up the Basdrat (M's anagram for what most cyclists normally call it - I'll let you work that one out) then along the tops to just past Kennedy's. It is brutal but we got a new PB this season which was exciting even if it might be partly down to perfect weather conditions.

Obviously there was a lot of cycling over the summer holidays with our cycle touring trip. We'd also been out making sure we were familiar with all parts of the course. Well, M was pretty familiar with it already but the tandem is a different (much heavier!) kettle of fish.

It was still going to be a tough race. Le Race is definitely not a tandem-friendly course, that's for sure (tandems are not the greatest climbers, especially as it gets steeper and Le Race is definitely not a flat race). Unfortunately I'd managed to slip over and injure my back at an afterwork rogaine on the Wednesday and was still in some discomfort so the goal of getting under 3hrs 30 became a goal to finish before midday (4hrs).

We positioned ourselves by the 3:30-4:00 sign which did make for a bit of a slow start but once we got going it was pretty cool to be whizzing past everyone along Colombo Street, and still continuing passing riders heading up Dyers which surprised me as I always expected to get dropped on the steep climbs. Once along the tops it started to get pretty misty and cold with the visibility decreasing rapidly. I was glad I wasn't the one steering! Fortunately we emerged out of the mist before heading down the Basdrat (and the dreaded cattlestops) to Gebbies. We hit the flat at high speed and in good time which was exciting! Plus M's parents were there cheering us on! And then the real hard work began...

There was a bunch of about 6 of us to start I think which took a while to get itself organised while we spent a lot of time out the front in the super strong easterly wind. Finally the bunch got working and that was quite exciting, having never ridden in a bunch before. Our bunch slowly grew as we caught more people and we were slowly closing in on the bunch ahead as we made it to Little River.

I fully expected us to get dropped on the long (long long long!!) climb up to Hilltop but it was quite the opposite with us even overtaking some of the bunch ahead of us. Unfortunately the climbing wasn't so good on my back and the pain was creeping in. But M was still on form and we were flying along once we got to the tops. But then the lack of sleep caught up with him and it was up to me to keep us going! There are so many steep, energy-sapping climbs along the Summit Road after Hilltop and it was really taking it's toll. Add on the wild winds attempting to blow us off the road (in these conditions there are some benefits with being on such a super heavy bike!) and it was fast turning into a bit of a miserable experience! The tops went on and on and by the last couple of climbs I had nothing left in my legs. Thankfully M had recovered a little bit by then otherwise I might have had to get off and walk!

I was a little worried about the descent down Long Bays Road as it is super steep and has quite a few reasonably straight sections meaning we can pick up quite a bit of speed (cornering is another thing tandems aren't so good at) but it was really quite exciting passing people going down Long Bays Rd (and yes, quite terrifying too at that speed!). It was pretty windy on the descent so our weight probably helped us be able to go faster and stay in control compared to the other riders.

On our way down Long Bays Road and nearly finished - I may look relaxed but let me tell you, I am anything but calm! Photo credit: Marathon Photos.

I was so excited to reach the finish. I'm not a natural cyclist and it's taken an awful lot of work to be able to ride a bike at all. After my mountain bike crash a couple of years ago I had struggled a lot with the fear that used to cripple me earlier when I would go riding and the frustration of not being able to ride in the same way that I used to. I am so thankful for M putting up with me (and my occasional screams!) on the tandem.

Lazy days of summer

Since returning from our cycling trip we've been enjoying the beautiful summer weather. I don't remember such a spectular summer in a long time! We clearly weren't sick of biking since 2 days after getting home we were back up in the hills with a couple of friends checking out the newly re-opened road (well, opened to bikes and pedestrians which is awesome!) around Mt Pleasant. Super exciting! It's a bit bumpy for speedy road cycling but it's now officially open and that's the main thing.

There was also a solo excursion up to Trig M from the bottom of Porters Pass while M and his friend were riding the Darfield to Arthur's Pass race. SO hot! One day it would be cool to take the mountain bikes up here although a bit of a grunt. It was hard enough work running/shuffling! From the trig you have a glorious view over Lake Lyndon and towards Craigieburn.

The following day, we headed up towards Mt Aicken, getting most of the way up before deciding to turn back 'cause I wasn't having the best of days up there in amongst all the rock (it is pretty cool how much the vegetation changes from various different beech to scrub to tussock to nothing but rock and scree). The views were spectacular though.

My brother also came down to visit for a little while in the summer for some wind surfing. We took him to Okains Bay for a night and camped amongst the trees. Awesome! Then, after spending the morning splashing around in the water and attempting to steer the paddleboard against the current (way too much hard work for very little progress!) we headed to Akaroa for delicious sorbet.

There was an excursion to Auckland and our beach house for my lovely cousin's wedding somewhere sandwiched between but I don't have any photos of that! It was awesome though! Amongst all this we've been getting in our training for Le Race which is coming up in a week and a half and I've been trying (and slowly succeeding) to get back into running in time for a couple of races coming up. After all the riding we've been doing this summer though it's been hard work!

We also went on an exciting adventure to Mt Owen for Waitangi weekend but that's a story for next time!

In which the big green monster finally makes it home: Part Five

I always knew that the homeward leg was going to be a bit tough. For a start, I didn't want to go home...I wanted to keep on biking all day, every day!

We decided to hang around and laze in the sun (well, actually the shade as the sun was too hot) most of the day in Tekapo (after a morning run up round Mt John to take in the amazing scenery) before riding the short distance to Fairlie in the late afternoon. In retrospect we perhaps left it a bit too late in the afternoon as the wind had picked up a lot and it felt a bit like riding backwards! The wind died down a little bit over Burkes Pass but it sure got colder!

Burkes Pass. Need petrol?

We had a glorious cabin at Fairlie and managed to do a mountain of washing and eat a mountain of hot chips. Yummy!

The next day we decided we didn't want to take the long route round to Geraldine which that meant we were going to be riding on a fairly busy bit of highway so an early start was required to beat the traffic. Worked pretty well but it sure was a cold start! I was feeling pretty cheerful especially when I got to go to the chocolate shop and buy copious amounts of fresh raspberries.

After a super long stop at Geraldine we headed off to Peel Forest and the lovely DOC campground there. Unfortunately it was still pretty drizzly which is never fun for putting up tents. There are some lovely walks through the bush here...we only explored a fraction of them. I shall have to come back another time.

Making friends with the trees in Peel Forest

The next day was again rather drizzly and cold in the morning and was fairly uneventful apart from meeting a few cycle tourists all heading the other direction (it must have been because it was drizzling right?) and getting brain freeze from ice blocks in Mount Somers. I'm not sure why, on all the days when it was super hot, we never got ice creams or ice blocks and yet on such a cold day we did!

Clockwise from top left:The General Store at Mount Somers, Moas!!, enjoying the view at Rakaia Gorge, our campsite at Rakaia gorge. What you can't see is the amazing view over the river it had.

The whole way to the Rakaia Gorge until the final descent felt like one long gradual climb, sucking all the life out of my legs! But it is such a lovely campsite to stay at. The last time I was here was for Spring Challenge a few years back after we'd rafted down the river.

One more day to go and then we'd be home.

Left: desperately trying to get all my gear into my pannier one last time. Right: posing whilst overlooking the Rakaia river.

We woke up the next morning to thick mist, barely able to see more than a few metres ahead of us. Whilst cooking breakfast though it slowly started to burn off and blue sky was peeking through. The ride out of the gorge is a really nice little climb then it was long, straight, flat roads for ages. M was in semi time trial mode from the 22km to Hororata sign right the way into the town which was amusing but we made it in 41 minutes so he was happy and I was impressed as the wind was pretty cruel. We were making excellent time and were both feeling pretty good so we pushed on to Tai Tapu for lunch.

Feasting at The Store in Tai Tapu to celebrate before tootling home at last. I even convinced them to make me a massive soy milk shake...delicious.

After eating far FAR too much it was time for the final few kilometres to home on familiar ground. The Old Tai Tapu Road is where we ride the Tuesday night Time Trials most nights during the summer and it was kind of fun to be riding it without the pain and suffering we're normally feeling by this stage of the ride!

And then all of a sudden we were home. It felt kind of happy and sad at the same time because it had been such an amazing adventure but I had kind of missed our little house too.

Is it too early to start planning our next cycle touring adventure?

And one last bonus photo from our awesome adventure with the big green monster: M waving goodbye to the West Coast. I miss the coast!

In which it rains (surprise!) and we climb a few big hills: Part Three

We awoke the next morning to the delightful sound of thunder and the rain hammering on the roof so I promptly went back to sleep for a bit longer. By the time I awoke the lightning and thunder were so close together I'm pretty sure it was right on top of us. It sure didn't look good for cycling so we started trying to come up with some plans ranging from staying another night in Haast to seeing if it cleared up by the afternoon and just biking 40km down the road to the DOC campground at Pleasant Flat.

Found at the Haast Visitor Centre! Somewhat fitting don't you think?

Come 10am though the rain had eased (eased, not stopped) and there hadn't been thunder and lightning for a good half an hour so we thought, what the hell, let's give this a go.

The road from Haast makes its way inland following the Haast River before you begin the steep climb up to Haast Pass. The mountains drop steeply everywhere you look and the benefit of a bit of rain is that the waterfalls come out to play. Even better is being on a bike where you can see it all in its magestic glory. About half an hour up the road we caught up to a couple of cycle tourists from Austria who were also out enjoying the weather! We were riding a bit faster than them but tended to stop more as we weren't under a tight deadline (they were aiming for Wanaka that night) so spent most of the day with them which was pretty cool, especially huddling under the shelters at Pleasant Flat (along with the sandflies) for lunch! By this point the rain was starting to return in full force and the temperature was definitely not tropical!

Hiding from the rain at Pleasant Flat.

After lunch we passed through the Gates of Haast and started the climb. It's pretty fortunate we like climbing as this was one pretty big, steep hill. At least there were a couple of waterfalls to visit and rest the legs at. At one point during the climb some guy pulled his car over and jumped into the middle of the road to take photos of us! I imagine to those passing in vehicles it probably looked like a miserable experience, riding a fully laden bike in the pouring rain but actually I was quite enjoying myself!

A wet day on the way to Haast Pass.

We made it up to the pass in pretty good time with high hopes that the sun might reach us (you know, having left the West Coast and all that) but it was not to be. In fact, it was a ridiculously cold descent to Makarora where we arrived to find the cafe had no power and therefore no hot drinks (tragic!) but they did have a fire so we sat there for a while trying to defrost before heading off again. We finally pulled into our campsite at Boundary Creek just as the rain was starting to ease.

Camping amongst the trees at Boundary Creek.

After several days on the road we hadn't really seen many cycle tourists (we defined it as being self-sufficient and carrying all your own gear) until today...where we saw at least 20 others, even another tandem. So basically we came to the conclusion that cycle tourists only come out in the wet weather, especially when it comes to the West Coast!

Anyway, despite it being New Years Eve we went to bed once the sun went down and slept through the night. We are clearly nanas (I think it's been a while since we've actually had a New Years where we've been awake)!

The next day dawned sunny but cold. We set off along the road only to find that we'd managed to brake a spoke. It had probably happened early the previous day (we had heard a strange sound, like the sound of a twig braking but hadn't seen anything amiss at the time although we didn't check the spokes as it hadn't occurred to us). Not so good. Luckily it wasn't a huge distance to Wanaka (about 50km) but it was New Years so we weren't super optimistic about finding a bike mechanic.

It was a pretty cruisey ride into Wanaka with glorious views of both Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea but I have to say I was glad to arrive in Wanaka, especially to find not 1 but 2 mechanics on duty at Racers Edge Torpedo7. Thank you so much guys for fixing our bike!! They were joking that it was so fancy it was from the future so I think we gave them a little bit of excitement.

It was hot by the time the bike was finished so it was time for a swim in the lake (cold!) and some lazing in the sun reading my book (a kindle is absolutely brilliant for this kind of trip).

Wanaka is beautiful but in summer it is so ridiculously busy and noisy and really not for people like us who don't like partying or staying up late (makes us sound so old!). We were pretty glad to be leaving and heading towards quiet roads and exciting adventures the next morning. The plan was to head over Thomson Gorge Road to Omakau. We checked out the Clutha River Trails on the way but after 2 frustrating obstacles (a fence we couldn't get through without removing all our gear and a bridge with steps on either side which also required removing our gear) we bailed and continued along the highway. Once finally onto the gravel roads our mood started to rise and I felt a sense of relief. Wanaka had been so busy that it almost felt like I'd been holding my breath the whole time.

The start of the Thomson Gorge Road.

Thomson Gorge Road is a remote high country 4WD road across the Dunstan Mountains with early gold mining and pastoral history. It starts off nice and gently through mostly flat, open farmland but you can see the Dunstan Range rising steeply in front of you. Once it starts climbing your legs soon know about it. Fortunately the views are spectacular and there are a few old batteries to have a look at.

Parked up by the "Come in Time" Stamper Battery.

It wasn't too hot for the ascent which was a relief but it was pretty windy up at the saddle and then the sun came out in full force for the descent (which actually has a lot more climb than I expected...like A LOT more!).

Clockwise from top left: "Come in Time" battery, the Thomson Gorge, an old stone hut just after the saddle, chilling at the saddle.

Once the descent proper began we had to stop a few times to stop the discs (our tandem has cable disc brakes - they may be super big but we were also fully loaded so that's a lot of force going through the discs to slow us down and keep the bike under control) from overheating too much as it was pretty long and steep. My wrist was ridiculously sore by this stage which was frustrating but it was a fantastic day.

I had been a little apprehensive of how our tandem would handle the Thomson Gorge Road but it ended up being a piece of cake for it (well, apart from the discs overheating a bit but that wasn't very surprising considering just how steep it was). The real test of just what our tandem could handle was yet to come...

Afghans are tasty

One more sleep and then it's Christmas! Exciting! And then on Boxing Day we're off on the train to Greymouth then setting off on a bit of a cycling adventure down the West Coast and (hopefully) eventually back to Christchurch. Even more exciting! Although I probably should pack...

Ever since our tandem arrived we've been doing a lot of riding. At the end of October we did our first randonneuring event with the Kiwi Randonneurs, a 400km loop from Greymouth to Greymouth in a day (via Reefton > Springs Junction > Murchison > Westport). Quite possibly also the last time I ever ride that far in one day! I mean, all the beautiful scenery down the West Coast from Westport and it was in the dark! It would make a beautiful two-day ride though. Anyway, we survived and it got me pretty keen for some cycle touring.

About half an hour into the 400km Greymouth ride. Photo by Shane Davidson.

Tuesday evenings are normally time trials along Old Tai Tapu Rd with the Canterbury Time Trial Association. It's pretty cool 'cause I definitely wouldn't normally want to ride for 16km along a flat course as fast as I can. That just sounds like torture! We are the only tandem there but there is a trike and it's always fun to see the pro riders with their skin suits, aero helmets and swanky time trial bikes. Some even bring some pretty fancy wind trainers to warm up on first. At the start of December each year there is also the hill climb time trial from the Blue Duck by Motukarara to just past the top of Kennedy's. Perfect conditions this year saw us with a new PB which will be ridiculously difficult to beat!

Along with the usual rides we also had a fun day out riding on the Peninsula down to Little Akaloa and round the bays to Okains Bay with the Emilys. EW and I then dragged ourselves round a 6-hour rogaine the following day...you've got to make the most of summery weather when it's here!

Clockwise from top left: the big green monster chilling at Okains Bay, Little Akaloa - many steep climbs ahead, EW shows us just how steep Okains Bay Road can be, top of Okains Bay Road - yay!

There's been various orienteering events, the Mountain Bike Orienteering Nationals, the Wedding of the Year (!), the Vegetarian Expo (so much delicious food! I love it!), book groups (so many awesome books, so little time) and so much more.

Early December was the National Rogaine Champs which was held in the Nevis Valley. I was racing with EW and it went pretty well apart from a few terrible controls!! I could write more here but I've already written enough and it's on my AP log so if you're interested you can read that here.

National Rogaine Champs map - you can almost make out our route if you squint hard enough!

And of course it wouldn't be Christmas without the annual Christmas Rogaine!! 3 hours of good times blundering around in the bush in the mist!

Christmas Rogaine madness.

Yesterday I was intending to head back out that way on my run but I wasn't feeling all that great so instead I ended up looping back from the Kiwi and having a bit of an explore. It was supposed to be sunny but as you can see below, ummm, the sun hadn't quite managed to get itself together so instead it was misty and drizzly.

The Port Hills are awesome.

And now back to Christmas. The tofukey just recently came out of the oven all ready for tomorrow and last night I found myself cooking yet another batch of cookies. I don't think I've ever cooked so many batches of cookies in such a short space of time!

The tofukey in various states of preparation.

Last night's cookies: a couple of New Zealand classics with afghans on the left and peanut brownies on the right (both adapted from the Edmonds Cookbook).

Merry Christmas! Here's hoping the typical Kiwi summer storm doesn't hit whilst we're riding (or is that just too optimistic?! It is the West Coast after all) and the little earthquake we just had is just a lone ranger.

Riding through the winter solstice

I don't know what it's like where you are but here in Christchurch it is most certainly winter! In fact, last Saturday was the shortest day (so I guess we're heading back towards longer days again...but normally it's about the time the weather starts to really get into the wintery spirit). Fortunately, although there was minimal daylight, the sun was out (in a cold, wintery way).

Sunrise was 8:02am. We were a little disorganised so it was more like 8:05am when we were pulling out of our driveway. Fortunately The Goose was even more disorganised than us and was still eating breakfast when we turned up at his door so we went for a little spin while we waited. And then we were off...with a nice gravel hill to start with - up Rapaki to the Summit Road. I was very glad it was early in the morning and not too many people were about as there is one downside to tandem riding and that is that people do like to comment on it and that sure gets tiring after a while.

Clockwise from top left: First cafe stop at Diamond Harbour; Cruising along the Summit Road; Charteris Bay; Heading along the coastline to Diamond Harbour.

We headed along the tops and down to Gebbies Pass with lots of whizzing and fun times then along the harbour edge to our first cafe stop of the day at Diamond Harbour where we lounged around drinking hot chocolates.

Next up was the second big climb, up to the Purau Saddle. I love this climb. The road is quiet and the climb is never too steep but is still relentless enough to be exhausting. We then whizzed down to Port Levy for a quick view of the sea before heading straight up again for the 3rd big climb of the day, up Western Valley Road, a nice (although I don't think M or the Goose would have called it nice!), truly relentless gravelly climb up to the Port Levy Saddle.

Slowly warming into the endless climb up Western Valley Road to Port Levy Saddle and loving every minute of it!

We all collapsed at the top, feeling rather hungry and tired. So it seemed an excellent time to pull out the mini chocolate cakes I'd made to celebrate The Goose's birthday. We practically wolfed them down!

Wolfing down cake at Port Levy Saddle.

The cake recipe, if anyone is interested, was a modified version of the Red Velvet Cake from The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. Basically I substituted some of the flour for more cocoa powder, used coconut cream instead of soy milk, added some chopped chocolate and swirled some raspberry jam through each of the mini cakes (baked in a texas muffin tin - it made more than my tins could handle so I also mostly filled a regular muffin tin too). I also didn't add the food colouring. I totally recommend this cake. It's so moist and delicious!

After a rather exhausting, bumpy descent down into Little River (definitely a good test of how the tandem handles gravel descents) it was time for some serious refueling at the cafe there. My eyes were definitely bigger than my stomach in that moment though as I could only finish one of the samosas on my plate and virtually none of the salad. I must have been feeling tired! So the boys polished off my salad while I took the other samosa for the road. Don't worry though, my appetite came back with a vengence up the next hill!

Vegetarian Samosas in Little River.

And then for the last, and biggest, climb of the day, up Reynolds Valley Rd to the top of Bossu Rd. I was definitely dying up this hill as it just kept going and going! It was definitely spectacular at the top though with stunning views of the Banks Peninsula in all directions.

Clockwise from top: Looking down Bossu Road towards Lake Ellesmere; Reynolds Valley Road; The Goose looking all suave near the top of the climb.

So all that remained was the descent down to Birdlings Flat, a nice little jaunt along the rail trail and then a cruise back into Christchurch. We'd be back not that long after sunset (4:59pm) right?

Not too far into the whizzing down Bossu Rd we got stopped by a vehicle informing us that the crossing over the ditch (draining Lake Forsyth out to the sea) to Birdlings Flat was, well, no longer a crossing so perhaps we might want to reconsider riding all the way down there. The boys, being boys, decided that surely there would be a way across and perhaps it wouldn't be too deep anyway (I was definitely not happy about this but when you're on the back of a tandem you don't exactly get that much say!) so down we went, chasing sheep left right and centre.

And yeah...there was no crossing and no matter how much wading The Goose did the water was not looking shallow enough to walk across. To make it more exciting, the sun was busy setting and only M and I had lights (The Goose was clearly under the mistaken impression that we'd actually make it back by sunset!). After well over an hour of dithering we decided to head back up the hill again...only just as we were about to head off into the darkness a local turned up with his little dingy offering to rescue the maiden in distress and her companions (he said he was only doing it because there was a girl in the group - yep, sometimes it definitely pays to be female!).

After 4 trips we were finally across (and the bikes of course!) and off to the rail trail...in complete darkness! There was much whizzing along (and desperate sandwich eating as we got more and more tired) and general good times and we made it to Motukarara in good time and good spirits.

Once on the road again M decided it was time for some time trialling much to the despair of The Goose and I. We finally managed to rein him in at Tai Tapu and the rest of the ride was at a much more civilised pace but I sure was glad to get home...nearly 3 hours after sunset!

The ride has made me super excited for more explorations on the backroads of the Banks Peninsula. It's like an adventure playground for this kind of riding and it's right on our doorstep. Bring on summer and the longer days.